Newsfast MSc Project in UCD

As part of my masters degree in University College Dublin, we undertook a group project which focused on building a technology product. I’m very proud about how we ran the project, so I’d like to give an overview of it here! The product is a technology news application, which personalised your news feed based on your interests. I like to think of it as Facebook meets Techmeme meets your favourite RSS news feeds!

The Project

The theme was “News in the 21st Century” and we were supplied with a copy of the BBC’s the “Future of News” report. Each team (there were 10), had to go away and think of how they could tackle this theme with a technological slant. We also had constraints that we needed to develop in an agile manner and to prove we could try to be a real viable startup, with cost and salary estimates as well as a way to make money on our project.

The team

There was 5 in our team , out of a class of ~50. Only our group and one other (~about 8 people) were employed full time. The other groups were full time students. We did the whole project working remotely, while holding down our usual busy schedules. We started by dividing out the roles in to Project Manager (Larry), Business Manager (Kevin), Communications Lead (Garry), Software Engineering Lead (me) and Software developer (Igor).

Getting Started

So in June 2015, we had our roles set, we just needed to think about what we would actually do! I’m a big fan of technology news, so it was my idea that won the day: to base our application on technology news. We knew intrinsically that we would have to keep the scope really narrow, due to the 3 month window we had to ship. We started having really frequent meetings on Skype/Google Hangouts, started making sprints in Trello, and chatted about issues in Slack.

Mid-term presentation

By June 30th, less then 20 days in, we needed to have a working prototype, with basic functionality. I had started to use Docker and was very familiar with continuous delivery from my job in Ericsson. So I developed our first prototype, then showed it to the guys and had to get buy in. We had a bumpy ride at the start, getting everyone on the same page and setup correctly, as we had various different personal machines. For the midterm presentation we had to have mockups, project plan, business plan and a high level view of all our our sprints. Here’s our midterm presentation (download here):

Final presentation

For the final presentation in August, we were under lots of pressure. We didn’t have time to get various production elements we would have liked: such as more comprehensive automated test, a fancier design (none of us were user interface experts) and just generally more fit and finish. Here’s the final presentation we made (you can download it here)

At the end, we got an A+. When we got the marking sheet back, the highest levels of praise were reserved for our method of production, we took the project very seriously and made sure we paid attention to how we worked together and the system of delivery. We were agile enough to be able to stick to our overall goals, but still tweak and drop ideas which didn’t work out in reality. Overall I was exteremely proud of it and I think the two main presentations we made are a great overview of the work we did as a team.