The RIPE NCC is the Regional Internet Registry (RIR) for Europe, the Middle East and parts of Central Asia. It’s a not-for-profit organisation full of deep-tech specialists that allocates and registers blocks of Internet number resources to Internet service providers (ISPs) and other organisations. The RIPE NCC’s membership consists mainly of Internet service providers, telecommunication organisations and large corporations.
To deliver fully facilitated networking at its ever-growing events, the RIPE NCC needed a dedicated networking app. Yet nothing it could find off the shelf was quite right – or even cost-effective.
“People come to RIPE Meetings in large part to share best practices, meet new people and network,” says RIPE NCC Web Services Manager Adam Castle. “Coffee breaks and socials facilitate that, but it doesn't scale when there's 800 or more people from 60 different countries attending. The feedback attendees gave us over the course of many events was clear: they needed a tool to network with people that much better.”
The RIPE NCC initially responded by piloting a third-party, web-based tool at two of its meetings. It fulfilled the basic requirements, but users wanted more, including an app that could:
“It was clear that a web-based tool wasn't enough,” says Castle. “This was especially evident when we looked at how people used the tool at our meetings. Before the meeting started, most users are on the mobile desktop version of the app. Once sessions were underway, many switch to the mobile version.”
When the RIPE NCC explored its options in the marketplace, it soon discovered that the open source Ionic codebase was a good fit with its needs, and especially as it had a pre-existing conferencing app upon which the RIPE NCC could build. Since the app wasn’t loaded down with bells and whistles, it met another important feature request from the RIPE community: low battery usage.
What RIPE NCC needed was training in Ionic both for the immediate task of building the app and to bring the expertise in-house for the long term.
“Two of the in-house team, including myself, had been on public courses by Framework Training – in Angular and PhoneGap –and liked the experience,” says Castle. “We particularly liked the small-group element, and working with others at a similar advanced level, so the training proceeds at the right pace and stays on track.”
It was Framework’s capability to develop tailored courses using the latest languages and frameworks that really caught the eye of Castle and the RIPE NCC.
“We also knew that this was the right way ahead with the app. In fact, it was still far more cost-effective to fly the trainer to our Amsterdam HQ and deliver the course for members of our team than it was to outsource the task in its entirety. That’s before you even take account of all the knock-on benefits for the team and our skillsets by growing our internal capability.”
Two weeks of dedicated training was allocated in all, but it took just four days of working with Framework’s trainer on the app and the Ionic codebase for the RIPE NCC to press ahead on its own terms.
“We loved that Framework was right up to speed with Ionic, which is a versatile and powerful platform. The trainer, Toby, then came back two months on from the initial four days, and supported us as the app neared its launch. In the intervening weeks we’d got to learn more about the codebase and its capabilities for our specific needs, but it was still useful to compare notes on the technical challenge posed in developing the app, and to take stock of where we’d reached.”
One piece of practical advice from the trainer that Castle says was invaluable was how to get the mobile app in Apple’s App Store. “That was very useful to know and took off the pressure. It meant we gave ourselves a month to get the app into iTunes, even if it ultimately took only three weeks.”
Castle also highlights how the project and bringing in a trainer helped to standardise the knowledge base internally for the RIPE NCC’s developers . “When it comes to Ionic, they know they know the same things. It’s a level playing field – and that’s very useful to us.”