Kevin Cooper - TAB Application - 2022-04

Kevin Cooper (@cooperka)

Sassafras Tech Collective (USA)

What contributions have you made to ODK?

Mostly related to Collect:

  • dozens of PRs, feature research & proposals, etc. including: jump screen action buttons, jump screen group navigation & repeat group picker, overhauled material UX for form/instance lists, auto-fill last submitted value, bug fixes
  • ongoing conversations related to longitudinal data & entities

How do you believe your contributions have benefited ODK?

  • improved usability/features/stability/docs
  • communication about implementation and priorities
  • my work was paid for by The Carter Center

What do you believe the top priorities for ODK should be?

  • implementing longitudinal data while caring for millions of existing users and their existing habits
  • improved usability/features/stability/docs
  • user research studies to inform all of the above
  • ongoing community care and anti-oppression work (continuing ODK's mission of "a global community where contributors of all backgrounds, talents, and skills can come together to create and use great software")

How will you help ODK accomplish those priorities?

  • synthesizing user experience from The Carter Center and bringing it to conversations about longitudinal data & other work
  • bringing facilitation and anti-oppression experience from Sassafras

How many hours a week can you commit to participating on the TAB?


What other data collection projects, social impact projects, or open source projects are you involved with?

  • nemo (form designer + aggregator + dashboard for The Carter Center)
  • realrisks (breast cancer risk assessment tool that helps patients see and fix their health data for Columbia University)
  • Sassafras governance

Please share any links to public resources (e.g., resume, blog, Github) that help support your application.


Are there any features of nemo that you think should be added to core ODK? What about any opportunities for making components of nemo accessible as an option for part of the toolkit of an ODK Central user?

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If you're willing to share, I would be interested in hearing a little more about this and how you all have engaged on this at Sassafras. Or getting some links to learning materials that have been useful.

How do you see the TAB helping with balancing these two goals? There's going to be tension between them!

absolutely, our go-to contact for anti-oppression work is AORTA: (there used to be more resources on this page, it currently looks to be under construction, but keep checking back; look around for stuff they've published elsewhere too). in particular they've helped us work through many group conflicts, which are normal and healthy as long as they're approached with care.

we published a bunch of our own internal "guiding documents" which are all linked from here and you can click on what you find interesting, many people have said they found these helpful when creating communities of their own:

and this post describes some examples of how common practices such as mentorship can be problematic (depending on their implementation), and alternatives we enjoy:

here are some common patterns we try to be aware of (they will be present in every org, because capitalism and white supremacy is the water we swim in globally; the important thing is to be able to notice and name them so that they can be interrupted):

we also value rest and relaxation in order to make room for sustainability and growth. which makes it even more exciting that ODK has recurring self-funding now!!

yes, and we've been in conversation with Hélène about this recently. primarily we've been considering whether/how to spin out the nemo form designer as a modular tool, and whether/how to migrate some of our existing users to Central as new longitudinal features roll out there.

some possible benefits of the nemo form designer:

  • allows novices to make very complex forms without knowing XLSForm logic
  • can be used on a mobile/desktop web browser without installing any software
  • can be used offline in the field
  • allows creating reusable option sets and questions if you use the same CSV data or groups of questions across forms or even across teams
  • allows running reports/custom exports on submitted data because it understands the underlying structure of the questions and answers

some pitfalls:

  • requires ongoing support to keep up with new ODK features
  • "lock-in" when you build a lot of forms in nemo since there's no easy way to export to XLS (only to XML)

we're currently thinking about which of these features are truly useful to the community vs. which features are duplicating XLSForm functionality without being worth the long-term maintenance cost.

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eep! it'll be tricky. a lot of work has been done here already, and you in particular seem to have a huge understanding of what different stakeholders are doing and wanting.

I also think ODK has been good in general about making evolutionary (rather than revolutionary) changes that are easy for users to slowly adapt to without breaking old things.

as an advisory board, I think it's important for the TAB to get a broad and informed perspective from users -- not just the loud ones we hear on the forums, but also deep conversations with people who don't reach out to us but use ODK nonetheless. not just org heads, but enumerators on the ground doing the work.

I think hosting regular user studies to surface new things (including low-hanging fruit) would help here in general. we have experience at sassafras finding users whose perspectives we haven't heard from, but I have not done much of this myself, so please ask if you want me to find out more.

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