Nick Ruest–At the Intersection of Next Gen Islandora and Fedora

The Fedora repository project relies on many individuals and institutions to make the project successful. We are grateful for their commitment and will showcase their contributions in a series of community profiles aimed at recognizing our contributors’ achievements, and introducing them to the rest of the community.

Nick Ruest is a long-time contributor to the Fedora repository team and Islandora. His focus is on Fedora development as it relates to web archiving issues.

• Please share some information about yourself and your interests.

I’m the Digital Assets Librarian at York University. There, I oversee the development of data curation, asset management and preservation initiatives, along with creating and implementing systems that support the capture, description, delivery, and preservation of digital objects having significant content of enduring value.

My professional interests are centred around open source repository platforms, and the sustainability of their communities.

My research interests are investigating and documenting how to track, visualize, and analyze change in web archives. Increasingly, I’m seeing an ever growing intersection between my professional interests/responsibilities and my research area. It’s going to be fascinating to see how this plays out in the years to come.

• How long have you been working with Fedora?

If we count my first mailing list postings where I learned all about setting my environment variables, nine years or so. Fedora has gone from this mysterious black box in my mind, to something I know way too much about now!

• What attracted you to working with the Fedora repository team?

Honesty, the continued positive encouragement of Andrew Woods and David Wilcox. But, also the committers have been great. My confidence was not high early on, but the other committers and contributors were there to help guide me, and provide me a really nice feedback loop right from my first Fedora Tech Call. Another aspect is that the Fedora community in a way is the intersection between the Hydra and Islandora communities, as well as other projects. So, it allows one that opportunity to really engage with a broader section of really great people, and learn about how they use and implement Fedora. So, really the communities.

• What are you working on now?

Currently I’m the Project Director for Islandora CLAW, which is the next generation of Islandora that will bring Drupal 8 and Fedora 4 together in harmony. We’re on track to have an initial release of CLAW at Open Repositories 2017, which aligns with the community-driven Minimum Viable Product document.

I had also been working as the lead on the Fedora Import/Export initiative up until February, but had to back away to focus on local institutional needs at York University in preparation for my sabbatical starting this summer.

The Import/Export work is probably the contribution that I’m most proud of with Fedora. I was privileged to lead three different teams of really talented and wonderful contributors. In the six months on the project, we were able to accomplish nearly all of the phase 1 and phase 2 requirements that are outlined in the Import/Export Design document.

• What aspect(s) of contributing to Fedora development have you found to be particularly rewarding?

Finding a niche and helping, and the feedback you get from there. I’ve really enjoyed my time with the Performance and Scale group. I’ve learned a great deal putting Fedora through its paces, and getting numbers from a variety of institutions has been really helpful to the greater community.

I’ve also really enjoyed both releases I’ve led. I’ve done a number of Islandora releases, and comparing the processes has been really great for both communities. I think we’re constantly learning from each other. Which is a great thing!

Then, finally I’d say the API specification. That’s a place where I had no confidence early one, and after some encouragement from Andrew, I think I’ve found niche helping out. I find the conversations very intellectually challenging at times, but at the end of the day after putting in the time, I have an even better understanding, and I believe the more people that have a better understanding of the API specification, the stronger Fedora is.

• If the Fedora repository platform was a house, what would your next home improvement project be?

Finish the foundation improvements!

For me that directly relates for the API Specification. Fedora has been around a for a long time, and we’ve never really had a shared understanding of what it is. We’ve had a number of interpretations over the years. Some have been competing or at odds with each other, but each one brings in a valued set of user needs. By encoding this is an API specification, we are finally saying, “This is what Fedora is!” And, once we have that, we are able to write software against that specification. A.k.a, build a nice stable house. From there, maybe work on nice doors that will let you import and export furnishings in the house :-)

• Do you have any advice for future Fedora contributors?

Don’t be afraid or intimidated. You don’t have to be an elite Java developer to contribute to the project. Trust me, because I am definitely not one!

Everybody has something they can contribute, and we really do need a wide variety of contributors. This ranges from helping test during releases, helping with documentation, or if you have a niche that you think could help out, let us know! But, that said, sometimes the hardest part is finding the time to contribute. If you want to contribute, and you don’t know if you have the time, reach out to Andrew, David, or one of the committers. They’d be happy to help you work things out. Finally, one of the most import contributions an institution can make to the project, is giving contributor time to it.