Looking for work?

eLife, our buddies and comrades, are looking for a Node dev to work with them (and us) on their PubSweet platform…

“We are now seeking a full stack Node.js Developer to work on the development, automation, monitoring, architecture and testing of a system we are co-developing with other non-profits and publishers.”

https://elifesciences.org/jobs/ef3f306c/open-source-developer-node-js-react-aws

Would be a (Pub)Sweeeeeeeet job!….

 

PubSweet – How to Build a Publishing Platform

Ever wanted to build a publishing platform but didn’t know how? Here is a book that encapsulates a lot of learning … Here’s the front cover:

coko-cover-front

Be part of the change you want to see in the world… build your own publishing platform…¬† and if you do, please let me know ūüôā We’d love to have you at the community meetings…

Back cover below… we are also printing a few hundred to give away. Let me know if you want a copy.

coko-cover-back

Workspaces

Recently at the PubSweet Book Sprint we put together a chapter on understanding PubSweet Workspaces. Workspaces are reusable components that you can use to assemble a publishing platform. Henrik developed some icons during the sprint to represent this idea and you can see the depiction of the xpub-Collabra platform described in this visual language below:

02-adam-workflow-v3

PDF chapter below.
workspaces

Wandering again

Off to London today for the 3rd PubSweet meet. 3 days of joyous banter about all things PubSweet. This meeting will mainly be a work meet with eLife/YLD, Coko, Collabra, and Hindawi/Thin Slices. We are also onboarding some potential new partners.

Then I’ll be on the road to Berlin to talk hosting and have a birthday drink. I’ll also catch up with the Book Sprint folks.

Then its San Francisco for a couple of weeks! Tally Ho!

Collaboration on UX

So, I have a pet thesis…. it goes something like this… Open Source, as we know it out there in the wild, is a code-centric pursuit. Its roots are in code, the culture is all about developers solving problems, the tooling is code-centric, and the culture values code above all else.¬†That is not a very controversial thesis so far. However, I have experienced a lot of kickback when I get to the next bit… and that is, open source has both succeeded and failed because of the these characteristics.¬† It has succeeded to produce a lot of code, and a lot of tools and libraries that developers need, but it has failed in any category of software where the primary beneficiaries of the software are not developers.

To me it makes sense. But bringing it up has produced so much blowback, notably from long-time open source practitioners, that it only reinforces to me the truth in the mini thesis. There is a huge blind spot in open source culture that does not recognise where it has failed. It is a pity because I believe the first step in succeeding in these areas is to recognise why open source has failed. Only then can you fix it.

I believe it will take a long time to change this and I once had aspirations to be part of the fix-it movement, but I think it’s too long a game so I have elected instead to play a part in addressing these issues in realms where I know I can have an immediate effect. Hence, in Coko,¬† a not for profit I co-founded,¬† we are spending a lot of time to see how we can create an open source project that values all contributions as much as traditional open source values code contributions.

Part of this is making way for UX design. It is pretty much¬†the high-value role, when it comes to conquering the most obvious limitations in open source, since it is where the rubber hits the road when it comes to ‘user’ meets software.

In the Coko community, Julian Taquet and Nick Duffield (eLife) are putting a lot of time into this with the able assistance of Yannis Barlas (there has also been a lot of excellent input from Sam and Tam from YLD and others). I’ve shepherded the process from a distance – setting the scene and making the space for the right people to do the right work and making sure this work has the right value accorded to it in the Coko culture.

So, in essence, we have realised that collaboration in UX comes down to three things:

  • identifying the common ground
  • tooling
  • process

Common Ground

Identifying the common ground actually took some discussion. We initially thought the common ground – think of it as UX space shared across projects – was on the page-level. We thought, for example, one org would need a dashboard and so they make it and others can use it. While this is true for a limited number of specific page level components it soon became obvious that there was a higher opportunity for reuse should we break the page-level components down into smaller components. We then had a short period of lexicon confusions (“duh. what sort of component is a login?”) until we settled on Brad Frost’s atoms and molecules concepts and lexicon.

After that, we could make faster progress as we had identified, and could talk about, a new level of component that had infinitely more opportunities for reuse across projects.

That was the highest level common ground we identified.

Tools

Next, we moved onto tooling… there had been a lot of discussion about this. The trick was to get the designers to experiment with and understand the options. It also highlighted the fact that in each collaborating org there was a different workflow that might play into some discussions and not into others. For example, Julian from Coko does as much of the tweaking of CSS variables and values in the code, whereas Nick from eLife does the design and then hands these designs to others to implement. So, in many ways, the questions about tooling are informed by these workflows ;and different people, even if identified as having the same kind of role, have very different questions and needs. This is important to take into account and we will need to keep this very much in focus as we go forward. One easy way to keep issues of this in focus is to always insist that any discussion, workflow change or feature that affects design workflow must include the designers in that conversation. You get better results and people are much happier! Not to mention that it saves a lot of time as there is more informed discussion as you progress and fewer possibilities for major rollbacks because someone wasn’t looped in.

This conversation on tooling took quite a few weeks; there were many options on the table and we wanted to make sure the right people were in the right conversations. It came to a close, for at least the foundational stage, when Nick and Julien met with Yannis in Athens for a 3 day UX meet and nailed down the final agreements on tooling (amongst other things). This highlights to me also the need for periodic in person meets if you can manage it, as required. You can clear out a lot of ‘hanging issues’ in one swoop if you meet in person for short focused bursts.

Below are some pics from this very important meet in Athens showing Nick, Julien, and Yannis at work on the whiteboard in our Athens office.

image-1

file

image-2

We now have general agreement on the use of CSS styled components, as well as an understanding of what a basic atom or molecule would look like, a high-level list of agreed design principles, an approach to ‘plain vanilla’ theme with org-specific overrides, and a prescribed set of common CSS variables.

You can see the embryonic documentation about design decisions here – https://gitlab.coko.foundation/pubsweet/design

So, the crew nailed down the tooling with a few things left to discuss. There are many tools in the design/UX workflow. Unfortunately, there are not many good open source tools to support open source design workflows. That is because of the limited scope of open source projects to involve designers as I mentioned above. So design has not been seen as a priority and, consequently, the tooling is not there. You can see this in GitHub and GitLab – where are the tools that support designer workflow?

Process

Which brings me to the final item – process. We are still working this out, but essentially each org will design components as needed, and then scope these to common established CSS variables, and then ask for feedback through Mattermost. When agreed, the component will be built and committed to the common styleguide for reuse. When the flow is established it should be a pretty fast way of working. The idea being, in essence, that atoms and molecules are developed for a target, common, ‘plain vanilla’ theme, and then each org can have their own theme that will use those common components and apply their own CSS values to the common variables.

After writing the above I asked Julien if it all looked ok, he wanted to make the following additional point about tooling and sharing design ideas and mocks:

For now, we’ve stopped the conversation at ‘let’s share svg through syncyng folders and see how it goes’.

The only things that will stay in the library of components, shared for all Pubsweet apps (from Coko and others), is the code. Therefore, since there is no easy way to test mockups with different themes (which is the thing that we would need), we will end up sharing png and discussions (for which, the Increment project could be helpful: https://gitlab.coko.foundation/adam/increment).

So for now,¬†I don’t think we can say more, specifically if we don’t want to force the user on a specific tool.

In other words, the atoms and molecules will go into the shared component library, but the mocks and discussions leading up to the creation of the components will occur elsewhere. This is because the current open source software development tools don’t support these processes (collaboration around iterative design in a live environment).¬† Julien also makes the point that the mocks will also be shared as SVG since that allows each org to decide for themselves which environment (design software) they will use to create the mocks, so SVG, in a way, acts as an interface between the collaborating designers.

It sounds simple, but it takes time to work out simple solutions. We are also finding that there are no established models for collaborating on open source UX that we know of that we can follow… so discovery always comes with an overhead but it’s also exciting to be leading, in some small way, with creating a demonstrable real ‘in the wild’ example of how to collaborate across orgs on UX design in an open source project.¬† That comes with its own challenges, and with its own sense of satisfaction.

Coko looking for a Editoria Community Manager

If you know anyone that would make a great community manager for Editoria then let me know!

Coko in partnership with UC Press and the California Digital Library are hiring a Community Manager to assist with adoption of the new Editoria platform for book production.

The Community Manager will manage the publisher, developer, and service provider communities for Editoria‚ÄĒa web-based, open source book production software built on the Collaborative Knowledge Foundation (Coko) PubSweet framework for the University of California Press and the California Digital Library. Using proactive marketing and outreach strategies and activities, the community manager will drive adoption and further enhancement of the Editoria software and play a key role in the evolution of Editoria‚Äôs sustainability. The Community Manager will be responsible for managing all public-facing work related to Editoria, including communications, PR, social media engagement, website content creation, and business development.

The position is funded for one year with potential for longer term depending on funding and performance. Ideally the candidate would be based in the Bay Area, however remote candidates will also be considered. Salary commensurate with experience.

The full job description is available here (PDF). Email us at team@coko.foundation with questions. Please share with potential interested parties!

 

 

Getting Design and User Experience Right in Open Source

So, I’ve thought about Open Source and design… I’ve even written some articles on opensource.com (https://opensource.com/users/adam-hyde) about the subject, and created a methodology for bringing the use-case specialist (user) into the center of the process, along with designers and everyone else…

I’ve also brought this subject up a number of times in Shuttleworth Foundation meetings and¬†received some invaluable advice and insights from fellow Fellows and Shuttleworth staff… many of whom have heard my whacky ideas several times over now and are still patiently listening and offering advice! Forever grateful to y’all… especially Helen, Sean, Arthur, and Andrew for ideas and feedback.

But what I didn’t expect, is that I’d be part of a wider community where these ideas could form the basis of the culture. This is what I saw happen this week in London as part of the PubSweet Global meet Coko hosted (& I facilitated).

There were about 25 of us¬†coming together to discuss all things PubSweet with particular emphasis on building Journals. Present were many folks from eLife, Hindawi, Ubiquity, and Coko. We got to the topic of ‘Technical Council’ and I tabled the idea that we need some kind of process in place so that all stakeholders feel they are getting a say in, and are being heard, the future of PubSweet – since it is their technology too.

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CoFounder of Coko, Kristen Ratan, kicking off the meeting

When I tabled the idea that we need some form of technical council, Catriona MacCallum, who I used to work with at PLOS, asked the very salient question Рand what about the users?

Catriona on left.
Catriona on right.

I’m very grateful to Catriona for that question as it gave me the opportunity to open up the concept and talk about how there are very few communities in open source that treat software development as anything other than just a technical problem, and further that we should take this opportunity to experiment in making this community strong on solving ‘user needs’ and design… it was a great discussion and I’m also grateful to eLife’s head of product –¬†Giuliano Maciocci – for having a strong voice in favor of this and really stepping into, what looks to be, an emergent leadership role with regard to design in the community.

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Giuliano.

As a result, we formed a Dev Council¬†and a Design Council. These are oversight/communication groups of 5 people each. So, they don’t ‘govern’ but the choice by the community to form these two groups is a¬†testament to how seriously the community is to making beautiful products that solve real problems in publishing for real people…

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Whiteboard from the session showing our decisions. Dev/Design council structure at the bottom, also showing their relationship to community (supporting) and Coko (facilitated by).

All in all, a pretty fantastic 3 days.