Friction Reducers and Collaborations Workshop 2019 Hackday

Posted by s.aragon on 8 February 2019 - 9:00am
Image by Fouquier ॐ.

By Raniere Silva, Community Officer, Software Sustainability Institute.

The third and last day of Collaborations Workshop 2019 (CW19) is reserved for the Hackday. During the Hackday, attendees collaborate on a project that will be presented at the end of the day and have the chance to win a prize. This year the first prize is 11.6' Pinebook notebook.

On a different note, the other day I was reading a question about using blogdown or Hugo on the RStudio Community Discourse Forum. James Long replied:

“These are all "friction reducers" but not with huge new functionalities – it's true.

Keep in mind that reducing what us economists call "transaction costs" (yak shaving, learning curve, etc) is of great value. (...) It does not create totally new things, but it certainly makes existing things easier!”

Imagine the case of one research that is looking to transition to more computational reproducible practices. Some of the costs involved in this transition are searching for tools that could record provenance, coming to an acceptable agreement with collaborators, and making sure the peers sticks to the terms of the agreement. These costs aren't cheap, and all ideas to help them keep low are welcome. Collaborations Workshop 2015 Hackday winner, ReciPy, is a example of friction reducer by providing an effortless method to record provenance in Python.

Given the themes of this year – interoperability, documentation, training and sustainability – the first prize will probably go to a project that can be classified as friction reducer. What friction do you encounter on your day job?

Bug reporting

Marie Hargitt wrote on GitLab Blog about the friction to report a bug. Marie listed 10 steps to report even the smallest bugs. They are:

  1. Find the bug.

  2. Open screenshot tool, capture bug.

  3. Open software to annotate screenshot, add comments.

  4. Open and log into issue tracker.

  5. Select the correct project.

  6. Create new issue.

  7. Document the bug.

  8. Add technical information.

  9. Attach screenshots.

  10. Submit report.

During those steps, the user probably uses five programs:

  1. Bugged application

  2. Screenshot tool, e.g. GNOME Screenshot

  3. Raster graphics editor, e.g. GIMP

  4. Web browser, e.g. Firefox, Chrome, Safari

  5. Terminal (to get technical information), e.g. Bash


How can we cut down the number of steps and programs?

Managing incremental reading

Wikipedia defines incremental reading as "keeping a large reading list of electronic articles or books (often dozens or hundreds of them) and reading parts of several articles". Incremental reading is very common among researchers but there is a lot of friction when managing the list of documents to read.

When you add text highlights, annotations, mind maps and flashcards, the friction increases a lot. To make things worse, you want to have your reading list with annotations available in your pocket and on your desk synchronized and independent of the OS that your device is running.


What tools are you using? Can it be integrated  to another service?

Final words

Group discussions on 1st and 2nd April 2018 will be safe spaces for you to share friction examples from your day job and look for solutions. During the Hackday, you can collaborate to improve or create a solution for these friction issues. Remember that your team will need more than coding skills! Also remember that Collaborations Workshop 2019 Hackday Judges will penalise groups that don't have documentation, so consider attending the Tech Writing 101 workshop with Sarah Maddox and Sharif Salah will be on the 1st April.

Register on Eventbrite for CW19

Bonus: Bookmarklet

At the begin of the year, Greg Wilson mentioned bookmarklet to me. Bookmarklet are as old as Javascript but they might die soon due the increased implementation of Content Security Policy. Until they die, bookmarklet are considered fair game by Collaborations Workshop 2019 Hackday Judges.

Bonus: List of Prizes

1st Prize: Portable USB Monitor

2nd Prize: Noise-cancelling headphones

3rd Prize: International Charger Adapter with USB C Fast Charging

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