After all of the hustling to get, in my opinion, a rather significant web application together in little under a month by myself, I feel that I can offer a few thoughts on managing a project with limited timeframe.
- Don’t take project management for granted. While I had no technical staff other than myself, I still stuck to self-imposed deadlines and milestones and kept a rudimentary version control in place while I developed. John Hasse supplied me with some of the data, such as the remaining land mask, but I was the only one working on rendering the maps, authoring all of the code and developing the design of the pages. Was I inclined to cut corners? Of course. But I resisted that urge, because I knew that even though I was the ultimately the one to commit the code to the server, I still had to incorporate changes from others that had no understanding of the behind-the-scenes. So code was refactored and written as cleanly as possible to allow myself the flexibility to incorporate last-minute changes.
- Don’t be afraid to try out new technology, but know your boundaries. Before developing this site, I had some experience dealing with distributed tile caches, but it was mostly limited to what I could do with the shared hosting environment behind NJ State Atlas. Now that this project was being hosted at Rowan, on a server on which I have root access, I could experiment with different software other than TileCache. I tried a few applications, but ultimately stuck with what I know, using TileCache, but storing the data on Amazon S3. Even though I didn’t use a new set of tools, exploring those options gave me a better perspective on how to implement what I desired.
- Push yourself. While my wife wasn’t too happy with the amount of time I spent working on this while being “off” and the press didn’t cover the interactive maps as much as I would have liked, I’m still pleased with the attention received. While the goal of the maps is to inform the general public, getting positive feedback from your equally geeky peers is good for morale. While the public did not flock to the maps in droves at the initial release, the response I’ve received from NJ’s GIS community shows that the tool will eventually make its way to the non-GIS users. It’s also great to be able to have a project of this scope with your name on it. Even if I worked with a group of developers I would have pushed to do as much as we could and make the experience as informative and worthwhile as we could possibly make it. Again, this was a project with self-imposed deadlines and goals. We could have changed them as we desired, but John and I stuck to this schedule because any project without clearly defined goals and time lines are doomed to mediocrity. You can only exceed expectations if you have them in the first place.
I hope you appreciated my brain droppings about the project. If you have any feedback, comments or requests for more information, please feel free to contact me. We’re looking to pursue projects like this, so if you have a web mapping project you’d like to work with the Rowan GeoLab on, let us know!