After delivering my Ignite talk on Teaching Open Source at the 2012 Digital Media and Learning Conference (the next one is in Chicago) I spent the evening with my brother, Jason Chua from Sparklab, "a big red truck filled with cutting-edge maker tools that goes from school to school, bringing the joy of building back to kids." It's basically a traveling hackerspace dedicated to K-12 education outreach.
He'd previously emailed me about whether the sort of community consulting that I do might be useful to help Sparklab scale up.
We exhibited last night at a Mini Maker Faire w/ a lot of open source/ open hardware people and this got me thinking a bit more about our documentation process. I think we need to start a wiki. Not only does it make our "spreadability" intent obvious, it also give us open-source cred (I think) and is a great place for us to keep track of what we're doing and share it with one another... Might you be interested/able to manage the open-source/documentation/wikiness of our project? Feel free to tell me that this request doesn't make any sense.
Several hours of grilling later, we concluded that it did make sense. Sparklab has a kickstarter campaign up to fund equipment for their first truck, and they've started to run small local workshops -- but they don't yet know how they're going to scale, how they'll be sustainable, how they'll enable others to help them out (they're overworked grad students), and what happens in June after they graduate -- in short, a clear vision for Sparklab's future just... isn't there yet.
Which is why getting started now is so important. There are a lot of closed documents living on Google Docs or someone's desktop that need to be made public, and a lot of things that never got written down at all that need to be captured and made public. Plenty of work to do.
We're still checking out whether it makes sense for me to work with the project (I'm fully booked already), but in the short term, I tried to give them a kick towards "default to open" and the infrastructure setup to do it. We set up a public mailing list ("Everything must get reported to the list," I told Jason. "If it's not on the list, I don't care how much work you did put into it, it didn't happen") and I warned him that I'd be using that list as my sole gauge of "what they did this week" for our first coaching consultation.
Over breakfast, we turned their fieldnotes into a public blog linked to their twitter (@sparktruck) and identi.ca (@sparktruck) and set them up with a wiki page on the main Hackerspaces site that they can build from. So there's basic participation infrastructure out there, but my guess is that they'll need some poking and reminding to get the "default to open" culture ingrained into how they work. ("Can we really tell people to move their email conversations with us public?" Jason asked me in the cab. "Yes, except for legal and financial stuff," I replied.)
So -- we'll see how this goes! If you're interested in following along, do join the mailing list and introduce yourself; content is empty, but if things go well the Sparklab folks should begin populating it and talking there within a few hours. I promised I'd model the transparency I'm asking for -- so Jason, here you go; I wrote this at the gate while waiting for my plane from SFO, and will continue to push all our interactions public.
Now go do stuff.