Weekly note for 5-9 February 2024

This started off as a daily not for Monday, and has been sat in draft all week as I add more and more to it…


Had a proper chance to watch this and read about it – “Place-Based Public Service Budgets: Making Public Money Work Better for Communities”. Nice bit of big picture thinking around local public services. We need more of this sort of thing.


Bluesky is now open for anyone to join. No more invite codes! It’s like Twitter used to be. See you there?

This is rather lovely from dxw – “Content design: the very first step”.

Looking at Beehiiv as a potential Substack replacement. That spelling though, yikes.

Talking of which, I sent out the first newsletter of the year this week.

Resetting digital government – this piece from Jerry Fishenden has attracted a lot of attention.


In Neil’s recent week note, he linked to a bunch of interesting approaches:


Making a PDF that’s larger than Germany.

This is an interesting piece about YouTube and how content creators chase the revenue, resulting in a worse experience for viewers, and how this is resonant of the way the web went.


Nice video from Giles Turnbull, giving a talk to folk from the state government in British Columbia about using the human voice in communication.


Daily note for 26 January 2024

Remember my course! It might be really helpful for you or a colleague!

Excellent podcast about what Iran is up to these days.

Giles thinks learning materials in organisations ought to be better quality, and of course he is right.

Simon Wardley shares some thoughts on project delivery that are well worth reading.

The Future Councils Playbook is a “set of tools to help you understand complex problems and their impact”. These are useful of course, and as much good practice support we can get out there the better. But a step change in local government digital quality is unlikely to result from such things – we need more.

More Simon Wardley – this is a fun new intro to his mapping, etc:

Yesterday I made use of Colin Stenning’s excellent local gov CMS research to help write an options appraisal for a council’s new website technology. What a legend!

Daily note for 22 January 2024

I am running a 6 week online course about making a success of digital in your organisation. You can find out more and book on the SensibleTech website.

Neil Lawrence’s GovCamp write up (Medium, meh).


AI, data, and public services from Jerry Fishenden:

But technology alone can’t solve complex political, social, and economic problems. And that includes AI. Its evangelists conveniently overlook significant problems with accountability and discrimination, the inherent tendency of some AI models to hallucinate and falsify, and an eye-watering environmental impact. And then add into this toxic mix the inaccurate and derivative nature of systems like ChatGPT…

…Along with the need for a less hyperbolic and more scientific approach to AI itself, the current state of government data isn’t exactly ideal for implementing AI given it relies on access to high quality, accurate data and metadata. But the National Audit Office reports that government “data quality is poor” and “a lack of standards across government has led to inconsistent ways of recording the same data.”


User Centred IT: Why ‘best practice’ isn’t good enough in the domain of IT” (via NeillyNeil).

Sharing our learning from SDinGov 2023” – some lovely nuggets in here from the service transformation team at Essex County Council.

The stuff Jukesie uses.

Daily note for 19 January 2024

A minor innovation in these daily notes – pulling out the occasional quote from some of the links, and then using a horizontal line to provide some separation. Also using the lines to make it clear when a multiple-paragraph comment from me is over.

Like this!:

I Made This”:

In its current state, generative AI breaks the value chain between creators and consumers. We don’t have to reconnect it in exactly the same way it was connected before, but we also can’t just leave it dangling. The historical practice of conferring ownership based on the act of creation still seems sound, but that means we must be able to unambiguously identify that act. And if the same act (absent any prior legal arrangements) confers ownership in one context but not in another, then perhaps it’s not the best candidate.


Designing service at scale” – loads of good reflection and advice in here.

Cool? No. Useful? Probably!

Daily note for 18 January 2023

In a conversation today I got to reference the chicken and pig analogy around project managers, which is something I haven’t done in ages.

I was differentiating between those project mangers without domain knowledge who coordinate, document, follow up on actions, make sure stuff happens, but who don’t really have skin in the game in terms of the outcomes of the project.

Then there are those who really care about the thing they are working on, who are really committed to it succeeding in the long term.

Chickens aren’t always bad and they really do have uses in the right context, but it’s important to know whether you need a chicken or a pig PM on a certain project because it can have a real impact.


“Old people hacks: tips for those of us over 40/50/etc” – sad to say I found much of this quite useful (I turn 45 in May).

“Not another ‘is design thinking dead?’ blog post”:

Maybe the most interesting changes are not in the tools that we so readily focus on, or our methodologies and approaches to innovation and improvement. Maybe we should be paying more attention to the most valuable of resources, the humans, and how we think, behave and work together for change.


Can anyone be confident that a local government software scandal isn’t on the horizon*?

One thing I have been mulling on following the recent – and much belated – focus on the Post Office Horizon scandal is just how much assurance any organisation can have in its core line of business systems.

The implementation of supposedly off the shelf software inevitably involves the kinds of customisations and bespoke code that caused problems (not all of them, but a fair few) for Fujitsu and the Post Office, and of course the people who suffered the consequences.

Where there are systems in use in local councils which handle similar workloads – revenues and benefits, social care systems, finance and payroll systems, to name a few – how confident can we really be that errors and bugs aren’t causing major issues, that for whatever reason lie undetected?

* see what I did there?

Daily note for 15 January 2024

This from Dai Vaughan is really excellent on how technology failures keep damaging people’s lives, and how frustrating it is that the answers to this problem are well known, but unevenly implemented.

Mike Bracken’s take on Horizon.

Still noodling on what to do with the newsletter. Feels increasingly icky to keep using Substack but it is just so easy, and so free! Gah, ethics.

One by one, England’s councils are going bankrupt – and nobody in Westminster wants to talk about it.”

Week note for 12 January 2024

A slow start to the year, blogging wise, been getting other stuff up straight. So here’s a bunch of things I’ve spotted during the last few days or so…

The delightful people at Lincoln Council are hiring a Web / Digital Officer. Lovely place to work on exciting local government things!

The Disturbing Impact of the Cyberattack at the British Library. Ouch! If organisations still aren’t currently taking this stuff seriously, here’s another reason to start.

One dimensional pacman. Curiously addictive. (I see Neil also linked to this!)

I have had to replace my several years old Apple keyboard, and couldn’t justify to myself the nearly £100 cost of the official one, so picked up a Logitech version for a third of the price. It is taking a bit of getting used to and the resultant loss of productivity is alarming.

Let’s make the indie web easier – sensible post (and follow up) from Giles.

How governments become addicted to suppliers like Fujitsu

How we’re making it easier to access government forms online

How can we get to a single shareable patient record?

Daily note for 22 December 2023

Substack’s Nazi problem seems to be getting a lot of attention at the moment. It’s a weird one for me, because I just don’t see it. It was a bit like that for me on Twitter as well, lots of people would say how toxic it was, but that just wasn’t my experience. Doesn’t mean I shouldn’t care though! Of course, after the Musk buyout it ended up being the case that my experience on X was very affected by the unpleasantness, which is why I now pretty much never look at it.

Substack has a great writing experience, and it’s free, and it makes it easy to send e-mails to people that are nicely designed and readable. That obviously comes at a cost and I wonder if the adage that if a service is free, then you are the product needs amending to something like, if a service is free there are probably some shitheads paying on your behalf and that makes you a bit of a shithead too.

I’ve no doubt I will have to move my newsletter away from Substack at some point. It’s a faff though and the alternatives aren’t obvious. Maybe I could use my new WordPress emailing setup to DIY it? Doesn’t fill me with joy, I have to say.

dxw’s review of 2023.

Daily note for 21 December 2023

Am playing around a bit with Feedland, Dave Winer’s newish RSS aggregating thing. I like how it is all public, so anyone can see the feeds I subscribe to and what is in them. Am enjoying the desktop app feel of NetNewsWire for now, so don’t think I will be switching, but it’s fun to play 🙂

Principles, guidance, and standards to support people delivering joined-up, effective, user-centred outcomes for people who use Department for Education services.”

Laura Bunt is great and this interview gives an insight into how!

“What next for digital government and Government as a Platform?” Very interesting:

The next step for government as a platform is to directly help services transform. We’ll do this in two ways: first by going much further to help people make better design decisions for their services, and second, by helping services continually optimise themselves.

“The Transforming Government Services team in the Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) is redesigning the products and services offered to other government departments to support the delivery of their services. This includes updating existing standards and guidance, so that more services are implemented to a ‘great’ standard.”

Daily note for 18 December 2023

I’m barely posting any links into Raindrop. I just like linking to them here, on my blog. But I worry they get lost. Not that I ever seem to look for them.

I newslettered.

Some nice bits in Matt Mullenweg’s bag.

Public Digital’s data strategy playbook. Plenty of good stuff to learn from in here.

A literal twist on the classic Minesweeper game.

How product teams are using prototyping in the public sector:

A few teams were very mature in their prototyping practices. When they needed to move fast, try out loads of ideas and surface issues quickly, they used low-fidelity prototypes in paper, Powerpoint, and Mural or Miro. These helped them test out different journeys and flows. They progressed to Figma and Prototype Kit when they needed more fidelity or to test out technical approaches.

More good stuff from Steve: all of this post is worth reading, but the section on Cycles, not sprints is great:

For research and development work (like discovery and alpha), you need a little bit longer to get your head into a domain and have time to play around making scrappy prototypes. For build work, a two-week sprint isn’t really two weeks. With all the ceremonies required for co-ordination and sharing information – which is a lot more labour-intensive in remote-first settings – you lose a couple of days with two-week sprints.

Sprint goals suck too. It’s far too easy to push it along and limp from fortnight to fortnight, never really considering whether you should stop the workstream. It’s better to think about your appetite for doing something, and then to focus on getting valuable iterations out there rather than committing to a whole thing.