Monday, September 20, 2010

Systems Interoperability: An Example

Chrysanthemums opening

In the past I've been naively amazed to encounter computer software that does not make itself compatible with other programs. Even when it's due to short-sighted design rather than a result of a proprietary mentality, it's still frustrating.

A recent example from libraryland has been when I try to email the instructors whose classes use the textbook we have on reserve. Simple, right? For such a repetitive, relatively straightforward task, this currently involves a tremendous amount of manual labor on my part. I have to toggle between three different programs -- a spreadsheet, the college registration system, and my email program (Outlook). I also need the integrated library system open to double-check certain things.

If I were a very clever programmer, I might have an idea of where to start to automate this process. Unfortunately, my familiarity with this particular integrated library system (iii's Millennium) and the college registration system is poor. I can bludgeon my way around to basically do what I need in both, but I have a sophisticated understanding of neither.

Which is why I now face (1) printing out the entire manual for the integrated library system & reading it from start to finish, and (2) signing up for training on the college registration system. I'm sure the time I invest will result in many useful skills and abilities, but I'm once again surprised to find this all isn't easier. I guess we're all waiting for the day when systems are designed to be more open and interoperable. What will we do then?

Meanwhile, I'm rolling up my sleeves...

1 comment:

  1. Nice post. I think we will have more fun and accomplish interesting things more easily when systems are designed that way. Not sure it will ease off the learning curve though, but hopefully make things we already know more ready-to-hand without surprises.

    PS: Saw the cool commute map and was excited to see my old stomping grounds (not New Jersey but Conshohocken, Norristown, Lansdale and for some reason not remembering or noticing that the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike became I-476). And I still love it that part of "Eddie and the Cruisers" is set at Tony Mart's.