I have been asked to help provide a realistic problem for this years software engineering project. The slides from the talk I gave on the 14/02/06 are available here. When I answer questions I will post the answers here so they are available to all groups.


I recently heard a rumour that BUCS had installed SmartSVN on the public access machines and svn on the UNIX servers. If this is true then it's good news, as Subversion is simple to use and makes collaboration on projects and programming so much easier. This is especially true if you use a tool like LaTeX for all of your documents and reports. As the raw form of the document is plain text, subversion can automatically merge changes different people make to the same document. I could go on and rant about things like Mason and PostGres but then just be being biased.

Dan asks...

would it be possible to see a censored version of the RT log book so we can have a better idea of how it's laid out, what is stored etc etc? (censored to remove any confidential or identifiable information)

I'm not sure how much it will help. The current layout is pretty awful, so you would be best off avoiding it. The contents - plain text entries, from a couple of lines up to a page or so of text. Each entry is on a separate page with links organised in date order - althought this is not the only way it could be done (and if probably not the best).

Chris asks...

Are there logs which other RTs can view but Security can't? Ditto for housekeepers?

At the moment I think housekeepers can only see the rota that covers there area (althought perhaps they should only see things relevant to their building) and security can see everything. However I don't think this is set in stone - it would be good to have the ability to create things that only the RTs can see - for example, minutes of RT only meetings.

Can SRTS view all of the logs

At the moment yes. I don't see any need to change this but equally well I don't think the system should have this 'hardcoded in'.

Is it ever desirable to be able to access the system from outside of the University network?

Occasionally. For example, if RTs are away from campus (many are international students) and need access to information on the system. It doesn't happen too often but unless there was a really good reason to restrict it to the University network I would avoid this kind of limit.

Would it desirable to be able to overlay rotas and events calenders?

If by rota you mean duty rota (i.e. who is on duty when) then I don't really see a need for this. If it turned up as a consequence of other functionality it might be cute but I wouldn't suggest going out of your way to implement it.

How does the changing of rotas occur?

If you mean rota groups (i.e. who covers which areas) then it changes when new RTs are appointed / people leave (current turn over about 8 per year) or when the teams are re-organised (about once a year, traditionally just before the start of term). If you mean the duty rotas (i.e. who's on duty which night), RTs tend to organise this privately - normally on a one off basis (i.e. could you cover this Wednesday for me and in return I'll cover for you at some point in the future).

What is the cancel policy for tickets sold by the RTs?

If you mean - what happens if a student wants to cancel their ticket - then a reply is posted to the message saying they had bought a ticket saying they have cancelled (remember this is using a message board). If you mean - what happens if an event is cancelled - then it's generally after the closing date for tickets and the organiser notiofies students, posts a message and then RTs wil issue refund to people when they show up.

Is there a paper copy of the log book?


Would private comments change confidentiality level of the log entry?

If you mean RTs private comments about an event - then no, not really. The confidentiality level of the entry should be dependant on the information in it, not who said it.

What levels in the RT heirachy?

RTs are a member of a rota group. An SRT is in charge of 2 or 3 rota groups. The group of 4 SRTs is line managed by Head of Accomadation and Hospitality (Del at the moment).

Can SRTs filter which rotas they can view?

At the moment each rota group's log is in a separate location. You pick which one you wish to look at. Not sure that answers your question but I'm not sure I understand it well enough to give a better answer.

Is it a higher priority to have IE supported or other browsers?

This is (to my mind) a fairly minor interface detail. Getting the functionality right is far more important than details of browser support. Pick a position of this and justify it - that should be enough.

James Asks...

We are trying to draw up some requirements for the Rota and Equipment log aspects of the system. It's a general question I know but could you please describe what you would like from these areas of the system. To guide you are current ideas are: Rota: Flat file, we have assumed the rota does not change much and that shift patterns are fairly standard. Is this correct? EQ Log: A very simple log whereby the user of the system fills out data as to what they have taken out, and can say they have returned it. We have not been given very much information about these parts of the system and your feedback would be gladly appreciated.

It seems that you are mixing implementation choices with requirements. Your assumption about the duty rota are correct.

Keeley Asks...

Rotas - how far in advance are rotas published to RT's?

If you mean duty rota, they are normally organised on a term by term basis. Holiday rotas are organised at the start of term (for the holidays at the end of term).

how are the rotas allocated to RT's?

If you mean duty rotas then one RT per rota group is told to sort it out and e-mail it in. If you mean rota group (the team in which we work) - these are chosen by the SRTs.

who creates and inputs it into the system?

At the moment they are e-mailed to the SRT who uploads it. This isn't necessarily the best way of doing it though.

Notes - who makes the notes? Are all RT's allowed to upload to the note area?

Notes? I'm confused by what you mean. If you are refering to the log book entries - the RT who is on duty that night creates them. Beyond that there aren't any other sections that could be refered to as notes.

Backups - Is a backup of the database needed or do BUCS provide this facility already?

I don't think you need to worry about this beyond there being a possible way of backing it up.

Jiadi Asks...

Do you need a function of sending out automated reminders? if so, who and how you want to maintain and organise these reminders?

At the moment reminders about certain events (deadlines for getting responses back, meeting, etc.) are sent via e-mail. If there was a way of sending them that reduce the amount of time required (by all users), it would be a good thing.

Do you think a calendar of Events would be useful to the system? (just like the one on the CS undergraduate home)

The calender app there is quite cute and given that some of the information we are storing is linked to time, that could be useful. I guess the key point is - does it reduce the amount of time needed to use the system?

You said you want to be able to search for university guide lines ect, does it mean we have to store all the university guide line, procedures, maps on our system? Can we just provide links to those guideline? There is also a copyright issue here: copy university's guidelines.

I don't recall saying I wanted to be able to search them - perhaps I did. I'm not sure that being able to search them is a high priority. However, the current system does have space for guidelines, policy documents, maps, etc. It is important that these can be handled by the new system. Providing links is not possible as in many cases these guides are not, and should not be publically available (i.e. they contain information on the residence's security arrangements, fire alarms, etc.). I do not see a copyright issue here. If it bothers you particularly then just use dummy documents.

Jonathan Asks...

I have a question about the Software Project Resident Tutor system. With regard to confidentiality, who should get to see confidential things in log book? Just the author, or their SRT also? Or who else?

Depends a bit on the issue. In the most extrem case, just the RT dealing with it (and possibly the SRT) unless / until they get others involved. Alternatively it might need to be made accessible to the rest of the rota group, other SRTs, security, housekeeping staff, other rota groups - it really depends; there aren't any hard and fast rules I can give.

James Asks...

Hi, I have been reading the university guidelines about confidentiality and found this: I wondered if these guidelines were the ones to be followed, and how strictly?

The RT service is no longer part of student support services (for the previous three years it was) so I doubt this is the letter of what's followed but it is definately the spirit. How strictly? We work with the idea of team confidentiality - so within a small group, information can be shared freely, but outside of that group (be it rota group, RT plus SRT plus other member of staff, etc. dependant on circumstances) these rules apply. This is a necessary state of affairs as we can't guarentee that a given team member will be on duty at any one time. Last I heard the University was still trying to draw up some formal guide lines on how this works.

Also, would an ideal system maybe have measures taken to enforce confidentiality of log book entries were maintained in some manner.

Maybe :-D

The system will contain confidential information. If this cannot be protected adequately then it cannot be used.

i.e. protecting a log book entry from being viewed by anyone but the author, unless it is necessary for other members to see the entry. In which case measures are taken to open up the logbook entry, but are logged in some way.

I'm not going to comment on implementation - only requirements. Confusing the two will lead to trouble.

Dan asks...

1) Should the log book be able to be ordered by author?

I don't see a great need for this feature.

2) Is it required that logs are specified as viewable by SRTs or can we allow SRTs by default to view the posts of the teams under them or combine the two?

I'm not sure I understand this question. As a general rule I'd say access control / authorisation choices should not be hard coded into the system.

3)Who can change the role of a member of staff?

IRL it is a lengthy and needlessly complex process. Giving this capacity to SRTs, the RT administrator or the service manager would seem to be a reasonable approach. Best would be to have this as a capability that could be given to users as needed.

4)Do SRTs have full access to the under 18 list/medical list?

I believe so. However see previous note about not hardcoding authorisation choices.