Monday, May 14, 2007
BarCamp sessions notes, part I
1. User Experience -- facilitated by Kara
One of the larger meeting rooms, packed & people continued to enter.
Session started by asking everyone for name & one word per person associated with "user experience". People began by throwing out a word, then adding their names -- eventually came to embrace the structure Kara asked people to follow.
Example of pyramid form Web Visions conference. Base represented the simple functionality of the application, middle level was the addition of widgets & other improvements, top was the user experience.
- "Don't be afraid to throw something away"
- Be sure to explain your choices in the application
- Failure in creating applications of the target audience: thinking of an elite who understand technology when the goal is to appeal to general users.
- Example of coding applications to the blind
- "Has anyone encountered the problem of the CEO-driven design?" In other words, the boss comes in the middle of the design process & insists on adding a feature to the application, complicating the process & design
2. Building online communities -- Dawn Foster
- Technology driving the online community
- Balance between face-to-face and online interaction
- Attracting the non-Geeks, non-technologists to the online community
- Case study of the online knitting community -- yarn/yarnporn tag on Flickr
- How to translate the thousands of years of civilized customs into online behavior. However, which "civilized customs" -- problem of cross-cultural norms; not everyone online is in the US or Europe.
- "Does anyone know of a best practices for finding moderators?" Moderators being people who can regulate behavior & keep interactions civil.
- Moderators also needed to not only welcome but to help newbies find the gaps, the opportunites to enrich the online community. "Where can I direct you?"
- Practice -- refers to the rules to handle people; tools -- refers to what you handle people with
- The need to find champions; & the need of a support structure for the moderators.
- Examples discussed ranged from aggregation of the customers of a proprietary product to communities creating their own dogfood -- e.g. Wikipedia
- Network weavers -- the drive to make these connections more intentional.
- Ability to communicate between the outsiders and the subgroups inside the online community. Chris Messina then commented about inreach (as opposed to outreach) to the subgroups of the community. Example from Souix Fleming: getting the developers to actually believe what the customer advocate told them, resorting to bringing developers & customers together where customers proved it aggressively.
- Notion of the community as an ecosystem. However, we don't currently have a business model for it to sustain it financially & allow its members to get by. "I would hope to do more than get by -- that we actually make money & prosper." The challenge of being on the cutting edge is figuring out the business model.
- Audrey Eschright: "What do you do when the community is at odds with the individuals running what unifies it?" Sports fans being upset with maangement of their team. I mentioned the example of labor unions: people who want to keep their jobs yet being at odds with management.
- The need to build a system/network of backchannels to support an online community.
- Related session: Web 3.0 at 5 pm
3. Decline and Fall of Gentoo (not the real title, but I think Donnie liked my wit)
Donnie started by sketching the current situation with Gentoo: a laisse-faire "benevolent dictator", & a community that has mushroomed. (Before the session he talked about problem users on the Gentoo Dev list; one of these has been repeatedly banned, but keeps returning to block any & every change.)
How do online communities arrive at a decision?
- FreeGeek is consensus driven -- consensus defined as "Here we have a decision. Does anyone have a concern before we enact it?" Looking for consent -- or at least people willing to live with a decision they disagree with.
- Debian works because its decision process is so beauracratic & detailed. This elaborate set of rules and procedures reminded me of Wikipedia's current struggles.
- Nature of the Linux kernel project. Its hierarchy eveolved out of the fact that "Linus didn't scale very well." He enforced cultural norms by the fact Linus was the only one with effective commit rights to the source code.
- Weiden & Kennedy -- respect plays more of a role than the Org Chart. People who point to the Org Chart are laughed out of the room. Benevolent dictators the ones with the most respect. Also, there is an explicit vision for every project.
- Question: Is there a way to restructure Org Charts to emphasize skills over management?
- The problem of piecework vs. project. Piecework means no continuity, lack of respect; projects tend to endure -- yet run into people issues.
- The waterfall model of Software design -- this points the catalyst. People who don't directly contribute to the project, yet projects work better when they are included. How do you find them?
- This led to the topic of "Wiki-Elves" & the writing documentation for software, the part of the project no volunteer coder wants to deal with. However, with the introduction of Wiki technology, the programmers no longer directly know about the quality of documentation or who is responsible for it.
- The problem of how to deal with a community that rapidly grows, and may be exceeding the optimal size for its culture. Weiden & Kennedy actually turned down work because it would force them to hire too many people to acculturate. Example of the Marine Corps faced by WWII -- they used Boot Camp to absorb the recruits. Another example given is a mentoring system, but no specific example of this working.
That's what I've typed up so far. But if you look carefully above, you'll see why there were so many knitters at this BarCamp.
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Labels: portland tech