Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Is this love?

Interesting night tonight. I had my last "Mad Hackers Party" for the year.

Basically, for the Manaiakalani project, a bunch of us - not all hackers (in fact, I think there's 3 classical hackers, a couple of network guys though tonight only 1, a representative from the guys provisioning the laptops - absent tonight - and the rest are educators) - get together, go through, quite extensively, an agenda answering questions about where we're at, what we need to do (that covers the OS image, provisioning, professional development, network etc.). It's a bit of a social event as well. We have dinner together, and indulge in small amounts of alcohol (though I think I had a "hefty" 4-5 beers tonight - as an indication of the small amounts).

So where are we at? What are the lessons learnt thus far from the pilot?

A lot of it is around procedure. We need to provision at least a couple of technical people for each imaging round. We need to document. And once we've documented, do some more documentation. Truth be told, this is nothing I wasn't expecting. Time frames being tight caused documentation to fall by the wayside in some areas. There were a few other things that came up but I'm not going to document the whole meeting. Loads of it was probably confidential anyway. At some points I was explicitly told that what I had just been told is not to go up on my blog.

At one point I actually felt threatened. Not threatened in that guy walks up to me looking as if he's wearing a back brace and is saddle sore (A little intimidating though I still want to poke fun. Something along the lines of "Whoa there partner. What happened to you?") sort of way but threatened in the "That's my baby" sort of a way. Sort of like seeing a girl friend drool over a guy knowing that you don't have the abs, muscle tone, boyish good looks or even, heaven forbid, charisma to compete.

And this had me thinking. I actually asked the question to get some clarification on the matter - ready to don boxing gloves if necessary. Apparently I didn't come across as defensive though the fact that we'd talked about it after the meeting while indulging in churros says to me that there was at least a little something to notice.

So, here I am. I'm seeing myself with a future in the project. I'm wanting to be involved in the whole deployment for next year. 2,000 laptops, 7 schools, loads of people and I'm already thinking about how to provide support for all 7 schools. The idea of hopping on a bike to get from school to school appeals - in fact, I think I was primed for this. The lovely woman (Thanks Chris!) who drives me home from school most nights took me for a drive around the schools just to prove how close they are to each other and I can do most of it on a seaside road. Brilliant!

I'm finding myself devoted to it. My dear old 19 year old cat is craving attention as I've just been so involved with the project that I haven't really taken the time to sit down and let her sit on my lap (it's difficult trying to balance both the netbook and the cat on my lap thus she normally looses out). I'm getting up in the morning much to my fathers bemusement. In fact, the announcements in the staff room of "Nevyn's here to provide us with some technical support" have stopped - I'm almost part of the furniture.

I do fear I'm currently in a bit of a honeymoon period.

The most difficult part of any deployment in my experience is people. At one place, it was the receptionists. I sort of took them on as a personal project. It was tough. Two tough old birds who were very set in their ways. The company had been brought out and so their I.T. systems were changing to match the parent company's.

At another, it was the bosses mother. While the two tough birds mentioned above actually had cause for complaint at times, this woman would print things out, do things as she'd always done it, and then would go through and do the things on the system I'd designed. The new system, while designed to keep things in the computer, was just making things harder for her not because the system didn't work, but because she just couldn't get her head around the idea of doing the same things as she'd always done on the computer.

It's disheartening. You put in loads of work, work with them to try and design something that will benefit them and keeping them involved in the development process, and it's just that last barrier of the people that trip you up.

At Point England I get no such resistance. Nothing at all. The netbooks are completely new and an unknown quantity. There's no real preconceptions of how they should or shouldn't work. Point England School is probably the best place for a roll out like this though. They've been using technology in aid of education for a number of years. The teachers know, as part of their professional development, that they're going to be seeing and using more and more technology in the classroom.

But what's tomorrow going to bring? Tomorrow I've offered to attend a meeting at one of the other schools. Are their teachers as well primed? How much of a difference does the age difference in students make on attitudes? How big a role does technology play on quite a profoundly different school format?

So, is this love? But even more importantly, is this a healthy relationship?

I can't compete if someone decided to displace me for free - I still need to pay for things like getting there and back again (I rather feel I'm taking advantage of Chris' generosity at the moment so that does need rectifying), and eating (I'm most definitely taking advantage of my parents generosity) and perhaps just a little for living - things like attending the OLPC meetings in the weekend or even, buying books (yes, I'm one of those old fashioned books made of paper sort of guys).

Just because I couldn't afford to be in this relationship doesn't mean that I wouldn't still love the project. And occasionally I might bump into the project and there'd be an awkward moment while I try to make the project feel regret at having let me go by overstating my success.

I guess this begs the question, "does the Manaiakalani project and I need counselling?" At the very least, I'm going to have to have a conversation that's going to make me a little uncomfortable. My defences will go up causing me to be nonchalant about it all. I care, I just can't be seen to care TOO much. I'm here aren't I? Is that not enough? Sounds like couples therapy to me.


  1. I'm horribly pleased with this post so I've been waiting around all day for a comment. Not a one... until I rang my best friends.

    I'm not sure this counts, but "Irish Cream" yelled out in the background "You need a girl friend!". The fact that she seems to mutter, or yell, these words at least once every time I talk to her might make this null and void. Still, she almost always has a point. Personally I think she just enjoys being just a little mean.

  2. I am VERY pleased you want to have a future in the project! We appreciate everything you have done and sure hope that the love does not wear off! One good thing in working with kids is that I don't think you will need counselling - they just tell us straight! I am particularly grateful that you are doing so much documenting - I am not getting round to it and I know it is important. It is so cool to see the excitement in the schools/children at the thought of getting their own netbooks. You are part of something pretty special I reckon.

  3. I just had a look at Manaiakalani's profile.

    I am oh so pleased she's female. Truth be told, I was rather having difficulties telling. Here I am professing I'm quite possibly in love and I wasn't entirely sure. Still. The heart wants what the heart wants ;)

    Manaiakalani - I do think we need to have a conversation though, which will have me closing off (Why do I do that?) so it'll pretty much be couples therapy without the counsellor.

  4. Your analogies make me laugh. Couples counselling. Wont that be a tad one-sided?. heh


  5. Analogy. Yep. I'm not really in love. Honest (I'm here aren't I?)