3 min read

20. History

Legacy tech, language, frameworks
black and white photo lot
Image by Mr Cup from Unsplash

After steering away from work-related reading in my spare time for a while, this month I went back to it, mainly spurred on by more being available as audiobooks. After revisiting Cyd Harrell’s A Civic Technologist’s Practice Guide, I continued with Tara Dawson McGuinnes and Hana Schank’s Power to the Public: The Promise of Public Interest Technology and Marianne Bellotti’s Kill It With Fire - Manage Aging Computer Systems (and Future Proof Modern Ones).

The pleasant surprise for me was Kill It With Fire. Ostensibly about legacy tech (and Bellotti reminds us that legacy tech isn’t just old - it’s also good enough to have been used until it was old rather than being replaced) it points to the people and context behind it. Technology is more like fashion than we might expect—running in circles as much as a line—and is government as much by skills as by luck.

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Also on my to-read list: Andrew Schrock’s Civic Tech: Making Technology Work for People and the open-sourced curriculum for Teaching Public Services in the Digital Age.

This month in digital government and design

Sir Anthony Seldon explains why history is important in policy.

And who knew the history of the ‘double diamond’ model in design before the Design Council? (Disclaimer: not me).

Languages change over time, including American Sign Language.

Jessica Joy Kerr has curated a 10 principle checklist for socio-technological design.

When working with systems for caseworking, I often remind people that as much as we should make intuitive systems, we should also design appropriate training. Jonathan Kendler’s ‘the importance of teachable interactions’ follows that rhetoric.

NHS Digital ran a design sprint. Some of it worked, but—in a mistake that I’ve seen other government departments make—they also realised that they needed more preparation to get specialists and run valuable user research.

Also in the NHS - Tamara Farrar writes about research into barriers for people registering for a GP. (For example, ‘GP’ is a confusing word for people that expect to hear ‘doctor’).

Projects by IF has published its responsible technology by design framework.

And Emma Blomkamp has shared a co-design maturity model.

Per Axbom has also shared a framework of digital ethics. (He’s right to call it a discussion chart—I’d say that there’s too much here to make decisions with it but that it’s great as a prompt for conversations).

After being derided for years, QR codes finally became mainstream in the pandemic. Joe Lamyman explains how to make QR codes accessible.

Flying as a wheelchair user is risky.

User-centred design is still a job family that people move into from another profession. Emily Ch’ng explains how she moved from social media comms to content design and Amina Omar talks about moving from policy to service design.

Speaking of moving into UCD - Candi Williams is creating a list of free and low cost UCD resources for people to move into the discipline. She’s also crowdfunding scholarships for those who can’t afford even the low cost options.

And for those in their careers looking for low-cost leadership training, Chicago UX Camps’ Leadership by Design summit is USD25 and also with sponsored options for those who can’t afford even that.

Meme of the month:


Most parents I know are simultaneously enchanted by the Aussie kids’ show Bluey and somewhat shamed by the perfect parenting. This LA Times article explains the magic behind Bluey (hint, it includes empowering the animation team).

My online chat with Emirates was going so well…

What better way to commemorate the creator of the Venn diagram than with a plaque that’s a Venn diagram?

This month was the Edinburgh Fringe, back in full swing after being cancelled in 2021 and only appearing in limited formate in 2021. I loved Good Grief by Ugly Bucket (bereavement, but clowning) but wish I’d been able to see Spanish comedian Ignacio Lopez (warning: this video is sweary).

Also this month commemorates 1 year of me regularly going to London for work. I clocked up 19 West End show visits and ranked them from worst (not so bad) to best.

The most wholesome thing you see this month will be dogs going down slides.

And to lower the tone of this newsletter into near NSFW-territory: once one has heard “Dance Magic Dance” transformed to “crotch magic crotch” one cannot unhear it. Similarly, I did not anticipate Daniel Radcliffe’s career going… well, watch the clip from the TV show Miracle Workers to see that there.

Until next time,


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