Week in review
This was a really big week for the blog. My heart leaped as the post was shared 50, 100, 165+ times on facebook, including by people I tremendously respect. As it makes its way around the “Salesforce consultant” world, I think the piece will continue to influence people. I want to keep hammering home the central message – one way to make sure that trans and gender nonconforming people are NOT erased is to accurately and respectfully capture aspects gender identities in “database-land.”
On a more meta level, I think this is a great example of data justice as a flavor of changemaking. If you’re reading this, you’re probably already doing it! Cheers to you!
And on a level hazardously even moreeee meta, I want to underscore the importance of doing versus saying. As a blogger, I’m kinda pre-disposed to say, say, say. But we know that solidarity is actually about what you do. Showing up. Being brave. This is what history and this political moment demand of us, and I need to hold myself accountable to walk the walk, not just talk the talk! That’s one of the reasons why I’m so beside myself with joy that the last post has been so popular, because it’s an action post. Things we can actually do! Things no one else will do except for us. So, let’s get to work.
Form versus function
These ideas have larger political repercussions. Do we use database technology to come up with better categories or do we destroy categories all together? Can we use the master’s tools to demolish the master’s house? Ahh yes, the familiar “reform versus revolution” trope.
I’ve been chewing on these questions during the last year as I’ve been blogging at TDAA, and I saw a resource this week that put them into focus in a new way.
And yes, it has to do with forms!
Most people interact with data by filling out forms. Think about it … kiddo soccer league, signing in at the doctor’s office, job applications, joining a group, registering for an event, making an online purchase… need I even continue???
On top of that, forms are also the primary way that people request social services from government agencies – and here’s where the FORMat can make a spectacular difference. These forms are so difficult to fill out, so squished and convoluted, so lengthy and yet lacking basic instruction, that people give up entirely or fill out the information improperly, rendering themselves ineligible for resources. (If I had more time, I’d research a statistic to put here – if you know one, leave me a comment!)
Be-form and After
Given how notoriously awful government forms can be, a relatively new group called The Lab @ DC set out to change that with a “Form-a-palooza” event, and I think it’s pretty awesome. Here’s more info about The Lab and what they’re setting out to do:
a new team launched by the D.C. government to coordinate innovation across city agencies [which] aim[s] to use empirical research, user-oriented design, and data-driven tools to weave science into day-to-day government operations.
They put together an AWESOME prezi with “before” and “after” shots of different forms after they went through a workshopping and redesign process (photo below is borrowed from the prezi linked above). The team managed cut some forms in half and made them sooooo much easier on the eyes. Here’s a newspaper article for those of you who want to get more indepth into the Form-a-Palooza event.
Are we building a new world or fixing the mess we’re in?
I think we need both, as much as we can get.
When it comes to re-designing forms, it seems like a simple, effective, harm-reduction measure to make the world as it is more livable while we build the world as it should be. Let’s take this Form-A-Palooza event as inspiration to build better forms and design with “end users” (database jargon for regular people!) in mind. I know we can follow their example!