Weeknote 15/11/19

Reflections

Ah, LocalGovCamp. It went well, I think, despite (perhaps because of) the fact that I missed the social bit the night before due to a spot of, ah, gastric issues. This meant I turned up fresh as a daisy and was able to concentrate.

The sense of community is strong still with LocalGovCamp and more could be done with it. We have a chat within LocalGovDigital shortly to see what happens next – not just with the ‘Camp but the network generally. A highly motivated, self-supporting group like this isn’t to be sniffed at, and is I think an important part of the patchwork of initiatives that can support improvement across the sector (including central gov inputs via Paul Maltby’s excellent team, plus others like the LGA, LOTI, and suppliers too).

I think there’s a need for LocalGovDigital the network to assess what it is good at and what is – for perfectly good reasons – beyond it. Individuals within the community probably need to do the same, especially me. I’m a good champion for the community I think, a tub thumper and a rabble rouser, but I don’t have much time or indeed skill for doing some of the doing that needs doing.

Gone well

LocalGovCamp – see above.

Some really great people have been joining the team in Croydon and it’s having an impact. That’s good. New roles, and new people – more capacity sure, but also capability, people who can do things and help out in a way that wasn’t possible before. I’m already seeing existing members of the team respond positively to it as well which is exactly what we want to see.

I’ve been improving lately, I think, at providing more feedback and engagement with folk in various bits of the team. I probably need to structure this better as it’s pretty ad hoc, but equally don’t want to over-formalise and lose some of the spontaneity which, to my mind, adds value.

Room for improvement

I missed a school governors’ meeting because I forgot about it, so as always let’s put diary management as something I could improve.

Cultural input

One thought led to another and I ended up spending a fair bit of listening time on Godspeed You! Black Emperor, who are wonderful of course but also sometimes easy to forget.

I listened to the Radio 4’s book of the week thing about Anarchy, a history of the East India Company. Good stuff but it gave away just too much, so I don’t feel the need to read the actual book.

(Incidentally I listened to it via the BBC Sounds app, which is a travesty of usability, but also of not really knowing what itself is.)

I’ve not done much reading but have looked longingly at Rachel Cusk’s Transit and Kudos, having thoroughly enjoyed Outline earlier in the year. They sit on the bookshelf, mocking me and my tiredness.

On telly, I binged the first series of The End of the F**king World which was terrific – unsettling and darkly amusing. Perfect.

Weeknote 8/11/19

I may publish these on different days, but will always title them as the Friday of the week they cover.

Reflections

It’s LocalGovCamp this week, 10 years after the first. A rather different event than that one – it’s a weekday, it has an agenda. But that’s just an indicator of where we are these days in the sector, I think. This stuff is pretty mainstream, it’s people’s actual jobs and so the event reflects that.

It’s a bit sad that the unconference element isn’t there this year, but last year it did feel very flat after the energy of the Friday. My head injury didn’t help my own experience of the unconference, admittedly. Maybe we can bring it back, but separate it from the more formal event. Or maybe we just don’t need it anymore. It’s not like anyone is complaining.

Gone well

Two really interesting conversations, the sort I love and need to find more opportunities to have. The first was with a very early stage start up, looking to see if we’d be interested in their prototype offer around reducing loneliness. It sparked a fascinating (to me!) discussion about where the value in their proposition was. For me it wasn’t the tech (pretty standard service directory) but in the demand aggregation and market creation and energising they could provide.

Second was with our adult education service, where we are helping with some equipment upgrades and things. Part of that work involves a new virtual learning environment, which provides an opportunity to rethink the model of delivery as a whole. Gave me a chance to mull on Raymond Williams, Ivan Ilich and how they are still relevant in the digital age, as well as reminisce about lovely things like School of Everything, which seems to be still alive but only just. Hopefully these chats can formalise a bit into experiments into how this stuff can work in practice.

I booked a week off, so yay. No plans for it other than a much needed eye test. There are lots of books that need reading!

Room for improvement

I let things get on top of me on a couple of occasions this week. Sometimes I worry that I am too emotionally involved in my work – I take everything so personally! Of course the flip side of this is that it’s that approach that means I’m motivated to do good things. Still, maybe I should try and balance it a bit better.

Cultural input

I started reading Jon Savage’s new Joy Division book, which I’m thoroughly enjoying. I can’t claim Joy Division belong to me – they mean too much to too many other people – but they’ve always been an important band in my life. Interestingly I appreciate them more and more as I get older. I wonder what it is about the music made by very young men at the start of their career that somehow resonates so much with duffers like me.

Anyway, my standard Joy Division tip: as well as the excellent studio albums, do dig out the live recordings which reflect another side of their work: more angry, quicker, and louder.

The Joy Division reading of course had my mind making links all over the place and it got me digging into Krautrock, which I’d never really explored much. Early days, but I’m very much enjoying bits of Neu! and Harmonia in particular.

I had my fortnightly long drive up to Lincolnshire and back this weekend which gave me the chance to listen to some more of Underland, Robert MacFarlane’s new book, on Audible. It’s extremely good (although I find some of the bits talking about caving and other claustrophobic topics terrifying) and I thoroughly recommend it – and I do wonder if his books work better spoken aloud than read to oneself internally.

Weeknote 1/11/19

Inspired by Annie, here goes. Format open to change as things progress.

Reflections

Mood has been a little low this week. Am getting over a cold – nothing lethal – which has left me a bit tired and meh. In order to sleep I imbibed Night Nurse for probably too many nights in a row than would be considered good practice, resulting in a certain fogginess of mind which didn’t help. I’ve gone cold turkey on that now, with positive results.

My daughter was 7 last weekend. She’s growing up fast. I don’t want to miss as much of it as I am.

Gone well

We had plenty of visits from people at work this week, which was nice as it gives us a chance, in articulating where we are going and where we are currently at, to reflect on how well (or not) we are doing. That I am writing these words under this particular heading should indicate I reckon we are doing ok. Always more to do of course! But I recognise the fortunate position we are in, and the good work we are able to do as a result.

We won a couple of dollops of central government cash to support some work we are doing with other councils, which was nice. My role was very much on the margins, but well done team.

Also – I’ve published something on this blog! There’s a result. I ought to get something written for the other one too, in fact have a couple of posts brewing, but need to get them done. It’s important! I keep telling people that. I should listen to myself, on this topic anyway.

Room for improvement

I need to get a better handle on what my actual job to be done is – I’ve found in the last 10 months or so I have a tendency to get sucked into detail. Sometimes that right, but other times it isn’t the best use of my time, or the talents of others, and I need to check why I’m feeling the need to intervene in certain areas, and whether I am better stepping back and letting the others just get on with it. Mostly I should do that.

But then, detail! It’s so intoxicating.

A colleague left the team, which I regret, and I wonder what I should have done to ensure they didn’t. Again, maybe I am overestimating my ability to influence such matters. Even so.

I need to take some holiday. I think I’m still in contractor-mode, trying to reduce my number of non-working weeks as much as possible. But that doesn’t work now, and I’ll probably get in trouble with NeillyNeil as well as HR if I don’t take some leave soon. Also: rest.

Cultural input

Limited due to cold-induced brain rot (I’ve spent a lot of my time playing some truly terrible games on my phone).

However I did manage to enjoy Clive James’ short collection of articles about Larkin, which I recommend to anybody who likes that sort of thing, by which I mean Larkin.

Nick Cave’s new album has had plenty of airplay.

Rebooting working out loud

I’m three months into my new job and that seems a good time to reflect on how things are going. I’ll save the meat of that for another post, because this one is about how I am working within my network, or rather how I’m not very much at the moment.

I haven’t posted to this blog for some time, and most of that was just links – however recently even that has dried up. I’ve not even bookmarked anything, nor saved any items to read later in Evernote. My email newsletter has equally dried up.

The reason for this is that I’m not reading much. I’m still pretty old school and use a feed reader, and the counter on that read 5,000 unread items yesterday evening. To be honest I think it’s said that for a while and it just stopped bothering counting after that. I hit the “mark all read” switch on it this morning. It felt good.

Does this matter? I think it does because in many ways I am what I read, in that all my best work comes on the back of having read something that someone much cleverer or more accomplished than me has published. Without that stream of ideas coming in, being thought about and then regurgitated with my own half-baked spin on them, I’m missing something pretty important, and I’m sure my work suffers.

Not only that but my role in my network takes a hit too. I’ve always prided myself on being a good curator of interesting stuff for the people who follow me on this blog, or on Twitter, or subscribe to my newsletter. Having that active network has helped me a lot in the past, whether by opening up opportunities or simply sharing ideas and feedback. Not having that loop in place leaves me feeling somewhat bereft.

So what am I going to do about it?

I need to find a new rhythm, one that works for me in my new role. Part of this is about technology and tools, part about how I manage my time, and part about finding the right forms to work with.

First, I need to carve out some time everyday to do some reading. The fact that I spend an hour on the train every morning and evening ought to provide a good opportunity to do that, and perhaps if I didn’t get sucked into taking the chance to write one more email, I could use that time productively to scan through what my various RSS and email subscriptions throw up.

Key to making this work though is moving from what has been a pretty traditional laptop based mode of working to being mostly operated from my phone. This is because I can’t really do this effectively from my work corporate laptop, and I’m not lugging two computers around everyday. So I need to look at the apps I am using to make it as easy as possible on my phone.

Second, I need to figure out a workflow for sharing good stuff back out to my network. This has worked well in the past through bookmarking using Pinboard, which then fires off some IFTTT applets to ping content out to Twitter, into link posts on this blog, and into Evernote to read later or consider for inclusion in my newsletter. I need to get this back on track and ensure it still works, particularly when I am mostly working from my phone.

Third, I need to experiment a bit with how I publish content, particularly here on the blog. I’m not convinced the basic link posts that dominated for most of last year are a great use of this space – they are better suited to a medium like Twitter, and to be collected together in the newsletter. I’m really intrigued by the weeknote format that Jukesie has been popularising, and I do believe it would be healthy for me to be able to post reflective pieces here to get a better understanding of how I am progressing things at work, whilst hopefully sharing something useful for readers. There are a few different formats for weeknotes, some that baldly state what happened that week, others more reflective and personal. I think I’ll probably aim for the latter, but as with most things, it’ll probably take a few goes to get the tone and format right.

I also need to consider how I use the other platforms available to me. We have the work blog of course, for which I am contractually obliged to produce content. We also have a thriving internal network of Teams, to which it’s helpful to curate and post links and content to share with colleagues. I don’t want to end up duplicating loads of stuff and copying and pasting content from one place to another, so that might need a little thought.

Restarting the newsletter is also important to me. It’s been bothering me that I haven’t sent one out in ages and it’s a shame, because it used to get a load of good feedback. I suspect perhaps switching it from weekly to fortnightly might help ease some of the burden. The newsletter though is something that I will struggle to do from my phone. Whilst it’s technically possible, it would probably drive me mad attempting it!

In summary then, I need to find some time and space to read and research, come up with a mobile-centric workflow for writing and sharing interesting things with my network, and experiment with new forms of writing that fit in with the above whilst bring value to me and to my network. Seems reasonable, but probably not that easy.

If anyone has any ideas, I’d be really interested to hear them!

LINK: “What’s happening with the service standard?”

We first talked about updating the service standard around a year ago. Since then, we’ve talked to hundreds of people in central and local government.

It’s still a work in progress, but we think we’re getting close to a final draft which supports the government’s ambition to deliver joined up, end to end services that meet user needs. So we thought it would be useful to provide some details about the direction it’s going in.

Original: https://gds.blog.gov.uk/2018/09/12/whats-happening-with-the-service-standard/

LINK: “Salesforce adds low-code tools so everyone can automate their CRM workflow”

Probably the most important aspect of the new tools announced today is that they are based on the Lightning Design System, and so form part of the entire landscape of tools used to build Salesforce CRM applications. In earlier generations of the Salesforce platform, people often came up against what insiders used to call a ‘declarative cliff’, where they would come up against one small element that couldn’t be done via point-and-click, and then the whole process would have to be coded from scratch. Because the new tools are part of a single platform, the objects and process flows they create can be fine-tuned in Lightning App Builder, or handed over to a developer for more in-depth coding as required.

Original: https://diginomica.com/2018/09/13/salesforce-adds-low-code-tools-everyone-automate-crm-workflow/