Status of Work on DIGGS -- Closure of the Transportation Pooled Fund Project

June 15, 2012 - 12:47am — LTurner

DIGGS Team Members and Partners –

The Transportation Pooled Fund project TPF-5(111), “Development of Standards for Geotechnical Management Systems,” is in its final month and the current development phase of DIGGS is drawing to a close. In my last email update to the DIGGS team members and partners back in October 2011, I had reported that the project had been temporarily suspended for several months while seeking approval of a no-cost time extension through the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The project resumed in October 2011, and XML/GML schema development resumed under the contract with the University of Florida and Galdos Systems. As this TPF project is now wrapping up and ODOT is executing project close-out procedures, an update to you on development efforts is warranted.

You may recall, the DIGGS workshop in Orlando Florida in March 2009 marked a major turning point in the project. Organizational, leadership, and contractual terms for the TPF project had occurred and re-evaluation of the project’s development trajectory was needed. Up to that point DIGGS v1.0a had been developed and released, and although comprehensive, concerns amongst the stakeholders remained about the complexity of the schema and its overall readiness for deployment. During that meeting a vision for moving forward was forged and captured in the document, “Project Plan for the Development of DIGGS, November 17, 2009” (http://diggsml.com/project-plan-development-diggs). The project plan presented a defined scope of work to be carried out, a schedule, a sequence of tasks, and an estimate of costs. A new strategy for project management and use of remaining project funds were also adopted, including an increased use of contracted information technology professionals and consultants with specific schema development expertise. Furthermore, development work on DIGGS would focus initially on achieving robust performance of the core geotechnical domain data elements, namely, production-level geotechnical borehole logging data. Ten tasks were presented with the goal of delivering a robust and deployable version of the DIGGS schema.

Since the March 2009 meeting, a core development team (a sub-set of the Core SIG) comprised of myself, Dan Ponti (USGS), and David Burggraff (Galdos) have been working on evolving the technical aspects of the schema, using recommendations generated through an independent review process (http://diggsml.com/diggs-project-team-contracts-galdos-systems-and-compu...). Chris Bray (formerly with Keynetix) participated in the process to insure an effective transition of important design elements from DIGGS v1.0a, for which he was a key developer, to the next generation version. The team coordinated with DIGGS software community partners at key development milestones, including the release of DIGGS v1.1 in April 2010, to insure that the direction of development and major design decisions were consistent with software implementation requirements. The team’s work has taken considerable time and, unfortunately, we didn’t accomplish everything we had originally set out to do – resources were shifted from more urgent tasks to others; and, several key tasks related to schema review, testing, and validation were not done due to a variety of scheduling and resourcing challenges. Despite the challenges, the work persisted and a streamlined schema was produced.

Significant changes have been implemented since DIGGS v1.1 was rolled out in April 2010. In the project plan those changes had been anticipated to be more of an incremental evolution of DIGGS v1.1, released as DIGGS v1.2. A six month review period had been planned to follow that release with the software development community and other key DIGGS stakeholders actively engaged. However, during the v1.2 development process, the core development team realized that more fundamental changes were needed than originally expected. This work had altered key schema structures and design constructs to the point that backwards compatibility to DIGGS v1.1 could no longer be maintained. In keeping with conventional software versioning practices, the resulting schema was given the designation DIGGS v2.0a. The “2.0” indicating a major version change without backwards compatibility, while the “a” (for “alpha”) signifying that this version has not yet undergone the level of testing and validation required of a final release.

Later this month a meeting is planned to discuss the transition of DIGGS v2.0a to the American Society of Civil Engineers Geo-Institute (ASCE-GI) as the new curator of the standard. Details of that transition and plans for coordinating with key DIGGS implementation efforts by the AGS, FHWA, State Transportation Departments, and others will likely be communicated through the newly formed governance body. Also, a draft Final Report for the project was distributed earlier this week by the ODOT Research Program in order to meet reporting requirement deadlines for the TPF project. The report should be considered a first draft in its current state. Regrettably, due to competing demands and priorities in my job duties, I have not committed the time needed to adequately assist Dr. Hoit in the preparation and review of that document. I will do my best to follow up on this in the coming months.

DIGGS v2.0a embodies seven years of hard work and support by all of you, the community of DIGGS stakeholders. Many of you and your organizations have made significant contributions to this project in a variety of ways – project funding; in-kind contributions of people resources; and lending your expertise as end-users, practitioners, standards developers, systems integrators, and software developers. In leading a number of aspects of the TPF project work these past few years, I truly appreciate your efforts and the confidence you have entrusted in me to carry out this important work.

Thank you,

Loren Turner