Ada Lovelace Day – Rachel Dixon

With apparently thousands of others, I recently made the following pledge:

“I will publish a blog post on Tuesday 24th March about a woman in technology whom I admire but only if 1,000 other people will do the same.”

I’d like to open with a hat-tip to Suw Charman-Anderson for actually doing something about the Women In Technology (or lack there-of) issue. Well done Suw. May we all be as constructive and proactive as you have been with this initiative.

The woman in technology I’d like to pay tribute to today is Rachel Dixon, who I was fortunate enough to work with several years ago, and who today, I consider to be a friend and mentor. It says something about Rachel that the only options I have to link to her are a LinkedIn profile and a holding page for her consulting company. Rachel, you see, is mostly too busy making other people look good (or, more to the point make smart decisions) to have time with self-promotion.

I first met Rachel when she joined the interactive agency I was working at as the Managing Director. Rachel is brings what I think is a truly magical mix of experience and insight to discussion about technology in business or the public sector – she has a strong understanding of technology (current and potential future), respect for and engagement with creativity and design and strong business sensibilities.

After a brief dabble with architecture, much of Rachel’s work was as a Producer in the film industry. In more recent years, many an interactive employee has been given the title ‘producer’ but I think that, particularly from the  business side of things, interactive producers could learn a lot from our film counterparts and the tricky path they walk between the competing demands of the creative genius and the investors.

Rachel has since extended her reach into technology, particularly web based technology and, although she may not be a ‘rock star’ on the interactive scene, her influence extends far beyond the bounds that many of more public players. Rachel is, I think, the only woman I know who declines dinner invitations because she has board meetings to attend. I probably should have interviewed her in advance of writing this post, but off hand I know that she has been a board member of AIMIA (the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association) and Choice (the consumer advocate) for some time – I’m sure there are many others among this. She’s always involved in one committee or another either advising or lobbying the Australian Federal Government to act sensibly with regards to the internet (and goodness knows they need it!). Rachel is acting at a level that many of us only aspire to and others of us know we’ll never quite be up to!

For myself, I have long since abandoned any hope of achieving such a broadranging expertise myself, but it has been inspirational to have been in such close quarters with someone who can really hold their own in each of these three quite different arenas.

It is hard for me to quantify what it is that I have learned from working with and knowing Rachel. In some ways, some of insights she has given me are tiny little, almost-self-obvious nuggets. One that I think about probably at least once a week is to think about the medium I’m using to communicate – don’t default to email. Don’t underestimate the power of the telephone, or better still, meeting in person.

For better or worse, it was through Rachel that I first found myself speaking at a conference – doing an appalling job of trying to squeeze 30 minutes of content into 10 minutes on a panel, but also meeting some incredible people and (obviously) getting a little hooked on the experience.

On the grander scale though, Rachel’s confidence in herself and those around her, and her willingness to engage in such a comprehensive way with the challenges she takes on for herself, and perhaps even her inability to say ‘no’, has been and continues to be an inspiration. So, from me and from the others that I know you’ve similarly touched, thank you! I sincerely hope we have the opportunity to work together again in the future.

ALSO: if I were going to update – staging site

Over the last few months of last year you have have seen or, hopefully, engaged with the project to redesign the website.

It’s been a while since we’ve posted an update, but I’m really excited to say that despite the quiet here, the Drupal community have been busy working on the new site and it is really starting to come together beautifully.

Want to check it out? You can find it over on the staging server at – the username and password are “demo” (not sure exactly why it’s protected, but, nevermind.

There’s still lots of work to do, but we’re really happy with how it is looking and really impressed that the community has been able to pull together and get so far with the work so quickly – well done all! We look forward to seeing it get closer to going live.

Drupal7UX – Pimp Your Admin

You might remember we mentioned that we were going to kick off an activity we call ‘Pimp Your Admin’ at the recent Drupalcon conference – we have a few interesting screencasts already and now we’d like to invite you to join in!

One of the great things about Drupal is that you can bend it to your will – get it to do just about anything you need it to do. Same goes for it’s administration interface (admin).

Before we get to work on the Drupal7 Admin, we’d love to see what you out there have done to make the Drupal Admin System do what you need it to do, or just to work better for you and your project.

Here’s how we want to do it – simply take a little screencast, it seems to take us about six or seven minutes – and walk us through your admin system and show us what you’ve done, even if it’s just something tiny – to make Drupal work better for you.

You can check out some examples that others have done at the Drupal7UX YouTube Group then once you’ve recorded yours, upload it and post it to the group so we can take a look. (Of course, if you’d rather host it elsewhere, you can just leave a link to your preferred location in the comments below (thanks Brandonian, we’ve got a note of yours!)

We’re really looking forward to seeing your work and to see if some interesting trends start to emerge!

update: for those who ask, we’ve been using Silverback to record our screencasts. If you’re a Mac user and interested in User Experience you should have Silverback. It’s great and ridiculously affordable.

Understanding our Audience (Part 1) – Drupal7 UX Project

We’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to develop a framework to understand and frame the Drupal7 Audience in such a way as we can successfully design for them. We thought you might be interested in seeing some of our thinking to date, so we recorded a quick chat about it in the video above. (I really should do my hair before videoing myself!)

As an overview, here is the outline of what we’re thinking:

There are three important user attributes: role, type of site, and size/complexity of the user ecosystem(number of users in the system and no. of different roles defined).

Important roles:
– end user (define here)
– editor
– site builder
– site administrator

Important site types:
– blog
– news/publishing
– groups
– events

Important ecosystems
– single user
– 2-5 users
– 5-15 users
-more than 15 users
(need to work out a way to define number of user roles as well)

This is still very much work in progress and there is more thinking to be done – stay tuned. Meanwhile, I think we need to come up with a fancy word for our little audience prototype thingy.

[x-posted at]