Chris York - TAB Application - 2020-09-01

Chris York (@seewhy)


What contributions (e.g., issue triage, tech support, documentation, bug fixes) have you made to the ODK community?
I’m a 'well rounded' user of ODK – designing forms, collecting data in the field, downloading and analysing the results. I’ve tried to share my experiences where things have gone wrong, where I’ve got stuck and when I’ve found solutions. I’m reasonably experienced with heuristics, mainly the error side of things. I have tried to contribute ideas for new features or enhancements to existing ones.
I might have made a few people smile, and I have no doubt there have been a few cringes and sharp intakes of breath!

How do you believe your contributions have benefited ODK?
I think that sharing real world examples and scenarios helps to shape the features of ODK. I have also been able to identify features that don’t work as intended, without necessarily helping to solve the issues!

What do you believe the top priorities for ODK are?

  • Supporting the community of users – the forum is an excellent example of ‘cross-fertilisation’ of ideas and mutual support.
  • Keeping documentation up to date as new features are introduced or existing features are modified (sometimes transferring discussions from the forum or signposting those discussions)
  • Improving and simplifying deployment of forms to enumerators who are not very tech-savvy;

In terms of priorities for development I would include:

  • Enhancing spatial data collection tools – so we can easily tell where data was collected;
  • Improving the potential for ‘case management’ or longitudinal / time-series data collection using ODK Collect

How will you help the ODK community accomplish those priorities?
I’m really good at breaking things. I have 20+ years’ experience of field data collection in environmental disciplines so hopefully I can keep a practical eye on developments and help to focus on making it easier for people to use ODK.

I have a reasonable grasp of the underlying logic for data collection, but not the code, so might be able to help.

I will also continue to advocate the use of ODK as an efficient means of data collection - hopefully growing that community further.

How many hours a week can you commit to participating on the TSC?
My workloads vary and I'm self-employed - sometimes I am away for fieldwork for days or (more rarely) weeks at a time... I would aim to contribute at least an hour a week when I'm available.

What other mobile data collection projects, social good projects, or open source projects are you involved with?
I have used mobile data tools since 2007 on pocketPCs and Android phones / tablets. I built forms with Visual CE and Epicollect before finding ODK. I have also used ESRI Collector. Needless to say I am only using ODK these days.

I’ve been involved with setting up and running a small number of charities / non-profit / community groups in my own local area and participated in a few social-justice campaigns. Nothing particularly eye catching, but often time consuming, not always successful, sometimes stressful. Examples would be community growing and recycling initiatives, protecting local health care services, creating and maintaining outdoor recreation facilities.

Please share any links to public resources (e.g., resume, blog, Github) that help support your application.
In lieu of submitting a full CV/resume or online persona here is a summary:

I have a BSc in Geology, an MSc in Science Communication and have almost 30 years work experience in the environment sector. I have worked for the Public Sector, private companies and NGO’s . I have been self-employed since 2006 ( with a wide range of clients in the UK and Ireland. I am based in North East Scotland.

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Hi @seewhy :wave:
What's a key improvement or new functionality that you think would really help in enhancing spatial data collection within ODK?

Hi @danbjoseph
Thanks for your question - apologies for the delay in responding, I've been out in the field for the last two days (using ODK to collect data for a couple of projects).

For me, being able to visualise data on a map in repeat groups in Collect would be a major innovation - it's incredibly useful for checking what / where data has already been collected using a 'single' form, and that has really helped us in some of our recent projects (I redesigned one form part way through data collection when the feature was released because it solved a real life problem!). In my somewhat simple head I hope it would be possible to mark up any geo-data on a map along with the associated fields within the same repeat group / loop (so data shown is not tied to any particular structural level of the form). Likewise being able to see that visualised on the server would be great (crossover with Kobotoolbox in my case, but maybe similar with Central / Aggregate) and easier to share without additional data processing.

Other spatial ideas that I've been dreaming / watching / breaking / requesting include offline vector maps with styling; easier transfer of those layers to the enumerators' devices and maybe a way to switch layer based on a previous question would be helpful (so if you were using the same form in different locations you could activate different base maps rather than one monster map, or collecting different datasets within that same site, show different base data). Our projects are mostly based in areas with poor internet connectivity, so offline maps are key tools, and help us with navigation (yes, actual mountain safety at times, without needing to get my paper map out of the rucksac!) and locating pre-defined data points. I'd also probably like ODK to explore options to reduce the processor load and conserve battery life whilst using geo-tools, but that might just be wishful thinking.

However, as it's an Advisory Board, I think I would be happy to listen to what other users want (and work out ways of helping to gather intelligence and understand those needs), and then try to find solutions that will be most beneficial - it's all very well having pet wants, but I don't see governance as advocating my own needs. Sorry if that sounds sanctimonious.

Hope that helps, apologies for the long-winded response.

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Hi @seewhy

Thanks for a detailed application.

How have you been you been advocating the use of ODK as an efficient means of data collection?

Thank you for your participation in the ODK community and your application!

Have you experienced any governance issues in your work or volunteering (e.g. partners disagreeing on direction, uncertainty about who owns assets, etc) and if so, what lessons would you apply to helping guide the ODK project?

Hi @dicksonsamwel
Thanks for your question.

One way that I am advocating the use of ODK as an efficient means of data collection is by winning contracts to undertake fieldwork. ODK gives us an advantage over paper-based systems as we have no duplication of effort (writing up field notes!), so we reduce our costs accordingly, so giving us a competitive advantage at the moment. So maybe others will take up the challenge :slight_smile:

Perhaps more seriously, I have developed a few projects based around ODK for national organisations and highlighted how these can be adapted for other data collection projects or expanded to different geographical scopes. As an example, I pulled together a team to undertake an audit of mountain paths for a large charity / NGO, using a method that had previously been done with paper based records - I translated the system to ODK and trained a team of path experts to use it. After completing the project I trained a number of the NGOs staff in the data collection process and identified additional 'assets' and situations where ODK could be used to manage data collection more efficiently than their current methods. Time will tell if they take up these ideas...

Usually we can highlight cost savings involved (through reduced time inputs overall) but sometimes improving the quality and quantity of data being collected and effective analysis / management of the results (often all of the above). Quite a good way of advocating the use of ODK...

I think one of the ongoing challenges for ODK is making it as easy as possible for people who are experts in their own field, but with limited experience of electronic recording to set up and submit data. This is also how I've been approaching my contributions to the Forum / development - trying to see things from their perspective and making suggestions that could lessen the learning curve and help them see the benefits.

Others will have bigger networks / wider opportunities, but my way of advocating is about practically demonstrating benefits, improving value for money and saving resources.

Hope this helps explain what I mean by that glib statement.

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Hi @LN

In short, many of them!

Usually when partnerships are involved there is a need to understand different perspectives, goals, priorities and available resources. I have found that mapping these out, facilitating discussions and developing a shared vision can help to avoid some pitfalls, enhance relationships and gain trust.

Sometimes this has been done at 'transition points' (for example, one organisation I was leading at the time expanded it's geographical range and we needed to ensure we didn't tread on toes - we drew in additional stakeholders and worked with them, rather than trying to deliver what we thought they needed) other times when significant problems had been encountered (for example a range of stakeholders had conflicting views on the way forward for one project, so we sat them around a table and worked out where the common ground lay, where the blockages were, and what the showstoppers for progress would be for each stakeholder - it was cathartic at times, but helped reset a few relationships - and it is an ongoing process rather than a one-off).

But sometimes it doesn't go smoothly or actually work - there have been occasions where it has been necessary to unpick some tangles and let people leave with dignity (myself included, but maybe not always the dignity bit!).

So I'm guessing that it would be appropriate to try to assist the TAB with these aspects of governance - identifying the issues, how they can be addressed, the likely resources needed and the priorities for resolution.

Maybe there's also a need to acknowledge the difference between governance and management and I'm conscious that this is an advisory board rather than a management team.

Sorry, possibly not the most coherent response, but I'm just away on holiday this week and saw this as I was shutting down my computer so responded, perhaps a little too hastily... ah yes, another familiar governance issue!

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