On the 12th of May I travelled to London to attend the software sustainability workshop offered by the newly funded Software Sustainability Institute (SSI). Neil Chue Hong, Director of the SSI, presented the services and the goals of the institute. After lunch, the participants had the opportunity to discuss their projects with analysts from the SSI and I think that was an important part of the workshop. We discussed JournalTOCs (and BayesianFF) with two experts from the SSI.
The workshop was a productive event for JournalTOCs. The main outcome for our project was a follow-up with Dr. Michael (Mike) Jackson from the SSI to undertake an in-depth review of JournalTOCs website from four perspectives:
- Users who use the site to run searches across the registered journals
- Developers who wish to call the API from their own applications.
- Developers who wish to understand how the services work and how they could extend or change them if they had access to the source code e.g. developers joining the JournalTOCs project.
- Publishers who wish to contribute to JournalTOCs
We received the full review from Mike last Wednesday 26th May. The document covered the above perspectives, uncovered issues with the website and provided recommendations. The review also compares JournalTOCs site to those of its competitors and offers suggestions as to how we could promote JournalTOCs site more effectively. Quickly it became apparent to us that the SSI review was going to be an important tool for the Project. The study done by the SSI has deciphered before our eyes the issues that are affecting the current JournalTOCs website. Some of the issues will be possible to be solved in a relatively short time and be done as part of the JournalTOCs Project. However, a few of those issues would require careful thought and it seems that we will not be able to implement them in the final stages of the project, for example the recommendation that it would be useful if the site could allow users to specify a search just over the journals in their MyTOC.
In conclusion, the SSI review has helped us to identify important issues affecting JournalTOCs such as the difficulties posed to our users by the present website, the API quality service offered to developers, the copyright and licensing implications for publishers, etc. In some way, we had an idea of the existence of those issues, but the SSI study put names to those issues and provided us with a clearer and complete picture of them, plus recommendations to tackle those issues. For example, we knew that there was something wrong with the usability and friendliness of the site but we were unable to find the details by ourselves. SSI’ expertise helped us to realise which parts of the web design was negatively affecting the user experience and consequently the sustainability perspectives of JournalTOCs, including the sustainability of its software itself. Being JournalTOCs concerned mainly with the creation of APIs for web applications, the web site was seen as something secondary by the project. However, the work carried out by the SSI opened our eyes to the importance of the website for our users. It provided us with the external unbiased opinion of a new user that came to our site for the first time trying to search the TOCs or to use the API.
The full SSI study of JournalTOCs will be published as part of the Project deliverables.