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Today I want to talk briefly about TOR and PGP. There has been a lot of recent discussion in light of political changes in the US.

One thing you can do to help the community is start using TOR (download their Firefox version from It works better when more people are using it, and this will help journalists and human rights activists if more people are used to using it for their everyday browsing. Websense currently blocks it as "Proxy avoidance" - let your workplace know why this is a bad thing if they use it.

Another thing you can do to help is get used to using PGP to sign or encrypt your emails. Thunderbird makes it relatively easy, and it's also possible in Outlook. It's harder but possible in the Gmail web interface. GPG helps you get it set up. Find a friend you can meet in person and sign each other's keys, extending the web of trust. I am happy to do this with anyone in my area.
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As many of you are already aware, the most recent AO3 deploy did not go as smoothly as we hoped, and we’ve sometimes had issues on previous major releases. The big items are all fixed now, but it reminded me that I know a few places (both work projects at my day job and Dreamwidth) where we deal with similar issues. Here are a few ideas I have been thinking about, around the principles of managing incidents on an IT service.

Sometimes, when a technical group is trying to deal with a major problem or a code release that's gone wrong, management and task prioritisation is an issue. You have everyone putting out little fires with buckets, when actually it needs someone to go, "Wait, guys, this is a pretty big building and it's all on fire. I'm ringing the fire service - they have trucks with big hoses." But to do that you have to have one person let go of a bucket in order to pick up the phone.

The general part )

The AO3 part )
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I realised it's been over a week since the election results were posted (time has flown!) so wanted to give a quick update since it may have looked quiet.

Board-wise, we've been trying to organise our first handover meeting - with a lot of people in different timezones, all of whom need to be there, it's not easy. There's also a post in the works explaining how overlap and rollover works, so that should be posted soon. Rollover is 9th Dec, so we've got a couple of weeks once overlap starts, hopefully this week.

AO3-wise, we've been bug-fixing and recovering from a very busy weekend. Coders and testers have again been doing great work towards a bug-fix release. I've been mentoring our coding intern, Firewolf, who has done a first version of our "Donate" page on the AO3, which will link to the volunteering and donation sections of the main OTW site. Rebecca has also re-written our HTML parser, which is another big improvement. Hooray for Firewolf and Rebecca!

I have a post in the works about Incident Management principles and managing a live IT service, but it's still in draft form, as my day job has also been pretty busy these past couple of weeks, and I've been catching up on all the things since the election.

I also liked the translation spotlight that was posted this week, and want to signal boost the SOPA links roundup for fans in the USA.
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This follows on from Part 1 about Test-driven development, and will make more sense if you've read that first.

A lot of testing, at its heart, is about the question, "Have we done what we intended to do, and is it done properly?" And similarly, a lot of charities and companies do that kind of evaluation of their whole organisation on a regular basis - "Are we doing what we intended to do, and are we doing it well?"

For a company, that's often a case of "Are we making money, and how much?" but it's usually more complex than that - who you're making money for, which areas are making most money, and are you also complying with the law and your Corporate Social Responsibility (ethics and charity) goals. For a charity, it's more about the grey area of "Are we helping people?" than about the black and white "How many hungry children have we fed?" GivingWell has some great discussion about what this means for charities, and how to do this kind of evaluation for a humanitarian charity.

For IT projects, there's the classic 8-point requirement check, which is designed to make sure that you can test it afterwards. Similarly, people or teams may have their performance measured against SMART objectives - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. These are both tied to the idea that what gets measured, gets done. Obviously quite often people go above and beyond, so there are things getting done which haven't and maybe couldn't be measured (like making sure a company has integrity), but if there's someone measuring it and publishing the results, it's more likely to happen, even if no-one's going to yell if it's not done.

On the other side of the equation, non-profit organisations usually focus on the intangible things first. They'll have a vision or a mission statement, a dream that inspires everyone. You can see this in charities - "Make Poverty History", Unicef's aim to end child poverty, or Water Aid wanting to give everyone in the world access to safe drinking water. You can also see it in religious institutions and political lobbying organisations, though they don't always state it as clearly. The OTW has our own vision on the OTW site.

Once you have your vision, though, it needs to be broken down into goals. We have goals for the org, and some projects and committees also have their own specific goals or mission statements. Part of the strategic planning process will involve looking at the goals for the OTW, and considering whether we are meeting them and whether those are still the key goals we want to meet.

I'd like committees and projects to be able to talk more about their goals. In some cases, these might be very simple - e.g. "keep the AO3 running", and sometimes measurable - e.g. "respond to all support requests within 3 days, solve 90% of requests within a fortnight". For some committees, this wouldn't be very useful, but for others, having something to aim for or evaluate your work against is a big help.

Of course, that then comes back to the question of what happens when you don't meet your goals. Either you can set your goals really low, so you're guaranteed to meet them, or you can ignore them and never evaluate how your organisation is doing, or you have the possibility of failure. But I think that's another thing we need to talk about - that failure is not the end of the world, that people shouldn't need to resign for minor mistakes, and that there needs to be room in our organisations and friendships for forgiveness and mercy.

At the end of the day, we all make mistakes sometimes, and we're all volunteers, doing our best. We can admit our mistakes, and still encourage each other and cheer on all the many more occasions when we succeed and exceed our goals. Because despite the things we've done wrong and want to improve, we've achieved a whole lot more - the OTW has come an amazingly long way in four years.
jennyst: Jenny on a photo of space (Default)
Test driven development (TDD) is a concept in computer programming, and I'd like to take time to explain it for non-technical people, as I think it's a useful start for wider discussions about goals.

Basically, it's awesome )


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Jenny S-T

December 2017

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