About a month ago we had our major planning session for 2017. The idea is to get everyone together for a few days, share and discuss project ideas, and ultimately come up with a plan for what OpenAustralia Foundation should work on over the whole year.
We’ve done quite a few of these sessions now and each one ends up being different. We spent the first day of our most recent session reviewing 2016 and writing down all the things we want to work on – from bugs we want to fix, right through to major new projects we want to work on.
Usually this ends up as a grab bag of amazing new civic projects we’ve been dying to create for Australia. Instead we noticed a distinct theme. Many of the things we most wanted to work on were essentially maintenance tasks – fixing long-standing bugs, paying off technical debt, or improving our infrastructure.
After a bit of thought we realised that this focus is a product of the environment we’ve been in for the last several months. Because Luke and I have been fire-fighting some challenging stability problems with our projects we weren’t in the frame of mind to come up with more projects to create – and maintain!
This made us remember another important thing too. In the more than 8 years that OpenAustralia Foundation has been creating civic projects we’ve seen a lot of other projects come and, sadly, go. A defining characteristic of our projects is that we maintain them. It’s one thing to create a shiny new project but it takes a different level of dedication to maintain things year in, year out. It might sound obvious but a project needs to be maintained for us all to benefit from the civic good and the change it promises to create.
So we’ve decided to dedicate this quarter to some much deserved maintenance work. At our next quarterly planning session in late March we’ll revisit things and see if we’re ready to explore major new projects and features. To help feed that inspiration we’re going to experiment with talking to different groups of people creating change in Australia that might benefit from some civic tech goodness.
The nuts and bolts
To do this work we decided to create a backlog in a Trello board and just start working through it, instead of estimating and scheduling projects like we have done to date. Here’s a selection of things we’ve already done:
- Fixing the exhausted disk space on morph.io (This was done due to a huge effort by volunteer Lindsay Holmwood – thank you Lindsay!)
- Helping with a bunch of outstanding support requests from patient morph.io users on the forum
- Creating and installing new HTTPS certificates for all of our sites
- Preparing our accounts and our Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Annual Information Statement
- Upgrading Ruby on PlanningAlerts and They Vote For You (thanks to Daniel O’Connor for his help with this)
- Upgrading Gems used by PlanningAlerts and They Vote For You (thanks to Daniel again for his help with this too)
- Fixing PlanningAlerts deployment
- Merging several volunteer contributions to PlanningAlerts and They Vote For You (Thanks Mario, Riyuzakii, and Daniel!)
- Fixing disk space exhaustion that was causing outages on Cuttlefish (this work is still ongoing)
And some of the things we’ve got in the backlog:
- Progressing our work on the OGP, starting with writing several blog posts about the process so far and the next steps
- Deploying politician data updates to OpenAustralia.org and They Vote For You that Micaela has been working on
- Finishing our work on creating PlanningAlerts Backers
- AdWords work for Right To Know, including our final training session
- Working out what the next steps are for our server infrastructure in preparation for our main server’s OS needing an upgrade very soon
- Upgrading Alaveteli, the software that powers Right To Know
- Making it easy for volunteers to update PlanningAlerts Ask Your Councillors data
- Making the OAF website usable on mobile
- Clearing the Cuttlefish blacklist to attempt delivery to some people that might be missing their alerts
Here’s to showing our projects some extra maintenance love :)