Ideas are really cheap?
Later year, I witnessed two CS3226 projects named NUSAnswers competing with each other. Never had I imagined that the same thing would happen to me in CS3216. We got the same idea as the other group. And we only found out after the the mid assignment submission. I never really liked competition, I am more of a peace kind of person so I avoid fighting with people as much as possible. This time as well. When our first attempt to negotiate and cooperate failed, my thoughts were not direct competition, but market segregation.
Recognizing that the other team focused on group management feature, which was already completed, I dropped the idea of doing the CCA management in our app. Instead, we agreed to focus on the more “superficial” features, like browsing CCAs, viewing their members and events. Does this mean we are lazy? Quite the opposite.
Our (revised) approach to CCAs
We take a different approach on the issue of CCA, a more personal one. Instead of asking CCAs to use our app for managing their CCAs, we would take the initiative to manage the relationship with CCAs, ask for the updates and make sure our site has the most up-to-date information about their CCAs.
In this way, they do not need to be direct users of our app. Instead they become partners of our platform, whom we would actively maintain relationship with. This is very different from the other group’s approach of “selling the app to individual CCAs”. We believe this has a higher chance of success, because we lessen our partners’ work of keeping information up-to-date and maintain a closer tie with them through personal contacts instead of a salesman-client relationship.
By converting CCA leaders from users to partners, we also become more specific about the real target audience of our app. That is the students who are looking for CCAs and events. Hence, we can design features more tailored to people looking for information rather managing the information and optimize experience for them.
The other big issue this week is communication. Although our team consists of all NUS undergraduates, everyone has different schedule and commitments. And the difference is a bit too much.
In this week, our team had only officially met once, that was during Monday when we decided on the idea. However, with numerous design and architecture decisions to make, it was clearly not enough. Slack communication is not very effective when different members have very little overlap in terms of free time. Often I proposed a new feature with a particular implementation that I am familiar with, just to find out several hours later that another person preferred another approach. During this stage of rapid prototyping, it is crucial to reduce the communication lag. There are constant changes in the standards and implementations and we cannot afford to wait a few hours just to make one clarification.
Although the past week hasn’t been all pleasant, it certainly wasn’t the worst that I had expected. Now scroll up and see the subtitle of my blog if you don’t know what this means 🙂
With all the sweet and hard lessons this week, I am more looking forward to the next week than ever before. I believe our team can actually be super efficient and effective as long as we fix certain timing during the week to do mass hackathon.
In fact, considering the lag between our communication, the time spent on actual coding done this week was minimal. Yet we managed to complete a nice looking app with the core CCA listing feature completed.
It will only get better.