Scott W Ambler wrote a review of Dark Ages in his Dr Dobbs Agile Newsletter this week:
So why should you care? First, like all of Jacob's other books, this book is a really provocative read which will get you really thinking about the society in which we live. Second, for IT professionals the chapters on education and certification, as well as on self-policing of the professions, provides significant insight into how we need to evolve our profession. Are we really providing computer science graduates with an education, or are we merely certifying that graduates are worthy of a job interview? Do our existing certification programs provide any real value, or are they simply a money grab on the part of the certifiers? Should we set up a body which polices IT professionals? Would we be able to do so in a manner which provides any value at all? These are all interesting questions, and although this book may not directly provide the answers it will provide interesting insight.
From the Wikipedia entry for Information Ethics:
Dilemmas regarding the life of information are becoming increasingly important in a society that is defined as "the information society". Information transmission and literacy are essential concerns in establishing an ethical foundation that promotes fair, equitable, and responsible practices. Information ethics broadly examines issues related to ownership, access, privacy, security, and community.
Information technology affects fundamental rights involving copyright protection, intellectual freedom, accountability, and security.
Professional codes offer a basis for making ethical decisions and applying ethical solutions to situations involving information provision and use which reflect an organization’s commitment to responsible information service. Evolving information formats and needs require continual reconsideration of ethical principles and how these codes are applied. Considerations regarding information ethics influence “personal decisions, professional practice, and public policy” (Elrod & Smith, 2005). Therefore, ethical analysis must provide a framework to take into consideration “many, diverse domains” (ibid.) regarding how information is distributed.
How much do know about the Computer Professionals For Social Responsibility (CPSR) ?
Mission: CPSR is a public-interest alliance of people concerned about the impact of information and communications technology on society. We work to influence decisions regarding the development and use of computers because those decisions have far-reaching consequences and reflect our basic values and priorities. As experts on ICT issues, CPSR members provide realistic assessments of the power, promise, and limitations of computer technology. As concerned citizens, we direct public attention to critical choices concerning the applications of computing and how those choices affect society.
Terry Winograd had this to say about Advocacy Organisations and the CPSR:
These groups exist to promote the interests (direct or indirect) of a particular constituency. The most obvious relevant ones to CPSR are professional organizations, such as ACM, IEEE, Association for Software Design, Usability Professional Association, etc. Other examples that aren't professional include organizations such as AARP and those for particular ethnic or regional groups.
People who join or support advocacy groups are generally members of the benefited constituency. The group need not be selfishly devoted to only that group, but the measure of whether an issue is relevant or not is how it will affect the specific group.
CPSR has explicitly stated that we are not an advocacy group for computer professionals, and that has been one of the things that has distinguished us from groups like those listed above.
User interface and usability experts joined the project only after design and development had already begun. This ruled out a conventional front-loaded user-centered process. The early EIRS team did start with requirements analysis and use-cases, but developed minimal conceptual design or UI design specifications prior to starting implementation.
The UI and usability team usually found itself in the position of playing “catch-up”: trying to ensure the usability of an application for which design was being done mainly by programmers, and on which implementation was proceeding rapidly. Therefore, usability evaluation played a more prominent role in ensuring EIRS’ usability than did conventional up-front interaction design methods.
Open Source Usability seems to be a 2.0 artifact:
In 2005, Aspiration and Blue Oxen Associates organized two FLOSS Usability Sprints. Our motivation was simple, but grandiose: We wanted to make open source software more usable. By all accounts, the sprints were successful, and we plan to do more of them in 2006. However, the sprints were only meant to be the first steps in a much larger strategy for improving the usability of open source software. This paper describes the larger vision for how we expect to achieve this goal and the next steps for fulfilling this vision.
Our strategy for improving the usability of FLOSS is to attack the entire system, not just individual projects within the system. In particular, we want to bring the already established, but siloed usability and open source communities together and catalyze collaboration between them.
Community collaboration is a sustainable strategy for improving FLOSS usability with a number of concrete benefits.
My questions are these:
- Are the old style of organisations getting in the way of our different disciplines collaborating?
- Should we be organising around single issues in multi disciplinary groups?
- Can we put aside our differences and work together to try and humanise this thing we call technology?
Chris McEvoy - December 2006