Kevin Colyer's thoughts and ponderings

Semi-random rambles


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Post-Sprint Review

Dear All,

I am back in Brussels and the Sprint is over. We had a blast and we missed you all!

In the end Pitpat, Arnoud and myself spent a very hot few days hunched over computers, pizzas and gummy bears working on the KB in Berlin.

It was a lot of fun and it felt like we made a LOT of progress in a very short time. We spent time annoying the Berlin YWAMers by asking them to do usability tests for us which was INCREDIBLY helpful. We made a some simple, quick but hopefully relevant changes to the KB that will help others engage faster (actually when we conducted another test after that user was twice as fast as the others… which is encouraging but not conclusive of course!)

It was a valuable process and I would recommend doing similar things in projects you might be running: observing someone new engaging with our website or even YWAM centre or team! It was eye-opening.

There are oodles of other things discussed and plans worked out for including a more advanced plan and infrastructure for translation of ‘completed’ KB articles (see YWAM Statement of Faith for a live example). We also have a clearer idea of what to work on and how to keep on improving. (see the new and improved DTS pages, categories and sub-categories for an example) We want to create some bounties of tasks or sub-projects that we can offer to U of N schools for student assignments.

The full report is available from the Community pages at: YWAMKnowledgeBase:Sprint_2010_Report. Please have a good look at what we have there and see where you might be able to help us with the ongoing project.

We missed you all and hope you will continue to send feedback and contribute to the KB. Summer is upon us now and I have a 7 week furlough soon so you will not hear from me much for a while (thank heavens!).

Cheers,

Kevin


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June YWAMKB news – it’s the Sprint!



Dear Infonauts,

I am writing this on the train to Berlin, where I will meet face to face with other YWAM KB editors to chat, think, pray and work hard on the KB. We had a lot of fun last year at our Sprint and I am looking forward to this coming meeting very much.

Finding time to work on the KB has been exceptionally difficult for most of us recently. The top five editors have been marrying off children, changing nappies on children (different editor’s kids!), taking exams, fixing their computers, running YWAM bases and generally handling Real Life! When I talk to other YWAMers I know this to be true too.

I think the reality is that most of us are overworked and under-resourced. This makes taking time to write and in doing so to pass on to others vital help a lower priority than we would wish.

I recall the Eisenhower Matrix, that Covey made use of in his Seven Habit’s book and how the Important but NON-Urgent tasks are so easily squeezed out by Important (and Not-Important) Urgent tasks. Reclaiming this time, or taming it and diminishing the Urgent takes plenty of thought and delegation to others. Good delegation requires training. Where might we get the training? On the KnowledgeBase!

So can I urge you to break out of this treadmill! Consider how to delegate and when you train and develop others (to reduce the time pressure on yourself) why not prepare that material and place it on the KB? Remember you don’t have to produce a finished article – even rough notes are better than nothing (see a lot of my contributions!)

Why not drop by the YWAMKB Sprint pages this week or catch up with us as a virtual participant around 4pm (GMT+2) on Skype (kevincolyerwork). Even a simple “I would like…” comment can help us a lot! Please keep your eyes peeled and I hope we all will rise above the tyranny of the urgent (me especially!).

One thing you could do that would be simple is to help us out by answering the questions below over the next 24 hours.

cheers,

Kevin


Quick survey for YWAMKB Sprint 2010

  1. What are the top 3 best things about the KB?
  2. What 3 things could be improved? (Any suggestions of how welcome)
  3. What articles do you miss?
  4. What is the harshest criticism you would make of the YWAMKB? (Please be frank if you have some negative concerns!)
  5. Do you have an endorsement that we could use (please give name and role!) or a positive comment for us?
  6. Anything else?

Please FORWARD your answers to kevin@ywambrussels.be. Replying might send your comments to everyone on the mailing list!


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April News from the YWAM KnowledgeBase

Dear Infonauts,

I hope you have had a long and enjoyable break from these YWAMKB messages. The gap since the last November newsletter has been so wide due to the rather intense family life I am experiencing at the moment in addition to being a Base leader and National leader.

We have some GREAT news! We have served more than 500,000 pages since we started running the KB. This is a wonderful landmark to achieve. Recently the KB has entered a READING phase rather than a EDITING phase and the statistics seem to indicate that we have more readers than a year ago. (Sometimes EDITING creates a lot of READING hits due to repeated viewing by the editor). These are page impressions by the way, not ‘hits’. When a website describes their ‘hits’ they often mean all the requests the web-server gets, rather than whole pages served up. (The YWAMKB server says we have had 660,428 hits in the last 12 months right now for example).

Over the last months we have been doing some minor improvements and optimising the KB to serve pages faster. It is some 6 times faster in serving pages now (I bet you hardly noticed). We have also improved the backend processes and made the human factor in caring for the YWAMKB more robust too. Now if I get hit by a bus, the KB will survive. The data will not be lost and pretty much anyone could replicate the whole system somewhere else. But please send flowers in this eventuality!

Another important thing is to know that you are warmly invited to the next KB Sprint that we are holding in Berlin in June. We will be there from 7 June, leaving on 11 June and we want to welcome all to this meeting. Your virtual presence is appreciated even if you are unable to come in person. ANYONE who cares is welcome. ANYONE who cares is welcome to add to the discussion. The Sprint page is being developed here: YWAMKnowledgeBase:Sprint2010‎. If you would like to come but travel costs prohibit them please let us know and we will see what we can do about it. The face to face interaction we will have is intended to boost and cement the virtual relationships we share throughout the year.

Lastly, if you are struggling to find something on the KB, please send one of us a short email saying HELP! I have recently had a couple of these and it was a pleasure to locate material and in a couple of cases realise that we had a few gaps that needed plugging. It is very useful feedback knowing that people can’t find something – much more so than finding out that people can find something!

Till next time, every blessing!

Kevin


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September Newsletter from the YWAM KnowledgeBase

Dear Infonauts,

Welcome to the autumn term after a wild and/or restful summer (maybe both?).

I am very much overdue to write this little newsletter for the KB. It has been an interesting few months recently where we have made some jumps forward and a few leaps backward too.

Arnoud (or Little Eagle) has been doing a superb job of pulling the community side of the KB together. He has organised the recent Cleaning Days and been active on the Facebook group. The Cleaning Days have been good and certainly help me to focus time on the KB, knowing others are hard at work too. One of the great things about working together at the same time is that one sparks off another. Also mutual appreciation flows. After all, it is hard to know if someone values an edit you made to the KB if you don’t get feedback.

Recently I have been having a lot of positive collaboration time with PitPat who has been using a tool I created to evaluate websites. Through evaluating the KnowledgeBase (and it failed 3 out of the 4 tests!) we learnt a lot about what is important in an evaluation and have radically improved the tool. I recommend having a look at Evaluate your YWAM website and then the evaluation of the KB too. Massive thanks to PitPat.

Anyway I have since then implemented a number of improvements we identified that could be quickly achieved (or I alone could do) such as upgrading the MediaWiki software and some server tweaks and administrative procedures to reduce the bus factor (number of people critical to the long term management of the site).

You may notice no difference, or quite a lot of difference as upgrading usually breaks a few custom extensions to the wiki as well as fix the security holes (very important). Please report anything that is troubling you as this is a large project and it is hard to see all the less common faults.

Sharing Knowledge I was following the GLT meetings recently in Switzerland and I noticed the following paragraph in one report about communication:

“Finally, the GLT have had communicators writing their internal minutes, and producing short videos and these written reports for the wider YWAM body. Knowledge is power, and good leadership seeks to empower people through sharing knowledge. Wherever security allows, it is good to communicate appropriately. Many leadership teams have followed the GLT’s example and invite communicators to observe and serve them…”

I was thrilled that GLT members see this value that the KB has been striving to achieve! Now, where you can play your part is getting those who lead you to take this word from the GLT and start applying it to the KB. Surprisingly there is only ONE GLT leader who has made any direct contribution, and that is Steve Goode. Others have material on the KB (put there often by me). Very few leaders at National or Base level have contributed either. Anyway, it is time to remind them of their responsibility to train and develop others and to maximise that contribution via the KnowledgeBase! So please pester your leaders, ask them what they could contribute, and teach them how to do it! That we all might grow! They may prefer face to face encounters but let’s remember the Apostles Paul, Peter and John (et al!) all thought the written word an appropriate way to develop and nurture those they were responsible for!

Cheers,

Kevin


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YWAM KnowledgeBase news June 2009

Dear All,

Last month was an exciting month for me and I hope for all in the KB community! The Sprint meeting was a very key event and an unusual one too.

I’ve been to quite a few YWAM events but this was the first where we actively invited non-physically present participants to engage with us. Each day at 4pm it was a lot of fun connecting to YWAMers from different continents making friends and talking KB. I think the two key outcomes of the Sprint were the creation of KB community and start of more systematic training using the KB.

It has been a surprise to me how the Facebook group has been developing and the types of discussion and connections made there. It seems we need a place where we can generally chat – perhaps the discussion tools on the KB itself are not suited to the sort of conversations folks are wanting to hold! Arnoud has a passion to make this community a cosy space. We also think that having a regular time slot online that the community can come and chat in and ask help from each other would be beneficial. So listen out for Arnoud’s invitations (coming soon!). We also started a mailing list that many people are receiving this message through right now! This is for the community – please use it, call for help on it, ask questions, make suggestions, send insults, jokes etc. If you are not on it you can simply join it from here: http://groups.ywamnetworks.com/listinfo.cgi/ywamkb-ywamnetworks.com. We have links now from the front page of the KB to both the Facebook group and the KB Mailing list.

The second important development is what we are calling “Threads” (for want of a better name). When we surveyed people about the KB it seemed there were a variety of different ways people used it to get answers to their questions. But there were many people not having a clue what to do with it at all. The strength of the KB is that you can just stick in a page. Searching will pull it out. However, when you want to learn a set of skills or gain a broader understanding of a subject (e.g. starting a new team or becoming a dts staff member) it makes sense to have a pathway through those pages, systematically pulling together the key topics and skills needed.

So we created these pathways or threads (if you have a better name please suggest it!). They appear on the front page. We started with some classic roles and questions and provided the initial links to category pages etc. But some are now sporting the initials WIP (Work In Progress) and a little spanner. These are the new thread pages and this is where we think we need some extra input.

The WIP’s need developing and expanding. They need each skill-set breaking down, then pages or sections of the KB matched to them with links. Where there are gaps in the KB (and there will be lots) we can create the article title we want and seek people to write them. (links to pages that don’t exist are called Wanted Pages and you can get a list at any time here: http://ywamkb.net/kb/index.php/Special:Wantedpages)

Exciting times. I hope you are as pleased as we are.

The next time to connect will be Monday 8th June (http://ywamkb.net/kb/index.php/YWAMKnowledgeBase:Meeting_20090608)

Regards,

Kevin Colyer


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YWAM KB Sprint is nearly here!

Dear All,

The quiet season for the KB is due to end soon as the Sprint meeting will be taking place May 11-15 here in Brussels.

I am excited to host this meeting as I rarely have set aside quality time to work in depth on the KB. Rather a quick 30 mins here or hour there as an idea strikes or someone says “Is there anything on the KB about…” and I have a little something to do!

But we are going to take this whole week to WORK, not just chat about the KB. The aim is that we will improve the structure of the data, write new articles, work on the presentation and generally the usefulness of the whole site. There may be some back end performance/server things we can work on also.

I really would love those who can’t make it in person to think about what they can communicate from afar and perhaps set an afternoon or morning aside to work on something. We don’t have to be physically present to work together! It could be very exciting.

Firstly, please have a look at the Sprint pages and the timetable. (Sprint 2009) Remember all times are BRUSSELS times (GMT+1). We will be using these pages a lot and so please check there. We will post where we can be found on line too. If all else fails please pick up a phone and call the Brussels office and we can talk in person!

Secondly, please LET US KNOW what you consider important to be worked on and your recommendations. For example, Saulo Xavier in Brasil, sent me very interesting thoughts on the promotion and look of the KB site. (Not forgotten or ignored Saulo!) We need more concrete things like this. It could be articles, promotional material, ideas for structures, new concepts for the front page or your own observations, feedback of problems faced by users etc. I await your emails!

I look forward to your presence physically, virtually or in spirit!

Cheers,

Kevin


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YWAM KnowledgeBase – May 11-16 in Brussels!

Dear All,

I want to announce that we will be having a YWAMKB Sprint meeting here in Brussels May 11-15. You are all welcome to come!

What is a Sprint you may ask? Well, it is a time to meet and talk and WORK hard at improving the KB. As the KB contributers are a virtual team having some good face to face time should give us all some encouragement to keep developing the KB.

So who is it for?

  • Writers, who want to develop articles and learn how to use the KB better. We will write lots of new articles in the Sprint
  • Organisers, who are good at bringing sensible structure to the KB. We need to work on making the structure clearer in order to bring the articles closer to those looking for them.
  • Artists, who can improve the look and feel of the site
  • Educators, who can help to improve articles, find the gaps in the knowledge and help people to really learn well with the KB.
  • System-admins, who can keep the underlying code in good order, the system secure and the data backed-up.
  • ANYONE, who cares about using the KB to pass on to others the wisdom and practical advise you have gained.

The cost will be low! As low as I can make it. Food and a small daily charge for a bed in the YWAM Base here in Brussels. Don’t let finances be a hurdle – if you want to come we will see what we can do.

More details will appear soon, but please email me  (kevin@ywambrussels.be) to confirm your interest.

If the dates do not fall in happy places for you or travel would be ridiculously expensive don’t fret as we will try to have Skype participation available and also an open Instant Messaging channel that you can drop in and out of during the sprint! Your virtual participation is welcomed and encouraged. But sadly you can’t drink the Belgium beer online so personal presence is preferred!

I look forward to hearing from you!

Kevin