eHub Interviews Haiku

Posted by Emily Chang on Monday, September 24th, 2007. Filed under: eHub Interviews

Visit Haiku LMS, originally added to eHub on Jan 19, 07.

imageThanks to the team at Haiku for this email interview.

eHub: What is your web application/service about?

Reynard: “It’s a classroom website creator.”

Marcos: “haiku LMS lets teachers put a classroom website online quickly and easily, with no need for technical experience. Our focus is to give teachers the tools they really need to communicate with students & parents without extra fluff or hard to learn features. To help meet these goals we’ve created a drag and drop interface for building web pages, a calendar to schedule events and assignments, and an announcements area where teachers can inform visitors to their site of the latest news.”

Allen: “We are about making it easier to teach, learn and to know what is going on with your children if they are in school.  Teachers want to teach; they don’t have time to do much more than that.  haiku LMS takes about 15 to 20 minutes per week to maintain.”

Bryan: “If a teacher wishes to create a website where he/she can communicate with parents and students, haiku LMS is the fastest, simplest means for getting it done.  We have adopted an eastern aesthetic for the system, where balance, unity and simplicity of features create a human-focused, human-friendly technology.  Our mantra is: If a teacher has to think about the technology, then they aren’t thinking about teaching.  We don’t want a teacher to waste Time, one of their most precious resources, on software.”

eHub: Why did you start this project?

imageAllen: “Bryan and I started HAIKU Learning Systems because we believed then, as we do now, that we understand educators and technology very well.  With those intersecting competencies we believe that we will create not only the best LMS 2.0, but a growing community of educators who believe in teaching so others will learn.”

Bryan: “There was a need for a simple, balanced solution for an LMS for K12.  The other systems we researched seemed to put the technology ahead of the teacher.  Many of them were using outdated technologies and were too expensive.  Others were limiting because they required an IT staff member’s time to implement.  We wanted to take the technology out of the equation, and make this system accessible to any teacher who had access to web-browser, anywhere in the world.”

Reynard: “From working on some big school district projects and feel the need for this.”

Marcos: “This is my first full time job after graduating from college.”

eHub: How much time do you devote to its growth?  Do you have a day job?

Marcos: “HAIKU is my day job. I work 9-5 with the rest of the HAIKU team, mostly doing coding but also the occasional skin design.  And it isn’t unusual for us to put in late hours at times.”

Allen: “I think of little else.”

Bryan: “I devote around 10 hours a week to this project.  In my other job I am leading several software development projects for a number of school districts across the state.”

eHub: How large is your team and what are your backgrounds?

Allen P. Angell – President/Sales/Marketing:
“Actually, it is a close tie between Bryan and me for the largest in terms of weight.  He and I have even started a weight loss competition. The loser has to watch the DVD of the winner’s choice.  Marcos is clearly the tallest.  And Reynard is the smallest, but can probably jump the highest.”

Bryan R. Falcon – Vice President of Operations/Development Supervisor:
“I’ve worked as a education systems specialist for around 12 years now, managing software and systems development for both higher education and K12.  In my other life I am a film director and occasionally teach at a local college.”

Reynard Hilman – Lead Software Architect/Graphics Designer:
“The development team only consists of 2 people now (me and Marcos). I was previously a web developer at LightSky (www.lightsky.com), where I did a lot of custom portal applications for K-12 schools. That’s when I started talking with
Bryan (the President and a Project Manager at LightSky at that time) about the possibility of creating what we call haiku LMS now.  I started the project for about 2 months before Marcos joined me. I would say this is not a typical start up story. Although I have known the other team members (Bryan and Allen) for a long time, I didn’t know Marcos at all which worried me.  However it turned out that Marcos is the best developer I have worked with. It’s really nice when you don’t have to waste hours and hours debating issues, we think alike and when there is something to discuss we usually come to agreement with only 5-10 minutes discussion.”

Marcos Kuhns – Software Engineer/Graphics Designer:
“I am a recent Computer Science graduate.”

eHub: What is your design philosophy?

Bryan: “Balance.  The benefits of adding a new feature are always offset by increasing complexity of a software product.  The beauty of our namesake, the Haiku poem, is the balance of nearly infinite content options within a very specific form (5-7-5).  Our product is the same…a specific form for posting content that has been streamlined for ease of use.
We aren’t in the market to try and win a feature race with other LMS products, we are just going to be the most elegant, simplest- might I say…’beautiful’ way for teachers, parents and students to communicate.”

Allen: “We place our number one priority on simplicity.  haiku LMS will always be easier to use than any alternative with similar or even more features.”

eHub: What technologies are you currently using?

Reynard: “Ruby on Rails, MySQL, AJAX, PHP”

Marcos: “Ruby on Rails, MySQL, AJAX, CSS (for skinning), Apache 2, Subversion, Trac”

Allen: “IP Phone, Online payroll service, Online book keeping software, Online banking, Zimbra email, Rackspace hosting, and Blockbuster online for relaxation.

Bryan: “OmniGraffle Pro, OmniPlan, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign”

eHub: If your project is live, what are the most requested features from your users/community?

Allen: “Actually, the number one requested feature since our launch has been for additional languages for our interface.  Already, teachers have created classroom websites with content in Spanish, French, Arabic, Hebrew, Italian, and Chinese.  We do plan to release our interface in a variety of languages.  In fact, we planned this from the beginning.”

Bryan: “Messaging and Grade book, both of which we are appearing in the next version”

eHub: Does your user base reside in a primary geographic location or is it distributed?

Allen: “Our users cover North America and the world.  The majority are from the most populated parts of the United States; however, we have significant representation from Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Argentina, China, Israel and more.”

eHub: Where do you see the project heading in the next 6 months?  The next 2 years?

Allen: “haiku LMS v2.0 will release in June.  V2.0 features include messaging, discussions, and quizzes: all integrated with an online grading system. Even with these added features haiku LMS will retain it’s adherence to simplicity and harmony.  This summer, educators will get a Learning Management System that actually helps to make it easier to teach.  Two years from now we at HAIKU will have a significant user base; enough that our long term goal to make it possible and easy for our users to share curriculum content with each other will be realized.”

eHub: What is the greatest challenge to your success?

Reynard: “Focusing on the features that teachers, students and parents want most. Making sure the new features we introduce adhere to our standards of simplicity and ease of use.”

Marcos: “Getting the word out. We have a wonderful product; the challenge is to get teachers to try the system. Once they spend the first half hour getting their website set up I don’t think they will need much more convincing to stick with it. But getting that initial time investment is the trick.”

Allen: “Money.”

Bryan: “Like Marcos said, ‘getting the word out’.  Everyone who is using it gives it rave reviews.  We just need to world to learn about us.

eHub: What is the one thing you need to get to the next phase of the project?

Haiku: Allen: “Money.”

eHub: Do you have a business model?  If so, what is it?

Allen: “We have modeled our approach to development largely on the “Getting Real” business model espoused by 37 Signals and other small, agile firms.  As Major Charles Emerson Winchester III of M.A.S.H. once said, “I do one thing.  I do it very well.  And then I move on.”

Bryan: “Grassroots marketing based, K12 community advised (we have a group of K12 teachers advising us, keeping us grounded) with a user-responsive staff.”

eHub: What is the one thing you’re most proud of about the project?

Reynard: “The simplicity of the interface that uses intensive AJAX, and the full fledge calendar comparable to Google calendar, well not quite but the at least the basic features.”

Marcos: “The page creation portion of the website. Users can add text, images, video, music, links, YouTube & Google videos, Flickr photos, ODEO audio and then arrange content & pages however they like. It’s simple, flexible, and intuitive. (Or the community, or Skins… I like a lot about haiku LMS.)”

Allen: “We are doing something that I believe will positively affect learning.  THAT’s not only something with which I am proud, it is actually really cool.”

Bryan: “There is a balance in haiku LMS that highlights what a teacher has to say.  I love the clarity of voice. I love the humanity in this tool”

eHub: How would you describe the shift that’s occurring with the web right now to future generations?

Reynard: “The fact that more and more people have access to the Internet with better connection and a cheaper price, makes web applications a more viable tool for collaboration and sharing of information with almost everyone. We are hoping that every teacher, student and parent can take advantage of this with our tool.”

Marcos: “The web has become not only accessible, but also immersive. Not only can people find the information they need, but also easily contribute. Blogs were the beginning, but now sites like Wikipedia, YouTube and countless social communities like facebook & myspace let anyone add useful (or not so useful) content to the web.”

eHub: What site(s) do you visit everyday other than your own?

Reynard: “Google news, Slashdot, del.icio.us, Linuxtoday, some rails blogs.”
Marcos: “Digikitten.com, macminute.com, bbc news, facebook.”
Bryan: “Google news, del.icio.us, New York Times, BBC”

eHub: How many hours of sleep do you get a night?

Reynard: “About 6-7 hours.”

Bryan: “5-7 hours.  I have 8 month-old baby and a 10 month-old Web2.0 startup keeping me up at night.

Marcos: “Usually 6 or 7. My life is pretty busy between work at HAIKU, spending time with my fiancee & friends, and designing a wedding website.”

Allen: “6-7 most nights.  I’m definitely not, nor have I ever been, a morning person.  My best sleep comes between sunrise and brunch.”

Thanks to Haiku for this email interview.

Visit Haiku LMS
Originally added to eHub on Jan 19, 07