We use “minimal computing” to refer to computing done under some set of significant constraints of hardware, software, education, network capacity, power, or other factors.
XMLHttpRequest and CSS3. See? I'm totally unsuited to commercial web development. David Bryant Copeland similarly thinks maybe everything's started to get a bit out of control and has decided to go back to basics with Brutalist Web Design:
The term brutalism is derived from the French béton brut, meaning “raw concrete”. Although most brutalist buildings are made from concrete, we're more interested in the term raw. Concrete brutalist buildings often reflect back the forms used to make them, and their overall design tends to adhere to the concept of truth to materials.
Some people who have done a lot of thinking about how to make things simple in a different way are Fog Creek Software. They're the people behind Trello and Stack Exchange, but they wanted to create something that's a bit more beginner-friendly, rewards good behaviour, and makes complicated things seem simple. They ended up making Glitch. In a Code Newbie podcast interview I listened to a while ago, Fog Creek CEO Anil Dash explained how the tech behind Glitch is quite complex and clever (when someone wants to edit code from a project, Glitch quickly spins up a new Docker image and associates it with that user's account - in a couple of seconds) - but also how the whole project was designed from the beginning to be friendly to newbies and people who may ordinarily feel unwelcome or oppressed using something like Stack Overflow or GitHub.
I phrased that last sentence quite deliberately, because Donna Lanclos has convinced me that maybe we shouldn't talk about diversity anymore. She also refers to a couple of things I already had in my Pocket list but hadn't got to yet. Chris Bourg's 2018 code4lib keynote For the love of baby unicorns was surprisingly banal, once I read it. I remember the furore on Twitter, when Bourg had to essentially batten down the hatches and disappear for a little while while some kind of Reddit mob descended upon her, allegedly egged on by a small number of librarians. By 'banal' I don't mean bad. I really like what she said, but reading her keynote now I'm struck by how innocuous it is. A few comments that maybe if you want to be welcoming to people who aren't white dudes maybe don't do business meetings at the sports bar, and be aware of your own privilege etc etc. One suspects that perhaps it wasn't actually what Bourg said that upset people, but the fact that it was her saying it. Lanclos and Bourg also both name-check Feminism and the future of library discovery which I recommend you read and then send to your systems team and all your library system vendors.
Speaking of software companies, I learned a new term this week: "The Wizard of Oz Technique". This is when companies claim that they have developed AI but actually it's just a bunch of poorly paid humans. The Wizard of Oz Technique erases the labour of workers and deceives customers. Since I can't hold very many thoughts in my head at the same time, this made me think of the invisible labour of library workers, and more specifially cataloguers. We need to be careful about this in libraries: sometimes even library managers forget there are people behind the curtain. One of those people behind the curtain is Alissa McCulloch (another fan of Brutalist Web Design), who wrote recently about Indigenous names in authority records. When I read this, I had some vague thoughts about whether open linked data might be part of the solution, but not being a cataloguer I wasn't quite sure. It turns out that Jessica Colbert thinks it probably could be. In her In the Library with the Lead Pipe article from last year, Colbert writes about "patron driven subject access":
Patron-driven subject access simply means facilitating the development of subject headings and other subject access points by and with our patrons
Colbert's whole article is great, but the thing that really helped me was her exploration of how linked open data can be used to enable different communities to maintain locally-appropriate terms without isolating their catalogues from the rest of the world:
In a linked open data environment, different subject or community vocabularies could be combined, allowing for subject description to accommodate different disciplines or even different ways of thinking. For instance, a controlled vocabulary about race could have a term that a controlled vocabulary about anthropology conceptualizes in a different way. When we decenter the idea that for every concept there is one controlled term to describe it, we allow the play of seemingly opposite ways of thinking. And through this play and collision, “new and meaningful pathways to discovery and navigation” are created (Thorsen & Pattuelli, 2016, p. 2). A linked open data catalog allows libraries to complement, replace, or even reject the standards that have been decided for us and our patrons.
It's another example of how to leverage the values of open communities. Archivist Patrick Galligan writes that "You can never make the truly right decision without first understanding your community’s functional and ideological requirements." And to bring us full circle to a software project: that approach is exactly what they've used at Stencila to create an Office Suite for reproducible research. Because really, who's got time to learn R when all they want to do it share their research data?