The culmination of two months of very hard work, HASTAC Collections is a beta feature of hastac.org that brings together content from across the site in a hand-curated list of posts which can be viewed in a large tiled display, or in a multifunction list view. Collections are not limited to highlighting hastac.org content, links to other sites are highlighted with yellow buttons. When viewing as a list, users can sort and filter the collection by type of content, topics and tags, and keywords in the title or body.
This week I have been in geek heaven. Along with the rest of the Duke-based HASTAC staff, I have been testing the alpha version of our new site, and we’re thrilled with how it’s coming along. We expect the new site to launch by early July.
I just read a great piece by author/activist Cory Doctorow on what he calls “Techno-Optimism” in Locus Magazine. He addresses a question that is often confronted by those of us who aspire to somehow use technology as a tool for social change: does the tool matter, or just the results? For example, if it’s easier to reach your target audience of young people who care about software freedom via Facebook, does the end justify the means? Or should we hold ourselves to a more idealistic standard and use an open source tool that lacks the critical mass of users?
In other words:
As a techno-optimist, I was heartened to see the role that networked technologies played in aiding activists in Iran, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and other middle-eastern autocracies to coordinate with one another. But as a techno-pessimist, I was horrified to see activists making use of unsecured unfit systems like Facebook, which make it trivial for authorities to snoop on and unpick the structure of activist organizations.
The trick for technology activists is to help activists who use technology to appreciate the hidden risks and help them find or make better tools. That is, to be pessimists and optimists: without expert collaboration, activists might put themselves at risk with poor technology choices; with collaboration, activists can use technology to outmaneuver autocrats, totalitarians, and thugs.
As I like to say: the path IS the destination. How you get there is every bit as important as where you go. I already use a lot of open source software such as Drupal (this site’s platform), Firefox and Thunderbird (which I couldn’t work without), and Ubuntu (on my personal computers at home). I’m going to redouble my efforts to support software and systems that themselves support my own (and HASTAC’s) values of freedom, democracy, and security.
I feel a little like I just gave birth to another baby, but thank goodness it took less than 9 months to gestate and was a lot less painful to deliver!
Less than one year after starting my job at HASTAC and almost immediately overseeing the re-launch of hastac.org (that I didn’t help create) I realized that our site would have to be re-built entirely from scratch. I spent this summer working with my colleagues to create a clearer vision and a plan for a complete overhaul of the site. Here’s the request for proposals: http://www.hastac.org/drupal-rfp-2010. I’m really proud of this document as it shows a solid foundation, a forward-thinking vision, and a practical strategy for how to make best use of our great ideas, the Drupal platform, and a brilliant and engaged community of members.
My boss Cathy Davidson is a deep and complex thinker. Here’s some of what she had to say about the RFP on her blog today…
I’m removing any identifying information (at least for now) to protect the guilty, but I just need to vent about what a frustrating experience I am having with one of the many people that is working on one of the many Drupal sites that I am currently responsible for. I have been asking for RSS […]