ReportTool is a simple web application for creating, editing and viewing reports on students’ work. It was created by Stephen Butterfill, a philosophy lecturer at the University of Warwick.
In classic hacker fashion, Steve had an itch that needed scratching. Like faculty in every university department, the faculty in his department had to create, track and distribute reports on students’ progress. From Steve’s point of view, it is much easier to do this on the web than on paper. Since he couldn’t find a free and open source web application to meet his need, he set about building one of his own.
Along the way Steve needed to learn java and web programming. When you’ve got an itch, I guess, you do whatever it takes to scratch it. And, since he is one of the brightest guys I’ve ever met, it wasn’t long before he had a working application.
First make something that works. Then make it better.
Having built an application that is adequate for his own needs, Steve started thinking about sharing it with others. Anyone building an application like this is almost certain to be using so many free and open source development tools that open source just seems like the natural way to go. But how to go about it?
That’s when I got involved with ReportTool.
I have been helping Steve set up a project site for ReportTool. Our modest goal is to gather input from potential users, those willing to try out the live demo, or indeed those brave enough to download the prototype. Future development of ReportTool – including discussions towards which open source licence would be most appropriate for it – will take place out in the open on the ReportTool development mailing list.
It’s been fun working with Steve. And fun setting up the ReportTool site. But I suspect that the real fun is only just beginning…