Trying to manage a robotics club.

As of now, the North Carolina State University Underwater Robotics Club (URC) has no sort of code or project management. There have been
attempts in the past to use an SVN and wiki's but both attempts ultimately failed. I feel like the club needs a place where dates and times are readily available for events going on and where code can be accessed and placed when we are working on things separately. We currently are using a mailing list.. which is working surprisingly well but falls short on being able to host code or work as a calendar of any sort. I was curious as to if anyone had any suggestions on routes I might take on setting up a usable web based system. Any thoughts or help would be greatly appriciated.
Thank you, Matthias Welsh.
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com writes:

First question is why did the efforts fail?
Most of the time, the main thing that's needed to get code repositories (etc) to work is for somebody to take the bull by the horns and do the management. Set up the repository, and when somebody makes a change bug them about checking the code in. When there's a presentation, bug the presenter about putting the slides up on the wiki. And so on.
Incidentally, I've recently started using google calendar (since I just got a new G1 phone), and it looks like it would be really, really good organizational calendars.
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For this I'd use something like sourceforge.net, which is free and has the code repository, check-in, etc. all set up. It self-manages pretty much. It's designed for open source projects (don't remember the requirements here), so if the group's code is proprietary they may not be able to host it there. But most groups are happy making their joint code open to all.
-- Gordon
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Mostly I suppose they fell apart simply because not enough of the club was actively and consistently using them. Also the SVN was never properly setup or managed, the basic understanding of the club is it was too complicated.. I looked into project server and project .net but neither of those offer the code repository that we're in need of. I suppose I might be looking for an "easy" solution where there isn't really one. I like google code/calendar/groups but the problem lies in basically opening up all of our efforts and code. While I'm an open-source advocate myself there are other members who are not. Automation from the calendar to email would be nice come to think of it... so that might be something to look in to. I would like to keep it as single solution as possible if we can, trying to not run two totally different services like an SVN and a wiki, but they do seem to be fairly compatible so again I may be making more out of the issue than there is to it. Thanks for your thoughts!
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:
[snip]

svn management isn't really terribly hard, and you can use products like tortoise (free, open source) to eliminate the need to use the svn command line.
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On Tue, 27 Jan 2009 10:34:27 -0800 (PST), snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com

--snip--
--snip--

--snip--
Change is never easy. Centralizing the efforts of a group who have been exchanging e-mail and perhaps the odd FTP involves all the technical and management issues that a company faces when looking at new accounting software, but with the added problem that you can't use a common point of reference like "money" ("purchase cost", "reduction in error rate", etc.) to settle your arguments.
First, get general agreement on what the club members want or might find useful. You don't have to get complete agreement from every member on every detail, but if you find that most of the members who would contribute to it don't see any benefit to them, you need to more research or more selling.
You need to understand the benefits of your proposed system from the other members' points of view for two reasons: first, to help you navigate among your options, and second, to use as a basis for showing the advantages of whatever you choose. If the "demand" is real and strong enough, many solutions will work to varying degrees; if people are satisfied with what they have, even a multi-billion dollar system may end up being completely ignored.
Second, try to get a sense of the ongoing costs of the various options. Anything you implement -- or have implemented for you -- will take time and money, and not just up front; you need to consider the ongoing resources that will be needed to keep whatever you choose running. Who would host it? What bandwidth will it need? Who will perform backups?
The technical part is (relatively) easy: pick a design, implement it, and let your members know that it is available. Go for "useful" and "better than what we have" rather than perfection. <grin!>
The management part is more difficult, as Machiavelli pointed out some centuries back: how do you get the club members to _use_ the new system? What benefits will _they_ see which will make using your new system worth the amount of time and effort they think they'll have to invest? (I'm continually astounded by how many people disagree with _my_ concepts of "simple" and "intuitive", for example. <grin!>)
Please note that I'm not talking about a 400-page User Manual And Marketing Document here, but "someone" (you, for now) had better have a clear idea of why the new system is the greatest thing since sliced bread _and_ the ability to communicate his/her/its concept to other club members.
Or... you could take the approach used by many other volunteer organizations (and not a few commercial ones): "someone" sets up "something" that a few people think comes close to what the club might want, and then spends the required time and effort to educate the club on its benefits and how to use it. If it fails (many members don't use it), try to find out why, then use what you've learned to help you try something else; if it succeeds, try to find out why, then use what you've learned to improve it.
Good luck. Let us know what you choose and how it works out.
Frank McKenney -- "... there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer makes enemies of all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order..." -- Niccolo Machiavelli -- Frank McKenney, McKenney Associates Richmond, Virginia / (804) 320-4887 Munged E-mail: frank uscore mckenney ayut mined spring dawt cahm (y'all)
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On Jan 28, 10:11am, Frnak McKenney

Thanks for the response. The current leadership of the group, and the people who are contributing the most want to centralize things to a wiki and some sort of SVN or FTP. After talking to the current president (I'm taking over next year as he graduates) the biggest issue we're trying to tackle is the total loss of information that is occurring now with the mailing list. We have new members joining and leaving fairly regularly and it's hard to either retain they're input if they're leaving or get them up to speed if they're just coming in. I suppose permanence is a huge selling point for any sort of solution we come up with.
Thanks again for the food for thought, we have a meeting tonight so I'll take center stage for a bit and see what the group outside our main gear heads and administrative people think.
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Yahoo Groups works pretty well for this and it's free. And if enough members are already on MySpace, or willing to get an account, you can create an account for the group there. They provide for a calendar, blog, messages, postings pictures and vids, and so on. You can restrict the page to members only or make it public.
There are also some free blogs, like Blogger or WordPress, that are hosted and some provide widgets for things like calendars. However these tend not to be as flexible as Yahoo Groups or a MySpace page, and there's a greater chance of getting it hacked because of exploits.
-- Gordon
snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

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Gordon McComb wrote:

I should point out that I don't know that either Blogger- or WordPress-hosted blogs have ever been widely hacked (especially Blogger, as it's done by Google, and they offer a lot of widgets like the calendar, Picasa photo hosting, and so on). I was referring more to the self-hosted blogs that run WordPress, especially if you're not careful about keeping it updated.
-- Gordon
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Just to give you a data point. The Home Brew Robotics club in silicon valley (disclaimer I'm the president) has 100+ robots and to the best of my knowledge, essentially no code sharing. Every robot is individually programmed. In order to have shared code, common hardware is required and basically nobody wants to standardize on a common hardware platform. (I've tried and failed to get such standardization to occur.) It will happen eventually, I just do not know when. I do not want to discourage you, I just want you to understand that it is not easy.
-Wayne
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Thanks for the input, however, we're a small club and we're working on a single craft and have made things as modular as possible. Currently most of our embedded development is done on custom Arduino based boards with a tiny PC provided by Lipert acting as the overall brain. The objectives year to year from the competition for which we are competing are similar enough that we need a way to leave the code to the people coming in next year as well as chronicling what we have tried and what didn't work. Right now we're missing a lot of what "we" had last year as it's just of floating around with different graduated members. I'm looking to establish this repository as a long term solution as well as a short term project management one.
I found something interesting to anyone working on a similar project that may come across this, http://origo.ethz.ch /, it's a wiki, forum, SVN, and bug tracker all in one. Also it's free, for open or closed source :-). I'm not sure if it's my full answer, but it certainly look promising.
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:
[snippage]

You have actually solved the hard problem by standardizing on the platform. Thus, you are significantly ahead of most robot clubs, which have N different and mostly incompatible robots.
-Wayne
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...most likely with fewer than N members...
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