Podcast review: Open paren – A new podcast about coders in the library

Open Paren is a new podcast about 'libraryland coders doing really cool stuff'. It's produced by Andromeda Yelton who promises that it will remain an ‘exercise in incrementalism’ and there will be no set schedule.

The first two episodes of Open Paren are now available and so far it's everything that I'd hoped for when I read the original announcement a week or so ago.

Andromeda is a ‘Director-at-Large’ for the Library and Information Technology Association and also does a lot of work teaching librarians to code - she was behind the recent Library Technology Report, "Coding for Librarians: Learning by Example".

The first episode is a fantastic, rambly, multi-faceted conversation between Andromeda and Cecily Walker who works at the Vancouver Public Library and is also on the Editorial Board of In the Library with the Lead Pipe (among other things).

A question about favourite library projects spirals into a discussion about critical and meaningful UX that touches on a blog post by Miriam Posner, the Knotted Line, biases inherent in UI design, Cecily’s experiences trying to build meaningful narratives into a recent quilt digitisation project, Maptime, problematic metadata and lots of other interrelated areas that make you rethink the assumptions we build into user interfaces and systems design practices.

For the record, Cecily really rates the SkillsCrush approach using blueprints and an active, responsive Mightybell online community but they’ve both tried out a lot of different approaches to learning new tech skills online. And I definitely found myself nodding in agreement during the discussion about the pressure to learn to ‘think like a programmer’ and whether that really matters (thankfully I was listening at home, not on a bus or anything).

The second episode will appeal more to those in the DevOps side of things with a lot of useful information for those managing systems architecture about the pros and cons of tools like Docker and Ansible.

Francis Kayiwa is a Senior Unix Administrator at Virginia Tech University Libraries. And while it’s not the main focus of the interview, I'm totally fascinated by the part of the conversation about how Francis telecommutes via a ‘a telepresence double robotics robot’ -- something that I’d only ever seen in an episode of The Good Wife.

There’s a stack of useful, applicable advice in the discussion between Francis and Andromeda about managing the tech infrastructure in a big library as well as the current state of things in the devops/sysadmin scene.

The episodes are available on YouTube as well as via Audio subscription. The only major difference is the possibility of a cameo from the host’s cat in the video version (so choose your format wisely).

You can check out the list of upcoming guests (and suggest interviewees for future episodes) via the website at: https://thatandromeda.github.io/open_paren/

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