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Power of Transparency

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The Power of
Transparency
Sarah Allen
@ultrasaurus

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Higher Quality
Lower Cost

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Open Source
Community
Code
Documentation
Lean Startup
Business Development
Customer Collaboration

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Power of Transparency

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Sarah Allen, Magma Conf 2015
This talk explores power of transparency to create with higher quality at lower cost, looking at open source community process, code and documentation, as well as lean startup open business, customer, and product development processes.

Sarah Allen, Magma Conf 2015
This talk explores power of transparency to create with higher quality at lower cost, looking at open source community process, code and documentation, as well as lean startup open business, customer, and product development processes.

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Power of Transparency

  1. 1. The Power of Transparency Sarah Allen @ultrasaurus
  2. 2. Higher Quality Lower Cost
  3. 3. Open Source Community Code Documentation Lean Startup Business Development Customer Collaboration
  4. 4. Open Source
  5. 5. Community
  6. 6. –the Starfish and the Spider “the unstoppable power of leaderless organizations”
  7. 7. –the Starfish and the Spider “The Nant’an led by example and held no coercive power. Tribe members followed the Nant’an because they wanted to, not because they had to”
  8. 8. – Jo Freeman the Tyranny of Structurelessness “ there is no such thing as a structureless group”
  9. 9. github.com/railsbridge/organizing
  10. 10. I Pull Requests
  11. 11. Tyranny of the Pull Request
  12. 12. Transparency is the antidote to false meritocracy.
  13. 13. Code
  14. 14. github.com/18F/midas
  15. 15. http://rauchg.com/slackin/
  16. 16. github.com/18F/open-source-policy
  17. 17. Open source reveals the work in progress…
  18. 18. Open source reveals the work in progress, and allows for unexpected collaboration.
  19. 19. Documentation
  20. 20. Unexpected Collaboration
  21. 21. Lean Startup
  22. 22. – Steve Blank “A startup is an organization formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.”
  23. 23. Transparency increases the speed of learning.
  24. 24. Learning Faster Lowers Cost
  25. 25. Learning Faster Decreases Risk
  26. 26. Customer Collaboration
  27. 27. Experiment with Paper iterate on paper till it works “play test” your app prepare for the unexpected give yourself space to imagine new things
  28. 28. Tweet a favorite phrase in English or Spanish @mightyverse @magmaconf
  29. 29. The Play Test is a Game
  30. 30. Rules for Play Testing “Shut up and Watch” Cooperation and Engagement: What can board games teach us? by Matt Leacock
  31. 31. Rules for Play Testing “Shut up and Watch” Take Notes Take Photos Resist providing answers. Ask questions.
  32. 32. Do the scary thing
  33. 33. Do the scary thing that will teach you the most.
  34. 34. Do the scary thing that will teach you the most. feedback@mightyverse.com
  35. 35. Be respectful of privacy Make your process visible Reveal the work in progress Learn in the open Collaborate with your customers Do the scary thing Learn the most that lets you…
  36. 36. Be respectful of privacy Make your process visible Reveal the work in progress Learn in the open Collaborate with your customers Do the scary thing Learn the most that lets you…
  37. 37. railsbridge.org bridgefoundry.org github.com/18F/midas github.com/18F/open-data-maker feedback@mightyverse.com @ultrasaurus

Editor's Notes


  • image: NASA http://sunearthday.nasa.gov/2008/promotional/
  • Privacy is important

    Pacific Silhouette, tdlucas5000
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/tdlucas5000/16114018212/
  • We all need parts of our lives for ourselves. We need anonymous freedom to enjoy public spaces.


    Silhouette, Antonio Felleca
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/68279494@N00/3849248402/
  • and we need to protect those who are vulnerable in our society.

    Let’s Ride, Bill Gracey
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/9422878@N08/3741177720/
  • but when we work, where our goal is to make things that are made for people… there are new ways of working where we work in collaboration with the people who will might ultimately use what we create

    Laptop fingers, S Martin
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/srmartin/17214336733/
  • Transparency has the power to create higher quality work at lower cost

  • Image: Come in we're open source, Timothy Appnel
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/tappnel/5798812875/
  • Building an Open Community with Transparent Processes
    First RailsBridge Workshop
  • RailsBridge: open source process, documentation + code
    The success of RailsBrige in the Ruby community in San Francisco was in large part due to the help we had from the community — companies offered space and sponsored food, everyone with skills offered to teach.
  • We wanted to structure an organization that would support this enthusiasm, our goal was to let nothing get in the way of someone creating a workshop. I was very influenced by this book: the Starfish and the Spider, which has the tagline: the unstoppable power of leaderless organizations. I wanted this movement to be unstoppable.

    The metaphor of the book’s title: the Starfish and the Spider…
  • is that if you have a spider, and you chop off it’s head, it dies…

    Image: Spider in my bath, Martin Cooper
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/m-a-r-t-i-n/17369640456/
  • but with some starfish, you cut them in half and you get two starfish.

    Image: Chelsea Marie Hicks
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/seafaringwoman/6954822623
  • The book has dozens of stories of these kinds of resilient organizations. The most inspiring for me was about the Apache native American tradition. Instead of a chief, the Apaches had a Nant’an—a spiritual and cultural leader. The Nant’an led by example and held no coercive power. Tribe members followed the Nant’an because they wanted to, not because they had to… before the Spanish and English settlers came, the Apaches used to have settlements themselves, but they were consistently attacked and raided… all it took was for one Apache to have the idea to become nomadic and many followed that leader and those Apache survived. This form of leadership made the Apache resilient and survived much longer than most other tribes.
  • RailsBridge grew all over the world, this map was made a couple of years ago, now there should be even more dots in about 50 cities… I realized — we were not leaderless we were leader-FULL. Hundreds of individuals were stepping up and taking a leadership role, and we were building this new kind of distributed organization..
  • by increasing transparency, we empower new people to get involved
    we need to make our process visible, make our decision-making visible, make our leaders visible and the way in which new leaders emerge…

    http://www.jofreeman.com/joreen/tyranny.htm
  • Rachel Myers is one of our spiritual and cultural leaders. In Jan 2014, she put up this repo with the idea that anyone could create an issue for a workshop they wanted to organize and host. Her idea was that the title of the issue would have the workshop location and date, but she didn’t say we should do this. She said “it’s awesome if…” She left space for people to have different ideas or post a workshop that didn’t yet have a date or a location.
  • A year and a half later, this has been in active use. The instructions now make clear that anyone can make a workshop (just that it must be free, outreach, code-of-conduct) everything else is open to innovation. You can see that there are 11 open issues, which are 11 workshops which are right now in the planning stage. We also have a pull request…
  • a side bar about pull requests. I love pull requests…
  • but I need to talk about the dark side of the pull request mechanism. It’s really the dark side of open source. I think it is important to really understand what some call a false meritocracy…
  • There’s a power structure implied, which creates a place where hidden biases can emerge. Sometimes people aren’t even aware of their own biases — they just hold different people to different standards. Some pull requests might get merged right away, where others are criticized in more detail or ignored.
  • We each have the opportunity and the responsibility to create a different kind of open source society.
  • It’s exciting to see that we have been somewhat successful in creating a transparent organization with RailsBridge. We still believe this can be improved, yet…
  • when MobileBridge started up last year, they replicated the idea from RailsBridge and made their own organizing repo..
  • and when Angular Bridge started up this spring, they simply forked it.
  • Writing code in the open

    Image: matrix, Gamaliel Espinoza Macedo
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/gamikun/2564208746
  • Another example, from a more traditional open source project, which is for a product I work on in my day job. The US Federal Government has millions of employees, and like most large organizations, people work in silos and often a little group has a very small budget and doesn’t have the resources — people & skills to act on an innovative idea to solve small, but important porblems. This is an application for crowdsourced talent inside the federal government — it provides a place where people can post “opportunities,” actionable ideas that other people in other departments or agencies might help with, allowing them professional development opportunities and to make connection across this huge organization, the US Federal Government.
  • Benefit to open source: no one has to get permission to experiment with midas, particularly important in government
    Transparency helps people understand what we expect from them and what they can expect from us.
    We have a google group and publish a calendar of our standup meetings where anyone can join us via Google Hangout, but we found that many of our engineering discussions were happening on Slack and we had to constantly remind each other to re-post on the Google Group.
  • We found this open source project “slackin” which let us create a webform that allows anyone to join one of our slack channels. It is exciting to have newcomers drop into slack and be able to chat with us.
  • Open from Day 1
  • external transparency actually makes things more visible internally
    public comment early builds allies from your critics (example: data.gov)
  • revealing your work in progress can be scary.. you make yourself vulnerable
  • Agile communication through open documentation

    Sleep Inducer, las
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/21561428@N03/5254629766/
  • When I started learning Rails in late 2008, I was startled by the lack of good documentation and quickly learned
    Fabio Akita and Sean Lynch
  • day 2, I’m starting to learn about validation and views… of course as I’m doing this, I’m piecing together meaning from the depths of the comments of various blog posts, as you do… and I read this post pointing out that all the Rails people were so passionate about test-first, as they were then, but none of the tutorials were written test first…
  • So I re-started my tutorial on day 3, writing a BDD tutorial with cucumber. Later when I learned RSpec and outside-in testing, I blogged about each things I learned as I learned it.
  • Then I went to my first Ruby conference…
  • and David Chelimsky, the creator of RSpec, waves at me from across the room and says he wants to talk
  • and this other guy, Corey Haines, who I had been reading about comes up to me and says he is impressed with the work we are doing with RailsBridge. At this point, there had only been a few RailsBridge workshops. Everything was open source and we had written blog posts, but I didn’t know that anyone outside of our small circle had noticed…
  • Learning in the open provides a way for people to see what you are doing and connect with you proactively. Most of the time when I was blogging, no one ever commented and I got no response. Then out of the blue someone would surprise me. What I didn’t think about then is that it is really amazing when new people write beginner blog posts, it’s something that is actually hard for someone who is super-experienced with a specific library or framework.
    If you are a novice, blog about your experience. It is a huge gift to the community.
    Also, notice the authors of the blog posts you read, especially if they are new in the community, and pay attention to the authors and follow them on twitter and if you end up at the same conference, introduce yourself, mention something about what they wrote, that small act make a huge difference.

  • Switching gears to a different kind of transparency. Transparency in business and product development with Lean Startup techniques.
    Image: Experiments with Long exposure and lights-015 by Tea, two sugars
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/mysnapps/2801546472/
  • As we openly explore how to find customers, our idea of our target customer and the product evolve in parallel
  • by experimenting (sometimes with lo-fi prototypes), you learn what customers need (or don’t), and what they will pay for (if anything)

    Image: Crocjaw Prototype by The Magic Tuba Pixie
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/the-magic-tuba-pixie/5806342006/
  • In defining your business, transparency increases the speed of learning

  • Image: Entering startup, Mike
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/dierken/948171048
  • The first version of the Mightyverse website… lean startup approach showed the phrase videos that we had collected but wasn’t really even an MVP (minimally viable product) since there was no way to submit new videos…
  • I realized that we weren’t getting search traffic because we had inadvertently created a design
    which meant that all of our thousands of phrase recordings were effectively hidden from google and other search engines, so we made a small change
  • we created a phrase page, so that every recording had a unique URL… so to the search engines our site now appeared to have 26,000 pages.
  • now our traffic goes up year over year…
    while we imagine and build the product we want to put in front of these prospective customers
  • I believe that the best way to design a product is with a paper prototype. With Mightyverse, we started with the idea that we were building a language learning utility, but we also wanted to make it fun,
  • So we studied game design in both old fashioned board games and online gaming…

    Cooperation and Engagement: What can board games teach us? by Matt Leacock
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdTVcFo2EQw
    Photo: C Lloyd
  • and started our prototype with a game you could actually play with index cards and markers
  • paper is a wonderful medium for experimentation… in between experiments when you have real people using your imaginary software, you can just sketch a new part of it… even if you are not making a game, thinking of it as a “play test” helps frame the challenge
  • We got our friends to try out our game…sometime in the middle of a game, I would just throw away a card, or make up a new one
  • A crowd-funding campaign is a great way to find customers and validate your idea. You basically need to construct an advertisement for your product before it exists. Coming up with that marketing material will often influence your product design. If people will pay for your product in advance, it’s a good indication that they want it.
  • Though our goal with the crowdfunding campaign was to find customers and validate that our model of language learning could be fun, we also made a commitment to produce the paper prototype as a real-world card game. You can now buy it on Amazon.
  • This year we’ve been developing a new mobile app….
  • One way to look at it is that the play-test itself is a game.
  • when they run into a bug, especially one you already knew about, don’t say “oh, that’s a bug”
    ask “What did you expect to happen?” … you might end up fixing the bug differently
  • It’s really hard, at first, to just watch…
  • but then you notice something you didn’t expect and it starts to be fun..
  • here’s a sequence of photos from the end of that session… I always think it is a good idea to provide cookies to our usability test subjects. Judy decided to record a phrase about the cookie and you can see in the last frame that Ian is looking at the app with this wonderful expression on his face — he is listening to Judy’s phrase.
    Find those moments of delight that happen when people are using your app… and try to re-create and amplify them in the next software iteration.
  • If you want to try out our app and you have an iPhone and are learning a language, send email to: feedback@mightyverse.com with your iPhone version, native language and learning language.

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