Gatekeepers or Gatecrashers

This post is a collection of not fully formed thoughts, ideas that I have been mulling over since my VALA boot camp on epublishing. Take them with a grain of salt please.

Traditionally information professionals, be they Archivists, Librarians, Curators or the rest of the cultural heritage sector, have been seen (rightly or wrongly) as gatekeepers of knowledge and information. These days as information becomes more and more locked down (DMCA, DRM, never expiring copyright, etc) the term gatekeeper becomes more and more accurate.

Every DRM encumbered book a library lends makes DRM one little bit more accepted. Every borrower who is helped to jump through the ridiculous hoops that DRM puts in front them is one more step in normalising it. When we make gallery exhibition apps that work only on ‘I’ devices we encourage our users to use proprietary software. In essence I contend that we are actually providing a disservice when we do these things.

Luckily at the same time this increased lock in is occurring, the Open Access movement is also increasing. I say Open Access not Open Data, because data is just 1s and 0s it is useless without software. And if the software I need to access the data isn’t Open, then I don’t have Open Access.

So I think we need to become gatecrashers, we should at the very least be pointing out the gates are there, and who put them there, at best we should be busting them open. Let’s promote Open Access, that’s Open Data and Open Software, at every opportunity we get. Let’s push back against those who would put knowledge in a walled garden. Let’s storm the gates and send them crashing open.

How to avoid burn out

One of the great advantages of working on Free Software is the openness and transparency, not only of the code but of the processes around creating the code.  Weirdly (or perhaps not weirdly) this can also be a disadvantage. We can see all the bugs … we know we can fix them, but also sometimes  we can’t fix them as fast as we want. Or  we can see the bugs but don’t have the time, or the permission, to fix them. This can be hugely frustrating, and can cause us to feel like we are not making any progress. What can exacerbate this is the fact we can see all the process, if our patch gets stuck at QA, or signoff, we can see this, it’s all open.

How do we get around this? I don’t really have the answer, but what works for me is mini breaks. Take a week off, or even a day or two off every time you begin to feel a little burnt out. Work on another project, read a book, knit a scarf .. do anything except work on patches in your evenings :) This works for me, a few days off and I’m excited and ready to go again, what never works for me is trying to slog on through it.

International FOSS developer cooperation

A few weeks ago my laptop died so I needed to buy a new one.  As I am heading off to Atlanta for the  Supporting Cultural Heritage Open Source Software Symposium, I thought hmm, I could get a System76 laptop and pick it up when I’m there.

Equinox Software  support both Evergreen and Koha and are based in Atlanta, even though I have never met most of them, they agreed to have the laptop  delivered there. So when I get to Atlanta, I will go pick it up, exchange some beers, then go back to my hotel and check out my presentation out of git ready for the next day.

So thanks to a company that specialises in Linux laptops, and another that specialises in FOSS library software, I will have a brand new laptop running Linux in 3 days time.

Update: Here it is, so far I love it.

2014-04-23 15.39.51

2013 – WTF Happened?

With still 9 days to go I’ve decided to do a bit of a wrap up for the year.

It was a pretty massive year in a lot of ways starting with

Koha

  • This year we had the highest number of commits ever, as of today 2619 commits
  • 82 different people had code committed into Koha
  • 32 were new developers
  • At least (probably about 4 times this many really) 167 libraries liberated themselves by moving to Koha
  • 3.12 and 3.14 were released on time and with no major issues
  • Kohacon in Reno was a great time.
  • The NZ trademark issue was finally settled with the Community winning it’s challenge to Liblime/PTFS’s application.
  • I wrote 50 patches, signed off 182 patches, did QA on 72 and when doing release maintenance pushed 248.

Personal Stuff

  • Maui came to the 4th birthday party of Te Po Atarau.
  • Kahurangi turned 7 and had a space party.
  • I turned 40
  • Laurel had ankle reconstruction surgery, that resulted in a bunch of complications that meant I did the school run for most of the year.
  • I gave 11 presentations. (It would have been 12 but I bailed on one)
  • I survived 3 Whisky O’Clocks
  • I travelled 36,577 km

The presentation I was going to do at NDF

Unfortunately I had to pull out of doing my lightning talk at NDF, I simply didn’t have the time to be able finish what I was going to present. I felt it was better to pull out than do something that wasn’t up to scratch, not really fair on the conference attendees otherwise.

But I still think the idea has some merit, so here is a snippet of the unfinished, rough edged, cut down for youtube, thing I was going to present

Massive thanks to Andrew Caudwell who writes Gource, without which this would not be possible.

It’s running circulation data with 1 minute = 1 day, but it’s equally interesting running a bit slower. There is a lot more I wanted to do, like using the actual book covers, visualising more data, like acquisition, and cataloguing .. tracking an item throughout its life. All of which is easily doable, just with more time.

Anyway, I hope people get something out of it.

What am I doing over summer?

Basically I had lost track of all the presentations I had committed myself to giving, so wanted to note them down here so I don’t do that again.

I don’t think I have missed any, if I have please tell me :)

UPDATE: I did forget one, added now

Brain dumping after Auckland Libraries’ Youth Hui 2013

So last week I had the pleasure of attending a hui organised by the Auckland Libraries. The full title is ‘New Rules of Engagement: Future Directions for Children’s and Youth Services at Auckland Libraries’, subtitled ‘A hui of awesome awesomeness’. It certainly was awesome, unfortunately I could only stay for 1 day of the 2 day hui, but I did get to hang out with some librarians and some of other speakers the day before it.

I was on a panel about digital spaces for children and youth, I talked mainly about the OS Academy we run here at Catalyst, and how successful that is  in engaging youth. There were quite a few questions during that panel discussion and during lots of other ones, and it sparked some ideas, so I am going to write them down here before I forget them.

  • A FLOSS Academy for Librarians – this came from a question where the asker said something to the effect ‘How do we know what we don’t know?’ I think an academy modelled after the academy we run for High School students would be a great way to expose people to a lot more that is out there.
  • Everyone seems to agree that there is much more to librarianship than what you can learn in an academic course, but there was no real agreement on how to balance that with the fact that payscales are often tied to said courses. Some places you can’t even be called a librarian without them. Professionalism destroying artisanship again?
  • Fun is fun, and the key to engagement, dress it up however you like but this seems to be what it boils down to.
  • An idea I had for next year would be a ‘Spectular fails’ session. All the ideas you had that went horribly wrong. These are massively useful learning tools for others.
  • In the same vein, how about a fails track at LIANZA sometime. Fail often and fail loudly :)

That’s about all I can remember, it was a great conference, one I would be keen to attend again. Much thanks to all the organisers and attendees