Shuttleworth Update Week 2: the "heartbeat of the project"

I am so excited to be supported by Shuttleworth – I’m still running round in circles working out where to go. The reason is that the support is massive. Not just money, but mentoring, experience, etc. And especially the heartbeats.
Projects benefit massively from having a “heartbeat”. This is something that happens at regular intervals, rain or shine. It keeps focus. It helps redefine deadlines, etc. It should not be judgmental – you say what you have done, intend to do. If you consistently run late then that’s an objective observation. It’s then up to project management to take action. If you over-deliver again management should decide/advise what to do.
I have set myself ambitious tasks in my Fellowship. Some of this assumes that I will get synergy from others I discover. I’m used to long projects – Chemical Markup Language (CML) has been 20 years. But I am also used to projects which take off in weeks (cf SAX where we – communally built an important Internet standard in a month). So I’m always alert to miracles of human collaboration.
But realistically often TTT (Things Take Time, Piet Hein). I don’t know what the speed of the ContentMine will be. I’m getting together a small formal team which I hope to announce soon and I’m making strong contacts with several organisations (more later).
The fantastic thing is that the Shuttleworth Foundation puts massive resources into support for projects. This is beyond anything I have been used to. For research councils there is often no formal support during the project – “here’s the money, tell us in 4 years’ time what you have achieved”. There’s usually little contact with other grantees – often they are your “competitors”. With JISC it was much more intimate – and I appreciated it. JISC had “programmes” with “programme managers”. They have regular contact and I appreciated this. “How can we help with your project? Would you have synergy with organisation X?” and they would run communal days which might be theme or programme-related. For example Dave Flanders got us together in B’ham to discuss “Open Scholarship”.
But Shuttleworth goes beyond this. There are at least three heartbeats:

  • regular two-weekly one-to-one Skypes with staff (Helen Turvey and Karien Bezuidenhout). So last week I had an initial meeting with Helen in Southwark and cam away with such as wonderful feeling of support.
  • A regular Fellowup every week. Here present and past Fellows Skype in confidence – always at the same time. I missed the first (I was in the air) but just managed part of the second. (As I was chairing a meeting on Open Government Data at the time I had to find a chunk in the tea interval. I’ve already received an offer of help from one fellow.
  • a twice yearly physical get-together. I’m really looking forward to this.

I’ve also got a mentor Fellow (“buddy”) whom I already know.
I shall come across problems and opportunities and I now know that I have got a support structure where I can ask the Fellowship and Trust – in confidence – “Help!” Because they’ve probably come across the problems several times already – getting partners, raising money, building a team, legal challenges, political, etc.
My initial actions are roughly:

  • build a team
  • seek partners
  • plan workshops
  • write software and infrastructure
  • advocacy and publicity (mainly blogging).
  • political (as we are at a very active tie with the Hargreaves legislation)

That’s a lot to keep in order . My heartbeats will be critical.

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