My Six Months With The Foo Project

Coming to the end of a PhD presents students like myself with something of a dilemma. Although the experience had been extremely valuable and I am, in as modest a fashion as can be permitted, proud of my achievements during that time, I can’t earnestly say I’m interested in continuing an academic career. Research has been now the focus of my professional life for 7 years, and it may well continue to be but the lack of a concrete objective has sometimes made the work difficult and, rarely, unsatisfying. Some of my colleagues have found the same, and moved out of research into engineering, software development and other fields.

To fund the last few months of the writing up process, I signed on with The Foo Project, a one-man business software company. The owner, Jack Scott has been running the company since 2012 (around the same time I started my PhD incidentally), and I joined up to work as a software engineer and where necessary lend a little UX expertise to the work.

When I first started, the company was a bedroom operation, and I worked from home and communicated via Slack, although after a month we moved into a small office on Elizabeth Street. The project I spent most of my time on here was the ‘VAS Reading Echo’ system, a piece of business software designed to test a child’s VAS, or ‘visual attention span’, a metric designed to help quantify and explain early-development reading skills and suggest solutions. For my part, that meant learning web programming effectively from scratch and working with a large pre-existing code base across two platforms and five languages.

The work has been an extremely refreshing change from my previous experience; web development is the polar opposite to blue-sky research. A day on this project would typically involve adding additional functionality per a spec, identifying issues with existing functionality and resolving them; each step discrete, concrete and solvable. Working with an existing code base is challenging but for someone used to the fruit of their work being a publication, watching a website come together is pretty satisfying.

It’s been a great six months here. I’ve learned a lot about commercial software development, and rather pleasingly another little bit of the internet now has my mark on it.

We Have an Office!

Inside the upstairs of our new office.
Inside the upstairs of our new office.

The Foo Project is now in it’s first offices. We’ve taken up residence inside Parliament Co-working, a co-working space on Hobart’s waterfront. We’re pretty excited, the offices are well laid out and have everything a growing company like ours needs (Internet access and a kettle, basically)…

Our New Website

You may have noticed some changes recently on our website. We’ve done a complete overhaul, with too many changes to mention, but here are some of the biggest:

  • We’ve completely overhauled the appearance of our website (obviously). The main page is the most drastic difference, but almost everything has had a bit of a change.
  • Our platform has changed from Drupal to WordPress. We felt that Drupal’s development was becoming stale, with no new significant features in a couple of years now. WordPress, on the other hand, has come leaps and bounds in the past few years, and now is a fully fledged CMS.
  • We’ve put more information on our services pages: for development, for IT support, and for managed hosting. Hopefully this will help you find the information you need on what we can provide for you!
  • There is now a lot more information on our staff page, with a lot more to come in the future.

To sum up, we’re not excited about how far we’ve come with the new website, but how far we have to go. And WordPress is definitely the tool to take us there.