Introducing our services: Jisc Involve

Netskills is known for its training, but that’s not all we do.

We also support some services you might use in your daily work like mailing lists and online conferencing.

Steve BonehamOn that list is Jisc Involve, an educational blogging platform, which we took over about a year ago. It’s run by our very own Steve, who agreed to give a peek behind the curtains at Jisc Involve.

This is the first in a series of posts where you get a chance to know more about our services and the people behind them.

If your service was an animal, what would it be?

A narwhal. People have heard of it but are not sure if it exists. A well kept secret. People who’ve seen it think it’s great but some people haven’t heard of it or aren’t entirely sure what the point of it is.

What does your working day consist of?

Jisc Involve doesn’t take a big chunk of my normal working day. But when I am working on it, it’s mostly answering user requests for new plugins, themes and increasingly helping people design custom sites.

It’s general user support and housekeeping. Making sure everything’s up-to-date, that it’s got the latest security patches, taking back-ups, archiving, managing spam… Doing the sort of stuff that would annoy people if it wasn’t taken care of. It’s dull, but I do it so they don’t have to.

It’s invisible support. If we do it well, no one knows we’re there.

When you’re not behind the help desk, what do you do?

My main work is around training. So it’s everything from design, development and delivery. That includes WordPress (which is directly relevant to my work with Jisc Involve) but lots of other stuff too – augmented reality, podcasting, digital storytelling, etc.

I also do a fair bit of support for research and technology projects. For example, I’ve recently helped Newcastle University with a new initiative on energy monitoring and changing staff behaviour to reduce energy use.

What’s the most common question you get asked?

Is there a plug-in to do this and can you make it available in Jisc Involve? The answer is usually ‘yes’ and ‘yes’.

Although, being completely honest, the question I get asked the most is “Do you know who runs Jisc Involve?”

What’s your favourite distraction during the day?

Jisc Involve! It’s a nice change from my regular work and gives me a chance to apply things I normally just talk about, to create something people can see and use. That, and Spotify.

Coffee or tea?

Coffee. Black with 1 sugar, thanks.

Your three most used words during the day?

Kids, caravan, WordPress.

What’s your proudest achievement in the past year with Jisc Involve?

I feel we’ve managed to make the service better. We’ve turned it from a pilot beta service into something that is more robust, reliable and a service that has a face behind it.

We’ve also just had a big update go through. The entire Jisc Involve now runs on the latest WordPress version. All the 220 sites are up-to-date with improved features and functionality.

What will Jisc Involve look like in three years?

I’d like to see it as a core Jisc service that’s used by people working for and with Jisc. I’d like to see a more active community around it so people don’t feel like they’re working in isolation but are part of something bigger.