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My new friend Aslam Rafee (CTO of the DST) has been hanging out in our office this morning before Open Everything this afternoon.   He has pointed out one of the most incredible pieces of democracy I have ever seen.  The so called ‘Independent Electoral Commission’ do not allow you to access information through their site if you do not have propriety software.

The (not so) welcome page:

So much for human rights and access to knowledge….

We have an internal Shuttleworth Foundation IRC channel which mainly consists of comments, banter, understanding where people are, soliciting opinions and, most importantly, links to interesting things we are reading.  These readings inform our current thinking and shape our ideas.  To share them at large, we have tagged them in deli.icio.us under SFreads (what the Shuttleworth Foundation reads).  The RSS feed is to the left of this post, and will be on the front page of our website.

This week, the team went on an Insights training course, which whilst a lot of it can be taken with a pinch of salt (how you can fill out 25 questions and define the exact characteristics of each complex individual I will never know) there was a lot of truth found.

You are plotted on a map and assigned a colour, each colour represents a personality type (as with Myers Briggs and so far, not that inspiring), the part that I liked was that you were able to see which colours were assigned to your team members and then there were explicit statements of what each person liked, and did not like and if you want a positive result from any interaction a simple list of do’s and do nots.

I was an ‘Inspirer Motivator’ – which whilst is a lovely sunshine yellow colour and is ‘out-going, can develop and maintain contacts, able to create enthusiasm, verbally effusive, optimistic and sees the good in others’ there are obviously some down sides!

Broadly speaking, strengths are:

  • Outwardly directed energy ensures a fast friendly pace.
  • Becomes involved in many activities.
  • Will look for the good in people and events.
  • Participative and involved team player.
  • Can be bubbly, effusive and spontaneous.
  • Ability to see options and alternatives.
  • Will try anything at least once.
  • Has an outgoing nature and builds relationships quickly.

Weaknesses:

  • May take criticism of her work personally.
  • Generally speaking, she is speaking generally!
  • Will set unrealistic deadlines for herself and others.
  • May ignore others who contribute in a less energetic style.
  • Easily distracted from the routine.
  • Does not enjoy working or being alone for long periods.
  • Generates so many ideas that chaos often ensues.
  • Can appear insincere.

Value to the team:

  • Sees the “big picture”.
  • Creates considerable activity.
  • Can organise the social calendar.
  • Is seen as a good team builder.
  • Exudes high drive, direction and sociability.
  • Boosts self-esteem in others.
  • Brings a fresh outlook.
  • Is innovative and imaginative.
  • Leads by personal example.

When communicating with me do:

  • Keep the conversation lively.
  • Don’t be too serious, dull or severe.
  • Omit unnecessary and intricate details.
  • Provide for both flexibility and structure within the meeting.
  • Use colourful and bold language in conversing.
  • Maintain a positive and open stance.
  • Be spontaneous and harmonious.
  • Be clear on completion details.

When communicating with me, don;t:

  • Speak too slowly or hesitantly.
  • Be mundane, boring or dismissive.
  • Expect her to respond favourably if you dictate to her on policy or procedures.
  • Take issue with her demeanour or jaunty disposition.
  • Leave her out of the picture.
  • Limit her range or scope of activity.
  • Be dismissive of her feelings and emotions.
  • Appear slow, sluggish or too formal.

We are not afraid to take risks on new ideas or projects and we are not afraid to tell the world when they have gone wrong and failed. The Kusasa project has failed.  Essentially we could not reconcile the original vision of the project with the practical realities we faced in South Africa.

We started the project, back in April 2006 with an incredible meeting (and sometimes clashing) of minds in London, we had Alan Kay of the Squeak project and Squeakland educational software platform, Guido van Rossum of Python fame, and James Dalziel of the LAMS project, to name but a few.  We essentially decided that we wanted to produce children from the education system that could, as Mark Shuttleworth’s blog states:

  1. Learn a set of tools quickly and efficiently. In life, the set of tools we apply to the problems we face changes every few years. So it’s not the specific SET of tools you learn, its the ability to grok a new toolset, figure out when to use, and do so efficiently that counts.
  2. Break problems into simpler pieces, solve them using familiar tools. The whole process of analysis is about taking a big hairy problem that is new and unfamiliar, and teasing it into pieces that look solvable based on tools that you already know.
  3. Put those simpler answers back together to make an answer to the big problem. This is the synthesis part – taking the results of your analysis and making them meaningful in the real world.

We also wanted this to be a programme that would be very easy to replicate and use as they wished.  To be simple and easy, peer-to-peer taught and evaluated.  To enable the teacher, not to be the holder of the domain specific knowledge, but to be able to facilitate the learning.

It has become apparent that the project success depends on teachers developing skills we did not initially anticipate and due to learner abilities the project used illustrated stories to introduce and role model effective thinking, which whilst the right thing to do, strayed from the original vision.

It is important to shout about our successes, and to acknowledge our failings and whilst the project has failed, the materials produced are fabulous and pedagogically sound.  I would encourage those using them to continue to do so and those in environments that do not have the same constraints as we have to take them and add to them.  You can find them on the website and are all licensed openly.

Whilst there have been a lot of people who have been key to driving this project forward, Sam Christie and the Bright Sparks team have been fabulous.

We are finally starting to get under the hood of the foundation.  We have published the first in our ‘How we work’ series on Open Licensing and have been getting some great feedback.  As we know, we are not perfect, but we do have a clear policy on what we want to do and very real ideas and opportunities to get there.  Every agreement we enter into, be it with a service provider or in the form of a donation ensures all material and resources are open and will remain so, they are also free from technical protection measures.

We are now wokring on deconstructing our fellowship programme – watch this space.

Very excitingly, we hosted the first Village Telco workshop.  It exceeded all expectations both in the calibre of the people attending and the very concrete outcomes that emerged. Details of the workshop and its results are on the newly hosted website. One key result of the workshop is a plan to create a new device that merges the functionality of a low-cost mesh access point and an analogue telephony adaptor (ATA).

The week following the Village Telco workshop, Steve and Jason attended another wireless workshop at CSIR, this time funded by IDRC and focus on creating a Wireless Africa Alliance that would network low-cost wireless entrepreneurs across Africa. The Village Telco and the results of the workshop got a very good reception.

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