Last week the Sutton Bookshare project team (me and Adrian) met with James from Rattle Research to talk through how we felt the project had gone and how close the final product was to the original concept.

Perhaps one of the most important lessons learnt from my perspective, particularly for collaborating with an open data developer, is the importance of understanding how we all like (and sometimes need) to work. When developing a web-based service, particularly one based on encouraging social interaction, you have to take an iterative approach and change course quickly if something is not quite right.

We had initially planned a user-feedback system that reminds you when books are due, facilitates comments on reliability of users and even grades the condition of books. Then we remembered the 10th principle of the Agile Manifesto: “Simplicity (the art of maximising the amount of work not done) is essential. In this case, the Bookshare website can self-generate useful feedback and we have managed to build something that presumes trustworthiness – a presumption that might just nudge behaviour in that direction.

This simplicity of design means we have achieved something that has the potential to be great since day one. There are more features that could be introduced. Typing in an ISBN number is a bit slow and it would be great to use your Smartphone or webcam to scan things in… but it works. We launched to Sutton Council staff without instructions, we gave no advice on how to swap books and, sure enough, books are being lent.

We are now very close to the public launch and have got the final artwork for the marketing materials. As well as posters and bookmarks we have designed a bookplate – the things you used to scrawl your name on before your mum would let you take your books to school. The bookplates bring the project right back to its original purpose, this is not about kindles and e-books – it’s about showing people what books are on your shelf and letting them borrow ex-libris “from the library of…. [write name here].

Bookshare Bookplate