Just what is a SPRUCE Mashup and what's in it for me?

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What is a SPRUCE style mashup?

Our mashups are attended by Developers with technical skills and Practitioners who typically have some responsibility for managing, preserving or working with digital collections. We ask our Practitioners to bring along a sample of one (or more) of their digital collections. We begin by working with the collections and identifying Issues that we want to examine further. We team up each Practitioner with a Developer and get working together on a Solution. We'll also work with you to build a compelling business case for your digital preservation work, making it easier for you to secure the funding you need to make your work (and digital collections!) sustainable. There's an emphasis on re-using or re-purposing tools that are already available, and sharing ideas on what might be useful approaches to explore. There will be lots of group discussion sessions, lightning talks to report back progress, and opportunities to share knowledge. By the final day we'll have a variety of working Solutions that are presented back to the group and evaluated. Our previous events have generated some really useful results, but the most beneficial output seems to be from the journey itself, and what the participants learn from working with each other.

Some further information about what goes on at a mashup:

I'm a Researcher / Practitioner / Collection Owner / Curator / Archivist. Why is it worth me attending?

  • Learn (more) about digital preservation by doing it!
  • Get solutions to some of your digital challenges at the event!
  • Exchange knowledge and experience with other attendees and our experts (from The Digital Preservation Coalition, The Open Planets Foundation and The British Library)
  • Learn new skills
  • Build contacts within our community and meet colleagues working on similar challenges to you
  • Work in an agile way, and experience results from an end to end project inside 3 days
  • Secure funding from SPRUCE for further work! Participants will have the chance to bid for SPRUCE funding to fully realise the work they begin at the Mashup

I'm a Developer / Techie. Why is it worth me attending?

  • Work on a new technical challenge and learn new skills in the process
  • Experience the freedom of agile development
  • Get instant feedback from your users, and discover the benefits of knowing exactly what they want from your work!
  • Build contacts within our community
  • Learn about digital preservation by doing it!
  • Exchange knowledge and experience with other attendees and our experts (from The Digital Preservation Coalition, The Open Planets Foundation and The British Library)
  • Partner with a practitioner to win funding for further work and/or further consultancy development after the event
  • Our developers often report how liberating and refreshing it is to work on one thing for 3 days with no interruptions, no time recording and no committee meetings. SPRUCE Mashups are a great way to recharge your "programming batteries".

Group photo from our SPRUCE-style mashup in York, September 2011 

Hacking and mashing at our Mashup in Glasgow, April 2012

Don't take our word for it...

At the end of each mashup we ask attendees to give us anonymous feedback and ask for permission to share what they said. Here's what previous attendees said about the Mashups we've run:

  • I am not alone! There is a community out there and while I understood this, the Mashup opened the door to approaching others with my problems
  • As a first timer, I was unsure of how things would work - I am a complete fan of this type of event as it far exceeded my expectations.
  • It felt very productive. Lots of development. Every solution that was developed was enlightening and showed potential for future use.
  • I loved working hands-on with the practitioners! (I was a little worried that the idea of getting devs and practitioners to work side-by-side was optimistic/idealistic, but I think the reality worked out amazingly well!) 
  • Difficult to isolate any single thing (I liked best) but the ability to work closely with a developer is invaluable - especially when they understand the problem
  • (Liked) The good camaraderie of all the participants, and the willingness of everyone to discuss and help.
  • It's relaxed and practical
  • It was very good to see the practical aspect of Getting Things Done, rather than just theorising
  • Really found it useful to speak to others involved in similar work, finding out about different tools, and experiences. Think there were some very useful conversations going on, and lots of things to revisit
  • Great to have people working on real life practical solutions to digital preservation problems at the event, rather than just talking about it and then not doing anything!
  • Getting the outputs directly into the wiki was FANTASTIC!!!! will be using that immediately for future projects for capturing feedback is always difficult in addition to capturing the aha moments during a meeting that you quickly forget after.
  • It is fantastic working alongside practitioners to address real concerns and find some grassroots solutions to the thorny issues of digital preservation.
  • (What did I learn?) That better tools exist than the most popular / the ones that we use for some tasks.
  • There were a ton of tools I was unaware of and am excited to go back to the office and try out...
  • The fact that every single developer created a useful and re-usable tool
  • I learned more about working directly with practitioners to solve their problems. This is an attitude that will affect my day-to-day work. Also, I learned lots of details about how other people are addressing/solving issues, what tools they're using to do so, and the results they've had.
  • (I'm now) much more aware of resources which are available to help support our work in this area - (I) come from a small organisation with no IT support, but would now feel more confident about where to go to find help and solutions to specific problems we encounter.
  • This is such a good idea - I found tools I did not know existed and benefitted from others' expertise.
  • I had thought the event might be pitched above my level as someone who is just starting out in the field of Digital Preservation but I learnt an enormous amount and came out with some business process tools, a better understanding with what I was dealing with, some useful contacts and even a bit of code - couldn't ask for more!
  • I was quite nervous about coming - never done anything like this before, and a total non-techie! But atmosphere was relaxed and friendly, and found it really helpful. So thank you!

All attendees from our last two mashups, who completed our anonymous feedback survey, said they'd like to attend another event using the same format.

Is it really a Mashup, a Hackathon, an Unconference, a Workshop, or something else?

The answer is: "F", all of the above. We borrowed liberally from a variety of innovative event formats and added some structure and participant roles to place an emphasis on capturing real life challenges. This puts the end users in the driving seat and makes sure our efforts are focussed on the right targets. Our original aim was to solve digital preservation challenges (something we've done lots of), but the added benefit, and perhaps the most valuable output from the events, seems to be the knowledge and skills exchange between the participants. Hence we dubbed the whole concept "People Mashing" when we presented the event format at the iPRES Conference in 2011.

What events did SPRUCE run?

SPRUCE delivered 3 mashup events and 1 hackathon. It also partnered with the OPF and DPC to deliver other related events. Full details of SPRUCE events can be found here.

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