Daily note for 28 September 2023

A new Wilco album! Ace.

I newslettered: “Mark [Thompson]’s rallying call around this stuff – that digital age operating models that make use of what computers are good at, and what the private sector is good at, in order to free up public servants to do what they are good at – feels increasingly like an idea whose time is now. At the very least, it should be part of the conversation. We should not take localism to mean doing things in exponentially ineffective and inefficient ways for the sake of it. There has to be a point where local configuration of nationally adopted standards kicks in at the delivery level as well as at the policy level.”

Weeknotes rules by Giles Turnbull – helpful because they “set expectations about what good weeknote behaviour should look like”.

Team manual and team charter – my two favourite workshops to run with new teams or teams with new members – I love Alan Wright’s blog, so full of insight and useful, practical advice.

Stacks of really, really useful stuff in this guide to digital transformation in HE from Jisc. Lots that can be applied to other sectors.

Daily note for 26 September 2023

Rather terrifyingly, I was invited to chat on this podcast, which came out yesterday, on all things local government, technology and digital.

Nice practical tips on Outlook etiquette from top localgov blogger Tass.

Two great jobs at City of Lincoln Council, joining a team that’s really going places under the awesome leadership of Emily Kate Holmes. Choose between being a Business Intelligence Officer or a Business Analyst in a beautiful city in the best county in the country.

Because we didn’t meet the threshold of complaints last time, the innovation igloo is coming back! MARVEL at my lengthy and rambling monologues on digital and technology. DELIGHT in the willingness of the igloo inhabitants to share their experiences and knowledge. BOGGLE at where the hell Nick might have disappeared to for the last 15 minutes after looking so uncomfortable for the previous 45. SIGN UP using the absurdly tiny register button on this web page.

Visit a National Trust place for free this autumn – why on earth wouldn’t you?

How to cultivate a writing culture – “Convince an engineering team to care about docs”.

I left a lengthy comment on Benjamin Taylor’s post on LinkedIn, which I will paste below for posterity:

My focus as you know is particularly on local government, but will try and be inclusive as possible with these comments!

I think you’re spot on with a lot of your commentary Ben… I like others have been guilty in the last 10 years or so as seeing the technological and cultural shift of ‘digital’ as being a way to genuinely transform entire organisations, but I accept now that this isn’t possible, or indeed terribly helpful.

What I do think is that for genuine systems-based change to happen – the type you rightly advocate – we need the institutions within that system to be operating as well as they possibly can be, and we are a long way from that. I think it’s ok for folk like me to focus on the digital/tech side of things, because it’s vital that we get it right, to build the platform for fixing the bigger, more complex issues.

Organisations have been starved of funding for over a decade now, and that is being felt particularly in the digital/tech space where leaders have been told that technology doesn’t really matter. Only, now you have infrastructure that’s falling to pieces, teams that can’t get their heads around doing anything differently, a supplier market that effectively holds its customers hostage – maybe, actually, we should have been paying more attention.

We need leadership types to understand their responsibilities here. We need middle managers to take ownership of the tech/digital elements of their services and not ‘outsource’ it to the IT team and then moan about them. And we need all public servants to understand that technology is an absolutely vital means to an end. It may not be, and should never be, the end in itself, but that doesn’t mean we don’t take it very seriously.

Finally (sorry) it has to be acknowledged that there are very few efficiencies in ‘digital’. The efficiencies are in the services themselves, or in the prevention of the need for those services in the first place. Yes, reducing duplication of effort, enabling those that can to self serve through the transactional stuff, bringing datasets together to identify meeting needs are all enabled by doing digital and tech better, but the efficiencies – if they come at all – will be from service budgets, not IT budgets. This is often weirdly unacknowledged and can lead to some pretty awkward conversations.

Daily note for 22 September 2023

“While we are thinking about the future, the present is still happening.” Julian Thompson in his keynote at Service Design in Government. Saw this quote shared a number of times and I love it!

Tass has put together a website for the LocalGov Apps Managers Network using localgov.blog. Awesome! Do join if that’s your thing.

Don’t use QR codes in digital media! Have seen a couple of example recently of organisations putting QR codes in emails or even on websites. I find this bewildering – given most people will be using their phone to read said email or web page, how the hell are they meant to scan it? And why oh why oh why wouldn’t you just use a link?!

QR codes are great for getting people from analogue to digital quickly and easily and without typing anything. But when your user is already on a digital channel, it’s a completely unnecessary and user-hostile step.

Creating one directory to rule them all! – Fab stuff from Adele at West Northants.

Daily note for 21 September 2023

I newsletter-ed and LinkedIn-ed about something I have been working on recently to help local public services increase their understanding of digital working and culture at scale. It’s an e-learning course which explains digital, user centred service design, agile, data and technology, all in a way that is rooted in the local public service context. Take a look, to see if it might help you.

What I learned in year three of Platformer – “Has the Substack revolution come and gone?”

Undertaking GOV.UK’s largest software infrastructure project – big, difficult things can be done without too much fuss, if approached in the right way.

Recoding America – “why government is failing in the digital age and how we can do better”

John Naughton reviews the recent Elon Musk biography.

How I use my RSS reader – love this sort of stuff.

I added a ‘now’ page to this website, explaining what I am working on at this moment in time. Thanks to Steve for the idea.

This morning I attended Lloyd’s first ‘parade’ via Black Elephant. It’s an interesting approach to online community building. I got to meet someone new, who I would never normally have had a chance to meet, and it provided an opportunity for some personal reflection and sharing – something I’ve been working on myself, so it came at a good time. The experience has also got my mind racing a bit about online communities, and what makes the good ones really tick.

Daily notes for 19 September 2023

Redesigning the DDaT Capability Framework.

Can data help me solve this problem?

Dorset Council claims progress with roll out of digital social care records.

Elon Musk: Social media platform X could go behind paywall” Shoulda woulda coulda. People need to stop reporting on what this man says and focus on what he does.

Why Voice Failed as a Platform”. Definitely this: ‘It is too difficult to use voice interfaces for more than just a handful of purposes.’ Setting alarms? Yes. Almost anything else? No.

More scray Chrome stuff.

Daily note for 18 September 2023

If I had one bit of advice for ‘IT’ people it would be to stop referring to “the business”. It’s just so WEIRD.

I newslettered again.

Laura Hilliger, Doug Belshaw and Matt Jukes all on the same podcast? 😍

This seems an interesting approach to sharing capacity and capability around digital stuff in local gov.

I have enjoyed every John le Carré novel I have read, with the exception of A Perfect Spy, generally considered his best, which I have never managed to even get a third of the way through. I tried again at the weekend and gave up. No idea why it doesn’t click with me.

Lauren Pope on how to do a content audit (thanks Steph!):

Daily note for 14 September 2023

These notes have been a bit less daily of late.

I’m chatting to a couple of smaller councils at the moment who are looking to significantly refresh their websites. It struck me that there really ought to a be a go-to playbook on the steps to go through, to avoid utterly pointless wheel reinvention. Of course, there isn’t one, so I am recruiting people to help me put it together. Do please join in!

As an aside, it’s quite interesting using Trello as a means of doing pretty much everything in a collaborative project, including using specific cards as discussion threads, and so on. It’s a remarkably flexible tool, really good at almost everything (except managing projects, ho ho!)

I newslettered yesterday, mostly about the concept of ‘legacy’ in local government tech and what to do about it.

Focusing on just outcomes leads to whacky tech decisions” – more along the ‘it’s not not about the technology’ lines.

Lessons for implementing digital health technologies

I quite like this distinction: “Federation vs Small Pieces Loosely Joined

Lots of stuff coming out about how Chrome is increasingly unethical as a browser, what with its data collecting and whatnot. Mark, amongst others, is using Firefox, which as a suggestion feels delightfully old school to me. Handily, Mozilla have just published a guide to switching from one to the other.

Daily note for 12 September 2023

It’s Official: Cars Are the Worst Product Category We Have Ever Reviewed for Privacy” – somewhat concerning.

Love this, eccentric bringing back to life of ancient, almost useless technology. Beautiful.

Lovely reflections from Tim Davies, someone I don’t speak to much these days but remember very fondly from the wild west early days of social media and whatnot.

Lloyd on networks, connections and location – and why we need Dopplr back.

Lambeth are in the seat for this Local Digital Fund project on building control. Worth keeping an eye on. (Again, though, why oh why Medium?)

James Herbert reflects on recent engagements around data, and what lessons can be drawn. Definitely worthy of a mull.

As Rob on Twitter says, these five points from TechUK about ‘care tech’ feel a bit sticking-plaster-y.

Daily note for 7 September 2023

Chunky update as I haven’t published for a couple of days. Was in the office in Lambeth yesterday.

Whoever designed the file sharing permissions in Microsoft 365 should probably go and find some other purpose in life.

Postmarks looks interesting. Like a single-user but federated del.icio.us style bookmarking site.

Steph and I migrated LocalGov.blog away from the shared hosting it was on to something a bit more robust and scalable (Digital Ocean, via SpinupWP). It was a bit fraught at times as WordPress multisite can be a cranky beast, and there were the usual frustrations waiting for DNS changes to propagate and so on. But we got there!

Remember, if you need a site hosting for something, and it’s vaguely local government related, you can ask for it to be set up on LocalGov.blog. Just drop me a line!

Runnymede – from Magna Carta to simplified public services – interesting stuff, feels like a vendor driven piece – maybe? – but subtle about it.

Improving the SEND local offer – always impressive to see Stockport blogging away about the work they are doing. I don’t think I know anyone there, need to fix that.

I newslettered yesterday – “Continuing a recent theme here, I was at the weekend mulling over the – perfectly correct – narrative that ‘technology isn’t the most important thing’. To my mind, this has unfortunately been interpreted by many as ‘technology doesn’t matter at all’, which has left many organisations in a bit of a pickle.”

What do you mean you don’t want to use Audacity in the browser?

Couple of great videos from Russell Davies on presenting:

Daily note for 31 August 2023

I sent out a newsletter this morning.

These daily notes are going well, I think, in that I am keeping up with them and it’s really helpful to keep a record of the good stuff I am coming across. But am definitely just posting links, and not really saying much else. I’ll try and fix that – unless, of course, people like the links, and don’t like my wittering.

Design for audiences or topics and tasks? – good stuff from the team in Bristol and always good to see the blogs I host being active!