Skilltype @ ALA Midwinter 2019: Taking the Road Less Travelled

In typical Skilltype fashion, our presence at ALA Midwinter 2019 in Seattle was non-traditional. Mainly because as a startup, exhibit hall real estate isn’t the most fiscally responsible investment. But also because brands that launch at ALA in the sea of vendors simply to fade into oblivion. Why spend all of that money to cross your fingers in hope that the right people stop by your “little booth that could”, when in actuality the people who stop by just want to know if you’re raffling off an Apple Watch.

So instead, I saved money, called up some friends, and connected the Skilltype way.

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Announcing Skilltype Working Groups

The amount of one-off feedback we receive has finally become overwhelming. This is what we needed to pull the trigger on creating more formal ways for the community to shape the product and policy decisions at Skilltype. We’re thrilled to announce 7 working groups, led by members of the community to create formal feedback loops to the Skilltype team. As of January 2nd, all 6 groups have open slots, and some still need Chairs and co-chairs.

  1. Assessment: Measuring LIS workforce development

  2. Ethics: Preventing adverse consequences of product decisions

  3. Metadata: Describing the LIS profession

  4. Networks: Sharing expertise across LIS organizations

  5. Skills: Defining professional success across LIS

  6. Training: Democratizing LIS professional development opportunities

Working group membership isn’t limited to our development partners, so regardless of whether your institution is involved, let us know if you’re interested. Aside from helping shape the product and policy that will influence the future of work in libraries, working group participants benefit in the following ways:

  1. Networking and Community Building: Skilltype has 7 development partners and counting, along with a broader community of nearly 200 followers and beta testers who are passionate about the future of talent management in libraries. Working groups are a way to connect with like minded peers and discuss the big issues related to your personal career development and livelihood.

  2. Speaking engagements: Skilltype development partners have already begun submitting proposals to information science conferences around the world

  3. Publishing opportunities: Skilltype development partners are actively responding to calls for proposals in journals such as the Journal of Library Administration, Collaborative Librarianship and others to share findings and experiences with the broader community regarding how Skilltype impacts their organizational talent management practices.

Each group will have an “open house” Google Hangout next month, with work beginning in March. Drop us a note on Slack, Twitter or Email. Or fill in the spreadsheet directly if you’re interested.


December 2018 Product Update

Happy holidays peeps :)

We decided to use the time that you’d be away from your computers to work on our infrastructure. Here are a few highlights.

User Roles

Today, Skilltype views everyone the same. Everyone is limited to logging in, creating, editing, and viewing their profiles. We can also manage personal settings. But to prepare for the launch of organizations next month, we needed to create a way for the app to recognize that certain users (e.g. paying customers) have the permission to create and edit an organization on Skilltype (ROLE_ADMIN), whereas normal users will be limited to viewing the organization (ROLE_USER). Here’s a screenshot of our internal tools to manage user roles across the community. To access this dashboard, you have to be ROLE_SKILLTYPE_ADMIN.

Unique IDs

The second update you won’t see in your UX first-hand, but will position us to deliver a more responsive service over time is creating unique IDs for our vocabularies. Today, the skills, affiliations, and other tags you add to your profile lack unique IDs. In fact, all of those items are being managed in the front end of our web app. This means when one of our back end developers adds a new university as an affiliation, that addition is not reflected automatically on the front end until our front end dev syncs it.

This is not scalable.

With this update, we made two major improvements:

  1. Since we’re launching organizations soon, we took the extra time to work on the admin panel that enables organization admins to manage their organization. We decided to eat our own dog food and create an Org for Skilltype, where we can manage User Roles, but also manage our Vocabularies. Now, Valerie, Harlin, or anyone else on a support shift can add items to any vocabulary directly without having to request a dev to do it.

  2. When we add tags to a vocabulary from the front end now, they are dynamically synced with the back end. And when the Vocabularies API is called in other parts of the app (say, in an upcoming Opportunity page), that page will also be updated in real time.

Props to Jobin on the back end and Jacob on the front end for putting in work on this over the holidays!

Improved Tag Editor

Since opening beta testing last month, there has been a two-way tie for most requested features: 1) being able to select and delete individual tags, and 2) the ability to see the available tags rather than type + auto complete.

v1 Tag Editor. To delete one tag, you had to delete all of the tags that came after it. #Fail

v1 Tag Editor. To delete one tag, you had to delete all of the tags that came after it. #Fail

v2 Tag Editor. With select and delete.

v2 Tag Editor. With select and delete.

v3 Tag Editor. Split screen for select/delete and search/browse.

v3 Tag Editor. Split screen for select/delete and search/browse.

The final version is really a work of usability and accessibility art, thanks to our maestro Paul. We had about 80 messages in a Slack thread on the pros and cons and considerations of searching for tags, browsing for tags, supporting vocabularies with thousands of tags, and more. We settled on a split view that separates select/delete on the left, and filter/search/browse/select on the right. The mobile version doesn’t have a split view, but takes up a full screen width for each of the two sides you see on desktop.

The latest version is being rolled out to beta testers in early January. Our QA process has slowed down for the holidays, but we’ll get back up to speed in the new year.

Until next time!

Team Skilltype



From Libdot to Skilltype

Last month we made the decision to retire the brand that got us started. While I believe we made the right decision for a number of smart reasons I’ll discuss in this post, no one should take away that Libdot didn’t have a fond place in our hearts.

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