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

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Just what is a SPRUCE Mashup? What's it about and what will I get out of it if I attend? More importantly, what do I tell my boss to convince him/her to let me out of the office for 3 days?

Its a little difficult to describe what our mashups are like. Ideally you need to see one first hand to understand what we do and what value it has. However, we've had a go at collating information about our mashups on this page to try and communicate what it's all about...

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 useful output seems to be from the journey itself, and what the participants learn from working with each other.

Some further information can be found here:

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

  • Learn 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)

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
  • 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.
  • (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 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.

I'm not sure if I have what it takes to attend a Mashup?

Attending a mashup means you have to contribute to the event. We don't allow observers. But that's the main requirement. You don't need prior "digital preservation" experience. In fact, our events are a great way to learn about managing digital collections. For more information about roles to play during an event and what you need to prepare in advance see this page.

We've had a number of attendees who have been a little intimidated by the idea of coming to a Mashup, but they've quickly found that we create a welcoming, friendly and none-judgemental environment. Technical skills are not a requirement, and our events actually benefit from having attendees with all sorts of skills and viewpoints.

How do I convince my boss to let me go to a "Mashup" for 3 days?

A Mashup? What's that? Sounds like a waste of time. Why not go to a conference instead?

Several of our attendees have noted that it wasn't easy to persuade their boss to let them come to a strange Mashup event for 3 whole days, when attendance of a relevant conference would typically get the nod of approval. Said attendees also stated that they got much more out of attending a hands on event, such as one of our Mashups, than they do from attending another conference. And here lies the key argument. Our events are jam packed full of hands-on work and knowledge exchange. Our attendees learn much more by doing, rather than just listening or talking. We'd suggest that this is the best argument to present!

Ok, ok, where do I sign up?

Our next Mashup will be in London on the 18th-20th September 2012, and you can sign up here: http://sprucelondon.eventbrite.co.uk/. See our Events page for full details of other planned Mashups.

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