Bits of Learning

Learning sometimes happens in big jumps, but mostly in little tiny steps. I share my baby steps of learning here, mostly on topics around programming, programming languages, software engineering, and computing in general. But occasionally, even on other disciplines of engineering or even science. I mostly learn through examples and doing. And this place is a logbook of my experiences in learning something. You may find several things interesting here: little cute snippets of (hopefully useful) code, a bit of backing theory, and a lot of gyan on how learning can be so much fun.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Automation for IISc

Have you ever felt frustrated to find the bathroom lamp broken and having to go all the way to the complaint cell to lodge a complaint? It's not the going which is the painful part, rather the remembering-to-go part which is painful. How nice would it be to be able to lodge the complaint right at the moment you notice or remember it? A bit of automation would definitely help, wouldn't it? If, just by clicking on a link, you could lodge your complaint and track its progress, it would bring in so much more sanity in our life. Another example: Booking the guest rooms and tracking the vacancies online etc etc. That would save us the trouble of waiting at the Hostel office at 4 PM a month before the occupation date (and then possibly getting disappointed).

I intend to maintain a list of ideas for automation that can be done in the day to day working in IISc. The idea can be picked up by the administrators for implementation. This is a very humble effort. The more difficult part -- that of implementing and deploying and getting them accepted by the IISc system -- remains by far the tougher part of the job. I consider it a viable idea to create proof-of-concept prototypes in the Software-Architecture course term-projects by CSA students. The analysis and design, and possibly the source-code, can then be reused to implement the deployed system. I think getting them implemented by professional software developers is very much a possibility. It shouldn't be unaffordable.

Foreseeable Problem
An obvious hurdle in getting this working is that of coupling this with a centralised database of IIScians. That system has to be 24 X 7 available, up-to-date, consistent and secure. While setting up of such a database would require some work, the development of the above systems can be done in parallel with some foresight.

Visitors to this post may contribute by:

  • Suggesting additional such problems
  • Providing links to already existing resources which can be reused
  • Providing the solutions themselves, partial or complete
  • Pointing out possible problems in implementation of these systems. The problems would preferably be technical, or at least apolitical.
Online Complaint Cell
It should be possible to place civil and electrical complaints online by all members of the campus. The system should allow tracking of the complaints.

Online Guest Room Booking
Making the process of guest-room booking online will make the process fast, trouble-free and transparent. It should be possible see the accommodation status of various guest-houses in the campus online.
(Think of the Railway, Airline, Hotel ticket booking systems we use so often).

Online Course Registration
Instructors may float their course on the department web page with a provision for students to apply for registration. The instructor may then go through the details of the student and decide to pass or reject the application. Depending on the availability of course/participants, the complete thing can be automatically scheduled (I had implemented a program that modelled this part as a graph-colouring problem to create a schedule, unless unschedulable).

Automated Web-Page Creation
It's so much easier to reach out to the world if you have your own official webpage. Being in IISc, and having to create webpages in geocities and googlepages is a lot less cool. Can't we have an equally convenient system which allows creation of our webpages in our departmental servers? The creation and editing should be easy with a couple of clicks of buttons.
(think of orkut, geocities, blogspot etc. which allow creation of whacky webpages with a few clicks of buttons.)

Research Publications Page
We could have a portal that gives an interface to manage our publications page. It allows us to add/modify/delete entries, organise them in different categories (conference, journal etc.). This could be a part of the automated web-page creation portal.

IISc Blog (eVoices)
I see it as some kind of an idealised 'Voices' where IIScians blog freely. The featured blogs can then be published in a hard-copy version of Voices.
(We had implemented a primitive version of this long time back, but it needed a lot more work to scale up).


Sudhira said...

Hi Sujit,

Nice start! My 2 paise here >>
a) Online Complaint Management System (OCMS)
There already exists practices from local governments like Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, who have demonstrated to tackle much larger issues than we have at IISc.
b) Online Course Registration is possible using Moodle Prof. NJ Rao at CEDT has been orchestrating this and even insisted all faculty to offer courses through Moodle at Mgmt. At CES we made a small beginning
c) Automated Web page creation and Blog sites are possible through I have some proficiency in playing around with this Content Management System (CMS). I can demonstrate next when we meet.

How do we take it forward? Comments welcome!


Sujit Kumar Chakrabarti said...

Thanks Sudhira.
Those two paise is worth millions. :)

Legend said...


Interesting post. Guess it can be made the cover story/lead story.


Sanjay said...

yeah, that looks like a distant dream. May this dream come true someday.

Legend said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Smrithi said...

Online renewal of library books would be comfortable

rajgz said...

Hi Sujit,

Good Start. My add to it is:
Online Alumni Contact and Contribution system to better communication with ex-IISCians.


Shipra said...

From my experience here in Stanford, two things that I have found very very useful, and that can be done without too much extra effort, is automated library and course registration system. The reason I am saying library does not require too much extra effort is that they already have most of the things in place. I remember once when I returned a book in IISc, the guy at the desk logged into my account using my card, and saw what books i had rented etc.. and I was wondering, if they have all these things in place why cant they give access to us. A lot of times, we even forget what books we have rented (happened to me atleast) resulting in high fines and inconvenience to others which we do not really intend to cause.
And regarding the course registration, it is easier because it can be done at dept level for a start - althout real use of it comes when it is over the university because that encourages people to browse and register for courses in other depts rather than just their own.

Also, although the idea of automated scheduling sounds very tempting, I think it can make things really complicated. Its not done even here, though everything is automated. The reason being, (1) there are usually too many administrative (and even political) constraints when scheduling courses, and (2) students choose the courses based on schedule so if you change it later based on students who registered, it will become really complicated. So, usually first the schedules are fixed, and then people are allowed to browse and register.

If there is any progress in this direction, I will be happy to provide further inputs and ideas from the automated system here.


Sujit Kumar Chakrabarti said...

Thanks a lot Shipra! Those were valuable inputs.