The Verdict

Back in April, I asked 6 friends to pass rapid judgement on my latest attempt to define the Roundsheet application.  I asked them to give the document a quick scan and to provide answers to the questions below with either Yes or No, and to feel free to add comments or suggestions if they wished.

  1. Were you able to understand what was being described?
  2. Do the Roundsheet concepts make sense to you?
  3. Do you think a Roundsheet application would give users something they haven’t got already?
  4. Is it worth pursuing this idea any further?

I received 5 replies. Not everyone was able to answer either Yes or No to each question – some answers were ‘partly’ or ‘sort of’ or ‘don’t know’ or ‘possibly’; so, I’m going to classify all such in-between kind of responses as ‘not sure’. Applying this rule of thumb, the bare number results were:

Question Yes Not Sure No
Able to understand? 3 1 1
Concepts make sense? 3 1 1
Something user’s haven’t got? 2 3 0
Worth pursuing? 2 2 1

 Some of the comments were interesting:

“one would think that many spreadsheets have pie chart functionalities: your concept is really about how to use those functionalities”

“whether this could be a protected tool? I think you would have difficulty”

“still wondering why the roundsheet format is any better than the tabular format which apparently could be used instead?”

“may be of interest to those who get frustrated by the complexities of linking Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint applications – I have come across a few of those in my career!”

“I feel there is a core there that could be extremely useful”

However, overall, there’s no overwhelming consensus that this is a winning idea, and it’s probably unlikely that time spent trying to promote its development into a product would be rewarded; so I think this is the time to put this journey to bed. I have enjoyed the intellectual challenge it has given me; and have the satisfaction of knowing that I took the ideas as far as I could and finished the job. I could always bring the topic out of retirement should someone come along with a serious interest in taking it forward.

Thank you to all of you who, over the years, have taken the time to wade through and pass comment on the various specification documents.

Breakthrough! – Streamlined Version

Well, it’s taken me 23 years, but at last I think I have a Roundsheet specification which is simple enough to understand and use.  I’ve stripped away as many extraneous concepts as I could so that all that remains is the idea of a Round which can be divided into Slices (segments), each of which can be transformed into, and worked upon, as a Round. This simple recursive structure is much easier to work with and to illustrate than some of the earlier specifications. Consequently, I’ve been able to provide prototype screen graphics for most of the functions described in the latest Roundsheet specification document (which I’m now referring to as the Streamlined Version).

Given that this is about my best shot at defining a Roundsheet application, I guess this is the version upon which a final judgement has to be made as to whether there is any merit in the idea. That judgement will have to be made by others, so I think I’ll assemble a list of people I know and see what they say. If the answer is less than enthusiastic, at least I’ll know that I’ve explored my original idea to the full, and will be able to lay it to rest in the archives.

A Simplified Spec

The lack of entries here for three years tells the story that my 2013 Roundsheet specification did not inspire anyone to start building a prototype. In fact, I only showed it to a couple of people, but neither were particularly complimentary. Re-reading the 2013 spec now, I can understand why. In trying to extend the concept to a three dimensional ball, it had all got too complicated. So, I’ve gone back to the basic idea of being able to break circles (Rounds) down into segments (Slices), and being able to collect the Rounds together into a cylinder (Roll). I’ll see what my colleagues think of the revised, simplified spec.

A revised Roundsheet specification

Around 1994, I specified in a document that the term “Roundsheet” was my own property. It designated ideas I had been developing about an alternative to the two-dimensional spreadsheet. Subsequently, in 2010, I came up with some more thoughts on the concept. Now, some 19 years after I had the idea, I’m going to try and nail down a specification and maybe try and get a prototype built.

After reviewing my previous writings on the subject, I concluded that the obvious next step was to tighten up the 2010 document particularly with respect to the top level components, and to define explicitly what types of data the Roundsheet could handle. The result is a revised, very high-level, specification (4. Roundsheet Spec v0.4 – 24Mar2013) which provides a reasonably complete and internally consistent description of the Roundsheet functions. Three short illustrations of its use have also been included.

In considering what to do next, two aspects seem to be key – protecting the intellectual property, and getting the tool built. From what I have heard about applying for Patents, it sounds very time consuming and expensive and only worthwhile if you genuinely expect to be able to capitalise on the ideas. I don’t have such confidence, therefore I am reconciled to just including a statement asserting my ownership and rights to a royalty percentage, on my writings on the subject.

Regarding getting the tool built, I am not going to attempt it myseIf as I don’t have the necessary current knowledge of platforms and programming languages – and am not prepared to spend huge chunks of my time acquiring the expertise. So, if it is to be built at all, I will need to find someone else to do it. First, however, it seems sensible to get some other opinions as to its viability and usefulness to assess if it’s worth trying to persuade someone to invest their time on it. With this in mind I’m going to send this latest spec to a few people and ask their views.