Five for Friday (23/6/17)

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At some point I will post something other than links to this blog. But for now, this is it. Five more for you to enjoy this week:

  1. Standard Ebooks – There are lots of free and public domain ebooks about – try looking at Project Gutenberg for example. The problem is that they aren’t always of great quality – because they are often scanned in and OCRd, there are mistakes and janky formatting, amongst other issues. Standard Ebooks is taking these base metals and turning them into gold by checking them, cleaning them up and packaging them nicely – and they’re still free. What’s not to like?
  2. Strategic Reading – just in case five links a week aren’t enough for you, Stefan Czerniawski has started a new thing in the form of a link blog – lots of links to articles with a bit of commentary. Consumable on the website, via RSS or email and highly recommended.
  3. Amazon’s New Customer – I linked last week to rumours that Amazon might be interested in buying Slack. Not sure whether that was just a red herring or not, because it turned out that the big acquisition that Amazon made was Whole Foods, a chain of grocery stores in the US. This analysis by Ben Thompson of what is – on the face of it – an incomprehensible deal for an e-commerce company (clue: Amazon is not an e-commerce company) is excellent and very insightful when it comes to Amazon’s operating model and long term strategy.
  4. Background reading list for government policy people interested in digital – a useful collection of bits and pieces to read to get a good primer in what ‘digital’ means in the context of government services, curated by Paul Maltby. Am tempted to pull a list of my own together at some point.
  5. A great interview by John Markoff with various folk involved in the creation of the iPhone. Incidentally, Markoff’s book What the Doormouse Said would definitely be on any reading list I produce – it’s a fantastic and entertaining history of the birth of the personal computer.

These have mostly all been tweeted during the week, and you can find everything I’ve found interesting and bookmarked here.

Five for Friday (16/6/17)

Another week in which technology seems the least important thing in the world. Still, I’ve got nothing else to give, so here goes.

  1. Join the DH digital communities and channels team – two great jobs going on a great team at the Department of Health.
  2. Slack is raising another $500 million — and has attracted interest from a range of big buyers like Amazon – Slack is a really interesting tool. I swing wildly from thinking it’s not really that signficiant to considering it the harbinger of a new way of doing technology within organisations. As ever the truth is somewhere in the middle. The idea of Amazon buying it does not make a huge amount of sense to me. Amazon have inroads into big enterprise IT through their web services division of course, leading the way in the infrastructure as a service bit of cloud. They don’t have much (any?) of a footprint in software as a service – tools that actual users actually use. Do they want to get into that space? I’ve no idea but surely Google would be a better fit for Slack, and it would help out with the moribund and confusing state of the G Suite’s communications tools (Hangouts seems to have stagnated for years now).
  3. Survey points to digital skills gap in civil service and Public sector struggling with cloud due to skills shortage – to both of which my response is “yes, and?”. Seems to me that we see a lot of reporting of the problem with digital skills/confidence/mindset but very few examples or ideas around how to tackle it. If you’ve ideas to share, then please do so in the Digital Skills in the Workplace group on LinkedIn.
  4. History by lawsuit: After Gawker’s demise, the “inventor of e-mail” targets Techdirt – fascinating mixture of computer history combined with out and out oddness. The man who wrote a program called EMAIL claims this means he invested the generic tool e-mail.
  5. Minimum Viable Architecture – good enough is good enough in an enterprise – nice bit of myth-busting around the supposedly special requirements of IT in a larger organisation. The word ‘enterprise’ is used to justify all sorts of crap: higher prices, costly maintenance agreements, hard to use and complicated tools. The fact is that the only difference is one of time – bigger organisations have existed longer than most small ones and thus have built up baggage around infrastructure and process. Achieving change in such organisations means trying to reduce that cruft… as James notes in his post “If enterprises are going to drive a successful digital transformation, and develop a culture that supports agile development and devops, then they need less architecture, not more of it.”

 

These have mostly all been tweeted during the week, and you can find everything I’ve found interesting and bookmarked here.

Five for Friday (9/6/17)

Not sure anything in tech world can match politics right now for interestingness, but here goes…

  1. Tandridge Council are recruiting a Technology Implementation Manager. Details here.
  2. What a digital organisation looks like – smart stuff from Janet Hughes. Answer = responsive, open and efficient.
  3. We need a Minister for Digital Government – according to Dan Thornton at the Institute for Government. Quite a bit of commentary has been around the limitation of the word ‘digital’ – though that’s largely semantics – and I would argue that even if you (wrongly) take digital to mean just tech, there’s still enough that needs fixing to make it worthwhile.
  4. “Which third are you?” – asks James Governor from Redmonk. The thirds being change agents, persuadables or heel diggers. All about your attitude to change. Every organisation has every type, and you need them all onside – or at least enough of them – to make stuff happen.
  5. Coté shares some slides from a workshop he ran in the States on how Government can go cloud native. Also see this post for further ruminations.

These have mostly all been tweeted during the week, and you can find everything I’ve found interesting and bookmarked here.

Get rid of friction

If you want to get people to use your service, get rid of the friction.

This really hit home with me the other week, at an event I attended as part of my work at the Department of Health, which was about the patient of the future.

It struck me that what will make the real transformative change in healthcare (for example) is when people’s access to services, data and indeed connections is entirely frictionless.

Downloading an app is friction. Signing up for an account is friction. Finding a wifi connection is friction.

This is where I think internet of things stuff comes in. When your coffee cup has an internet connection, when lamposts have an internet connection, when wifi is everywhere, friction disappears.

This isn’t so far away. You can already get a coffee cup that measures the calorific contents of what you are drinking. When everyone, everything and everywhere is networked, everything changes.

The friction is replaced, of course, by a bunch of other issues – mostly ethical ones. Another, technical one, is how we handle and what we do with all this data.

VirtualGovCamp

I’d like to propose VirtualGovCamp.

I’ve just been made aware that the lovely folks at LocalGovDigital are themselves working on a local version of a virtual unconference type event. That should be awesome, but I think my idea is sufficiently different to make it worthwhile running both. I will of course be doing everything I can to help LocalGovDigital’s event a success – and hope you do too!

It will be an online event, lasting a month – probably in February. The sessions will not be synchronous, that is, you don’t have to be online at the same time as a bunch of other people to get involved. So I’m not talking webinars.

Each session will have a page on the event website. The page’s content will be built by the person running that session – who’ll be called the facilitator. They can write some text, include some links, record and embed a video, or a slideshow, or Prezi, or whatever.

Each session is open for a certain number of days, which will be displayed on a calendar on the website. Whilst the session is open, the facilitator helps manage a conversation in the comments on that page. It isn’t real-time, so people can drop in and out as they choose and don’t feel under pressure to be online at the right time.

Before the event, I’ll run an ideas competition site to bring in ideas for sessions, which can be voted on to see which ones are most popular and will be included.

Everyone involved will be emailed on a regular basis throughout the month so that they can keep up with what is going on, and where they are part of a discussion in a session, they can sign up for alerts when new comments are added, and so forth.

There’s lots more to think about and get sorted, but that’s the idea. Is it a good one? If you think so, please complete this form and let me know how you’d like to be involved.

LocalGovCamp 2014 thoughts #3 – collaboration is key

I found LocalGovCamp a really refreshing and cheering event this year. I’m going to spend a few quick posts writing up my thoughts.

Mary McKenna brilliantly facilitated an excellent discussion on collaboration – why it is needed, why it hasn’t worked that well up to now, and how that might be fixed.

Some great input came from FutureGov‘s Dom Campbell, who spoke about the some of the challenges trying to implement their Patchwork tool across multiple agencies.

There was also discussion of the limitations of the traditional approach to partnership working – overly bureaucratic, slow to make decisions, agencies working individually to deliver what should be shared objectives, really boring meetings, and so on.

What’s needed is a more agile, responsive and flexible approach to working in partnership to deliver shared outcomes.

This needs to mean organisations sharing people, resources, systems, data and more – and not just tick-box style partnerships.

What’s also vital to to this working are grown up conversations are needed about who can deliver what with the resources they have. This is no time for pride.

Podcasts you might like

As well as making my own podcast, I also love listening to those created by other people.

Here are some of my favourites – maybe you will like them too!

Try Doorbell

Robert Brook and Lloyd Davis chanter on about technology, work, and getting old.

This is the podcast that inspired me to give it a go myself.

Go there now.

This Week in Google

Leo Laporte’s TWIT network is full of great podcasts, but the Google one is my favourite, mostly due to the co-hosts, Gina Trapani and Jeff Jarvis, who really add insight to the weekly discussions about Google,
the cloud, mobile, social media and more.

Go there now.

The New Disruptors

A great podcast featuring weekly interviews with people doing new, creative things in new, creative ways. Hosted by the ace tech journalist Glenn Fleishman.

Go there now.

Cmd+Space

Myke Hurley chats every week to someone interesting who does interesting things. What can I say? I just like interview style podcasts.

Go there now.

In Our Time

Something a bit different – Radio 4’s In Our Time is just wonderful. Taking a different, often rather esoteric, topic every week, Melvyn Bragg teases a bunch of academics and experts for 45 edutaining minutes.

Go there now.

It would be great to hear what you make of these podcasts! Also, any crackers out there I ought to know about?

Problogging

I’m hugely envious of folks like Shawn Blanc and Ben Thompson. Their job is their blogs! How lucky is that?

This year I’ve really got into the content-producing swing of things – dunno if you’ve noticed. With this blog settled down and at home on WordPress.com, my newsletter working nicely thanks to Goodbits, the podcast rumbling along nicely on Libsyn and my Pinboard bookmarks providing even more stuff for people to look at if they need it, the tech and workflow is all slotting together very nicely.

It would be fantastic to be able to just focus on this content creation an curation work. It’s what I really love doing. Figuring a way to make it sustainable though is not easy.

Shawn and Ben both have membership schemes. Their core blogging is available for free, but extra bits – including content via email and podcasts – are members only. Members have to pay a certain amount to get access to it all.

This is a great way of doing things, but you need people willing to pay for your content.

Sponsorship is another way of doing things. John Gruber’s Daring Fireball does this, with the blog’s RSS feed being sponsored every week by a tech company wanting to reach his (many) readers. Gruber charges $9,500 per week for this sponsorship. Wowza!

The other option I guess is what I currently do, which is to use the content creation as a way of promoting my consulting work. The downside of this is that a) the blogging etc is a means rather than an end; and b) that I have to leave the house now and again.

Maybe I should just stop being lazy!

daveslist

Did you know I have an email newsletter? You probably do, and are fed up of me going on about it. Sorry.

It’s called Daveslist, and you can sign up for it at daveslist.io.

The newsletter is basically a list of five or so links I have spotted lately, cobbled together with a little bit of commentary explaining why I think they are interesting.

You might just find it a simple way to keep on top of interesting tech stories without having to dig them out yourself.

I’ve just hit send on the latest issue, which you can read on the web, if you like. Try before you buy! (Although, it’s free).

I put it together using a fantastic tool called Goodbits, which makes curating an email newsletter so easy it’s untrue.