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.

Celebrating seventy years of symphony

Happy birthday to the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

On the morning of 24 August 2016, to the sound of a karanga, 23 NZSO players, crew and staff arrived at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori O te Waiū O Ngāti Porou, in Ruatoria – a township of 750 people near the East Cape.

They were greeted with a whole-school haka and a formal welcome; they shared kai and were shown a traditional kite made by the students; they performed to the school, parents and local community members, including some patients from the local hospital – none of whom had ever seen a live orchestra. As the players walked back to their bus, they were chased by half a dozen small boys who saw them off with an impromptu but enthusiastic haka of their own.

It is not an experience any other national orchestra in the world could claim.

It had been a long journey, in both kilometres and years. The NZSO is New Zealand’s oldest national professional performing arts organisation, and Monday 6 March 2017 is the 70th anniversary of its first public concert. It is celebrating with a free concert in Wellington – and among the audience will be a few who still remember that first appearance seven decades ago.

The National Orchestra gave its first performance at the Town Hall in Wellington on 6 March 1947. The programme, shown here, included a variety of mostly 19th-century works. Source: Alexander Turnbull Library, ref: Eph-B-MUSIC-NO-1947-01-title

The National Orchestra gave its first performance at the Town Hall in Wellington on 6 March 1947. The programme, shown here, included a variety of mostly 19th-century works. Source: Alexander Turnbull Library, ref: Eph-B-MUSIC-NO-1947-01-title

Our national orchestra was established in the wake of the Second World War, at a time when people and politicians were finally free to turn their attention to future-building. The new optimism was reflected at the orchestra’s launch on 24 October 1946 when Governor-General Sir Bernard Freyberg, V.C., was introduced as ‘launching a peace offensive in the interests of music’.

It was a humble beginning. The original band consisted of talented but often self-taught musicians, many of whom had never heard a symphony orchestra. They were led by Vincent Aspey, a miner’s son from Huntly who had fortuitously persuaded his mother to buy him a violin he saw in a second-hand shop when he was nine years old.

Seventy years later, the NZSO is an orchestra of international standing. It has played with the likes of Vladimir Ashkenazy, David Oistrakh, Renée Fleming and Sting, and been conducted by Igor Stravinsky. It has recorded extensively for Naxos and EMI and in 2016 was nominated for a Grammy alongside top international orchestras.

The NZSO has performed in the Albert Hall, the Musikverein, the Concertgebouw and the ‘Egg’ in Beijing. Its European tour of 2010 earned it standing ovations and rave reviews – The Neue Luzerner Zeitung called it a ‘sensation’.

Most importantly, through seven decades the NZSO has tirelessly toured up and down the country, bringing world-class music to our local concert-halls.

Not that it hasn’t had its critics, like one ‘disgusted mother of thirteen’ who wrote to her local paper in 1954 calling the orchestra an ‘expensive luxury’ (quoted in Joy Tonks’ The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra: The first forty years). Former Prime Minister David Lange claimed not to see the point of helping fund an orchestra when he preferred Dire Straits.

It’s a question that will surface from time to time, especially in a world where you can carry the Berlin Philharmonic around in your pocket. Depending on where your values lie, there are many answers that come to mind.

One of the most compelling was articulated by an audience member when the NZSO performed Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony in Christchurch a few months after the February earthquake. In an email to the NZSO in August 2011, the audience member commented:

Just wanted to let you know that I have come home from the Leningrad performance in Christchurch absolutely uplifted, it was a glorious experience, standing ovation… I felt like I turned the corner and could put some of the difficult last months behind me.

The immediacy and communal vibe of a concert have the power to affect people in a way nothing else can. As the digital age advances, promoters all over the world are finding that consumers want experiences more than products. A live NZSO concert is to a recording what a rock concert is to iTunes – it cannot be replaced.

For us here in New Zealand it’s a long trip to hear a world-class orchestra overseas. The NZSO enables people to have this experience who otherwise could not – as demonstrated by its long but memorable journey to Ruatoria, and dozens of dedicated concerts for small communities, hospitals, schools or rest-homes each year.

The NZSO seeks to provide something for everyone in New Zealand’s diverse communities. 2017 has begun with a tour with New Zealand’s Modern Māori Quartet, and will finish with the annual ritual of The Messiah, an integral part of people’s pre-Christmas celebrations. In between, the NZSO will perform community concerts in Porirua, Palmerston North, Manukau and Takapuna; a Spring Pops tour of seven cities called ‘Pianomania’, with Freddy Kempf; and Lands of Hope and Glory, a (mostly) British programme to coincide with the Lions rugby tour – in addition to its more serious concerts of classic and contemporary repertoire.

Eve de Castro-Robinson was commissioned by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO) to compose The glittering hosts of heaven. It celebrates Matariki, the Māori New Year, and was premiered at the Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington, on 14 June 2013.

Eve de Castro-Robinson was commissioned by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO) to compose The glittering hosts of heaven. It celebrates Matariki, the Māori New Year, and was premiered at the Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington, on 14 June 2013.

The unique way in which the NZSO can serve was demonstrated 10 days after the September 2010 earthquake, when it made its scheduled concert free for residents, hoping the gesture would lift their spirits. Like the Wellington Town Hall in 1947, the Christchurch Town Hall was full to capacity.

In that historic first concert, the audiences knew something very special had been created. Their optimism has been proved well-founded over seven decades. At a time when nationalistic rhetoric is gaining momentum internationally, New Zealand’s musical ‘peace offensive’ may be more important than ever – speaking the common language of music and reminding us what humanity is capable of at its best.

The NZSO and everyone who has been touched by it – whether a senior citizen in Auckland or a school student from Ruatoria – have every reason to celebrate what NZSO Chief Executive Chris Blake has termed a ‘national treasure’.

We wish you all at the NZSO a very happy 70th birthday!

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.