Interview - issa marie tseng

issa marie tseng (@issa)

Location: Where do you live? Where do you work?
i have lived and worked in the Seattle area my whole life, amidst beautiful rainy green and blue. i currently work with Nafundi.

Tell us a fun fact or story about yourself!
i once spent half a year building an apollo 13 educational application; i willingly stuff myself onto a sailboat in freezing rain; i’ve put in over 8000km on city streets alone in 3 years on my bicycle; i once chased a laptop thief across the city.

How did you first find out about ODK?
i was in the UW lab while the initial CommCare effort was winding down and ODK was being planned, but i wouldn’t end up joining it for another year or so. i also sat next to @yanokwa and @Carl_Hartung at ICTD2009 listening to their pitch while i presented MultiMath next to them.

What are you using ODK for?
nothing, myself, sadly!

What’s your favorite ODK feature?
the forum! after burning out from years of helping people on the mailing list, it’s energizing and relieving to watch community members successfully helping each other.

How did you get so involved in the community? What keeps you coming back & staying involved?
eventually, the opportunity came to create ODK Build (originally ODK Maker) and i figured it was the area i was best suited to contribute to. the first version of Build was written in roughly one month in Seattle, Bangalore, and Pittsburgh. the next few years i worked on some improvements, but eventually grew too busy at the startup i was working for to really keep up.

it was a few years before the startup left my life, and i had time to work on Build, and now ODK Central, again. i learned a lot at the startup, but working on ODK is a far better use of my time: it is relatively simple and straightforward to improve, and yet each improvement has a direct impact on actual people i can name and talk to.

What has been the greatest challenge for you in learning about ODK? (Either the software, the community, or both!)
what to me is ODK’s big challenge is also its big strength: the diversity of its tools and the looseness of the tools ecosystem. trying to keep everybody together in roughly the same orbit and make sure the tools can all talk to each other takes a lot a lot of our time and energy, but the availability of different options and approaches makes it versatile and resilient in different scenarios and when different organizations and personalities join and leave the community.

i spend a lot of time worrying about the other tools and how they work, but i still don’t know most of them very well at all. i am lucky to have people like @LN to talk to and verify how things actually work.

Let’s talk about goals: Do you have any ODK-related goals for yourself, your organization, or the overall ODK community?
i want ODK to be easy to install and easy to use. i want everything to be a few clicks away. i want it to be small and focused yet useful and extensible. i want to never have to explain terminal-based installation procedures or weird XML things ever again.


What advice would you give someone who’s just learned about ODK and is considering getting involved?
start somewhere. everything is scary and difficult when you try to swallow it all at once. answer some easy questions on the forum: you will learn for yourself, and you will begin to understand where to look for answers on different questions.

be open. be kind. little else matters.

Github ID: issa-tseng