Assessment #3 – Final Web Project

Exam Dreams

Let’s take a moment to refresh ourselves from the course outline:

Weighting: 50%
Due: November 6
Task: Working individually, students are to develop a website which engages with the issues and thematics of the subject.

Assessment criteria:

  • Websites will be assessed equally in terms of production/technical skills and engagement with cultural/critical themes.
  • Projects must be compact, creative, original and interactive, rather than linear.
  • Projects must engage with one or more themes introduced in the subject outline or a suggested theme approved by the lecturer.
  • Students should aim for the projects to be as bug-free as possible within the confines of the subject. Students are responsible for testing and revising their own work on an ongoing basis.
  • The project should be tested across both major browsers and Mac and PC platforms – in an ideal world it will be compatible with both.
  • There you go! Basically, you are now tasked with producing the project that you have pitched as part of assessment #2.

    One key thing to note in there – the assessment criteria does not include your success in implementing the project that you pitched! Whilst having a plan is both wise and useful, I fully expect that some of you at least will discover in the course  of your project that some crucial bet of technology does not do quite what you want, or that you have simply bitten off more than you can chew. If this happens, don’t panic! Your project can evolve, as long as it still meets the criteria and engages meaningfully with the themes we’ve been discussing in the class you’ll still do fine.

    Those themes again are:

    1. the locative/ubiquitous net
    2. the social web
    3. the web of data (mashup frenzy!)

    A final point of note: Although the course guide requires your project to work across “both” major browsers — and for your sake, i recommend you do test on as many browsers as you can — I will be testing on Safari and Firefox only, although i will test in Chrome by special request. Get it working in at least one of those and I’ll be happy (and the tedious world of compatibility will still be awaiting you when you graduate!)

    Updates, 2009/10/12

    Based on the marking of assignment 3, and the large number of questions I have received in the last two weeks, I’ve decided to post some clarifications to the assessment. This should collect tha answers I’ve posted to various questions, but if you feel like this represents a substantial shift in the marking criteria, feel free to contact me.

    Now, onto the clarifications of the marking criteria:

    marking criteria

    Your projects will be assessed on the basis of demonstrating an understanding of the material covered in the course. Specifically:

    social media
    You will need to demonstrate an understanding of the different social media tools, their risks, and the benefits they provide both to the user and to you. You will need to be able to justify why you chose a particular technology (google friend connect, say, or disqus or facebook) over another competing one.
    data mashups
    You will need to have an understanding of how to find, create and use data sets from more than one source at once, and demonstrated ability to achieve a communicative or illustrative goal with them.
    locative media
    You will need to display a compelling ability to achieve site goals of the site based on their spatial location of its users

    As far as working out if you have successfully engaged with users, there is the question of whose goals the criteria may be considered successful against.
    We are in the unusual experience of being the client, the developer and the user in this project, which leads to some ambiguity as to whose goals your project is supposed to prioritise. For our purposes, the important figures here are

    the client
    Your site will need to be demonstrably effective at achieving your stated project goals as the client commissioning the site. as presented in your project proposal (if the means to those goals changes, that will not reflect adversely on your mark, e.g. if you switch blog software.)
    the user
    You site will need to present a compelling and engaging user experience to the site user, in aesthetic and in critical/cultural terms

    For most of you, the goals of the client and the users are almost the same, in that the pitches are to provide compelling experiences for a particular class of users. For some of you, however, where the sites are more promotional in nature, the goals may diverge. Your attainment of your goals will be weighted equally toward both the “client” and the “user” ideals.

    admissible technologies

    Use open source software, and free commercial software! If you want to use wordpress, that’s fine (since it’s open source). If you want to process your results through yahoo pipes that’s also fine, since its free and other students may also access it. Don’t, however, use paid commercial services to provide the main body of the site. If your main content engine is generated by some paid for third party (e.g. squarespace) then you’ve just bought yourself an advantage unavailable to others more broke than yourself.
    (If you run into a problem that you feel really needs this, contact me and we’ll hunt some alternatives). The single exception to this is that, if you would rather your hosting didn’t have to get moved at the end of semester, you are welcome to host your software on a different host than the class-provided dreamhost, as long as it is another host providing in an open-source stack like dreamhost. So, if you wish to get your site hosted by godaddy or webfaction, that’s completely fine, but no Windows IIS servers, and no leased google search appliances! If you do wish to host your code on a third party service, also bear in mind that:

    1. neither Sharon nor I can provide technical support for any problems you may run into with the site
    2. I may still need to see the site’s source code to backup my assessment, so be prepared to make arrangement for that (it can be giving me a copy on a USB stick)

    A common question: “Do I have to write code?” Short answer: No. It’s not impossible that you could get the project done with no code writing whatsoever. However, it will be quite hard to demonstrate your achievements of course goals without it, and very hard to do tweaks and alterations to your user experience. At the very least you are going to want to know enough CSS to customse hosted services, preferably you will know enough HTML to customise a wordpress blog, and you will benefit greatly if you know enough javascript to provide a distinctive user experience.

    Another common question: “Do I have to use wordpress?” No. You can use any content managment technology you want, as long as you can demonstrate your own individual contribution to setting it up in the attainment of the assessment goals. An HTML page with some clever javascript integration may be enough to get the job done, or a more full featured CMS such as Joomla or Drupal.

    collaboration and ownership

    You are encouraged to share comments and questions on utsonline if that suits you. Many of you are sharing similar content sources, and many are sharing similar technological approaches. If you can post to the UTSOnline, or better, the friendfeed group, with your questions and ideas, then it will likely enable you to produce far better projects.

    I recommend also that you attempt to collaborate with those outside your class by capitalising on the huge number of resources there are out there – open-source libraries like j, jQuery UI and wordpress include lots of complex code whose sole purpose is to make sure that you can get a lot done by writing very little. There is no shame in using them, and re-inventing the wheel wastes precious time.

    The only qualification here ist hat intellectual property is still important. If you use an open source library, or a code snippet that you develop in collaboration with a classmate, that’s completely OK, but make sure you acknowledge that, in the code. For big libraries like wordpress, this is done for you in the wordpress source code – but for your own code snippets, just make a note acknowledging where they come from.

    1 Response to “Assessment #3 – Final Web Project”

    1. 1 netcultures October 13, 2009 at 21:04

      Here’s an answer to one question I’ve just been asked: “Do I have to use WordPress?”

      Here was my answer:

      No, there is absolutely *no* requirement to use wordpress in the course. If tumblr gets you across the line, more power to you.

      Qualifying remarks:

      1. Please don’t, however, use any paid, hosted software services (e.g. there is a company offering paid map walking tours apps for mobile phones if you just send them the text and photos) as the *main* body of your project, as we can’t have students payrolls biasing the course outcomes.
      2. It’s not enough to *just* set up a blog! you need to be able to demonstrate significant original content and thought about the architecture of your site.

        As long as you can meet those criteria, there is no problem if there is not a drop of PHP and no SQL in the entire project, and not even whiff of wordpress.

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