In short, I’m not quite sure yet! But, best to start off from the beginning…
It all started out from the UCL Formula Student team. As a second year trying to weasel my way into the team, I was getting to know the ropes in terms of how the team operates and basically how work was getting done and by who. Now, to begin with UCL has a history of mildly (*cough*) disorganised race teams, we have no army of support staff and no systems put in place by the university, other than the supervisor. So, people relied upon the team leader to know the full picture, and the team leader heavily relied upon people coming up with their own work; a racing car I believe is fundamentally to big for one person to micro manage.
So, whilst this was going on I was also playing around with web development (as in, the summer of 2014 was the first time I edited a piece of PHP code, it broke wordpress, remember it well…). Now, I’m a big believer in learning to code with a project, and I thought lets store some part numbers for the FS car. There was an existent list of numbers to part names so I made that into a database table, made for a good table to learn how to query it etc.
Then I thought, why not upload files? This is all still without thinking this would ever be useful, I just got the coding bug and went for it. After I had done that, well I started to see what might be possible. The Formula Student team at that point ran off peoples hard drives and a dropbox, where nothing could ever be found, and if you did find it there would be 3 versions. Imagine being able to sort through them in some sort of coherent manor? And version control them? You can see where I’m going.
Long story short, we gave it a test run with the team, and well it was useful. Now I would like to say that without some very, very patient and equally bonkers people, Mashoom would have hit the dust here. There was a lot of stuff that didn’t work and the term ‘Alpha testing’ didn’t give justice to the amount of stuff that didn’t work. Anyway, we made it.
Roll forward to another summer and I found myself in AER (Advanced Engine Research), a engine design company in Essex. They wanted a lifing system, a way to track all their parts as they have go through their life, track the time they have been on a running engine etc. I had the first meeting, drove home and the sat with my notebook to answer one question; build this into Mashoom, or create something else. I decided to make it separate (*crowd gasps*)
I got so annoyed at how much code I had to copy from Mashoom into my new project, and how it took a mountain of effort to stitch it together for me to find out I needed another bit, I scrapped this and started working on how to make Mashoom modular, so AER wouldn’t see the design side that UCL uses and visa versa.
AER proved one thing for sure, the idea of Mashoom stretched outside of storing and logging engineering designs. From the point AER begun to use the system, Mashoom stopped being ‘a way of storing and tracking designs’ to ‘its complicated’.
Then someone at AER said ‘it would be good if people could see a drawing of each part’, bingo, this was the UCL design system, and it proved that one could be useful with the other. So, I started thinking of Mashoom as modules, each one doing a useful job in itself but is ‘supercharged’ with other relevant modules that a user may be using.
So, back to the original question, and unfortunately no proper answer. Basically I want Mashoom to make doing engineering easier, simpler and standardised. I intend to do this by keep the development as close to the people using it as possible, then following our nose. The biggest thing is to make sure there is no replicated of data and every job is both easy and needed.
I haven’t mentioned the ‘platform’ word, which is I think what this type of idea would be called. Yes, it is an engineering platform or at least heading there, no, I don’t like what it insinuates. It insinuates that Mashoom won’t come and help the user out and try and be as helpful as possible, or as easy. Time will test how well we will live up to this.