"Twitter" but for SciOly teams idea. Advice?

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"Twitter" but for SciOly teams idea. Advice?

Post by aidenybai » July 22nd, 2020, 9:05 am

Hi everyone, I'm Aiden and I primarily talk on the SciOly discord but I recently thought of an idea in which I think the forums/wiki community has more insight in.

I am looking into building a platform which allows functionality like:
  • Ability to create a "profile page" which includes data like: Name, Team Size, Date Started, etc. for simple view, awards, detailed info, etc for complex view
  • Ability to share profile with a short link (ex. scioly.ambiguous/teamname)
  • Ability to "post" to your page (ex. "Hey! Our team will be competing at Foo Invy at Bar date, check us out!")
The goals of this platform are to be:
  • Fast, easy, and simple onboarding
  • Drop-in or side-by-side replacement
  • Both simple (profile or posts only) and complex view (results, team history)
Any comments/advice?
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Re: "Twitter" but for SciOly teams idea. Advice?

Post by Booknerd » July 22nd, 2020, 1:48 pm

It all sounds great, but I just have one concern.

Is it going to be safe to have kids post their school, name, age, as well as their locations online?
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Re: "Twitter" but for SciOly teams idea. Advice?

Post by aidenybai » July 22nd, 2020, 3:14 pm

Hi Booknerd! This service would be more targeted towards SciOly teams, this way no private information is released. The options (ex. color, school, created at) for the teams will be all opt-in anyway.

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Re: "Twitter" but for SciOly teams idea. Advice?

Post by gz839918 » July 22nd, 2020, 6:27 pm

Hey there! Could you please tell us some more about what sort of goal you're aiming for?

Team pages on the SciOly wiki already fulfill these to a large extent (check out the Solon High School Wiki or Ward Melville Wiki for examples). Conveniently, these pages already have custom links under the Scioly.org domain, which makes them recognizable as team pages. The thing is, many teams don't update their team pages on the wiki, so establishing a platform for this purpose in particular could prove to be a hassle for some teams. Teams already are using Instagram to share updates with the world, so some teams may feel lukewarm towards creating and managing Yet Another Account. Even so, if it has "Fast, easy, and simple onboarding," it may get a better reception than wiki pages, since people don't always want to figure out how to code in MediaWiki just to create a page. It'd be awesome if your creation helps students create a web presence for their teams without the frustration of dealing with MediaWiki/Instagram.

There are also issues of authentication—who can post? Will a password be required to post? If so, how will you keep their passwords safe so that not even you know how to steal their accounts? What happens if an authenticated person, like a rogue team coach/captain, posts something without permission of the others? What if the school isn't real? What if the school is real, but the results are made up? etc. (On the wiki, collective oversight lets us fact-check each other for more trustworthy information.)

If you're really determined to build something yourself, why not integrate from existing platforms? You could use webscraping software to extract information from the wiki (for team name, team colors, date created), Unosmium (for team results), and Instagram accounts (for team posts). Unosmium is made in YAML, and team wiki pages store information in the TeamInfoBox template, both of which are machine-readable; Instagram and most other social media platforms are embeddable. Your own custom site/app could let teams choose to link together a wiki page, Unosmium school, and social media page, and then display them alongside each other on your site/app. And for teams that don't want to create a wiki page, you can let them use the custom interface of your site/app to input information like team name, team colors, recent results, and so forth.

TLDR: I don't want to shut you down because I don't know the goal of your project, but you can take advantage of wheels that have already been invented. Please let me make it clear that you shouldn't feel bad about this—it's a fantastic idea!—I'm just cautious about what happens when SciOly platforms compete for the same niche. I think your ideas could be promising if you could clarify what you want to achieve.
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Re: "Twitter" but for SciOly teams idea. Advice?

Post by aidenybai » July 22nd, 2020, 6:56 pm

Hi gz839918! Wow, thanks for the great feedback. My goal is to figure out a way to provide a clearer and faster way to get information about scioly teams.

Just some more context: I haven't started building this platform at all (I haven't even planned out or even thought about the technical aspect), so this information will be really useful when considering that. As a SciOly participant, I mainly was frustrated on the ease of access of basic information from a "wiki noob" standpoint. Sure, I could find major teams such as the teams you mentioned to be well documented and extremely informational (good job to the contributors), however minor teams I was only maybe able to get the team name and a table for placements at regional/states competitions. Another idea that would be cool (you mentioned in the 3rd paragraph) is to just have the pages aggregate information from the Wiki and other resources for scioly, meaning that if something like this is built, then it's not reinventing the wheel with creating team accounts.

I haven't really considered the technical aspect of the platform yet - I wanted to get some feedback and advice just to make sure it's a viable idea and what other people are doing in this niche. One thing I think security wise is to implement social login, but otherwise there hasn't really been any considerations for authentication yet. One thing you mentioned in your 3rd paragraph and I mentioned above is that instead of reinventing the wheel, just aggregate info from current resources.

Thank you for the reply!

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Re: "Twitter" but for SciOly teams idea. Advice?

Post by gz839918 » July 24th, 2020, 12:25 pm

aidenybai wrote:
July 22nd, 2020, 6:56 pm
Sure, I could find major teams such as the teams you mentioned to be well documented and extremely informational (good job to the contributors), however minor teams I was only maybe able to get the team name and a table for placements at regional/states competitions.
Hmmm... in that case, is it maybe possible that the problem is that students don't realize they can showcase their teams?

Most students use the Scioly.org wiki because it's what comes up when they enter Science Olympiad into the search bar. Most don't notice there are team pages too. Of those who do notice, not all of them will create an account, and of those who create an account, not all of them will write on their team page about team traditions, team pride, attendance at invitationals, and so forth. So, a staggering amount of team pages comes from community members like Tails, sciolyperson1, Jasp, Luo, and countless others, for whom past team results is all the available information there is. As long as most teams don't actually edit the wiki, the wiki won't have that sort of information. You did say you came here from Discord, which is sometimes more teen-friendly than Scioly.org, but the same thing is true there: only a minority of students in Science Olympiad use it; most users come from top teams; only some students use it regularly, and so forth. Even if everybody on Scioly.org and the green and red Discords updated their own team pages (or made a Twitter-like account), then only a little bit would change, because they're the kind of people who are already maintaining wiki pages or social media profiles. For the teams that you call minor teams, maybe you're looking to create something that could generate a team wiki page? Something like this table generator, except that it makes a whole team page instead of just a table? That could remove the frustration of making a team page for less established schools. An automatic generator won't be able to post news to their page as teams must write posts themselves, but the teams can include clickable links on their page to their Twitter, Instagram, or other platforms.
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Re: "Twitter" but for SciOly teams idea. Advice?

Post by jaspattack » July 24th, 2020, 1:19 pm

I really agree with what gz said: a lot of students don't realize that there's such a large and welcoming community for Science Olympiad teams (no matter how competitive)! A lot of the team pages I've created have been from extremely rural areas and tend to only post about results when they're major accomplishments (e.g. students placing in events, or teams qualifying for state). Sometimes teams won't even post that! It goes back to my philosophy with why tournament directors won't release full scoresheets: they don't realize there's a demand. I think Science Olympiad also doesn't place as much importance on networking and connecting with other teams like some organizations do. With something like FIRST Tech Challenge (or Robotics Competition), there's a massive importance placed on networking and connecting with other teams in order to see what works best. A lot of the time in Science Olympiad I find that teams don't reach out, or really know that that's an option. This isn't necessarily the fault of NSO, I just think it's how a lot of teams operate.

Back to the FTC example: The Orange Alliance is a very fantastic program that allows competitors to look up the team number of a robotics team and see the results of every competition they've been to, as well as awards they've earned. However, to my knowledge a lot of this information is community driven (similar to how current team pages function). The thing that allows this to work as smoothly as it does is the fact that there is an enormous FTC community with competitors around the world that are able to update results live. A lot of FTC tournaments are also more transparent with results and use officially sponsored scoring solutions to update things in real time. I personally don't believe that a solution on this scale would be possible with the way that Science Olympiad tournaments are organized at the moment.

Furthermore, I'd like to bring up what gz said in an earlier post: what would make this platform unique as opposed to team pages on Scioly.org or even results on Unosmium? Is your goal to replace team pages, or to exist alongside them? I would actually be very interested in contributing to a project like this if it were to come to fruition, but I do have a lot of questions about the purpose or intent. Obviously I know this is just an idea - I don't expect you to have all the answers :-) The main thing though is also echoing something else that gz said: I think it's very possible (and I would argue even more optimal) for this to be something that heavily relies on or works in tandem with Unosmium. Creating something from the ground up would be difficult and arguably unnecessary, so I think it's good to use your resources where you can. Something I really appreciate about Unosmium is the fact that if you click on a school, you can see results from other competitions that the school has attended. There are a lot of results there already, and it's very easy to contribute (which I would argue is essential for a program like this). Instead of making posts or tweets, I would also suggest something like a calendar of events where teams can mark their interest in attending an event. Especially in states with open regionals or for teams that often register for a lot of invitationals, it'd not only be easy for tournament directors to gauge potential registration numbers (if they wanted) but also for other competitors to get the scoop on where they might see a team compete this season.

This post kind of got away from me, so I apologize for that. Obviously though, anything like this would require an immense amount of effort from everyone involved - from coding to ensuring accessibility to potential users. All of this is not to say that this is a bad idea - in fact, I think that the Science Olympiad community would benefit immensely from a centralized, searchable team database that allows you to view information about teams and their histories. I just don't know if there will ever be a perfect solution to the problem based on its causes, if that makes sense.

EDIT: Clarified some points. If there are still questions, feel free to direct message me on the forums or leave a comment on my talk page on the wiki.
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Re: "Twitter" but for SciOly teams idea. Advice?

Post by pepperonipi » July 25th, 2020, 8:15 am

Hey there aiden. Here's my thoughts.

I unfortunately don't see the need for something like this in the community right now. A lot of what you're trying to accomplish is already done through the Scioly.org wiki. Not only are there already thousands of team pages added by wonderful volunteer contributors, but:
  1. Making a team page is relatively straightforward (just put the new team name into the search bar, and click "Create the page X")
  2. It is well known throughout the community. As gz, said, searching up for "Ward Melville High School Scioly" instantly brings up the Scioly.org wiki page as the top result. As many competitors, coaches, tournament directors, volunteers, etc have used Scioly.org for up to 20 years, so it is pretty well known in the community.
  3. Many wiki templates have been created to assist in the making of team pages, and a team who doesn't know wiki code could likely copy the code of another page and just edit out the words they need to.
  4. Teams there can list the tournaments they are attending, results of past tournaments, trivia, team members, social medias, location, a map, an address, history of their team, etc. (aka, there's no shortage of what teams can really add on to their own page). And if people want another field, they can just edit the template themselves to put it in.
Even though the wiki isn't perfect, I'd still say that making team pages isn't terribly difficult to warrant the creation of a new platform for making them.
aidenybai wrote:
July 22nd, 2020, 6:56 pm
Another idea that would be cool (you mentioned in the 3rd paragraph) is to just have the pages aggregate information from the Wiki and other resources for scioly, meaning that if something like this is built, then it's not reinventing the wheel with creating team accounts.
Wait, so are you planning to have people edit their pages on the wiki or your platform? Because while it may be me, harvesting information from an open platform where anyone with an account can edit mostly everything, to put it on a closed platform where you decide the styling and layout of information sounds a little not so good. In the case that you do this, you will for sure need to give credit to all of the contributors and link back to the page that it came from. Additionally, I'd hope, not mandate, that your program be open-source, so that it is freely editable. I think having a freely editable, open platform is a magical thing.
aidenybai wrote:
July 22nd, 2020, 6:56 pm
As a SciOly participant, I mainly was frustrated on the ease of access of basic information from a "wiki noob" standpoint. Sure, I could find major teams such as the teams you mentioned to be well documented and extremely informational (good job to the contributors), however minor teams I was only maybe able to get the team name and a table for placements at regional/states competitions.
I'm just curious, how are you planning to combat this happening on your platform? You think that if you provide a more friendly user experience, schools are going to want to create pages. I'd say that this likely won't happen. For some teams, they're simply not invested in the program enough to want to put their knowledge out on to a program like this. Even if you were to provide an easier user interface for someone to create a page, creating a page still requires someone to do it. Unless your site would be pushed/required by NSO to register or something, I don't see an easier UI encouraging teams to create pages.

Like others have said, I have a hard time seeing how your site would fill a large gap needed in the community right now, as it somewhat does what the Scioly.org wiki does right now. It almost just sounds like you're trying to reformat the wiki, right? You're taking a large sum of information from it to create the initial pages and put it on to a page with the same title but different formatting. Also as jasp said, this would require an immense amount of effort, both for you to code the application and for people to create team pages/add information.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'd admire your innovative thinking. I'm just not sure that this current project as you have described is maybe the best avenue to go down. Maybe if you're looking for something to help code, try looking at Unosmium. As people have linked to earlier in this thread, it's a somewhat new results platform built for the Scioly community. And the best part is: it's open-source! Check out some of the work that's been done for the project here: https://github.com/unosmium. This has been acknowledged by many in the community as a missing piece of keeping results in Science Olympiad, and I think it would be great if you wanted to help contribute. Obviously it's just a recommendation.

Sorry for the length. You are welcome to DM with any questions.
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Re: "Twitter" but for SciOly teams idea. Advice?

Post by aidenybai » July 29th, 2020, 7:34 pm

Hi everyone! Sorry for the late response, I haven't got around to checking the forumns. Thank you all for your insight, advice, and information. I definitely learned a ton about the SciOly community and the awesome projects this community has made. I'll be sure to take a look at the references you guys provided me. For now, I'm not going go through this idea, but I hope this thread can serve as a useful resource for others who may be interested in something like this.
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