On ramps to participation: what open education can learn from open source communities

slow exposure photo of a freeway with two on-ramps that go off in different directions
High Five Ramps by SETShot

As a newcomer to the open education community I observed that there is a core group of smart and passionate people who were doing their thing. At first the opportunities for where and how I could participate were not obvious or clear to me. I don’t think I’m the only person who has been puzzled by how to become an active participant, instead of a bystander, in this community.

I’m completely inspired by the idea of a Z-degree, or a degree program where there is no cost for textbooks for any of the classes, but feel that’s a daunting goal from where most of our institutions are at currently. I’m excited about how some faculty are moving away from disposable assignments to assignments that further knowledge creation and sharing, but I don’t regularly teach so this isn’t something that connects with me either.

While the open education community is much more decentralized and open source communities have some additional structures (like feature road maps and release dates) there are still some valuable lessons that can be learned.

Continue reading On ramps to participation: what open education can learn from open source communities

Clint Lalonde’s post On Using OpenEd: An Opprotunity


This was posted on Clint’s blog clintlalonde.net on June 1, 2015. The original URL is: http://clintlalonde.net/2015/06/01/on-using-opened-an-opportunity/

For the past 6 months my organization BCcampus has been in a dispute with the University of Guelph over our use of this:

Current BCcampus Open Education logo
Current BCcampus Open Education logo

Like many of you, we have always used the term OpenEd as a short form way of saying Open Education. It’s a term that is familiar to anyone working in the field of open education. In our community, many of us host forums and events using the term OpenEd. Around the world, people write blog posts,create websites, and host conferences using the term OpenEd. Our global community uses the term OpenEd interchangeably with Open Education to mean a series of educational practices and processes built on a foundation of collaboration and sharing.

BCcampus has been working with higher education institutions in British Columbia for over a decade on open education initiatives, so when it came time to redesign our main open education website (open.bccampus.ca), it was only natural that we would gravitate to the term that many people in BC and beyond associate with us: OpenEd. Our graphic designer, Barb Murphy, developed this logo in the fall of 2013 and, at the end of November, 2013, we launched our new website with our new OpenEd logo. We thought nothing of it and went along our merry way chugging along on the BC Open Textbook Project.

Little did we know that, on December 18, 2013, the University of Guelph trademarked OpenEd.

Continue reading Clint Lalonde’s post On Using OpenEd: An Opprotunity

Developing a culture of consent at code4lib

two letterpressed greeting cards, left one "yes way", right one "no way"

I love code4lib. code4lib is not a formal organization, it’s more of a loose collective of folks. The culture is very DIY. If you see something that needs doing someone needs to step up and do it. I love that part of our culture is reflecting on our culture and thinking of ways to improve it. At this year’s conference we made some improvements on our culture.

Galen Charlton kicked this discussion off with an email on the code4lib list by suggesting we institute a policy like the Evergreen conference (which was informed by work done by The Ada Initiative) where “consent be explicitly given to be photographed or recorded”.

Kudos to the local organizing committee for moving quickly (like just over 3 hours from Galen’s initial email). They purchased coloured lanyards to indicate to participants views on being photographed: red means don’t photograph me, yellow means ask me before photographing me, and green means go ahead and photograph me. This is an elegant and simple solution.

Over the past few years streaming the conference presentations has become standard as is publishing these videos to the web after the conference. This is awesome and important—not everyone can travel to attend the conference. This allows us to learn faster and build better things. I suggested that it was time to explicitly obtain speaker’s consent to stream their presentation and archive the video online.

At first I was disheartened by some of comments on the list :

  • “This needs to be opt out, not opt in.”
  • “An Opt-Out policy would be more workable for presenters.”
  • “requiring explicit permission from presenters is overly burdensome for the (streaming) crew that is struggling to get the recordings”
  • i enjoy taking candid photos of people at the conference and no one seems to mind
  • “my old Hippy soul cringes at unnecessary paperwork. A consent form means nothing. Situations change. Even a well-intended agreement sometimes needs to be reneged on.”

The lack of understanding about informed consent means a few things about the code4lib community:

  1. there’s a lack of connection to feminist organizing that has a long history of collective organizing and consent
  2. the laissez-faire approach to consent (opt-out) centres male privilege
  3. this community still has work to do around rape culture. 

It was awesome to get support from the Programming Committee, the local organizers and some individuals. We managed to update the consent form we used for Access to be specific to code4lib and get it out to speakers in just over a week. Ranti quickly stepped up and volunteered to help me obtain consent forms from all of the speakers. As this is a single stream conference there were only 39 people so it wasn’t that much work to do. 

Here’s the consent form we used.  A few people couldn’t agree to the copyright bits, so they crossed that part out. I’m sure this form will evolve to become better.

At code4lib 2015 in Portland it was the first time we were explicit about consent. The colour coded lanyards and speaker consent forms are an important part of building a culture of consent.

Thanks to my smart friend Eli Manning (not the football player) for giving me feedback on this.

this is a love letter

Photo credit: Danita Thewalkingcrime

I’m sad I wasn’t able to make it to code4lib this year in Chicago. Instead I tuned in via the Livestream and have rewatched a couple of talks several times. The presentations that have been had the biggest impact on me at code4lib and other conferences are the ones where I feel an emotional connection with the speaker or when I know the presenter is stretching out of their comfort zone to push against the edges of what’s possible. The speakers who resonate most deeply for me are ones who take an emotional risk and name their personal stake in their work or give me a glimpse of the complexity of who they are.

Bess Sadler’s talk titled Creating a Commons  moved me to tears at my desk. I love her values, intelligence and bravery. Her comments about community are spot on:

Hydra, in additional to being a digital  repository  solution, is a  community. In fact, increasinly this seems like our primary identity. What we are finding is the ability to collaborate on common solutions is more important than any single project. This gives us  resiliency  and room to experiment. I think having a community makes us feel safe enough to take risks. And sharing work frees up our time to innovate. By trusting in each other and cultivating in each other willingness to experiment. We get to try cool experiments like Fedora4lib.

Bess talked about how she ways that she has hacked code4lib. I love how she modeled behaviour for “receiving a bug report” from a colleague about the original title of her talk. I hope she posts the text of her talk soon, because she there were some excellent soundbites about libraries, software, our values, “hacker  epistemology” and concrete ideas on how to grow the code4lib community in a more inclusive way for the benefit of all. (Edit: Bess has posted the text of her talk.)

I’ve watched Mark Matienzo’s lightning talk a few times and it still gives me goosebumps. I thought I understood what he was saying, but now I’m not sure. Currently I’m lost down the rabbit hole of some awesome links (1, 2) that he shared about Tim Sherratt’s work, especially the real face of white Australians  project.

Mark’s post about his lightning talk is intellectually rich and has given me some big ideas to chew on. However, this is the most powerful part for me, where he makes the personal political:

Through depression and loss I have learned that keeping my emotions  private  was deleterous to my well-being. Making them public was a necessity, even to just a selected public. It also dawned on me that acknowledging emotion publicly could be a political act or bound with political expression, which I surprisingly discovered as also being present in some of Ann Cvetkovich’s more recent work. Expressing emotion itself could also, in some cases, become an expression or assertion of power. The hardest part of this, at least, was finding my voice.

Thank you Bess and Mark for talking about emotion at the most technical library conference out there. It was a brave, inspring and radical thing to do. The work that folks in the code4lib community is so awesome, but how we choose to do it is also awesome. Some days at work I lose hope that we will be able to accomplish our lofty goals. The work that people in the code4lib community do, the ways that we’re working to be more inclusive community, and the things that we accomplish when we work together give me hope.

Thank you code4lib. I love you folks so much.


Big ideas for libraries in communities

I was super excited and completely terrified to be shortlisted to pitch my idea for what digitization in public libraries could look like. Public speaking is scary for me, and getting up in front of a room of people to present one of my ideas is even more scary. I haven’t really worked with digital collections, so it feels quite  presumptuous  to pitch my ideas about how I think this could be done to people who actually work in digital collections.

It was also  exhilarating. Thanks Baharak Yousefi, SFU Surrey Library, for doing a great job organizing this event. I’ve been  chatting  with colleagues about how to get beyond the operational business of work and make time to think about why libraries matter and think about the kinds of collections and services libraries need to develop to be useful and relevant.

The audience was invited to leave comments, offer critiques, or suggestions on slips of paper for the presenters. Two of the comments that I delighted me were “libraries are memory institutions” and “love the idea of preserving collective memories”.

I’m so thrilled to have the chance to turn my pitch into a funding proposal for the Vancouver Foundation who announced that they will be funding two of the projects up to $10,000. Yahoo!

Evergreen Unsung Heroes

I was inspired by Chris Cormack’s excellent series of blog posts highlighting awesome people in the Koha community. I wanted to adapt Chris’ idea to the Evergreen community. Here’s the call for submissions from a few months ago.

I have two observations from the last few months. First, people were reluctant to promote themselves and write bios listing all their accomplishments. I shouldn’t have been surprised by this. It was more effective to ask someone’s coworker, colleague or boss to highlight their contributions. I like that our community values humility, but know that most people enjoy being recognized for work that they are proud of. Second, some people felt that the work that they did was insignificant and not worthy of being recognized. Almost all of these people were women who had been nominated by other people in the community. After an email or two all of these people agreed to be profiled.
I’m going to continue this project for the next year. I’m sure the design students at Emily Carr University will do something interesting with this content (ebook? website? deck of playing cards? laser engraved beef jerky?) for the Evergreen 2013 conference.

welcome to code4lib

This was my first code4lib. It was awesome and one of the best library things I’ve ever been to–I’m inspired by the work people are doing, I’m excited to research new things and most importantly I feel like I’ve finally found my people in libraries.

I have been reluctant to go to code4lib in the past, as I’d heard it was a hostile environment for women. While I’ve heard about a couple of crappy incidents in the past, this was by far the most welcoming tech event I have ever been to. Here are some of the things that the code4lib community is doing to make the community and conference welcoming and inclusive place.

Community norms
While code4lib is a really loose community there are strong informal community norms. The community leaders (who would likely balk at being identified as community leaders) socialize new people by demonstrating what the community values (openness, sharing, creativity, humour and craft beer) in informal and slightly more formal ways. An example of a more formal way is Declan‘s post on hacking code4lib, which includes some guidelines for IRC:

Don’t be sexist/racist/*ist

It’s great to be funny, maybe even a little blue at times, but be careful about steering into areas that make segments of the world uncomfortable, or even feel attacked. We are in a very interesting niche of the technology world. Our librarian population is primarily female, but our technical aspects of librarianship tend to be more stereotypically white and male. We have a wonderful opportunity to attract and promote equality in our field and there’s no reason to make an underrepresented group feel unwanted just to get a couple laughs.

Seeing the gender imbalance written out and reading that this is an opportunity to promote equality makes me relax as I know there are other people who notice that this is a predominantly male environment. I really dislike how some people equate having an environment that is welcoming to women as politically correct unfun spaces. People are funny, in person, in IRC and on the mailing list, yet I don’t feel like the jokes are racist, sexist or homophobic. There’s some “that’s what she said” banter, but I didn’t hear “website that even your mom could use” rubbish or comments that made me angry, sad or feel like I was not among my people. It’s possible to be clever and funny without being a sexist douche.

It’s awesome to see a community put some money where their mouth is. There are   scholarships to promote gender and cultural diversity. I love that gender diversity are includes both women and transgender people. This is another language flag that signals to me that these are my people and they get it.

Newcomer dinners
The newcomer dinners are a great way for new folks to meet people. It’s hard to have indepth conversations with large groups, so having dinner with 6-8 people is perfect. For a community that is more introverts than extroverts, this is a great way for people to connect. It would be better to schedule these for the first night, instead of the second night of the conference.

It was good to see a number of smart women presenting. The code4lib community has their own (broken? see some notes from Erik Hetzner’s lightening talk) way of voting for presentations.

It’s tricky–I want to see more women attending and presenting, but I don’t want to see women presenting on topics that aren’t appropriate for a technical audience. I think this is setting some women up to fail and reinforces that women aren’t doing good technical work. When I helped select the program for Access 2011 one of our goals was to aim for equality in the ratio of male:female presenters. While I think the liberal feminist strategy of counting the number of women is useful, it is also limited. After reviewing the submissions that we received I contacted a few women who I thought would have interesting things to present and invited them to present at Access. I didn’t want presenters to feel tokenized because of their gender but I didn’t want to organize a conference that was mostly men presenting.

Encouragement from code4lib vetrans
At Access both Bess Sadler and Karen Coombs encouraged me to go to code4lib. I have a lot of respect and admiration for these two geeky women who do great work. A lot of other folks in the code4lib community also encouraged me to go too. I’m so glad I did, as I met so many awesome people, have some more insights on how to put on events, learned some new things and am inspired to hack my library’s culture.

This year about 22% of the participants were women, and 38% of the presenters were women. On my bike rides to work I’ve been pondering what an ideal code4lib looks like in terms of women’s participation. It will never be a 50-50 split, and I’m not sure if that’s a super useful way to assess things. Many communities struggle with how to be inclusive while retaining their core focus. I think code4lib is doing a bunch of things right. Thank you everyone who has put their energy into making code4lib such an awesome conference and community, and doing interesting and awesome work in libraries with technology.

Also, thanks Equinox Software for the scholarship, Erik Hatcher from Lucid Imagination for your registration slot, and Kathleen Jacques for the Photoshop help.

Edit: Bohyun Kim and Becky Yoose started a Google Doc as a place to brainstorm ways to make code4lib more welcoming for newbies, go add your clever ideas there.

Get your FOSS on: Wellington’s regular geeky events

OLPC testing at the Southern Cross by mangee

I was surprised to learn about all the regular tech events that happen in Wellington, especially for the size of the town. Wellington’s open source communities are especially vibrant and welcoming. This is part one in a three part series on the open source and library technology communities in Wellington.

OLPC WellyNZTesters Every Saturday morning a group of 4-15 people meet to test software for the One Laptop Per Child program. Currently the group meets at the Southern Cross, from about 11am to 1pm. It’s a diverse group of people including programmers, educators, usability, and open source folks ranging in age from early 20s to late 50s. Sometimes people bring their kids. It’s lots of fun to see how kid friendly both the hardware and software are. Tabitha Rodger does a great job of organizing the hardware, testing plans, and sending feedback to the developers. When she’s not there we mostly eat breakfast, fiddle around and play. I think this is one of the only regular OLPC testing groups in the world.

Thursday night curry According to legend, and the website: “Once upon a time there was a gathering of engineers, sysadmins, programmers and other technical people. They came together in New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington, with curry and beer. Often, quite a lot of beer. They decided to continue this consumption each week, and thus Thursday Night Curry was born.” A few people told me that it was a core group of uber nerdy SysAdmins, but the one time I went I found it to be a really friendly and eclectic mix of programmers, policy people, open source enthusiasts, and out of town visitors. I’m not a big fan of Indian food, so I’ve only been once. If you are new to Wellington I’d definately recommend showing up for curry night.

Linuxchix I like the explicitly feminist statements on their website: “Women make up approximately 42% of NZ’s IT Industry (Stats NZ), but once data entry and unskilled work is excluded this drops to somewhere nearer 15%. Linuxchix and the New Zealand chapter of Linuxchix exist to connect women working in the IT industry, contributing to FOSS, as well as female users of the Linux operating system looking for support and community.” The people I met at the meetup I went to were really friendly and helpful. I met a grad student who had to zip off to monitor something in her lab, a punky looking mobile phone tester, a lawyer who is part of the organizing committee for the Linux conference that will be happening here next year, and Brenda Wallace. Brenda is a open source programmer, geek and organizer. I like that she just rolls up her sleeves and gets stuff done.

WellyLUG hosts regular monthly meetings/presentations and mailing list. While I didn’t make it to any of the presentations, people on the list were really helpful with my newbie linux questions.

Geek Girl Dinners are organized several times a year. They are networking events for techie women that happen over drinks and dinner, and include presentations on geeky topics. I am so disappointed that I’ll miss the next one.

Webstock This is the conference for web folks. Unfortunately I just missed the conference, but was here to attend their 3rd birthday event. There was a large bar tab, cupcakes, and a bunch of 5 minute lightning presentations.A   The Webstock folks run the Onya web awards. They also co-sponsor Full Code Press, a competition where a Kiwi and Aussie teams have 24 hours to build a website for a non-profit organization. This year the Code Blacks won them bragging rights for their site for Rainbow Youth, a queer youth group based in Auckland.

Pecha Kucha These seem to happen about once or twice a year in Wellington. The last one happened on a cold and rainy night and I didn’t go.

Super Happy Dev House is a “monthly hackathon, combining serious and not-so-serious productivity with a fun and exciting party atmosphere.” This also takes place at the legendary Southern Cross, which is my favourite place for breakfast, an afternoon coffee meeting, or late night jumbo Jenga on the back patio.

Wellington is a very geeky and community minded place. I can’t think of a city that, per capita, runs as many regular events. If I missed one of your events, please add them in the comments.

Part two of this series will look at the some of the open source projects and techy people in libraries, in and around Wellington.