On 13th and 14th of December, I’ll be attending the DevCSI project Hacking ePub/eBooks event in Bristol. The event is being run in conjunction with the JISC-funded Application Profiles Support Project, and I’m hoping to pick up lots of information about how metadata is used in this environment during the two days. The ePub standard is a free and open standard that includes embedded metadata among it’s feature, which I obviously want to get the lowdown on. I’m also keen to widen my limited experience of the business end of eBooks, and find out more about how metadata is being applied to them. I’ll be posting my metadata-related discoveries here on the blog.
This is my second hacking event – I attended the DecCSI Reading Lists Hackday in Cambridge, back in July. I’m back for more because I learned a lot at the Reading Lists event. The most valuable lesson I learned is that hacking is not just for developers. In fact, it’s the mix of developers and non-technical practitioners that really make a hack day. Years of working in a software company as a non-technical project manager exposed me to the joys of working with developers, those magical people who can build what you need. So I’m keen to re-establish this kind of working relationship, albeit for a couple of days, whenever I get a chance.
To all my non-technical colleagues, I’d like to say, if you see a hacking event happening in an area you have an interest in, attend it if you possibly can. I know a lot of people who aren’t developers are put off by the fact that they have no technical expertise, but really, that’s the whole point. Look at it the other way round. Developers have all these amazing skills, but what they lack is what you have – a good, practically-based knowledge of what users need and why they need stuff . So tell them what you need, and hopefully they’ll build it. And they’ll do more than that, they’ll show you what can’t be done and why, and also show you things you never thought possible. Along the way, you’ll both get a unique chance to look at a specific area of your work from a totally new perspective.
I can’t tell you what I’ll learn at this event until I’ve been, but past experience tells me I’ll learn a lot. It’s a great way to tackle a steep learning curve in a new area, a brilliantly practical ‘hands-on’ introduction to problems and solutions and a fantastic insight into the way developers work. In short, it’ll serve you well once you’re back in the day job. The more you can practice working in a team with developers, learning to understand their point of view and learning to share your issues and ideas from your own perspective in a way that they can understand, the better you will understand how to get the most out of any new system or project. You won’t come away as a technical genius, but that’s the point – you don’t have to. Instead, you’ll come away able to ask some of the right questions and make yourself clearly understood. You’ll also have a much better understanding of the kinds of issues developers face and the kinds of solutions they can offer.
If the last event I attended is anything to go by, you also stand a very good chance of coming away with an actual working prototype of something that was just a vague idea when you started. Oh, and another benefit of working with developers – there’s sure to be great coffee