Origin Stories

Connie Harper

I am a database designer, and user interface programmer. My first experience with Historians came from a part time job designing a database to collect veteran data for the University of Central Florida’s Veterans History Project. I was struck by the fact that each time I told the professors that I could do something, they said, “Really?”. Each time they didn’t like something, I told them I would change it, they seemed very surprised and happy to think that something could be changed. This was in stark contrast to working at a software development company where the sales people demand features not yet designed and wonder why you cannot produce them immediately. Another big difference when working with Historians is that they seem to be afraid that they will “break” the computer or that they will do something wrong. I try to explain, that if the program is not intuitive or if there is an error we can work together to find a solution. My purpose is to solve problems, and facilitate the end-user’s work. The computer is a tool used to collect data and find relationships in the data. It’s a tool to help expand their research to larger data sets, or to store and organize larger amounts of data. Software can help display results and summarize conclusions of research in meaningful ways, and also allow more people access to those results. One of the best things about being a programmer is trying to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and use the software as they would. This is especially difficult when your users are not necessarily computer literate. But it’s challenging and rewarding, and if it’s not working – I’ll fix it.