Unlocking Open Source Design, for all of humanity Eriol Fox, Thomas Kueber & Andre Jay Meissner
As already introduced, we’re Eriol, based out of Bristol/UK, and Thomas and Jay, based out of Berlin.
Two years back, we joined forces to enable design contributions to humanitarian open source software. In 2018 and 2019 we piloted two design jams in Berlin and at Interaction 19 in Seattle, to bring together designers to focus in on Ushahidi’s crisis communication tool TenFour, to work on crisis scenarios that were applicable to them living in Berlin and Seattle, which were imaginary floods, and landslides.
TenFour is a real world application that helps to quickly check in with people that might have been affected by crises, to find out if they are OK or might require help.
Ushahidi created TenFour on the back of the Westgate Mall Terrorist attack in Nairobi, Kenia, where some of their team have been held hostage in the affected mall,
and a quick and effective way of checking in turned out to be a huge problem,
just as it would be the case with comparable crises, regardless if manmade, due to extreme weather, or other unforeseen causes.
TenFour is an Open Source Software, but what is Open Source Software?
OSS can be a “tool”, a service or project that is made available under an ‘open license’ such as Creative Commons, APGL or MIT license.
The source code and often all other vital components of the project live in a fully disclosed and open way on the web, typically on sites like GitHub or Gitlab.
Typically, OSS is being perceived as something that you can use for free and also adapt and change in ways that are useful to you and/or your organisation.
And OSS often is a collaborative community effort, to build and improve a ‘technology’ or product, together.
Contributing to OSS is part of many developers lives, and where they learn, share and mentor each other, and how they ‘give back’ to their community in a way.
In case that reminds you of IxDA’s mission: Correct. Big similarities.
there’s a huge amount of designers out there that are working commercially in companies and agencies,
that actually want to work on projects that give back to the world,
to use their skills to help solve some of the hardest problems humanity faces today.
Unfortunately in OSS there is an absence of contributions that aren’t code, and many OSS projects don’t think outside of their typical ‘developer bubble’.
But Open Source Software, especially humanitarian projects, are in dire need of multi-functional product cycle support, including design, in order to make critical, needed software usable in truly difficult situations.
After our two pilot events in Berlin and Seattle, Ushahidi, Adobe and Designit began a collaboration under the name ‘Open Design’ to further investigate and solve the question of specifically, ‘Why aren’t there more designers in Open Source?’
We wanted to have a deeper understanding what is keeping designers off of participating as actively to OSS as developers do.
And we wanted to start removing roadblocks, to enable more design contributions to that space.
[Jay hands over to Eriol]
Section 2: Our pre-workshop learnings and research - slides 8 - 11 - Eriol
After 30 plus interviews with design professionals, OSS owners and humanitarian organisations and extensive research we discovered many roadblocks. More than we have time to go into today but here are three.
Design education both formal and informal does not typically involve learning about OSS. Even if we are using OSS we might never know!
Now some design institutions are introducing OSS modules for students.
But we need to connect this with our workplaces. If we’re not including OSS and a valid part of our education then when we move into the world of work involvement with OSS will continue to be seen as a non-viable source of design practice.
We’re all familiar with the problem with attitudes towards free design for ‘exposure’ and we often prefer a ‘personal or passion projects’ approach and un-paid internships.The world doesn’t need another redesign of the Spotify interface for your portfolio. This is especially a problem when you’re early in your career.
The benefits of working on OSS as an alternative are similar to ones that developers experience, being part of something meaningful, collaborate across borders, learning from each other and practicing your design craft.
When speaking with people that work on OSS projects and ‘maintain’ them. They often hear ‘design’ and immediately think visual design only.
This leaves out a huge part of why design is becoming one of the most needed functions in software. Design can offer so much to digital (and non-digital) products and projects than the visual design.
This speaks to the historical and cultural segregation of design and development, however this is changing and more OSS projects are becoming aware of usability and the need to be human centred by design.
Eriol hands over to Thomas
Participation need excitement and design is seldom done good in isolation. Also as we heard before, defining design by issues is not how to best frame design work. Remote working vs face to face, Remote work in John Maeda’s Design in Tech Report 2018, remote enables decentralization and inclusion. Invision, automaticc
So yes, we need to enable remote work but we need in person meetings to
ignition motivation alignment empathy
diversity by location
We are designing a global tool for people in crisis and figured out to be inclusive in these life-threatening situations we rather go to communities that have gone through this than rely on second hand research and our gut feeling.
But of course those workshops are a lot of effort and we constantly seek to improve their efficiency and output.
From a first attempt in berlin to fictional design problems in Seattle we concentrated more on immersive endeavors in 2019
Designing for crisis communication open source TenFour with survivors of the Kerala floods in Southwest India.
Designing for crisis communication open source TenFour with against typhoon crisis alongside farmers in rural Taiwanese farmers.
For these workshops we defined the features to work on more precisely and ran a hybrid approach. A workshop to build groups and create a common understanding and motivation and a one week sprint to really work on the tasks. Which worked to an extend.
We definitely need to work on the moderation of the remote sprint, the drop out rate was admittingly rather high still
For the workshops itself we set up a pretty straight forward design workshop with an emphasis on group activities and immersion with the problem area.
We guide the teams through a fairly simple process more steered towards collective problem solving and team building than immediate solution.
Akhila, (center for migration and inclusive development CMID) which you can see in the picture here, acted as a first hand witness to inspire the teams in Bangalore. She worked in the Kerala flood emergency and brought individual stories and cases as well as some overall numbers to the workshop. We completet her input by personal stories from the workshop participants who had friends and relatives affected by the flood.
As Akhila was able to stay throughout the workshop she could do so much more than all the images and videos we created for the workshops before. She basically became an agent for the users throughout the process and was able to give feedback to the individual prototypes at the end of the day.
Fired up by first hand input we guide the teams through a fairly simple process more steered towards collective problem solving and team building than immediate solution.
The prototyping stage became probably the most important part of the whole series throughout the year. Not because of the prototype itself but because it showed quick results, gave the teams a sense of accomplishment and most important a ground to then build upon after the workshop.
There were loads of amazing clickable prototypes done in XD during the workshops. We offered a TenFour sticker sheet upfront which helped to get over the initial hurdle of finding a starting point and drawing lines. We just wanted to show this one real quick to demonstrate the fidelity of these prototypes and how, even without the team working more on them, can be used to inspire the product. In only 8 hours WS
We’re planning more OD workshops for 2020. And more areas of application
So looking back at what we achieved throughout the last year and what we like to build on in 2020, there is a clear understanding of one thing that we can’t do without:
Your help and feedback. As OD is aiming to get more design to OS projects, it must be open in itself as well. You find all your resources here (although on this weird system called github), please feel free to download, use adapt and never hesitate to give us feedback or reach out.