“So many ways to skin a cat” presentation, Connecting Up 09 conference


I’m finding lots of distractions as I try to finish a write-up about the presentation I gave at the Connecting Up 09 conference yesterday. Straight in front of me is this green void – “a digital design drived from nature realized in lightweight frabric using the latest digital fabrication and engineering techniques, creating more with less”.

The installation is housed in the atrium at the Customs House public library. The library itself is a mixture of traditional dark wooded reading rooms created within the old, stone Customs House and contemporary fittings in brilliant red. Then there are the books – I’m seated next to books such as the “Atlas of Western Art History” and “America in Space”.

And don’t mention coffee or Circular Quay ferries tempting me. Okay, back on track. I better make use of the free wifi Internet access.

I talked yesterday about the process we used to bring CommunityCentral to life. The main focus was on how we went from free-form idea generation to a tangible set of features our developers could build. On the recommendation of egressive – the company we’ve been working with for the last year – we wrote up user stories which were then translated into technical specifications.

On reflection the process was a good one. The user stories helped bridge the communication divide between the regular folk on the project and the developers. A by-product was buy-in by the governance group without them having to get involved in every little detail of the web development process. Recently, our new website coordinator Catherine read through them to get an idea of what CommunityCentral is trying to achieve.

The process isn’t foolproof and I was embarrased to admit we’ve consistently missed deadlines when someone asked if we had a project plan. I think that’s the nature of website development, especially when interactivity is involved, and scarce human resources.

Talking afterwards with a couple of people I recommended an excellent summary of methods for obtaining user input to help set priorities for building websites: The unusually useful web book by June Cohen. Although written in 2003 (an eternity ago in webland) it still has some of the most concise and useful advice on website development I’ve seen.

In my presentation you’ll see a picture of a canoe about to capsize. As I said yesterday, the image really captures some of the sense of dread verging on excitement of the whole project. There is some fear, the whole thing could topple over, things could go wrong, we could end up capsizing.

The way I see it, the worst that could happen is a drenching – but can we learn from that? Would we try again?  The project is marked by a boldness – lets try. If the governance group were too timid to try – hmmm, that wouldn’t actually help people working in community groups get online and begin building new connections.

The chance to reflect back on CommunityCentral’s life so far has been refreshing. Too often I don’t find the time to stop and reflect, so cheers to Connecting Up for running another excellent event.

Resources:
“So many ways to skin a cat” presentation on SlideShare
Links to blog posts, pictures and other conference materials

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