Wednesday, September 4, 2013

I've caught the car. Now what? BRQ part II

I've been asked how to go about "teaching" the Questions.  The short answer is that I'm not sure.  The longer answer has me channeling my grandmother when I asked her how to season my first new cast-iron skillet: "Put food in it and cook it".  In other words, act normally.  Do what you've done before except with this new thing.

Of course it's not quite that simple.  I fried a lot of chorizo and eggs in my skillet before trying more complex dishes involving potatoes and onions and peppers (acidic stuff).  I did try "traditional" seasoning on the next pan and I couldn't discern any difference between the two after a while.

As for the Questions, I haven't "taught" them to enough people to say "This Is How It's Done."  How I lived it was by having them close by when I needed to tackle something.  I wrote about some of that in "Shut Up".

The original set of questions (I think there were seven) grew out of a need to assist people in setting up intranet sites on SharePoint.  After a year of missteps, I finally drew up a document of what a site needed to have in order to be useful: group sites had a list of members, a calendar of their meetings, and document libraries for agendas and minutes.  Project sites had announcement lists for milestones, lists of stakeholders, etc.

Common to all sites were the Operational Questions, which boiled down to, "who is going to feed this kitten and clean the litter box?"  Once I got answers back on who was doing what and where and when, I was able to organize a new site without a lot of difficulty or confusion.  The only problems that came up after that had to do with personnel changes that come naturally with turnover.  Eventually people learned to ask for a specific kind of site and do the organizing and training themselves.

The Directional Questions started making sense to me in the context of Digital collections and what was big at the time, electronic Institutional Repositories.  Repositories were to be static collections of digitized works: theses, dissertations, articles, visual performances, music.  Nothing would be expected of the user except to consume it somehow.  Having met the Internet, I didn't think that would fly for very long, and in fact it's had a mixed record.

Having people use them hasn't been easy, even sometimes for me.  They can be too broad if you're just trying to tackle something simple

If you want to "teach" or "live" the questions, I'd say print out the Official Doc on that other tab up there and keep it handy.  The Big Red Question might be the one you use the most often, and it's most useful when you make it a habit of your own.

If you find yourself with a pile of problems to solve, the Directional Questions can help you winnow them down or at least categorize them.

Once you have your priorities set, you can start in on the Operational Questions if you're starting a new site or service.  They're also useful if you have an orphaned site or service.  That is, if you haven't already killed it off with the BRQ or the Directional Questions.

TL;DR - Those who can, do & teach.

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