9Apr

Toolkits Sprouting up

Toolkits are important for any project, but should be embedded into software or on a usable website. The other day I was shopping for personal business cards, so I hopped onto Moo Cards. As any software developer or community manager knows, you are always “on” when it comes to great work. What do you see in other products, communities and programmes that you can learn from and potentially grow your own projects better. Moo Cards really inspired me by taking a process and making it user-friendly and fun. Simplicity at its best.

I’ve created, reviewed and advised a number of toolkit projects. While at Ushahidi, we helped take the important toolkit research and embed it into the design for the next Ushahidi version. End users can and should contribute to and ever change software to serve their purposes. We took the Ushahidi toolkits and remixed them for the Kenyan elections using Atlassian Confluence wiki software. This way the documents can be more sustainable and remixable.

Tulips

Toolkits everywhere

Lately, it seems that every ICT or social technology programme is booting up a toolkit project. Why? Well, there are gaps in process, gaps in software and, most of all, big opportunities to learn and share. I like to think of toolkits as the new handbook, but often well-written in clear language that is easily translatable across domains of knowledge. We are in a toolkit frenzy. Even I’ve even written before about the Community Manager toolkit.

I think that we have a lot to learn about building toolkits that have the following attributes:

  • Easy to use
  • Translatable/Localize ready
  • Remixable (on github or a wiki)
  • Plain, Clear and concise text (eg. web copyediting)
  • Easy to learn
  • Delivers to many audience levels across domains (eg. types of users from different fields)

The next time I am building a toolkit, I am going to use the Moo Cards Test. If it can address those elements, but still serve the end goal, then great. It is hard to serve so many masters and audiences. Given some of the core missions of development or technology for good toolkits, it is worth the effort to communicate right.

Recent Toolkits

There seems to be a launchfest around new toolkits lately. It is super exciting to review them. From open data to open development to evidence-based research to building better social innovation, these projects have you covered. The best part is that all the projects are open for feedback and continue to improve based on community input.

Happy learning and doing.

(Photo: Tulips from my garden (last year and soon to be this year.))

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