Tools used for managing the CLARION project

March 23, 2010

CLARION Project Management

To plan and keep track of the CLARION project’s activities, we are using a project management methodology based on incremental development in fixed-duration periods of 2 weeks (iterations).  We run a delivery and planning meeting every fortnight, at which the latest version of the software is demonstrated, progress is assessed and the next 2 iterations are planned.  We plan out the upcoming iteration in detail (to a resolution of 2 man-days or less per task) and the one after in broader brush strokes (to a resolution of 4-5 man-days).  The overall development strategy is also tracked (and updated) in coarser grained detail.   Mid-cycle, we run a progress meeting where we assess the progress of the current iteration.  This gives us early warning in case we need to re-plan the next iteration.

We use the simple issue trackers provided by to plan and track work (details below), and the wiki to record documentation and presentations.  In the design and planning stages, the wiki is particularly useful in recording technical decisions, which will be useful in the future (when writing the project report, for example!).
This agile approach has worked well so far, and progress has been rapid.   The approach relies on accurate near-term estimation of work.  So far we have been underestimating by 1-2 man-days per iteration (typically 8 – 16% of total resource).  We regard this as OK, as we would rather include stretch tasks than leave people rudderless, so we try to construct each members work for the iteration such that there is a realistic base of work that can be delivered and demonstrated, and a couple of days of stretch goals, usually background research or preparation for the next iteration.

Tools for managing the project and its communications:

Here are the locations and details for CLARION bits and pieces:

* Blog:
* Project Management Tool: BitBucket
* Infrastructural software & tools: See list in BitBucket
* Code development tools & standards: See list in BitBucket

Productive meeting with John Davies, departmental crystallographer

March 4, 2010

The CLARION tech team (Sam Adams, Nick Day and myself) met with John Davies this afternoon to discuss the technical details of how we are going to bring the X-ray crystallography data into the CLARION infrastructure. In our parlance; how the X-ray Adapter will query the data and present it as an Atom feed for consumption by EmMa (the Embargo Manager).

John has two sources of data we could usefully import: –

  1. Processed data in CIF format
  2. Hand-drawn 2D molecule diagrams for each sample, and author names in CCDC database format.

We’d love to get hold of those diagrams – they’re better than the ones we can generate automatically, especially for the complicated and organometallic molecules some of the chemists in the department specialize in. The names of the authors would also be really useful for the embargo manager, and would avoid duplicated human effort. The problem is that the CCDC database format is (as far as we know) binary and proprietary. So, we’re going to do some quick investigations to see whether it’s possible to use some of CCDC’s software to extract the data in more tractable formats.

Physically getting hold of the data itself looks to be pretty straightforward, we should be able to use cron to drive rsync and then our adapter (which is essentially a feed builder). As the meerkat says: “Simples!”