How to make my work observable

120 words half bake thought for the impatient:

According to Bryce Williams having an Observable Work is half of Working Out Loud.

Working Out Loud = Observable Work + Narrating Your Work

It makes sense for me but as a knowledge worker I realize I have no clue on how to make my work viewable and let people comment on it. I can see how craftmans, writers, journalists can do, not me. I realize also what can be fascinating in this regard with Casey Niestat’s vlogs. However he is incorporating it in his activity and resulting work. Meerkating my work with a webcam constantly hanging there? no way 🙂 Something has to be found for the huge tribe of us working (multitasking!) on keyboards on successive tasks without the “feel” of an additive activity to already-existing workload.

I explore in detail why, what how I can make my work observable.

tl;dr for the rest of us

Even before starting to read John Stepper’s book I knew I was missing some pieces of the puzzle. Now I decided for this serie of 3 #PKMChat on #WOL to become serious about it. My first post was more to describe the state where I’m now.

I ended with the need for a kind of camera to expose my work.

Jane’s comment pushed me to understand why I was claiming I’m not practising #WOL

Correct but 1) I can’t claim I practise something I don’t even know the definition (this I learned in between) and I can practise only half of it (and example of narrating my work).

Observable Work use to be normal

As a kid, just at the bottom of Strasbourg Cathedral it was possible to see the shoemaker repairing shoes, the butcher cutting large pieces of meat in pieces, the hairdresser cutting hair to my neighbors. You didn’t have to ask or enter the shop. They where just so tiny, with a large baywindow to let light in, that you could see if from the street, without asking, without being introduced or considered rude. Like this you could learn about each art and decided whether this could be a career.

I found the same experience in Asia. My tailor in Chennai is cutting my shirts in front of me, right in the street. Anyone can see his art and me among them. Based on this vision I can decided, fully informed, that I will not try to learn and let him in charge of keeping me well equipped.

Totally different is the experience of Street restaurant in Melacca. There not only I watched, and ate but I also learned how to cook chinesee and Peranakan Fish head Curry. The cook became a friend which could be seen as a gain from exposing his work to me.

Last experience that comes to my mind is my friend Walter who came to teach us Yoga. While he is a true Yogi, he still learns from my feedbacks. I could give him the feeling of a wanabee learner, where it is difficult for me and sometime cause him to have some reflective thinking on some sequences.

Today craftmans work behind closed doors, in suburbs or in the upper floors of malls. We are not anymore in the secret of their art. Even in the nearby farms the milk goes directly from the cows to refrigirated tanks. If the framer wants milk he can just buy sterilized packs from the supermarket: he is not allowed to take from the tank. This is all to ensure a strict hygienic circuit for our own good.

Working in caves

Joking:) But somedays I have the impression I’m working in a cave. People visiting me or in the past my office look suspiciously to all the devices, the light on late. They don’t know what I do. Tweeps far away on the Internet have a better understanding of what I do but they can see nothing.

As knowledge workers we lived under the impression that:

  1. We better keep our work confidential. Side benefit is that if we do errors, failures, shortcomings nobody will know.
  2. It’s way too complex to be understood by anyone but by our immediate peers.
  3. Nobody is interested in work in progress.

Well this tend to be wrong and thing of the past.

  1. Transparency is now a value for end users. We use tons of open source code and share some of our code as well.
  2. Many techniques used are not mainstream. Everyone speaks of responsive design, of HTML5, of owl and RDF. We also learned that breaking our work in small restartable pieces is more efficient then running long projects.
  3. People may not be interested to read and stay for hours but, like me for my tailor, they may want to make their mind, give a feedback, understand the process and maybe transpose some ideas in their work.

An example of 3) happened recently when I tried to expose how the narrative technique used in UX design and marketing could be used for Learning Experience.

Like the tailor or the cook, it’s not because work is observable that suddently a crowd will assemble and tons of readers will read everything I do. being observable is a state of mind, a practice that exists and it could very well be that noone will ever look things. Reason for being careful to keep the extra effort under control.

So narrating, writing, sharing on what I did is an option. I used it already but it is very slow, takes a lot of time and only covers what is more or less achieved.

What I could do

First there is really the question of what to cover. I work mainly in 3 areas.

  1. Business and marketing. This is interesting for many people and specially for potential customers. Having the possibility to take a look at how the meal is prepared and even influencing it is interesting. This is also specially easy because it is mostly documents, schemas, sketches. It’s a little bit risky to disclose so much but it’s a trend and honestly I don’t risk much 🙂 Many bloggers are describing their project, their advances, their failures and I learned a lot from them.
  2. Software design. Here it’s really tricky. Software is made very incrementaly. If you don’t know what was done yesterday there is no luck you could understand what’s done today. It’s large, long pieces of codes. It’s very modular so if you don’t know what each brick is doing it’s very difficult to get an understanding. However there are 3 special cases
    1. Client side design is interesting to share because this is what end-users will see. It’s also short and use a lot of well known techniques. Getting instant feedback is very valuable, really worth the time of sharing.
    2. Experiments. They are usually short, independant and can be instructive.
    3. DevOps. Deployement issues, configuration are interesting to share with peers in the field but sharing implies a lot of cleanup, a lot of extra work to make sure nothing is divulged. Servers are under constant pressure of intruders and any hint, even very minor could the very detail that hint them of a possible weakness. For an expert very subtile details are sufficient I learned from experience. It’s incredible how many people are out there constantly trying to get access to resources.
  3. Methodology, KM, Learning, Design. Here everything can and should be shared asap. It’s also mostly documents, videos, screenshots. There is a cost to make it available but it could be curbed by a careful preparation.

How I could do it

First it should be fast ( A fail for this post: 1h30 up to here).

– Open a post for a work in progress and keep it as a journal. make clear the post is on progress with a remark somewhere. If it going to be long and complex like for #PKMChat topic use a Google Doc.

– Publish very short posts on half baked ideas. Merge them after in larger posts using redirections (A few WP shortcodes will help this to work well). Accept and let readers know that work is on progress, spellcheck not yet passed.

– Have a setup ready for taking screenshots and screencasts with not risk of confidentiality (showing my setup, passwords, names). That’s the  trickiest part. Can be automated though.

– Be way more efficient in sharing multimedia stuff. I’m always reluctent to add pictures becase it takes time to resize them, choose them. A solution is to automate some stages like is done on Picasso from @buffer.

– Special publishing features could be devised for making some work observable. A few script on server side could expose some work as it is done. I need to think of a use case.

– New features, new ideas can be shared almost instantlty for short periods of time on cloud servers. This is a new capability I have since April. Deploying the exact copy of what I have without disturbing anything is now possible. It’s more or less automated but could be done once per day.

– Side benefit is that whatever I devise to make my work observable will be available to my end users as well.

A lot of this really depends on practice. Like Yoga, like cooking the more often you practice the faster you are, the better you are.

If I reach 10% of my work observable I would consider myself very successful.

Now it’s your turn. From what I do, or you think I do what would you be interested to see as an observable work?

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