So many ways to skin a cat: using stories to
envisage the CommunityCentral website

Stephen Blyth

Presentation to Connect...
What I’ll cover today....

 1. Before: deciding on what we wanted the CommunityCentral to achieve

 2. The middle bit: pla...
entral
                                      as a c           rough
                               erve            ctor th...
Credit: www.flickr.com/photos/cdell
11 September 2007 workshop
11 September 2007 workshop
          meeting arranger
  website links
                        widgets
            e-newsle...
My CIMS Page - concepts
                                                                                                  ...
User stories used to.....

  • Define website functionality (or requirements)
  • Checking by developer for site behaviour ...
Credit: www.flickr.com/photos/classmlifeform/
Credit: www.flickr.com/photos/bobcatnorth
Resources

The Bucket Fountain - www.bucketfountain.co.nz
CommunityCentral - www.communitycentral.org.nz
Wikipedia - http:...
Get in touch:
stephen at]commonknowledge.net.nz
   www.commonknowledge.net.nz
         ph 021 0325177
So many ways to skin a cat presentation
So many ways to skin a cat presentation
So many ways to skin a cat presentation
So many ways to skin a cat presentation
So many ways to skin a cat presentation
So many ways to skin a cat presentation
So many ways to skin a cat presentation
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So many ways to skin a cat presentation

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My presentation to the Connecting Up 09
conference 12 May, Sydney, Australia. I talked about the process of bringing CommunityCentral into life. The focus is on a 'user stories' method to bridge the gap between the way talked about what we wanted and what the developers needed to know.

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  • Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou
    Nga mihi ora e nga koori o la perouse



    I’m pleased to have the opportunity to share some reflections the process of bringing the CommunityCentral website to life and into it’s baby steps.



    We’re building an interactive website to serve any working, volunteering or interested in the tangata whenua, community and voluntary sector in NZ to share, learn and converse.



    It feels like a safe distance to be on the other side of the Tasman sea to begin the process of taking stock. There won’t be any dramatic revelations or gossip, or anything like. Just another web project where a good idea where things haven’t quite gone as intended.



    What I’ll focus on is a method we used we thought would help navigate one particularly challenging obstacle - making sure the web developers knew what we wanted. I’ll be talking in detail about a method called user stories.



    The communication is not straight forward. And this is quite natural, as the people I work with are from a social service, caring people background, and our web developers have their heads immersed in coding, programming, and other arcane fields of knowledge. We need a way to bridge the gap.



    it’s an experience I doubt is uncommon.
  • This presentation will be in three parts



    Not going to talk about
    - project management process
    - governance
    - budget
    - communications
    - ongoing maintenance, growth,etc



    You’ll notice I don’t mention the end - this story isn’t over
  • It all started with a good idea - dreamed up over a cuppa, or after another slanging match with the computer: there must be a simpler way of communicating with our constituents, members, stakeholders!



    The core idea was to make it easier for anyone working in any community group in NZ to benefit from some basic web technologies. In 2006, this meant getting control of email mailing lists - shifting from Outlook lists to another method of sending was considered vitally important - and it still is.



    The idea was to make email listserv technology easily available to people with community and voluntary organisations throughout the country.




















  • Here’s the core idea as expressed by the key early champion. Note CIMS is the early code name - an acronym whose meaning has evapourated.



    Now, Naj put a bit of effort into garnering support. Very successfully.



    5 partner organisations
    - ANGOA
    - NZCOSS
    - NZFVWO
    - SHORE
    - Volunteering NZ



    Before you reach any conclusions about these groups - grand as there names may sound, they’re small, grassroots organisations that operate on lean budgets.



    Together the founding partners developed core ideas for what they wanted to achieve:
    - friendly place for people in tangata whenua, community and voluntary organisations to share, learn and converse
    - copyright
    - hosted on NZ servers (preferably, not subject to surveillance under
    - friendly support nearby
    - starting point for ict skills and confidence building



    If there is one word that would capture what CommunityCentral is trying to achieve: it’s collaboration. The organisations involved are not strangers to this, eg ComVoices, Workplace Wellbeing.



    The partners did a lot of work to garner support, and raise funds. By September 2007, everyone was ready to go. Budget of over $150,000 from a variety of sources.





  • This is the moment I call before the flood... not a precise point, but a transition from a bright idea to reality.



    Lots of enthusiasm.... anything seems possible ... and the ideas start flowing....
  • Notes from an early workshop with five founding partners to give a sense of the variety of things people involved saw as possible



    These were based on their needs, and an assessment of what organisations they were working had said would support their work.



    Every conversation led to new ideas. What about LinkedIn are doing? What about Ning? It was pretty overwhelming.



    With five organisations working together there was a lot of work to do amongst the people involved to narrow down the focus, let alone communicate this in a cogent way to web developers.


  • Notes from an early workshop with five founding partners to give a sense of the variety of things people involved saw as possible



    These were based on their needs, and an assessment of what organisations they were working had said would support their work.



    Every conversation led to new ideas. What about LinkedIn are doing? What about Ning? It was pretty overwhelming.



    With five organisations working together there was a lot of work to do amongst the people involved to narrow down the focus, let alone communicate this in a cogent way to web developers.


  • Notes from an early workshop with five founding partners to give a sense of the variety of things people involved saw as possible



    These were based on their needs, and an assessment of what organisations they were working had said would support their work.



    Every conversation led to new ideas. What about LinkedIn are doing? What about Ning? It was pretty overwhelming.



    With five organisations working together there was a lot of work to do amongst the people involved to narrow down the focus, let alone communicate this in a cogent way to web developers.


  • Notes from an early workshop with five founding partners to give a sense of the variety of things people involved saw as possible



    These were based on their needs, and an assessment of what organisations they were working had said would support their work.



    Every conversation led to new ideas. What about LinkedIn are doing? What about Ning? It was pretty overwhelming.



    With five organisations working together there was a lot of work to do amongst the people involved to narrow down the focus, let alone communicate this in a cogent way to web developers.


  • Notes from an early workshop with five founding partners to give a sense of the variety of things people involved saw as possible



    These were based on their needs, and an assessment of what organisations they were working had said would support their work.



    Every conversation led to new ideas. What about LinkedIn are doing? What about Ning? It was pretty overwhelming.



    With five organisations working together there was a lot of work to do amongst the people involved to narrow down the focus, let alone communicate this in a cogent way to web developers.


  • Notes from an early workshop with five founding partners to give a sense of the variety of things people involved saw as possible



    These were based on their needs, and an assessment of what organisations they were working had said would support their work.



    Every conversation led to new ideas. What about LinkedIn are doing? What about Ning? It was pretty overwhelming.



    With five organisations working together there was a lot of work to do amongst the people involved to narrow down the focus, let alone communicate this in a cogent way to web developers.


  • Notes from an early workshop with five founding partners to give a sense of the variety of things people involved saw as possible



    These were based on their needs, and an assessment of what organisations they were working had said would support their work.



    Every conversation led to new ideas. What about LinkedIn are doing? What about Ning? It was pretty overwhelming.



    With five organisations working together there was a lot of work to do amongst the people involved to narrow down the focus, let alone communicate this in a cogent way to web developers.


  • Notes from an early workshop with five founding partners to give a sense of the variety of things people involved saw as possible



    These were based on their needs, and an assessment of what organisations they were working had said would support their work.



    Every conversation led to new ideas. What about LinkedIn are doing? What about Ning? It was pretty overwhelming.



    With five organisations working together there was a lot of work to do amongst the people involved to narrow down the focus, let alone communicate this in a cogent way to web developers.


  • Notes from an early workshop with five founding partners to give a sense of the variety of things people involved saw as possible



    These were based on their needs, and an assessment of what organisations they were working had said would support their work.



    Every conversation led to new ideas. What about LinkedIn are doing? What about Ning? It was pretty overwhelming.



    With five organisations working together there was a lot of work to do amongst the people involved to narrow down the focus, let alone communicate this in a cogent way to web developers.


  • Notes from an early workshop with five founding partners to give a sense of the variety of things people involved saw as possible



    These were based on their needs, and an assessment of what organisations they were working had said would support their work.



    Every conversation led to new ideas. What about LinkedIn are doing? What about Ning? It was pretty overwhelming.



    With five organisations working together there was a lot of work to do amongst the people involved to narrow down the focus, let alone communicate this in a cogent way to web developers.


  • Notes from an early workshop with five founding partners to give a sense of the variety of things people involved saw as possible



    These were based on their needs, and an assessment of what organisations they were working had said would support their work.



    Every conversation led to new ideas. What about LinkedIn are doing? What about Ning? It was pretty overwhelming.



    With five organisations working together there was a lot of work to do amongst the people involved to narrow down the focus, let alone communicate this in a cogent way to web developers.


  • The starting point for my role in the project was in November 2007 - I’ve been contracted part-time to help get the website set-up and into a business as usual.



    I’ve been working with a whole range of people:
    - virtual project team - staff of organisations, volunteers
    - advisors
    - website developers
    - boards of each partner organisation.



    After September workshop governance group and there was a lot of discussion to get some focus on something that seemed, well, remotely achievable. And to set priorities. Remember all this happened before we contracted with a developer - it was important to have a clear idea to communicate with others.



    It involved a number of steps: interviews, technical stocktake and workshops. We need to looking at the full picture:
    - website functions
    - communications and promotion
    - roles
    - hosting
    - policies
    etc



    The page I’m showing now may be familiar to you if you attended my workshop on using online tools for project management at CU08.



    A key part of the process was coming to a common understanding of what people perceived as being useful, and what it would take to run a website on an ongoing basis. It was so important to think about the full picture.



    Here’s one of the pages for a feature we’re still trying to build - private workspaces
    Other headings:
    - support roles
    - format
    - who could it be funded
    - protocols


  • By March 2008 ideas had firmed up.... this a wireframe for the design we started showing people.



    Do small number of things, do them well
    - e-newsletters
    - important projects pages
    - private workspaces
    - discussion networks - online community.
    - hot topic discussion - free for all, over limited time



    Our preferred approach was to chunk the release of new features - get feedback from users, refine,



    Now, this is great, but we needed a way of turning our ideas into reality. We ran a selection process and have been working with a Christchurch company using Drupal, open source content management platform.



    HIghly configurable, but unless we wanted a very basic website, we’d need to make some customisation.



    All the descriptions and material I’ve showed you about the ‘business ideas’ and problems we’re trying to solve were useful background for the developers, but they needed much more detail and a way of understanding the underlying behaviour.



    You’ve got to remember most website designers are dealing with lots of different customers, with different audience characteristics - don’t expect them to automatically understand what you mean. Each situation is different so they need to really get inside what you’re heads.



    I’d say this is true of every website, but particularly for websites with any inter-activity or online community functions... too easy for what you imagined you’d be getting and what you get to diverge.





  • In large scale software or web development projects - it’s customary to specify everything first, in lots of detail. Requirements documents can be tomes. That’s okay if you’re a big organisation with all the requisite skills - the many voices which Alan Gunner showed so usefully yesterday. For most grassroots, projects this is not realistic, and probably too inflexible.



    Just relying on a website developer to understand you isn’t a safe bet - in most cases.



    Take the word ‘group’.... do we mean:
    - community group
    - group of people
    - specific module of Drupal called, organic groups
    And what are the characteristices of the group.



    On advice of website developers egressive - we settled on a method to define our ideal end use for the website by writing up a series of user stories. There is probably a canon describing the method, but we trusted our developers to guide us and away we went. We’d heard of other processes, such as scenarios and
    , but we didn’t seriously investigate them. If a user story could help use offer our audience a website they’d use, we’d give it a go.



    So what is a user story - circulate sample.



    User stories plain English narratives that set forth steps that set number of users undertake when using ‘new’ website. Don’t describe what functions will achieve things, but who will do what



    As per wikipedia: “User stories are a quick way of handling customer requirements without having to elaborate vast formalized requirement documents and without performing overloaded administrative tasks related to maintaining them. The intention with the user story is to be able to respond faster and with less overhead to rapidly changing real-world requirements.”



    Here are the user stories that correspond to the features we wanted to.


  • So many ways to skin a cat presentation

    1. 1. So many ways to skin a cat: using stories to envisage the CommunityCentral website Stephen Blyth Presentation to Connecting Up 09, Conference Sydney, Australia 12 May 2009
    2. 2. What I’ll cover today.... 1. Before: deciding on what we wanted the CommunityCentral to achieve 2. The middle bit: planning with user stories, building, and testing 3. After: did we get there? Feedback and reflections on the user stories. common knowledge
    3. 3. entral as a c rough erve ctor th S will s the se “CIM up and b for ons hu to set nicati e able works mmu ill b ns net tions w co ganisa nicatio ich or ommu dge.” h c knowle w ir own ge the cific IT a ing spe man requir ithout w Naj Dehlavi, former Communications Manager NZFVWO
    4. 4. Credit: www.flickr.com/photos/cdell
    5. 5. 11 September 2007 workshop
    6. 6. 11 September 2007 workshop meeting arranger website links widgets e-newsletters email list archiving calendar workspaces search toolbar notifications training & events listings
    7. 7. My CIMS Page - concepts About CIMS Hot topics Project Broadcast Sector-wide People networks Notice-boards partners discussion workspaces newsletters projects home My groups Your recent news Welcome to My CIMS page Centre Managers news from Groupings blog, Kaupapa Maori NZCOSS, CommunityNet... healing Old Friends, Bebo and ✴ Join or quit groups MySpace are a hit in NZ My newsletters by Miraz Yesterday 1:23 pm ✴ Manage my email address and subscriber ANGOA mailout Apparently Kiwis are big users Volunteer NZ news information of social networking sites such as MySpace, Bebo and Sign up to another newsletter, or change how I ✴ Facebook.... Hot topics receive stuff Blogs, wikis? Learn to use I’m watching Update up my public profile new internet-based tools ✴ by Miraz Feb 5, 2008 5:34 pm IRD payroll giving Request a new workspace for a project I’m ✴ Register now for the Engage coordinating Your Community My projects conference. Add a notice ✴ 2010 conference Using blogs, YouTube, and committee other tools to achieve your Find my peers and chat. ✴ groupʼs goals aims to help Regional asset tangata whenua, community mapping team and voluntary organisations. Collaborative radio show More Home | Contact Us | Help | Licence
    8. 8. User stories used to..... • Define website functionality (or requirements) • Checking by developer for site behaviour eg member search • Understanding what explanatory text and rules will be required • Staff orientation • Testing completeness of website against what was expected. common knowledge
    9. 9. Credit: www.flickr.com/photos/classmlifeform/
    10. 10. Credit: www.flickr.com/photos/bobcatnorth
    11. 11. Resources The Bucket Fountain - www.bucketfountain.co.nz CommunityCentral - www.communitycentral.org.nz Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_story Wikispaces www.wikispaces.com Google docs - http://docs.google.com Flickr creative commons images - www.flickr.com/creativecommons common knowledge
    12. 12. Get in touch: stephen at]commonknowledge.net.nz www.commonknowledge.net.nz ph 021 0325177

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