Enlightened Business, Tech

First Meeting of Dat Jawn (previously Dat Tables)

Two weeks ago I wrote about bypassing cultural barriers in tech and said I wanted to start an open source project here in Philadelphia that will create a module for the dat project. Response has been unanimously positive. The coordinators of Code for Philly encouraged me to set the project up under their umbrella while the dat team have been enthusiastically supportive and encouraging.  Tonight we had our first meeting of the project. Seven people showed up and it went really well.  I’m feeling very optimistic right now.

The dat jawn project page on Code for Philly’s website has a formal writeup about the project, its goals, and how to join the first cohort of participants.

I’ve given myself about 6 weeks to recruit people before calling the cohort “closed”. After only two weeks of recruiting, I didn’t know how many people to expect at the first meeting. A group of students from the New York Code and Design Academy of Philly (yeah, a mouthful) said they planned to come and a smattering of other people had expressed interest over the week.

At first it appeared that only two people had shown up – two guys from the code academy.  That’s a good start, especially since they’re coming off a 12-week boot camp in Rails development.  About 20 minutes later, Ben Novack from Code for Philly called all of the first-timers to get a “Civic Hacking 101” talk. Of the thirty people in the room, about twelve sauntered over. We joined in. At one point Ben prompted me to pitch the project and many faces lit up. When Ben finished his intro, we had gained five more participants, bringing our total number of participants up to eight! Quite an impressive showing for the first meeting.

After confirming that “jawn” is a comically Philly name for the project and “dat jawn” is “beyond perfect”, we spent an hour covering ground level business – intentions for the project, structure of the project, relevant code bases, the initial github tickets, my outline of the habits & practices of great engineers, the technologies involved, etc. We then dove into the fundamentally important topic: how will we communicate? First we got everyone onto irc and said hello in the #dat channel on freenode. We then set up a google group but promptly became embroiled in a discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of Slack. In the end, we resolved to create a dat-jawn channel within the Code for Philly slack team. To join the Slack channel, create an account on the Code for Philly website then go to the channel and log in using your Code for Philly username & password.

A very good start, with more to come.

Musings & Adventures, Tech

The Boring Story of Digital Asset Management & The Interesting Story of Data Curation

[Re-post from my work blog CoCuPu]

The Boring Story of Digital Asset Management

We have all this stuff on computers
and all these people who need to use it
some of those people know a lot about the stuff
others know nothing about it
We have a lot of trouble finding things
It’s important to let pople share stuff
but it’s dangerous if the wrong things are shared with the wrong people.
Blogs, flickr, Google Docs, oh my.
Twitter! Facebook! Social Media!

Microsoft says “Sharepoint.”
Oracle says “Just f*cking pay us.”
SAP says “But you don’t have consolidated Identity Management”
Media specialists say “You need media asset workflow solutions.”
Librarians debate about bad metadata and authority control.
Somebody screamed HIIPA, another cried SarbOX.
The IT department is worried about stability and security.
Doesn’t our SAN hardware solve this? Do we need Hierarchical Storage? The cloud is expensive.

Three departments stood up Drupal instances and dumped their stuff in there.
We set up an image management solution. One in five users loves it. Most spurn it.
We’ve begun to learn that “Image” means many things to many people.
Video files are really big, and a bit frightening.
Actual document production and management has drifted into Google Docs.
We still have no way to say “this spreadsheet has information about those images and videos”
We haven’t even considered the idea of branching and merging spreadsheet data
Our senior counsel’s head exploded when we told her how many different ways people share files online. That was four years ago. She thinks we “put a stop to it”.

The Interesting Story of Data Curation

“What is it?”
“What does it mean? How do you use it?”
“Who is it (or should it be) relevant to?”
“Do they think it’s valuable? What do they think is valuable about it?”
“Is it worth preserving?”
“Why is it worth preserving?”
“… How long should it be preserved? Seven generations?”