Coining Global – Ignite talk by Heather Leson, December 2012, UN SPIDER “ coining” is a play on words. We need to turn a corner in what “global” means and our assumptions about it. “To Coin” in this context is to turn a phrase.
Many of us are involved and/or familiar with a number of global communities or networks. Every event I attend people talk about “collaboration”. Today I want to highlight some of the lessons I’ve learned from global communities and networks. As well, I want to make some observations on the future visions and issues of “coining global” in this space.
MASS PARTICIPATION, TECH FOR SOCIAL GOOD Introduction: http://www.rhok.org/ I’ve been heavily involved with RHOK Global since January 2010. The first problem sets for CrisisCamps for the Haiti response were largely from RHOK.(November 2009). They have 5000 community members and in Dec. 2012 there were over 30 cities working on challenges. Every once in awhile there is magic of code being handed off between cities, google hangouts, and amazing connections. But, they are often buried. Examples: http://textontechs.com/2012/06/rhok-6-around-the-world/, http://textontechs.com/2010/06/from-Nairobi-to-Montréal-via-Sydney/ Some key issues remain – duplication of effort, sustainability/ownership of projects, and the big one – how can we involve people more than 1 or 2 a year. I like to think of RHOK as a “taste test” for participants in tech for social good. Some remain activated, some enjoy the once a year attendance, and others leave. There is deep research to be done here.
PROCESS, DOCUMENTATION, TRAINING: The StandbyTaskForce - https://standbytaskforce.ning.com/ has some of the best processes written for workflow, micro-tasking and global collaboration. They make their documentation free to be remixed. Often, I send these to Ushahidi users. But, their work is larger than that. The key to turning “global collaboration” from “good on paper” to actionable is about building new standards and operating models within the older frameworks. The SBTF has built a reputation of excellence. And, by doing so they have won the ability to work with more formal larger organizations.
COMMUNICATIONS ARE CORE, DASHBOARD : http://vizcenter.net/x24/more.html I participated in Exercise 24 in October 2010. The lessons that I learned from this project were: formal organizations were interested in new communication models at arms length. Since that time, I have been imprinted with the INRELIEF dashboard. For someone keen on global collaboration, I was blow away that the structure of communications included video streaming, multilingual translations and more. I have yet to see a free and open model meet that level of potential. But, dashboards and widgets have their fallacies.
All the Tools : in order to make global collaboration work, these are some of the current state tools that we use. And, there are great minds working on scrapers, scripts, algorithms and Natural language. But, we need to think beyond this slurry of mashed together tools. The more technical folks in the room will call out – API, but think we need to think about the Software and Business Requirements for Open Collaboration. Every digital volunteer community has the same problem. Yet, we are working in a vacuum instead of flexing our collective muscle on what we need to make global collaboration work.
Time. Over the past 2 years, there have been some great changes and improvements to this global collaboration space: Digital Humanitarian Network, HOT, More global simulations. The Crisismappers Network remains the informal home for a number of these official and ad hoc organizations to intersect.
Timeanddate.com: Time is a double-edged sword in two ways. We are locked in timezones and mindsets associated with those timezones. Time gives us drop-out data, missed contexts, missed calls, missed content. This is one of the time based tools that I use to plan my day. See the bottom toolbar plugin – Foxclocks. These tools are not intelligent to tell me the US or Kenya holidays or local customs/norms related to time.
Time.is: But, Time is also one of the biggest assets for global collaboration. If done right like SBTF, we can schedule and hand off tasks. The crux is that you need a strong distributed network. But, you also need strong leaders by timezone to avoid leader burn out. Sadly, we are communities of leaders right now, so we are all burning the midnight hour on our time allocation to build this space. The fruits are starting to really show. But, only time will tell…I mean to say 2 to 5 years. We need the perspective to see the growth and the ripples of how time moves. We can bend time by collaborating across timezones.
L10N – Localization and Translation. Major software companies and open communities around the world are focused on how to transcend language barriers. Lost in time is almost as hard as lost in translation. Fortunately, there are audio and visual tools being built to help extend languages, plus work on digital literacy.
Wikimedia Foundation and their Internationalization plan: http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Language_Engineering_team. They are creating Web Fonts - http://www.oscon.com/oscon2012/public/schedule/detail/24409/http://blog.wikimedia.org/2012/08/24/webfonts-in-uls-translation-rally/. The OpenMRS In-Page Localization project : https://wiki.openmrs.org/display/projects/In-page+Localization+%28Design+Page%29 What if we could in line, real time translation to lower the language barrier to entry and collaboration? What would that look like?
ACCESS and ACCESSIBILITY: http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/ There are legal implications for accessible (audio, video and text) websites and web content. How can we make location and mapping software more accessible? This is the new level of “localization”. Accessibility Camps are teaching grounds for these opportunities. We know that during emergencies those who are at risk may not have access and, worse, may encounter many hurdles to being involved. How can we think beyond our current state and improve the coordination and collaboration? http://www.accessibilitycamp.org/
How can we build on these existing lessons while incorporating future changes in the human centered design approach? The key is that we need to build models and requirements forward rather than basing our old assumptions. But, we cannot build forward without considering those important knowledge layers.
Global collaboration is often encounters different levels of understanding and respect for people’s privacy and security. Add to this the layers of digital information/technology and access. It is about location and context. We know as early adopters that learning the context of the location you are mapping in with local knowledge, contacts/networks and language. Digital literacy is only as good as the training and guidelines. There are some software solutions and impedances working to aid collaboration. Can our attempts to collaborate put people in danger? Do they understand fully what we are doing? Efforts are being made to formalize guidelines for digital participants. We can look to leaders like Citizen Lab (University of Toronto), Tactical Tech, and Access Now for country reports and assistance. But should there be reports specifically for mappers? Photo credit Dahlstroms= http://www.flickr.com/photos/dahlstroms/2944997380/sizes/m/in/photostream/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/dahlstroms/ The inclusiveness of collaboration must factor in these important needs. It should not stop the efforts forward. Access to the Internet and technology precludes the efforts to build global collaboration. There are many projects working to lower this barrier to access. Or, remix the model to make the access based on the preference of tools (phone over tablet). Each scenario for mapping projects has its unique set of access hurdles.
During the US elections, Brian Boyer of PBS created the Big Board. He did it quickly and did not think that it would be such a hit for the political junkies. All of us want to make sense of the data, to visualize it, and to get an executive summary. But is a dashboard or widget/plugins the best scenario? What would this look like? Can we build our own mockups for global collaboration? Source: http://elections2012.npr.org/bigboard/president.html
Mozilla Foundation is working on remixing video and webmaking for all. Their programs are focused on building community by making the web remixable. They are creating tools that lower the barrier to entry. What if popcorn.js was used in maps or used for global coordination? Can we have the map speak to people or tell a visual story. This moves beyond AMARA (universal subtitles) an into the realm of how do we make our information usable. https://popcorn.webmaker.org/ During the elections in Egypt, a team called Qabila created cartoons with translation to youtube to help lower the barrier to entry. http://www.qabila.tv/
Installing Sensors at the Gowanus Canal – SuperFund site by Leif Percifield and Water Hackathon Participant. Can the earth speak back to us? Can Sensor data feed into maps? This spring I worked with Public Laboratory, COSM (formerly Pachube), Don’t Flush Me, and more groups to install a test sensor for CSO (water run-off) in Brooklyn. Maps with sensors could be early warning devices sending SMS alerts to change behaviour or inform decisions. Photo by Heather Leson
Public Laboratory is an amazing growing community of activists, researchers, scientists, engineers and software developers. They have a community spirit that aims to put free and open imagery in the hands of everyone. http://publiclaboratory.org/home OpenIR from MIT is also working to build this space. Each works with an open API methodology. http://openir.media.mit.edu/main/ How can we merge all of these ideas to build on new models for collaboration? Photo by Heather Leson
GOLD RUSH –there is a wealth of opportunity to “coin globally”. But, one of the rising themes is the “GOLD RUSH” mindset. In the rush to build community and this new space, there are some old values or methods that need to be revised or removed. This is not a GOLD RUSH for territory. This is can and should be an open space built on collective knowledge in the spirit of integrity. The models of institutions and funders need to rethink how they mentor, fund, create and support these efforts. This is a complex juggle of the spirit to affect change with new models combined with the balance and wisdom to measure the impact. Photo by George Morris (http://www.flickr.com/photos/georgemo/). Creative Commons License (http://www.flickr.com/photos/georgemo/5638506616/sizes/m/in/photostream/)
To summarize: What are our process and software requirements for the new “coining global”? How can we incorporate these new ideas, new tools to be extendable for future emergencies? How can we be mindful of some of the barriers while building better future-forward models that still respecting older institutions/organizations/governments that have the learned experience? Heather Leson firstname.lastname@example.org @heatherleson Textontechs.com
Expert Meeting: Crowdsource Mapping for Preparedness and Emergency ReponsesIgnite Session I:“Coining Global”
OpenMRS participated in the Google Summer of Code for “In Page Localization”Wikimedia Foundation is buildingWebFonts and inline editing of text fortranslation and localization.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines(WCAG) 2.0 covers a wide range ofrecommendations for making Web contentmore accessible. Following theseguidelines will make content accessible toa wider range of people with disabilities,including blindness and low vision,deafness and hearing loss, learningdisabilities, cognitive limitations, limitedmovement, speech disabilities,photosensitivity and combinations of these.Following these guidelines will also oftenmake your Web content more usable tousers in general.