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ode winter

Yep, it is mighty chilly at Ode HQ right now. That’s not a surprise seeing as the winter solstice is only a day away.I took the above photo from from Ode Towers this afternoon…with the windows shut and the heaters on and reminisced about 2007…prompted by Mr B’s post from yesterday.

We’ve put a lot of work into laying the foundations for exciting things in 2008. I won’t repeat them all as Mr B covered them pretty well yesterday. One of the things I’m most excited about (with my “software development” hat on) is the Application Programming Interface (API) that we’re working on to help expose the content that will be stored in the Ode databases. What this means is that Ode platform partners will be able to incorporate Ode features in their own websites. We’ll be able to build some nice tools to enable you as a user to find the content that you want (cross platform search widget maybe?). For that matter nearly anyone with the nous will be able to build tools that interact with Ode (Moodle plug-in anyone?).

The other thing that I like about how were are building Ode is that we’re very interested in making a system that is developed in conjunction with those who will end up using it. Here at Ode Towers, we refer to it as User Centred Design.

“The central premise of user-centred design is that the best-designed products and services result from understanding the needs of the people who will use them. User-centred designers engage actively with end-users to gather insights that drive design from the earliest stages of product and service development, right through the design process.”

We’ve already been talking to a range of educators and content partners about what we’ve been up to but I’m looking forward to the prospect of opening the shutters a bit wider in 2008 and inviting beta users to help us improve what we have built already. One way of getting in on the fun is to visit us at BETT in London (we’re on stand N30).

Also in the interests of openness, my New Year’s resolution is to write more on this blog about how we’re building the system…so expect to be reading a bit about web standards, lean development and user stories from time to time in the new year.

All the best to you and your’s…see you in 2008.

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Well, 2007 is drawing to a wintery close. This will be my last blog post before the new year.

It’s been an incredible 12 months for the ode project. We’ve gone from a simple idea born out of an excited conversation between two friends to a fully fledged platform development team, working hard to make it a reality.

Looking back I can’t help but think, even though we’ve had to learn under pressure, manage any number of trials and scale hurdles on a daily basis, I’ve never had so much fun at work.

Genuinely, the people on the team, the ideology, the challenges, the momentum, the sheer promise of what we’re trying to do makes it all worthwhile. Every day is another little adventure. There’s no feeling like doing something you love and believe in.

So what does 2008 hold for us?

  • We’re at BETT 08 on stand N30. If you are attending please come and say hi.
  • We’re opening up the beta platform to invited teachers and schools from January onward. One way of getting on the list is to see us at BETT.
  • We’re launching our “proper” marketing website, of which the blog will become part. Look for that early next year.
  • In April we’ll be starting personal ecommerce, giving teachers who are signed up to us to use credit/debit cards to buy content. This is a big step as we’ll finally be a “shop”.
  • In the summer we’ll be trialling educational accounts so schools can pre-pay in lump sums as invite their teachers to use ode.
  • We aim to go live for the winter term 2008.

Through out the year we’ll be announcing content partnerships. The companies we are speaking to represent a wide range of types of content and serve different areas of the curriculum. We want our users to have the benefit of variety and quality so we try to source the best content suppliers and get them as excited by ode as we are.

We will also hope to announce a very exciting platform parnership, one that will open ode up to a huge number of teachers and prove ode as a significant player in the industry.

Because it’s worth stating: we’re very serious about being the number one pay as you go digital content marketplace for education.

So with all that in mind, raise a glass in memory of 2007, have a brilliant Xmas and fantastic new year. 2008 will be our year. See you then!

In the words of Jim Anchower, one of my favorite all time Onion columnists, I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya, but the pedal is to the metal right now, if you know what I mean.

Alongside progressing a host of exciting content and platform partnerships that I’d love to tell you about (but should wait for the ink to dry first or the lawyers will send in the big dogs) we’ve been trying to get ready for our first BETT.

For those of you who don’t know about it or have never been BETT is THE elearning industry trade show in the UK. It’s run over 4 days and held in Kensington Olympia in London. I’ve been many times, occasionally manning a stand (tough, tough work), most times as a visitor and last January as a one man band bugging whoever would listen that ode was coming.

This time we have our own stand: N30 on the upper balcony. It’s 4m x 2m (about the same size as a walk in wardrobe) and will be our first outing in the glare of the public. Up until now other people have always set stands up for me but going through it this year for the first time I have a new found respect for those people who organise these trade show events.

Trust me, it’s a labour of love and frustration. And the whole time you cannot shake the feeling that it’s a lot of money with a questionable return on investment. So you have to know why you are going and how to measure success. These are some of the major questions we have had to ask ourselves…

  1. Why are you going? Strangely enough, the answer to this is usually because everyone else is so you should too. But it’s always a good idea to have a secondary interest and know what you want to get out of it before you go. We want to meet any content/platform companies interested in ode and get them on board. And if any educators want to join in as beta users even better. We will have a little postcard thing to fill out just for that purpose.
  2. Who is going to run your stand? This is important – remember these folks will be meeting your customers and clients face to face, perhaps for the first time. Can they sell your idea? Are they all aware of what to say and how to get value from visitors to your stand? You may also have to have a thick skin as people may knock or not be impressed by your product. You must certainly have a strong bladder. Then you have to rota everyone, organise the hotel, sort out stand food, a place to hang your coats…
  3. How do you want your stand to look? We’ve employed a proper agency to design it for us. Left to our own devices it would have been a cardboard box with a laptop on it.
  4. What do you want people to wear? Suits? T-shirts and jeans? Some sort of all in one star trek type velor jump suit?
  5. Who will come to your stand? It’s worth analysing who is likely to be interested in your product. Obviously we are brand new so no one has heard of us. Ultimately we want to engage with potential content suppliers who are also exhibiting at BETT and hopefully sign up a handful of interested teachers to contribute to how ode works. With all the huge educational suppliers dominating the show it’s unlikely we will register on most visitors radars but some may stumble on us – you are very welcome.
  6. Should you give something away? I cannot believe some of the pointless freebies I have picked up over the years – branded pens, fluffy gonks, lightbulb erasers, highlighters, paper weights, mousemats and the current freebie du jour, the USB memory stick. So, to save some money, we thought we’d look more original by NOT giving any freebies out. There will be minicards though.
  7. What’s your contingency plan? Something will go wrong I promise. Someone could go sick, the internet connection could drop out, the product could crash in front of an important customer or client, meetings could be missed, your logo might be misspelled on your stand banner, your stand could be right next door to Loud-House-Music-And-Shouty-Salesperson-Software-Company, someone could trip on a loose carpet tile and douse one of your monitors in coffee and so on. Have a selection of back up steps to cater for Muphy’s law.

Dealing with all this will cost you a fortune but you can make some brilliant contacts at events like this.

We’re not selling anything except the opportunity to collaborate with us. Even if it all goes wrong and we’re reduced to the cardboardbox/laptop scenario we’d still love to speak to you. So if you are interested in ode in any way please book an appointment with us by emailing support@odeworld.co.uk .

See you there!