Training: the (Not So) Secret Key to Repository Sustainability


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Description of the training efforts of the Hydra repository community ( presented at Open Repositories 2013 in Charlottetown, PEI

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  • The common thread between all of these activities is that they are IntentionalProvide a safe environment for trial-and-errorProvide some form of challenge to an individuals current knowledge and abilitiesSupported by some external resourceAs we talk about training, we mean a whole range of activities that can range from informal to highly structured, from individual learning to team trainings, to cross-institutional group activites.
  • We know a lot of folks who have struggled with impostor syndrome. We’ve each even had our own share. It’s hard to avoid when you’re faced with constantly learning on the job and you have no outside resource or input. With a never ending backlog of work to be done, it’s hard to ever spend enough time on one thing to feel it’s truly mastered or done as well as it could be.Explicit time devoted to training, even informally, gives time to explore and consider topics in more detail than we ever get in the daily flow of work.Developers are problem solvers by nature, training can give them an opportunity to broaden skill sets into that lead into new and engaging areas of problem solvingFormal training plans remove the excuse that there’s just not time to learn new things, or improve skillsNearly every form of training, formal coursework, workshops, online, and informal pairing exposes people to new perspectives and ideas that can counteract the blinders that come from focusing narrowly on a single project for a long time.
  • Training is actually a form of documenting your project…Documentation is an important part of any sustainable project. Training provides a space to engage documentation (in the broadest sense) in ways that provide context and guidance for focused work.Training provides a vehicle to transmit patterns anti-patterns, and community norms. Educated users are less likely to seek ‘creative’ uses of the system once they understand the system’s intended capabilities – and/or – they are in a better position to articulate the enhancements that would most add value
  • Even the best, highest functioning teams evolve over time: career opportunities, family and personal commitments, and other factors in and outside the workplace can all lead to key team members departure for other opportunities.Training counteracts the tendency for key information to become tribal knowledge.Regular and recurring training works like crop rotation to keep projects fertile; tied into other agile practices it can help fertilize teams and plan the seeds for new growth.The more people educated about your project, the less risk you have that a single individual can become a knowledge silo whose departure would cripple your project.
  • Training is a great way to expose new people to your project.BUTIt means you have to be honest about your project’s actual capabilities and status – not that you can’t share future aspirations too.
  • If you have any experience with agile developmentpractices, these ideas should look familiar. Agile principles apply to learning just as much as they do to software development:Break big problems down into smaller problemsFocus on the smallest steps that return the highest valuePay attention to feedback
  • HydraCamps – these are typically 5 day events that serve as a bootcamp for developing Hydra – we’re evolving them to adapt to the needs students and instutions have shared after attending previous eventsConference Workshops – provided opportunities to engage the curious and reach folks who might not have the time for a longer in-person commitment – they’re a great way to establish personal connections Online Tutorials – not everyone has the time or resources to travel to training – online training lets training happen where and when it can, and it acts as a refreshers for folks who attend training in personTrain the Trainer – we’re informally launching a process to have interested folks ‘ride-along’ with experienced trainers so that we developed a broader stable of trainers to tap and we address the inevitable attrition we anticipate in the communityGetting Feedback – our workshops on Monday were the first time we’ve formally asked for feedback on our workshops. We’ll be adding this as a regular part of
  • We’d love to talk more and learn about what your project is doing!
  • Training: the (Not So) Secret Key to Repository Sustainability

    1. 1. TRAINING THE KEY TO REPOSITORY SUSTAINABILITY Bess Sadler Stanford University Libraries Mark Bussey Data Curation Experts
    2. 2. What is Training? • On the job • Informal or formal developer pairing • Self-paced reading or online study • Conference workshops • Longer-term – camps and courses • In-house events
    3. 3. Training and job quality • Staff anxiety is counter-productive • New challenges create flow experiences • Training counteracts skills obsolescence • Training exposes staff to new people, new ideas, and new perspectives
    4. 4. Training and Quality • Training provides a medium to communicate patterns and conventions • Sharing of best practices enhances software quality • Understanding system capabilities (and limits) leads to higher data quality
    5. 5. Training and Sustainability • Training provides a mean to address (unavoidable) team attrition • Training provides a mechanism to transmit technical and community principles • Training increases your project’s bus factor
    6. 6. Training and Outreach • Training helps publicize your project • Training helps draw new talent to your project • Training can give potential adopters a chance to ‘kick the tires’ • Training keeps you honest about your project
    7. 7. OK, I’m Sold – What Now? • There is no one-size solution • The only bad training plan is no plan • Have big ambitions, but take small steps • Train your trainers • Foster a culture of learning at every level and stage of your project
    8. 8. What we’re doing in Hydra • Annual: HydraCamps • Periodic: Conference Workshops • On-Demand: Online Tutorials • When Possible: Train the Trainer • Always: Getting Feedback
    9. 9. Bess Sadler bess at Mark Bussey mark at