Merry Christmas from Prague! Like most of Europe, the Czech Republic observes Christmas on the evening of the 24th, so today was reasonably open for doing things. This meant that as well as having mulled wine and foot at Christmas markets… I went to the Franz Kafka museum. Based on some online reviews, I knew going in that it wasn't the most inspiring of museums (and it wasn't), but I enjoyed learning more about an author who I merely have a passing acquaintance with. I did find it interesting that, as an insurance writer in early 20th century Prague, he was a public servant (basically more Health and Safety than businessman) and in fact was fairly good at it. That said, it's also well known that he hated the bureaucracy that he had to navigate (ironically, due to his success at his job), and that some of his experiences (along with a fair amount of Tolstoy) probably inspired his novella "The Trial".
One thing that did strike me from the museum was that the original title of this book in German is Der Process (with similar titles in Spanish and Swedish). So The Trial could also be about The Process.
If a grinding process can seem insensible, the Capture the Approval game from the people at the Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) looks like a response that's less, er, Kafkaesque. Lindsay Chan, Jane Lu, Jordan Storozuk, and Aaron Jaffery delivered this at a FWD50 workshop called "Delivering at the Speed of Trust" and have written up their reflections.
This month in digital government and design
There are some great pieces out from the Canadian Government. Aside from the previously mentioned EDSC, Martha Edwards has written a powerful article about how she's never done co-design and why.
In my slow attempts to get things out of my head, I wrote about being a more responsible GOV.UK Service Assessor.
From the start of the year but something I only discovered recently: this deep dive by Howard Rheingold on online community governance models.
Sometimes patterns need to be changed - Mat Johnson on changing entry point patterns for 111 digital screens.
Tolu Adegbite of Spotify talks about why you should describe all skin colours in alt text.
I like stories of content and interaction design working together: here's one from Danielle Spinage and Hannah Chan at Essex City Council on improving the 'report a concern about a child' page.
Voice assistants aren't doing well: Amazon has announced that Alexa was a failure, and Mark Pesce suggests that their failure is because there's no actual user need for them.
I've enjoyed Nour Sidari's writeups of being in the Civil Service's (highly competitive) Future Leaders Scheme. Her latest (and perhaps last? It's hard to tell) post is thinking out loud in the best possible way: full of challenges and concerns.
Speaking of leaving: I went to Craig Abbott's leaving drinks as he departs not only his role as Head of Accesibility at DWP but the civil service entirely. He's given use the leaving presents though, with blog posts like this one on making microservices assessible (spoiler: you can't, try to use headless architectures instead).
Why we need strong feedback loops from frontline staff: a story from Australia of a civil servant seeing incorrect debt notices happening (robodebt) but no one listening to her.
And to end on a more positive note: my friend Clare Hussey has written about her hidden disability story and her resulting mission to improve support in the civil service for those who are neurodiverse.
Christmas is wonderful from an international perspective. While the weirdest thing about NZ traditions is our obsession with the song 'Snoopy's Christmas' (oh, and also our own version of the 12 Days of Christmas … which means that I have problems in UK Christmas quizzes), other countries have their own quirks. This year I found out about Austria's Krampus via Instagram, and South Wales's Mari Lwyd. I also discovered that here in the Czech Republic, everyone watches an 80s comedy S tebou mě baví svět (With You the World is Fun).
Everyone has probably watched Love Actually this year. However, I keep pointing people to the Jezebel article that was way ahead of everyone in pointing out how deeply problematic it is.
Far less problematic:
A lot of people have left Twitter. However, some have compared this to "white flight". Tim Wise has more on this (paywalled).
Miziyaki of Studio Gibli on AI, pain, and a disabled friend
We had a cold snap in the UK earlier this month. I did OK in the house thanks to heated throws and sheepskin boots, but hadn't thought through going outside in ice so stayed in. (I found out too late about snow grips, before the next freeze I'll probably get some Yaktrax). However, in the interim, I liked this take on how different parts of London take the cold.
Finally, I've started to collect suspiciously specific warning notices. This is my favourite so far:
See you in 2023