The Poplus Project’s conference in Santiago de Chile allowed us to meet with 80 people from 30 different countries that are working toward the same goals and are developers and potential users of Poplus Components.
In our previous weeks in the LatamLab fellowship we have been working with Poplus components such as PopIt (to store personal information and relationships) and BillIt (to store documents), scraping information to fill this databases, but this is nothing to be amazed at, it’s only the base to be able to create quick and deep analysis later on. During the conference it became quite clear that, before going ahead, wasting effort in potentially useless tasks, it’s important to reach out to groups that are actually in need of these kind of tools, so we can make sure that they are actually useful to the groups we want to support.
For instance, something that our research has validated, at least in an indirect way, is that it’s necessary for some kinds of activists and communicators for interest groups to be able quickly select which MP to approach and to discard those who could be a waste of their time (if you read Spanish, you can check out escenario 3 in this research document). For instance, to be able to know if an MP would be open to projects that promote public education or, in the contrary, in favor of privatization of education.
To do that there’s some steps we have to take, and some of them involve complex analysis of a project’s text to know which kinds of concepts it’s promoting or fighting. We can either get that from a group of humans or from AI, if we ever get to collaborate with someone from that field.
So, going back to the conference. It took place Tuesday and Wednesday on the catholic university’s campus in Santiago. We met people from all over the world: Kenya, Guatemala, England, Morocco, USA, Taiwan, Hungary, Germany, Jamaica, Paraguay, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, South Africa, New Zealand, Japan, Estonia and more. The relations between all this people were of absolute amiability and I even think some prejudices were able to be diluted.
We got to know projects about open data, fight against corruption and new ways of online civic collaboration from all of those countries. Here you can check out the list of attendees and the written summary of all of the sessions (a bit misaligned, but VERY complete).
One of the most repeated topics was the need to work hand in hand with the more vulnerable populations to uncover their needs, train them in the use of technology and make sure that our apps serve their goals. I think the methodology of user experience research can be very useful to this goal and that’s why I proposed a session on this topic.
An interesting comment about this, from Tom Steinberg, director of MySociety in England: He interprets bourgeois revolutions in 18th century as a reaction from land owners and businessmen to protect their assets from the kings, this way establishing the system we have today, in which big businesses have more power (usually) than courtesans and royal families. Nonetheless, we still have not gotten to a full political involvement of all social actors, and that’s why we must work for those who are not part of the empowered elite. More details in the document about the impact research session.
Finally, I think we reached some consensus about the goals of the poplus project and about what constitutes poplus a component. It’s necessary to keep working to realize this vision, because there are several components, for instance VotIt, that would be necessary for the site we are building but are not ready yet. So we are going to work the way we can, and then, when components and standards are ready, we will see about implementing them.