Let’s keep it up

I am so stoked :surfing_man: about the :page_facing_up: discussion over on the LingView topic. I almost posted this there, but it’s really off topic. Welp, I’m just going to think out loud. I hope I don’t sound too soapbox.

I really want to challenge the notion of “being technical”. Anyone who does documentation or even participates in documentation is in some sense technical. Every person who is in this thread, and every person who has read it, is technical in one way or another.

One of the best things about the web, and web technology, is that it’s public. The web itself may be filled with garbage, but the mechanisms are golden. There is deep knowledge embedded into the way the web works. It’s true that web technology is not trivial, but the actual design is like a layer cake: each layer is pretty simple. If you can learn to just see the layers, you become more empowered. Maybe you aren’t interested in learning to program, but perhaps you have something to say about graphic design. Maybe you have opinions about what a workflow could be like for creating, say, a vocabulary learning game from lexical information.

Most of the work of programming is figuring out what the data really is and what an application should enable “end-users” to do with that data. Learning speak about data and workflows in a way that is easy to program is a distinct skill from actually doing the programming. Now, anyone reading this could learn to program too. But even if that is your goal, practicing the art of clearly articulating what your data is and how you want to interact with it is a learnable skill.

Now, here’s where the definition of “technical” comes in. The LingView thread has already gotten pretty technical in parts, and there have been some observations about how it’s drifting into some specialized terrain. There has been programmer jargon.

I suspect that a significant proportion of readers don’t know what “React” is, or what a “web component” is, or whether one is better or more appropriate for certain uses than the other — or more importantly, why anyone should care! (The short answer is that the two technologies overlap in some ways, and differ in others, but they’re both used to build “modules” which can be composed into fancy-pants applications.)

I think this little group has potential. We can build stuff. We can collaborate. A group like this is something I have really been hoping to be a part of, and we have a little spark here. Can we get a fire going? Can we do some… well, some kick-ass stuff, together? I think so, I hope so.

But here’s a plea:

Let’s work together to not only create technology and software tools here, let’s explain and teach technology here.

I think we need to think about how to shape the content on this site. I have been flailing about with categories and tags and such and it’s mostly a mess. But that’s okay, because we’re just getting off the ground. I hope some of you will want to become moderators here down the line, to contribute to how the forum develops. I mention this because it’s related to that plea above — how should we structure content here so that a newcomer will be able to always find a welcoming path into discussions? We need to have the detailed discussions of technology, for sure, but can we figure out how to have those conversations without alienating 1) potential future collaborators who want to learn more about technology and 2) those who prefer to contribute (important!) observations from the “end-user” perspective?

Okay, it’s late and I’m getting a little maudlin, maybe, but everything about our world kind of sucks right now. We all face disappointment and suffering.

Still, our work still matters. We are still a community.

We have to use technology. As Princess Leia once sort-of said of Obi-Wan Kenobi, it’s our only hope. Right now, anyway.

Let’s build a bunch of cool stuff together. That means thinking out loud, not being afraid of thinking blue-sky. The field has been struggling with couples therapy between FLex (FLEX? FLeX? That thing) and ELAN get along for like, seriously, at least a decade?

Let’s reconsider. Let’s take responsibility. What do we want our software to do? We can learn from existing tools. But let’s do some Cambrian-style exploding. Lots of ideas. Lots of back-and-forth. Let’s share our napkin scribbles and throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and see what sticks.

Good grief, I wrote all this stuff. In public. :sheep:

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Hi Pat - I think what you’ve built here is really great, and I’ve really appreciated the level of community input, and the expertise people bring to the table.
You’re right in saying that the way in which things are laid out can really affect how people contribute - some formats will encourage people with different skill sets to contribute together, and others run the risk of creating silos, where only people with a certain skill set feel capable of engaging.
Here’s my suggestion (which, by no means, is THE solution, but maybe speaks to a part of it):
Instead of using labels like #tech or #working together, which might imply a framing of topics based on HOW they are addressed, why don’t we label conversations based on WHAT they are. This way, anyone interested in that particular topic, no matter what their approach, can share how they tackle it in their everyday language documentation practice. You’ve done this a bit with the language-based groupings, but why not pull out some of the major steps in language documentation and tags threads based on these? So, maybe we’d have threads tagged with: Data Collection; Data Processing; Transcription/Translation; Glossing/Annotation; etc. etc. That way, a conversation about LingView becomes less of a conversation about a specific piece of software, but more about Archiving/Reuse of data.
There might need to be a bit of thought about what labels work best (and maybe a bit of defining what each encompasses), but this could be one way to get people thinking in terms of steps in our workflows, rather than the individual tools or methods.

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I really want to challenge the notion of “being technical”. Anyone who does documentation or even participates in documentation is in some sense technical. Every person who is in this thread, and every person who has read it, is technical in one way or another.

Hear hear–I think people often underestimate themselves when it comes to tech, in the same way people do when they say “I’m not a math person”. I think math and tech, especially in the context of making things for use in the real world, require only ordinary critical thinking skills (which anyone on this board certainly has) and a reserve of curiosity and resolve for enduring jargon which sometimes flows too freely.

We need to have the detailed discussions of technology, for sure, but can we figure out how to have those conversations without alienating 1) potential future collaborators who want to learn more about technology and 2) those who prefer to contribute (important!) observations from the “end-user” perspective?

I absolutely agree that as you say, tech is not an end in itself but a means for supporting workflows, and that end-user engagement must be prioritized and encouraged as much as possible, since software most commonly fails not on its technical merits but because of the difference between the developers’ conception of users and workflows and the reality of users and workflows. On the other hand, just like in any academic discipline, while jargon can be abused and obscure ideas that could have been serviced perfectly by ordinary words, there are some discussions where jargon can bring much-needed precision and concision. Then again, perhaps the latter kind of situation is not so common, and if it needs to occur, needn’t necessarily occur here, especially since it can distract from the much more important task of encouraging people to speak up about their experiences and needs when it comes to tech.

I like @Andrew_Harvey’s proposal to organize content around processes. I wonder if it’s still worth it to somehow mark content that is more tech-oriented–process-oriented tags like #glossing could exist alongside tags like #tech. I don’t know–just thinking out loud!

@pathall, I want to thank you again for all the thought and work you’re putting into organizing this community. I share your excitement in the potential of what we could achieve working together and look forward to many more inclusive and fruitful discussions.

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Hi all, thanks for these comments and ideas! One thing I really liked about ICLDC 6 was that there was a dialogue between different perspectives (linguists, community members, computer scientists), which resulted in a unique kind of knowledge exchange and collaborative learning. I agree that Docling can serve as a platform for a similar dialogue. As an online forum it may lean towards the perspectives of tech-oriented participants, but it’s important to make sure that the forum is open to different types of interests and ideas so that the cross-pollination can take place.