As noted by Nathaniel Heller in his blog post, “Why Non-Profits Don't Need to Learn to Code,” everyone does not need to learn to code, but I would argue that those who use technology (and these days that’s about everyone), should understand a few root concepts that are the underlying structure of creating files and data.
If the masses don’t learn fundamental concepts like creating data, text files using ASCII characters, Unicode, UTF-8 compliant, binary code and strings, then how will they understand the interaction between different programs and files that need to interact with each other in order to get their work done? If we are really going to do anything with all of the “big data” that exists in the world, we have to know how to properly format it for importation and exportation to different platforms or computer systems so things can work together in a more integrated fashion.
Today, thanks to designers and userface specialists, we don’t always think about the fundamental components that make technology function – the wheels, so to speak. But to really manipulate the world around us using technology, I believe that like learning math, writing, legalize, accounting and where your food comes from, people should also know how to save files in order to convert their data or text into other formats or programs and that some of these pretty to use interfaces are doing us a disservice.
I am afraid that if we don't step back and start to understand how design and coding complement each other, then we will be living in a world where the people who create technology and the people who consume it will not know how to integrate their systems, thus making technology a tool that creates more problems than it solves.
We have kept these problems in mind when developing a new side of our INDABA Platform, Control Panel. Its purpose is to enable clients of the platform to manage their own project setup and day-to-day management of a their project. Before we launch Control Panel I will spend a lot of time documenting our platform but just as many, if not more, educating people about how to use it.
This is very critical because importing information to and from INDABA is paramount for users who are building questionnaires and complex processes. Therefore, our partners/clients must understand the very basics that still works across all technologies.
As noted by our brilliant developer, Yan Cheng at Open Concept Systems, “this is why we don't/can't use EXCEL as the way to import/export data, because it is proprietary and has a useless ‘pretty layer’ as far as data exchange is concerned.” This is why we instead choose pure-text based, open-standard based approach, the CSV.
INDABA is an international platform that must support languages across the world. UTF-8 is extremely popular and mature, and is a recognized standard everywhere. The unfortunate is that MSFT software doesn't have good UTF-8 support (this still puzzles me why).
As a group working to bridge this technology and information gap, we will continue to document our experiences and provide thoughts on how the community as a whole can work through communication styles to ensure a more cohesive transference of information and data.
— Monika Shepard
–Photo by Hazel Feigenblatt