Archive for the 'Bloggers' Category

The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography rides again

Painting of two men and a lobster

Joseph Banks bartering with a Māori for a lobster. Watercolour and pencil by Tupaia, 1769. Source: British Library Reference: MS ADD 15508, folio 12

This week Te Ara marks an important milestone: the publication of the first new Dictionary of New Zealand Biography entry since 2011. Joan Druett has written a new entry on the Polynesian navigator, Tupaia, the subject of her award-winning biography published in 2011. We’re delighted to announce that this marks the beginning of a new phase in the life of the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.

The Dictionary was originally published in five print volumes between 1990 and 2000, under the general editorship of W.H. Oliver and later Claudia Orange. It comprised biographies of more than 3000 people who had risen to prominence before 1960 and died before the publication cut-off date of 1998. No living person was eligible for inclusion. Separate volumes reprinted the biographies of the nearly 500 Maori subjects in te reo Maori, which together with the te reo sections of Te Ara constitutes the largest Maori-language publishing programme ever conducted.

In late 2001 all the biographies were made available online, with a team of researchers locating images and in some cases audio and video recordings to illustrate the essays. In 2010 the online biographies were relaunched as part of Te Ara, with the biographies and encyclopedia entries enriching and amplifying each other. Fifteen new biographies were added to Te Ara in 2010–11.

Happily the Dictionary’s time has come again, and from 2018 onwards we will release a small batch of new biographies annually. The first round will place the spotlight on a number of high-achieving women, to celebrate the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage. Subsequent rounds will illuminate the lives of significant and representative people from a cross-section of New Zealand society, with a focus on the decades after 1960. The new biographies will be released online only.

We’re still working through the details, but the new Dictionary of New Zealand Biography will honour the tradition of rigorous and broad-ranging scholarship established by the Dictionary’s original editors, staff, working groups and authors. They have left big shoes to fill.

As the actress said to the woman bishop

Prompted by International Women’s Day (March 8), I decided to see if, where and how sexist language is used on Te Ara.

After a brief search I found these image titles: woman road marker, Jane Winstone with another woman pilot, Alice Baston, a pioneering woman accountant, a woman cyclist in knickerbockers, a woman farmer and a woman hunter.

The Victoria University Non-Sexist Language Guidelines say ‘Job titles that cannot be given a suffix are often prefixed with sex indicators.  We hear of a “woman painter”, a “woman lawyer”, a “lady doctor”.  There is no apparent reason for this — as with the practice of using suffixes, it implies maleness is the norm, and that women are “special cases”. As the titles come from the verb, that is, a painter is one who paints, there is no need for further indicators.’

But in each of the examples above the women they described were either the first in their field, or represented a small number of women in engaged in a particular occupation. They were special cases. Did that make it OK?

My question was answered when I found Anne Barry, firefighter.

Anne Barry, firefighter. Source: New Zealand Herald. Reference: 050307NZLJUBARRY01.JPG. Photograph by Jane Ussher.

Anne Barry, firefighter. Source: New Zealand Herald. Reference: 050307NZLJUBARRY01.JPG. Photograph by Jane Ussher.

Anne Barry became the first woman professional firefighter in Australasia in 1981, but she had to struggle long and hard to achieve this goal. Her initial application was declined, so she took her case to the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Human Rights Commission and to members of Parliament before being accepted for the recruitment course. She passed with flying colours and went on to a distinguished career in the Fire Service for more than 20 years.

Anne Barry was a special case too. She was the first in her field. But she wasn’t described as a “Woman firefighter” or worse, a “Woman fireman”. No, she was Anne Barry, firefighter.

Heartened by the description, I wondered if we could rewrite the other image titles? Could they be ‘Road marker’, ‘Jane Winstone with another pilot’, ‘A cyclist in knickerbockers’, ‘Jill Bluett, dairy farmer’ and ‘Keen hunter’? And what about Alice Baston – was she a pioneering accountant or was it being a woman accountant that made her a pioneer? What do you think?

I’m going to cross-reference the glossary of non-inclusive terms with Te Ara next. I know that sometimes the terms will have been used for good reason, but I’ve already discovered enough maiden speeches, man-powered and man-made terms used as descriptors, that I know it is time for change.

#BeBoldForChange #InternationalWomensDay #IWD2017

Webstock – demystifying tech and UX

Following on from my previous blog, this year at Webstock Ashley Nelson-Hornstein gave a great talk entitled ‘Humanities x Technology’, where she advocated for a demystification of the tech industry and inclusion of contributors with skills in the liberal arts.

I liked her comment that people shouldn’t need to feel like they are a genius, or good at maths or science to code or contribute to the tech industry, and I agreed with her wholeheartedly that marrying technology with liberal arts brings about great results.

An ex-employee of Apple, her talk left no doubt – it’s not the features or tech specs, but the experience/what you can do with the product, that counts. She stressed that at Apple the experience is conceived first, and then the technology is devised to bring it about.

This arrival back at what feels like the original, more meaningful, and less ‘industry-speak’ definition of UX, was a refreshing theme for me at Webstock.

Jared Spool also focused on the user’s experience in a highly practical and educational talk about how to reach the point of UX design mastery.

He explained the growth stages of understanding – relating how individuals and organisations grow from literacy to fluency to mastery, and how this ties in to the growth phases of a marketplace. The two real world examples he used to illustrate his points were both memorable and fascinating, the story of Disney Parks and Resorts, and the story of the Nest.

Jared is an accomplished educator and his talk was as enjoyable as it was informative. Rather than do it poor justice here, I highly recommend watching it: Beyond the UX tipping point, and that you check out his slides too.

Webstock – Scenarios and storyboards

Webstock had many great talks this year, and rather than cover off the whole conference, relaying themes and highlights as I have previously – I’ve decided it would be more helpful to share my notes on a few talks in particular.

As the Research and Publishing group embark on creating a new strategic framework within which to operate, thinking about our users has rightly come to the forefront. Kim Goodwin’s talk offered an excellent methodology to learn about users and how we can help create a great experience for them:

Kim Goodwin

Scenarios and storyboards

Kim started with a reference to silos, how they lead to narrow viewpoints and prevent understanding.  She pointed out that we inadvertently implement silos in our corporate structure, and in our production systems too.  Agile user stories for example, have a narrow problem definition, ie: ‘User needs to Log in’. But – the user is trying to accomplish something, not just ‘log in’ – which brings us to the first and main question to ask ourselves: What is our user trying to accomplish?

From here we can begin to think about ‘Scenarios’. A Scenario is a plausible story about a desired user experience from end to end.

Kim’s tips for developing Scenarios are as follows (she used plane travel as an example, but I’ve added a few examples that are relevant to us):

1. Get the whole story

Talk to people about travel/research/school assignments as a whole.

What kind of trips do you take?

What kind of research do you do?

What kind of assignments do you work on?

Then get into detail – eg: What kind of tools do you use? (Not just our website.)

What software do you write your assignments in. How do you hand them in?

2. Identify what we can fix

Look for frustration, anxiety, work or effort points in the journey.

(Put an Emoji on each step.)

3. Add something unexpectedly good

What would a thoughtful human do?

What if we ran the world? What would be awesome?

4. Make it a story

From the person’s point of view, start with trigger event/need and end when the situation is resolved, e.g.: filed the expense claims/received essay mark.

Where is the user coming from before they get to our part of the experience and where are they heading afterwards, how can we help with the next part?

5. Sketch storyboards

For each scenario and each person/persona create a storyboard of ‘keyframes’. Make it visible – put it on the wall in the office.

In the next blog I’ll cover Jared Spool’s highly educational talk about how to create a product with a great user experience. Jared illustrated the journey from illiteracy to mastery, at an individual, team, organisation and marketplace level.

We love Papers Past

Earlier this week a number of the Research and Publishing Group headed along to a crowded presentation at the National Library about the revamped Papers Past website.

Papers Past's new interface

Papers Past's new interface

We’ve long loved this marvellous resource. Even in its early days, when it only had a few titles like the Grey River Argus and the Ashburton Guardian, it saved us so many hours of research. No more was your only option to trek to the local library and trawl through microfilm in the faint hope of spotting something relevant. With Papers Past, you might find what you were looking for in under five minutes from the comfort of your home or office! And if not, a Papers Past search would inevitably offer up leads to help narrow a microfilm search from a decade, to a year, or even a month.

As time went on, new titles were added bringing with them new possibilities. From being able to select a local newspaper when looking for information from a particular region, to being able to look at periods as recent as the 1930s and 1940s.

We admit we were a little worried when we heard the website might change. Fortunately, the good people at the National Library understand this and listened to what its users wanted.

The revamped Papers Past seems better than ever. Not only are yet more titles coming, but they’ve made it so much easier to search newspapers by region, to search across a range of publications including newspapers, magazines, letters and diaries (instead of having to visit a bunch of separate websites), and it’s all mobile friendly. Oh and each page now has a print button!

Thanks Papers Past team.