Timeout was withdrawn on 16 May 2021

Thanks for using Timeout; we hope you’ve found it useful.

When the Student-Run Computing Facility decided to build Timeout last year, we had seen that the pandemic needed us and everybody else on the planet to rapidly adopt a new way of working, teaching and socialising, massively increasing our reliance on online video communication. We saw that the videoconferencing platforms available in the University, and to students in particular, were lacking. We realised that we were in a position to help.

Now, more than a year later, a lot of us are still relying on videoconferencing – but of course lots of people had the same idea to improve the technology, and thankfully there are now more options available both to the general public and within the University specifically.

Meanwhile Timeout has not aged very well over the last year. The SRCF had never built a service on this scale before; in deploying Timeout rapidly, we made our first foray into “infrastructure as code” and learned a lot about how not to provision a relatively large cluster of servers in a maintainable way. We also found that our videoconferencing platform of choice, BigBlueButton, had some architectural and security issues which – due to it not being fully open-source – we could not do much about. Particularly pressing is that as it stands, we are unable to install any security updates on the BigBlueButton servers.

At the moment the SRCF barely has enough sysadmins to keep everything running.

We therefore decided to withdraw Timeout for the time being on 16 May 2021. We’re sorry to give so little notice; we were holding out hope that the platform could be salvaged but it’s become clear that it cannot be made stable and secure in its current form, and needs a complete rebuild.

Recordings will not be deleted straight away, but please get in touch ASAP if you want to keep yours. We may be able to arrange alternative hosting for your recordings, but we need to know which ones are needed.

Beyond 16th May, we’re considering whether to bring Timeout back and if so in what form. Part of that decision will involve learning what activities “Timeout Mark 1” uniquely enabled. More critically, going ahead with a rebuild will be a serious undertaking and our small team of volunteers is already stretched. (Current student? Interested in helping to build a new Timeout this summer? Get in touch!)

Thanks again for your support.