Showing posts with label role models. Show all posts
Showing posts with label role models. Show all posts

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

A call for agile museum projects (a lunchtime manifesto)

Yet another conversation on twitter about the NMOLP/Creative Spaces project lead to a discussion of the long lead times for digital projects in the cultural heritage sector. I've worked on projects that were specced and goals agreed with funders five years before delivery, and two years before any technical or user-focussed specification or development began, and I wouldn't be surprised if something similar happened with NMOLP.

Five years is obviously a *very* long time in internet time, though it's a blink of an eye for a museum. So how do we work with that institutional reality? We need to figure out agile, adaptable project structures that funders and bid writers can also understand and buy into...

The initial project bid must be written to allow for implementation decisions that take into account the current context, and ideally a major goal of the bid writing process should be finding points where existing infrastructure could be re-used. The first step for any new project should be a proper study of the needs of current and potential users in the context of the stated goals of the project. All schema, infrastructure and interface design decisions should have a link to one or more of those goals. Projects should built around usability goals, not object counts or interface milestones set in stone three years earlier.

Taking institutional parameters into account is of course necessary, but letting them drive the decision making process leads to sub-optimal projects, so projects should have the ability to point out where institutional constraints are a risk for the project. Constraints might be cultural, technical, political or collections-related - we're good at talking about the technical and resourcing constraints, but while we all acknowledge the cultural and political constraints it often happens behind closed doors and usually not in a way that explicitly helps the project succeed.

And since this is my lunchtime dream world, I would like plain old digitisation to be considered sexy without the need to promise funders more infrastructure they can show their grandkids.

We also need to work out project models that will get buy-in from contractors and 3rd party suppliers. As Dan Zambonini said, ''Usability goals' sounds like an incredibly difficult thing to quantify' so existing models like Agile/sprint-esque 'user stories' might be easier to manage.

We, as developers, need to create a culture in which 'failing intelligently' is rewarded. I think most of us believe in 'failing faster to succeed sooner', at least to some extent, but we need to think carefully about the discourse around public discussions of project weaknesses or failures if we want this to be a reality. My notes from Clay Shirky's ICA talk earlier this year say that the members of the Invisible College (a society which aimed to 'acquire knowledge through experimental investigation') "went after alchemists for failing to be informative when they were wrong" - " it was ok to be wrong but they wanted them to think about and share what went wrong". They had ideas about how results should be written up and shared for maximum benefit. I think we should too.

I think the MCG and Collections Trust could both have a role to play in advocating more agile models to those who write and fund project bids. Each museum also has a responsibility to make sure projects it puts forward (whether singly or in a partnership) have been reality checked by its own web or digital specialists as well as other consultants, but we should also look to projects and developers (regardless of sector) that have managed to figure out agile project structures that funders and bid writers can also understand and buy into.

So - a blatant call for self-promotion - if you've worked on projects that could provide a good example, written about your dream project structures, know people or projects that'd make a good case study - let me know in the comments.

Thanks also to Mike, Giv and Mike, Daniel Evans (and the MCG plus people who listened to me rant at dev8D in general) for the conversations that triggered this post.


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If you liked this post, you may also be interested in Confluence on digital channels; technologists and organisational change? (29 September 2012) and Museums and iterative agility: do your ideas get oxygen? (21 November 2010).

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Looking for inspiration for Ada Lovelace Day?

The GetSETWomen Blog is a great source of inspiring women in technology to blog about for Ada Lovelace Day.

The UKRC's GetSETWomen network for women in science, engineering or technology (SET) site also includes an astronomy blog where a variety of women will post 'a one-off entry about the role of astronomy and outer space in their lives' for the International Year of Astronomy, and the 2008 Outstanding Women in SET: Photographic Exhibition is another good source. It's a shame they haven't listed the 'outstanding women in SET' for 2009 ahead of the launch of the exhibition but check back in mid-March.

[Updated to add:] The Global Women Inventors & Innovators Network(GWIIN) website might also throw up some leads, and the related British Female Inventor of the Year award site has some great stories about women inventors.

I've also been listing inspiring women at modernbluestocking.freebase.com, though as it's a much broader project, not everyone listed works with technology.

If you're not sure why female role models matter, these articles explain it well.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Finding Ada - creating new female role models

I should be studying for exams but I wanted to quickly post about Ada Lovelace Day. The organiser asks for pledges to "publish a blog post on Tuesday 24th March about a woman in technology whom I admire". You can find out more about why at the link above, but the point about why role models are important is worth repeating:
Undoubtedly it’s a complex issue, but recent research may shed some light: Psychologist Penelope Lockwood discovered that women need to see female role models more than men need to see male ones.

Well, that’s a relatively simple problem to begin to address. If women need female role models, let’s come together to highlight the women in technology that we look up to. Let’s create new role models and make sure that whenever the question “Who are the leading women in tech?” is asked, that we all have a list of candidates on the tips of our tongues.

Thus was born Ada Lovelace Day, and this pledge:

“I will publish a blog post on Tuesday 24th March about a woman in technology whom I admire but only if 1,000 other people will do the same.”

Who would you blog about? I've signed the pledge so I'd better start thinking.

[Edited to add: if you're interested in researching and making information about inspiring female role models accessible, you might be interested in 'modern bluestocking'. Contributions and suggestions are very welcome, especially from a technical perspective. And I will be shamelessly checking out suggestions for Ada Lovelace Day to add to the nascent modernbluestocking topic on Freebase.]