What’s going on at the Government Digital Service?

Oooft! What’s going on over at Aviation House? Only the end of an era, that’s all.

First Mike left and then the triple-whammy of Ben, Russell and Tom all saying sayonara at the same time. It’s all been a bit of a shock, even for wise-heads who might claim to have seen portents of its coming to be.

Mike, Ben, Russell and Tom – I’ll say again – you guys are awesome! You’re contribution in building digital infrastructure that this country can be proud of will ring out for a long, long time. Continue reading “What’s going on at the Government Digital Service?”

The pleasing difficulty of judging a hack day

Bath:Hacked is asking the brightest and most creative people in our city to spend two days thinking, playing and hacking an untapped seam of BANES data.

It was with huge excitement that I headed along to Coworking Bath on Sunday morning for the judging of the first Bath Hacked event.

I arrived around 11AM, by which time the teams had been working for over 24 hours on their hacks. I spent 5 minutes or so with each of the teams in turn, looking at where they’d got to and getting a feel for where they were heading in the rest of the time they had.

There were no set judging criteria as such but I constructed a set of questions that I asked of each team I met to get a feel for:

  • The clarity of user need(s) being addressed
  • The importance being placed on the quality of user experience created
  • The application of locally-sourced data, especially that recently released by B&NES for the event
  • Tactics employed to clean, munge and splice data to make the data meaningful.

Around 3PM, the teams gathered together and presented to one another, the judges and a big group of curious onlookers for 4 minutes. Then it was over to me, Doug Laughlen and Valerie West to try to decide which team should win in each of 4 categories:

  • Grand Prize (£1k) – awarded to the best overall project, judged most imaginative, well conceived and likely to benefit the community, local business and/or the environment
  • Community Impact (£250) – awarded to the project most likely to resonate with the wider community
  • Best use of data (£250) – we’re looking for useful, clever or just plain surprising ways to use local data
  • Best completed project (£250) – shipping certainly isn’t mandatory, but there’s glory for those who manage it!

Continue reading “The pleasing difficulty of judging a hack day”

DONE

At the end of July, I will be deployed from the Government Digital Service. Like much of the government digital estate that has come through GDS, I am being shipped as a much improved product.

Formula for leaving

I’m leaving, I had a great time working here, I am proud of what I achieved, the team are wonderful, but it’s time to go in search of new challenges.

This post doesn’t stray far from that leaving post formula, so maybe you are done here. Or if you read on maybe you’ll gain an insight or two into the GDS ‘secret sauce’ from someone who has had a hand in its concoction.

Continue reading “DONE”

Minding the product at #mtpcon 2012

What an honour it is to have been called up to the small band of product managers at the Government Digital Service.

Wanting to do the absolute best job I can, I jumped at the chance to tag along to Mind the Product 2012, where product managers from around Europe met up to learn how some of the best in the world go about their business.

Of the many pearls of wisdom shared, here is what stuck with me since…

Continue reading “Minding the product at #mtpcon 2012”

From Whitehall to Kingsway… my big move forward and back

Been updating my bio and my creds pages this evening to reflect the fact that I have changed jobs.

It’s an overdue refresh. I actually transferred to the Cabinet Office and the Government Digital Service in December 2011, but I saw out the remainder of my two-year secondment to FCO which. But now I am full time at GDS and loving it.

There’s a proper, serious start-up culture here; it’s an atmosphere I’ve been craving to work in. Everyday feels like a mission to shake things up and everyone is pulling in the same direction with the aim of radically and rapidly changing the way Her Majesty’s Government thinks and does digital.  Continue reading “From Whitehall to Kingsway… my big move forward and back”

After the watershed – five reasons why nothing can be the same since the launch of Gov.uk/government

GOV.UK 100 days signed sign by @psd http://www.flickr.com/photos/psd/7649345008/in/pool-1873292@N24/
GOV.UK 100 days signed sign by @psd

On February 28th the hangar door of Aviation House opened and gov.UK/government took it’s maiden flight. It might not be up there with what happened at Kitty Hawk in 1903, but this will go down as a decisive event in the way government publishes and engages – digitally or otherwise.

Inside government is the second part of the GovUK beta to go live and although in the history books it will all rightly be discussed as one and same, for me at this stage in the development /government is the most radical and exciting part.

Your best guide to the project and the site is Neil Williams, the gov.uk/government product manager. But before I lose you to him, you might spare me just a couple of minutes to share an unofficial insider’s view (someone who has worked with, for and now in digital teams in the government; a hard-boiled sceptic, now convinced through first-hand experience of the gov.UK project)

So here are five reasons why I think the release of the Inside government beta is a watershed moment:

Continue reading “After the watershed – five reasons why nothing can be the same since the launch of Gov.uk/government”

I’m not dead, I’m a dad

 

When a ye olde colleague emailed me with the strange question, ‘Are you dead?’ I replied, ‘No, I’m a dad’.

He was asking because I hadn’t blogged since Pixie Lott was number one, and he was disappointed because he found my blog had been one good way to keep up on digital in government.

I told him that it was simply that I now had additional responsibilities at home in the form of a bouncing baby boy. And, when Ben was taking a break from bouncing to finally go to sleep, blogging was really quite far from my thoughts.

Still, if I was going to take his flattery I also had to take his point and get posting – check – even if I’m slightly cheating by riffing on what I emailed back to him in the form of four recommendations for blogs that cover central government’s use of digital.

I picked my recommendations based on the fact that I like reading them and they have posted regularly through the year offering genuinely unique insights. So well done them.

Continue reading “I’m not dead, I’m a dad”

Recommended reading… the quantified self, BBC’s multi-lingual websites and British attitudes towards UK’s international priorities

'On the platform, reading' by moriza
'On the platform, reading' by moriza

People still read, right?

‘The Measured Life’ by Emily Singer in Technology Review

Whether it is to get fitter, better or just to have a go at hacking the human condition, people are beginning to turn ‘big data’ technologies on their sleep, diets and productivity. Athletes and sufferers of certain medical conditions have been at it for years, but evidently the ‘quantified self’ is going mainstream and it’s bound to be big business.

‘BBC World Service Language Websites: user experience and typography’ by Kutlu Canlioglu on BBC Internet Blog

The FCO publishes in 50+ languages on our platform and in 20+ languages on the social web. We know a thing or two about multi-lingual publishing. But there is still an awful lot we can learn from the way the BBC Worldservice approaches publishing its non-English websites. What I find impressive is the way the Worldservice provides custom editorial in so many languages yet maintains consistency in user journeys and page layouts. This blog post is about how they do it.

‘British Attitudes Towards the UK’s International Priorities’ by Robin Niblett for Chatham House and YouGov

This is the second survey of British attitudes towards the UK’s international priorities that Chatham House has developed with YouGov. The survey examined the attitudes of two groups – the first a representative sample of GB adults, and the second a group of ‘opinion-formers’. The differences between the two are fascinating but what is truly revealing are the discontinuities in the public’s thinking about foreign policy. The ultimate conclusion, for me, is that there is a lot of communication and engagement that needs to get a lot better.

Government digital service: is the feeling mutualised?

Government’s use of digital media is undergoing radical change. As digital media use has become more mainstream  and critical – first to communications, then policy-making through engagement and more recently for transactions – so too has government steadily rationalised its digital operations. That trend is now coming to a head with the establishment of the Government Digital Service, which will provide centralised services, a single domain and web platform for all government departments and [most of] their agencies to use.

That each department and agency will no longer have its own, separate domain, CMS, hosting arrangement, support contract, analytics account and maybe central web team is genuinely radical. But could the delivery of government digital services be more radical still?

Frances Maude’s speech at Civil Service Live 2011 made me think so. In that speech he floated the idea of giving public sector staff the right to form new mutuals and bid to take over the services they deliver. Could government digital services be a candidate for mutualisation? In this post I suggest that it could.

Continue reading “Government digital service: is the feeling mutualised?”

Recommended reading… what China will do next, the failure of humanitarian intervention and a vision for online consultation

Here’s what’s been keeping me enthralled on the commute this week…

1. With China projected to overtake the United States in terms of economic output within the next ten years, many commentators are again speaking of a new ‘Asian century’ and the ‘decline of the West’. At Chatham House recently, Niall Ferguson drew on the last 600 years of world history to offer an insight into the changing global balance in terms not only of economics but also of geopolitics and ‘soft power’. Transcripts, video and audio are on http://chathamhouse.org.uk/events/view/-/id/1945/.

2. Adam Curtis consistently causes me think again about what I think I know. His new documentary series, All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace is classic Curtis fare: sinsiter music + archive footage + dogma + elites perpetrating that dogma + scathing critique = licence fee well spent. But I am an even bigger fan of his blog, and this article on the ‘idea of humanitarian intervention‘ I found provocative against the backdrop of Mladic’s arrest, extradition and trial.

3. Consultation is a ‘set piece’ of government. Doing it better online is a coalition commitment. But how? As well as tackling search, usability and agile development on a centralised government website, an Alphagov sub-team also turned their attentions to consultation and policy engagement. What they came up with was a succint and persuasive proposal that deserves attention and further development, particularly what it has to say about ‘layering’. There’s an introduction from Neil Williams and a copy of the deck on the Alphagov project bloghttp://blog.alpha.gov.uk/blog/a-vision-for-online-consultation-and-policy-engagement.