We’re experimenting with changing our approach to projects in Software Development and Integration Services (SDIS). There’s been much talk of Agile (see the Agile Manifesto) over the past few years within our department, but we’ve faced challenges implementing this as an approach to our work given our broad portfolio, relatively small team, and large number of internal stakeholders.
After some productive conversations among staff and managers in SDIS where we reflected on our work over the past few years we decided to commit to applying the Scrum framework to one or more projects.
There are many resources available for learning about Agile and Scrum. The resources I’ve found most useful so far in learning about the framework include:
Scrum seems best suited to developing new products or software and defines the roles, workflow, and artifacts that help a team make the most of its capacity to build the highest value features first and deliver usable software on a regular and frequent schedule.
To start, we’ll be applying this process to a new project to build a prototype of a research data repository based on Hyrax. We’ve formed a small team, including a product owner, scrum master, and development team to build the repository. So far, we’ve developed an initial backlog of requirements in the form of user stories in Jira, the software we use to manage projects. We’ve done some backlog refinement to prioritize the most important and highest value features, and defined acceptance criteria for the ones that we’ll consider first. The development team has estimated the story points (relative estimate of effort and complexity) for some of the user stories to help us with sprint planning and release projection. Our first two-week sprint will begin the week after Thanksgiving. By the end of January we expect to have completed four, two-week sprints and have a pilot ready with a basic set of features implemented for evaluation by internal stakeholders.
One of the important aspects of Scrum is that group reflection on the process itself is built into the workflow through retrospective meetings after each sprint. Done right, routine retrospectives serve to reinforce what is working well and allows for adjustments to address things that aren’t. In the future we hope to adapt what we learn from applying the Scrum framework to the research data repository pilot to improve our approach to other aspects of our work in SDIS.
In the spirit of Friday fun (and to keep with my running theme of obsolete, obscure, and endangered audio equipment,) I present this gallery of anthropomorphic electronics from Rubenstein Library’s Ad*Access digital collection. Enjoy!
In a recent feature on their blog, our colleagues at NCSU Libraries posted some photographs of dogs from their collections. Being a person generally interested in dogs and old photographs, I became curious where dogs show up in Duke’s Digital Collections. Using very unsophisticated methods, I searched digital collections for “dogs” and thought I’d share what I found.
Of the 60 or so collections in Digital Collections 19 contain references to dogs. The table below lists the collections in which dogs or references to dogs appear most frequently.
When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do while visiting my grandparents was browsing through their collections of old National Geographic and Smithsonian magazines. I was more interested in the advertisements than the content of the articles. Most of the magazines were dated from the 1950s through the 1980s and they provided me with a glimpse into the world of my parents and grandparents from a time in the twentieth century I had missed.
I also had a fairly obsessive interest in air-cooled Volkswagen Beetles, which had ceased being sold in the US shortly before I was born. They were still a common sight in the 1980s and something about their odd shape and the distinct beat of their air-cooled boxer engine captured my young imagination. I was therefore delighted when an older cousin who had studied graphic design gave to me a collection of several hundred Volkswagen print advertisements that he had clipped from 1960s era Life magazines for a class project. Hinting at my future profession, I placed each sheet in a protective plastic sleeve, gave each one an accession number, and catalogued them in a spreadsheet.
I think that part of the reason I find old advertisements so interesting is what they can reveal about our cultural past. Because advertisements are designed specifically to sell things, they can reveal the collective desires, values, fears, and anxieties of a culture.
All of this to say, I love browsing the advertising collections at Duke Libraries. I’m especially fond of the outdoor advertising collections: the OAAA Archives, the OAAA Slide Library, and the John E. Brennan Outdoor Advertising Survey Reports. Because most of the items in these collections are photographs or slides of billboards they often capture candid street scenes, providing even more of a sense of the time and place where the advertisements were displayed.
I’ve picked out a few to share that I found interesting or funny for one reason or another. Some of the ads I’ve picked use language that sounds dated now, or display ideas or values that are out-moded. Others just show how things have changed. A few happen to have an old VW in them.
Part of my job as Digital Collections Program Manager is to manage our various projects from idea to proposal to implementation and finally to publication. It can be a long and complicated process with many different people taking part along the way. When we (we being the Digital Collections Implementation Team or DCIT) launch a project online, there are special blog posts, announcements and media attention. Everyone feels great about a successful project implementation, however as the excitement of the launch subsides the project team is not quite done. The last step in a digital collections project at Duke is the post project review.
Post project reviews are part of project management best practices for effectively closing and assessing the outcomes of projects. There are a lot of resources for project management available online, but as usual Wikipedia provides a good summary of project post-mortems as well as the different types and phases of project management in general. Also if you Google “project post-mortem,” you will get more links then you know what to do with.
As we finish up projects we conduct what we call a “post-mortem,” and it is essentially a post project review. The name evokes autopsies, and what we do is not dissimilar but thankfully there are no bodies involved (except when we closed up the recent Anatomical Fugitive Sheets digital collection – eh? see what I did there? wink wink). The goals of our post mortem process are for the project team to do the following:
Reflect on the project’s outcomes both positive and negative
Document any unique decisions or methods employed during the project
Document resources put into the project.
In practice, this means that I ask the project team to send me comments about what they thought went well and what was challenging about the project in question. Sometimes we meet in person to do this, but often we send comments through email or our project management tool. I also meet in person with each project champion as a project wraps up. Project champions are the people that propose and conceive a project. I ask everyone the same general questions: what worked about the project and what was challenging. With champions, this conversation is also an opportunity to discuss any future plans for promotion as well as think of any related projects that may come up in the future.
Once I have all the comments from the team and champion I put these into my post-mortem template (see right – click to expand). I also pull together project stats such as the number of items published, and the hours spent on the project. Everyone in the core project team is asked to track and submit the hours they spend on projects, which makes pulling stats an easy process. I designed the template I use as a word document. Its structured enough to be organized but unstructured enough for me to add new categories on the fly as needed (for example, we worked with a design contractor on a recent project so I added a “working with contractor” section).
Seems like a simple enough process right? It is, assuming you can have two ingredients. First, you need to have a high degree of trust in your core team and good relationships with project stakeholders. The ability to speak honestly (really really honestly) about a project is a necessity for the information you gather to be useful. Secondly, you do actually have to conduct the review. My team gets pulled so quickly from project to project, its really easy to NOT make time for this process. What helps my team, is that post mortems are a formal part of our project checklists. Also, I worked with my team to set up our information gathering process, so we all own it and its relevant and easy for them.
The impacts these documents have on our work are very positive. First there is short term benefit just by having the core team communicate what they thought worked and didn’t work. Since we instituted this in the last year, we have used these lessons learns to make small but important changes to our process.
This process also gives the project team direct feedback from our project champions. This is something I get a lot through my informal interactions with various stakeholders in my role as project manager, however the core team doesn’t always get exposed to direct feedback both positive and negative.
The long term benefit is using the data in these reports to make predictions about resources needed for future projects, track project outcomes at a program level, and for other uses we haven’t considered yet.
All in all, I cannot recommend a post project review process to anyone and everyone who is managing projects enough. If you are not convinced by my template (which is very simple), there are lots of examples out there. Google “project post-mortem templates” (or similar terminology) to see a huge variety.
There are also a few library and digital collections project related resources you may find useful as well:
We try to keep our posts pretty focussed on the important work at hand here at Bitstreams central, but sometimes even we get distracted (speaking of, did you know that you can listen to the Go-Gos for hours and hours on Spotify?). With most of our colleagues in the library leaving for or returning from vacation, it can be difficult to think about anything but exotic locations and what to do with all the time we are not spending in meetings. So this week, dear reader, we give you a few snapshots of vacation adventures told through Duke Digital Collections.
Many of Duke’s librarians (myself included) head directly East for a few days of R/R at the one of many beautiful North Carolina beaches. Who can blame them? It seems like everyone loves the beach including William Gedney, Deena Stryker, Paul Kwilecki and even Sydney Gamble. Lucky for North Carolina, the beach is only a short trip away, but of course there are essentials that you must not forget even on such a short journey.
Of course many colleagues have ventured even farther afield to West Virginia, Minnesota, Oregon, Maine and even Africa!! Wherever our colleagues are, we hope they are enjoying some well deserved time-off. For those of us who have already had our time away or are looking forward to next time, we will just have to live vicariously through our colleagues’ and our collections’ adventures.
Yes, it is here; exams and graduation. It can be a time of stress, a time to recognize your hard work, even a time of celebration. But first, take a moment for diversion.
Learn how to deal with stressful exams through vintage advertising such as this ad for Lifebuoy soap: Whew! This Exam Is A Tough One! At least you won’t lose any dates if you follow their directions.
Could you pass this 1892 teacher’s examination found in our Broadsides collection? Answers to the math questions have already been filled in. But alas, they didn’t show their work. Shouldn’t that lead to partial credit?
Who had an exam?
We even hear from Thomas Long about “Jesus’ Final Exam.” Can’t anyone get a break from exams? Long’s sermon begins at 32 minutes into the audio recording of this 1986 worship service from the Duke Chapel recordings collection.
Once you’ve passed all of your exams, thoughts turn to time-honored traditions of graduation.
52 years ago at Duke
A four-page issue of The Duke Chronicle notes what the Duke community could expect during the four days of commencement activities in June, 1962. But when you still have exams and papers due, graduation can still seem so far away.
Drama at commencement?
This commencement program from June, 1905 for the Memminger High and Normal School Academy of Music highlights not only a valedictory speech, but also the presentation of two essays, five musical performances, and two dramatic plays. Now, what drama would exemplify your academic experience?
Once you work is done, whether you are graduating or simply completing another year of rigorous study at Duke, it’s time to unwind.
Taking to the streets
This photo from the William Gedney collection shows people celebrating in the streets of Benares, India. Gedney had just told them that you would ace your exams this year and so they started partying. Now that you know how they’ve celebrated your success, how do you plan to celebrate?
Definitely time for cake
Will this vintage Pillsbury commercial from our AdViews collection tempt you into including their Deluxe Chocolate Cake in your party plans? Or, will you resist the cake and simply use the commercial as inspiration for your wardrobe choices for your end-of-year soirées?
May all of your papers, projects and exams go well. Good luck and best wishes from Duke University Libraries.
Today marks the beginning of Spring Break 2014 for Duke students! We recognize that Spring Break is normally a time of quiet reflection, but for those interested in getting away this week, we’d like to offer some travel tips courtesy of our historic advertising collections. There’s still time to plan your trip! Let’s get started.
Compared to buses and trains, modern air travel offers such an abundance of options and amenities. For an authentic Spring Break experience, you could reserve a seat on Resort Airline’s “Flying Houseparty” to the Caribbean or maybe grab a beverage in Continental Airline’s Coach Pub in the Sky as featured in the commercial below.
Whether you travel by air, train, or bus, you’ll want to pack only the essentials for your Spring Break getaway. Start with Dr. West’s Travel Kit, which includes toothpaste and a mini-toothbrush in a “handsome sanitary glass container,” all for just 50 cents. Be sure to include a bottle of Kreml Shampoo as well so you don’t get caught with embarrassing vacation hair.
Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean you need to leave your entertainment at home. “Lead the Vacation Fun Parade” by packing super-tiny, ultra-compact Zenith portable radios (only 5 1/2 pounds!).
Finally, if you’re overwhelmed by too many travel options and would rather stay home, avoid the crowds, and spend your money elsewhere this Spring Break, treat yourself to something special: It’s Spring, Get a Pontiac.
Post contributed by Noah Huffman
Notes from the Duke University Libraries Digital Projects Team