He kaituhi hōtaka rorohiko ahau

Warning: This is a messy bunch of jumbled up thoughts, with no real conclusion.

How did I end up here? This is something I often ask myself. How did a person born in Kawakawa, from Te Wai Pounamu, end up in the server room of the Library of Bowen University in Iwo, Nigeria?


When I was young I wanted to be a chef, then I realised how hard they have to work, and noped right out of that idea. I was super privileged that both my parents were teachers, and that my dad has always had a strong interest in computers. We always had computers in the house, since I was about 12, so computer science was what I ended up studying.

In a theme that has continued through a large part of my life, I couldn’t do a double major in Computer Science and Māori Studies in a BSc. So I ended up doing a BSc and a BA. Once I finished my BSc, and while I was finishing my BA I worked part time at Te Pūtahi a Toi at Massey University. For those 2.5 years I was able to really feel like I was a Māori programmer, not a programmer who happens to be Māori.

Since 1997 I have worked for 3 different companies, 2 of them were fantastic, Katipo Communications, and Catalyst IT (where I still work now). The third one, not so much, but that is a whole other story. While Katipo and Catalyst were and are great places to work, the reality of working in IT in Wellington is, it is quite likely you are going to be the only Māori in the room most times. What may be a little different for me is that I don’t look like what most people think Māori look like. (Us Kāi Tahu had contact with Europeans relatively early on, lots of whalers down that way. If I had a dollar for every time I was asked “but how much Māori are you?” or “Why did you learn Māori?” I’d have retired about 10 years ago.) This means I get to overhear lots of really offensive opinions and the worst part is when people assume I will agree.  I’m not going to delve into the role privilege plays in IT, apart to say, I think a lot more people could think on Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini kē. (My strength is not the strength of one, it is the strength of many. We are the product of our ancestors and our environments, no one stands alone, no one did it themselves).

So, at least in my experience, the easiest way to be Māori in IT is to be as Pākehā as you can. That’s certainly the path of least resistance and will make your daily life easier. Except of course, unless you are working for a Māori organisation. I also acknowledge that for most of my career I have been working with Libraries, this has brought me into contact with many awesome people through groups like Te Rōpū Whakahau. So I have had a much easier journey than others.

Things are changing though, people are now taking Te Reo classes at my work, I have a great support group of people like my whānau, Kris, Amber and many others here in Wellington. IT has also given me the chance to meet people from all over the world. To visit places like Nigeria, Argentina, Greece, Scotland, Canada, USA, Fiji .. and so many more. It is, in the scheme of things, a pretty damn good career choice. It is something I encourage many more Māori to get involved in, as it is an expanding and massively varied field of work. From User Experience to Design, to Business Analysis, to Operations, to Sales, to Project management, and on and on. There is so much more to it than just us coders. I think in summary I’d say to Māori.
IT is like rugby, there is a position for every type of player. However it is quite likely some cracker is going to say something like we need a sensible Pākehā in the centres.

My list of conference presentations

I realised the other day, I was losing track of the conference presentations I have given. So in order to have a list somewhere I decided to write one here. I’ll update it as I have changes.

I think that’s all of them, if you know of any I’ve missed please let me know

My 2015 in pictures

2015 was a really busy year for me, I’m sure I’ll forget lots in doing this run down, but I’ll try to do one anyway. The year started pretty shittily, with Laurel being ill, but we soldiered on and enjoyed some cricket anyway


The Catalyst Open Source Academy again went well, with the group working on Koha getting a lot done.


Photo by Catalyst Media CC-BY-SA

The boys and I went on a trip to the Hawkes Bay at the end of January which was a ton of fun, splash planet is great fun with kids. One of the highlights for Te Pō Atarau was getting to feed a lamb.

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In February we went to watch the Jousting at Harcourt park and the kids got to try archery.

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In April, Te Pō Atarau invented which might be the most complicated game I have ever tried to play

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And I presented at the Open Source Open Society conference.

OSOS conference
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – April 17: OSOS conference April 17, 2015 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Mark Tantrum/ mark tantrum.com)

I turned 42 in May and Te Pō Atarau turned 6. I also went up the coast to participate in the Digital Nati sessions, which was great.

The highlight of June for me was the kid’s disco which I live tweeted.

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July was busy with Matariki, and my favourite Kaumatua kapa haka, as well as Armageddon and Māori language week.

August was about the quietest month of the year, but then in September we went to Fiji and the US.

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We got back in October, and 4 days later I flew out to Kohacon15 in Nigeria, which was a totally amazing trip

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November was the LIANZA conference.

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Kahurangi turned 9.

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And we had Island food O’clock for one of our beer o’clocks at work.

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And December was Kiwicon and of course Christmas

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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.

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