[Column] Resilience

Columnist Bob van Vliet would rather decide himself what software and interfaces should do instead of having to go with what the tech giants think. He is not the only one.

(Photo: Sam Rentmeester)

In my previous column, I made a remark as an aside about my irritation at the limited options of the projection screens in lecture rooms. I quickly received an email from the people who are responsible for the screens. What options would I like? It appeared that by coincidence, they were working on expanding the interface. A week or two later, I received a message that all the functions that I wanted were now available.

My compliments! And it is a great example of what I wrote about last month – how wonderful it is to be able to arrange our spaces and tools ourselves. It makes us independent. Self-sufficient. ‘Resilient’, in the corporate speak of our recent Dies Natalis.

Let me give you another example. (I realised that I barely gave these in my previous columns…) I wanted to use peer review in one of my subjects last year, but I was turned off by bugs, odd design choices, and poor support of the commercial product for which TU Delft has the licence. I used a Danish platform that did everything I wanted. Unfortunately, they were going to rebuild their product in the summer, after which it would not be usable for me. When I discussed this with a colleague, she pointed me to peer.tudelft.nl, which is developed internally at the Faculty of EEMCS. It had almost everything I wanted. Three emails later, the additional functionality that I wanted was added to the program, just as the requirements of my colleague had been added quickly, effectively and in good consultation.

‘Structurally support own initiatives’

It is also nice to manage your own tools at an individual level. Years ago, I found a brilliant little program. A word processor that did not allow you to change the text that you were typing. It was perfect to get the first rough version of a text onto your screen without getting stuck rewording sentences over and over again, or moving commas back and forth in a text that will later go through thorough revision anyway. There were a few things that I did not like, so as a hobby project, I cobbled together my own version. The original has been offline for years. But my copy still works. I often use it to write the first draft of my columns. And if I’m not happy with how the program works, I change it.

This process could not be more different from a meeting I recently had to plan a series of lectures and presentations in Teams. That was more an exercise in how we could adapt our plans to the system than vice versa. After all, emailing requests to Microsoft is somewhat less effective than going back and forth to EEMCS a few times.

There is only a small group of developers over there at EEMCS, by the way. They rely on a student assistant to develop those new features for Peer. Not so resilient.

I think it would be good if TU Delft would provide more structural support for these types of initiatives, with a long term goal to expand them and make them available for people outside TU Delft.

Bob van Vliet is a lecturer at the 3mE Faculty and is specialised in design education. Reactions are welcome via B.vanVliet@tudelft.nl.

Bob van Vliet / Columnist

Columnist Bob van Vliet

Do you have a question or comment about this article?


Comments are closed.