crunch time. reports flowing in. feedback from CIs on phone and questionnaires. there has been lots of information coming in that we need to synthesize, process, and find where it fits in the  big jigsaw puzzle. Back to the whiteboard.

Last week began with refocussing on the incorporation of more design content. We start on a first pass with a type of centre/edge , type/topos approach.  Basically, we find people/groups/case that would constitute an ‘exemplar’ of hegemonic success in a field (in terms of established field criteria like prizes or commissions etc)  and  map those against other cases that push the borders of what is understood as ‘the field’.  We grid the case studies and then overlay  the connections between the types that help us think about other methods of organisation.

We then drill down in case studies to find tricky cases and map them against conforming ones. We find case studies that our existing schema might have trouble with. For instance, time, is a major axis of historical research- that is to say, it is a key filter that people will use on search queries.  In our database this category does a lot of work (as it attaches to so many categories). So we run tests that have time problems. For instance,  how to cover the issue of the changing names and principals and partners of design houses?  How can we the ‘period active’ category in the existing schema to raise more meaningful searches. As we go through this process it help clarifies how data relates to each other- so we can find the most elegant data design solutions that don’t introduce so many elements that takes us away from our core business of biography ( albeit, a dynamic and expanded notion of what constitutes a creative ‘life’) so we can draw upon and expand our strengths so our content can be sustained in a quality state in an online context.

I love iterative whiteboard days. Days of focussing on concrete problems, collaborating with Olivia and Jo, or Ross Harley ( our Lead CI) , or Tom Ruthven (UNSW Library Innovation) among others and working the thoughts though diagrammatically- dumping the thought and the standing back and altering till it finally morphs into something approaching either a ‘design’ or ‘description’..

But this is only part of the story.

We may know what we want- what our ideal database might be- but if that is not ground in a good ‘business case’, it won’t be sustainable. This is where the Business Analysis and Technical review plug in.

The Technical Review currently being undertaken by Sam Elliot of  Doric Order is revealing, unravelling and resolving lots of  issues that sometimes may seem tiny but given the intricacies of system ecologies can have huge impact. The good news is that we are discovering that we have quite an agile structure to our data, which will great help us as we add new elements to schema and improve our search functionality when we move in redevelopment stage.

Doric is also helping us organise  our ‘datawash’ which is basically the process of going through and correcting inconsistencies and errors in the way the data has been entered. This process not only helps the process of migrating the data into the extended schema, assists in search functionality but it is also a very useful diagnostic in helping us understand what fields generate errors  so we can design solutions. One day when Jo is not so busy working her magic with our data, I’ll see if I can get her to give us one of her mini master classes in data librarianship, which is has opened up the messy ecologies of the dataverse to me from a totally different perspective. ( (More on that later when i have my writer’s head on)