This is my first contribution to the Accretionary Wedge geology themed community blog. Charles Carrigan over at Earth-like Planet is hosting this months topic where he posts the question, "how do you perceive technology impacting the work that you do?" My perception of technology has matured, and will likely continue to change, but here are a few ways in which technology works for us at Agile.
I was at a session in December where one of the activities was to come up with one (and only one) defining superpower. A comic-bookification of my identity. What is the thing that defines you? The thing that you are or will be known for? It was an awkward experience for most, a bold introspection to quickly pull out a memorable, but not too cheesy, superpower that fit our life. I contemplated my superhuman intelligence, and freakish strength... too immodest. The right choice was invisibility. That's my superpower. Transparency, WYSIWYG, nakedness, openness. And I realize now that my superpower is, not coincidentally, aligned with Agile's approach to technology.
For some, technology is the conspicuous interface between us and our work. But conspicuous technology constrains your work, ordains it even. The real challenge is to use technology in a way that makes it invisible. Matt reminds me that how I did it isn't as important as what I did. Making the technology seem invisible means the user must be invisible as well. Ultimately, tools don't matter—they should slip away into the whitespace. Successful technology implementation is camouflaged.
I is for iterate
Technology is not a source of ideas or insights, such as you'd find in the mind of an experienced explorationist or in a detailed cross-section or map. I'm sure you could draw a better map by hand. Technology is only a vehicle that can deliver the mind's inner constructs; it's not a replacement for vision or wisdom. Language or vocabulary has nothing to do with it. Technology is the enabler of iteration.
So why don't we iterate more in our scientific work? Because it takes too long? Maybe that's true for a hand-drawn contour map, but technology is reducing the burden of iteration. Because we have never been taught humility? Maybe that stems from the way we learned to learn: homework assignments have exact solutions (and are done only once), and re-writing an exam is unheard of (unless you flunked it the first time around).
What about writing an exam twice to demonstrate mastery? What about reading a book twice, in two different ways? Once passively in your head, and once actively—at a slower pace, taking notes. I believe the more ways you can interact with your media, data, or content, the better work will be done. Students assume that the cost required to iterate outweighs the benefits, but that is no longer the case with digital workflows. Embracing technology's capacity to iterate seemlessly and reliably is what a makes a grand impact in our work.
What do we use?
Agile strives to be open as a matter of principle, so when it comes to software we go for open source by default. Matt wrote recently about the applications and workstations that we use.