Trying out the blog…

7

It is an odd thing being the first Chief Technology Officer for Harvard University. There is no history of what the job entails. There is no precedent. I am, quite frankly, making things up as I go along (with the help and advice of others, of course).

But that is part of the attraction of the job. I’ve been a software developer most of my life, and I have always enjoyed the activity of building things. Now I have a chance to build something that (among other things) builds software. Raising the activity up a meta-level means thinking about things differently, and trying things that I’ve not done before.

Now is an exciting time to be in information technology at Harvard. There are a lot of folks who understand that technology is key to the way the university will work moving forward, and are willing to try new things. While there is always some resistance to change (especially at an institution that has been so successful in the past), I believe that there is a real chance of doing some transformative things as CTO.

The purpose of this blog is to communicate what I am doing, and to hear from readers if they think that this is the right set of things to do. I’m hoping that this (along with some other things that I’m trying out) will become a mechanism for two-way communication on the changes that we will be undertaking. I remember once being told that people like change, but resist being changed, so it is important to bring them in to the discussion of what is going to change and how the change is going to happen. I’ll try to be as transparent as I can in writing this, and hope that any readers are honest with me about their own thoughts.

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7 Comments »

  1. djcp

    July 25, 2011 @ 8:22 pm

    1

    Mr. Waldo (Jim?),

    I am an ABCD lurker and the senior dev / sysadmin at Berkman in charge of blogs.law.harvard.edu.

    I was VERY happy to read in the ABCD minutes about your love of free/open source software. Berkman has a deep-seated commitment to open source and are working to integrate publishing as much of our code as we can (and that makes sense). We are pretty much at the point where everything non-trivial that we write at Berkman is open source – why not?

    Our github portal account here:
    https://github.com/berkmancenter/

    I’m looking forward to reading about your plans for free/open source and the Harvard tech community.

  2. waldo

    July 25, 2011 @ 8:29 pm

    2

    Great to hear from you– and it is Jim.

    I’ll take a look at the github portal. I think that folks have the right desires and the right directions. But the fact that the law school is using git, while the Med school seems to be using Subversion, points to a coordination problem. Maybe it isn’t a problem, but we will see.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment, and keep reading (and commenting)

  3. djcp

    July 25, 2011 @ 9:13 pm

    3

    github is more for those projects we’re looking to collaborate externally on, or that we think might have direct use to the world at large. We use subversion, too. I use subversion *through* git too, just to muddy the waters a bit more.

    Also – to clarify – Berkman’s tech choices definitely don’t speak for the law school, given our position as a University-wide initiative. We still have strong ties with HLS, of course, but we’re more loosely coupled, IT-wise.

    Happy to talk more at some point about our tech team and workflow here at Berkman.

    All disclaimers about who can speak for whom apply – I’m a techie first and foremost.

    Thanks for blogging!

  4. Ruby Bright

    July 26, 2011 @ 6:46 pm

    4

    One of the things that I think many ‘grand institutions’ have an issue with is truly being forward when it comes to technology – I think it is great that you are addressing this head on. It is a strange beast to think that the most successful and longest standing organizations, whether it is a company or a university, are the ones often most reticent about plunging into the unknown. It’s worked so far, why do we need to change?, they say, while the fledgling take chances in the world of technology that are paying off.

    How do you get buy in for institutional change when the culture is exactly as you have described it? Rooted in success and afraid to take chances?

  5. Philip Durbin

    July 26, 2011 @ 8:11 pm

    5

    Hi Jim, I just thought I’d link to the minutes of your July 2011 ABCD presentation for anyone who hasn’t seen them: https://www.abcd.harvard.edu/harvard/groups/archives/abcd/2011/msg00181.html . I especially like you asking there, “why not open source everything by default?” I appreciate your transparency and look forward to seeing updates to this blog in my feed reader.

  6. Phen

    August 15, 2011 @ 5:41 pm

    6

    I’m looking forward to reading about your plans for free/open source and the Harvard tech community.

  7. Phen

    September 29, 2011 @ 4:55 am

    7

    – to clarify – Berkman’s tech choices definitely don’t speak for the law school, given our position as a University-wide initiative. We still have strong ties with HLS, of course, but we’re more loosely coupled, IT-wise

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