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28. Tales from the field

28. Tales from the field
Photo by Museums of History New South Wales / Unsplash

I bookended this month reading two similarly themed but very different books.

The first was Mark Schwartz's The Delicate Art of Bureaucracy: Digital Transformation With the Monkey, the Razor, and the Sumo Wrestler. The book gives tips on transformation (yep, that monkey, razor and sumo wrester are metaphors) based on the author's time at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services during the Obama administration as Chief Information Officer. I didn't gel with the author's narrative style of diversions and 'editor' notes (I prefer my stories straightforward) but was interested in the stories of enabling innovation by working with the tools of bureaucracy rather than against it.

On the other end of the reading scale, I was a few years behind the game in reading Beck Dorey-Stein's memoir From the Corner of the Oval Office. Also based on the time of the Obama administration, it is fittingly described as 'Bridget Jones goes to the White House'. Not only does the lead somewhat haphazardly stumble into a different job—here, stenography—but there's also a Daniel Cleaver-esque cad of a co-worker who leads the protagonist on. While there's some repetition and lazy hyperbole in the writing, it's a compelling read, if only for trailing around Air Force One and other rooms that only those wearing red pins on their clothes have had access to until now. POTUS (never 'The President' or 'Obama') makes brief appearances and is just as we expect him to be: dedicated, a but competitive, and when he can be, fun.

This month in digital government and design

University College London is looking to create a community of practices around GOV.UK Notify.

Erin Malone's talk at Stanford in February on 'the lost women of interaction design' has just been published.

Temi A writes about 'imposter syndrome' and how it can actually be a combination of being a beginner, temporary self-doubt, or… working in non-inclusive environments.

Lindsay Branston writes about creating user research principles at UK car retailer Arnold Clark.

James Higgot has written about the NHS website roadmap. Someone asked why it didn't have user needs. My sense is that this is embedded in the features since a website that has gone through a Lean UX-style process should already generally meet user needs.

Pia Andrews writes about how levers require fulcrums to have impact, and offers 5 fulcrums to use in the public sector. (I did like her comment that a lever without a fulcrum is just a plank).

I recently discovered Defra's accessibility guide. It doesn't seem to have been updated since 2022, but I was particularly interested in the common accessibility errors of new services.

Cyd Harrell's getting to senior in UX slides are excellent.

Also excellent: Dennis Hambeuker's 'The Designer’s Growth Model'.

Diseñadores que hablan español (o português): Diseño y diaspora es un podcast sobre el diseño social.

And speaking of languages: the Welsh government has found that many of their Welsh language speakers find that government information in Welsh isn't as easy to understand as its English equivalent. They've written about a pilot of 'triad writing' in a service - bringing together a user researcher, English-language content designer and Welsh language translator to simultaneously do content design in both Welsh and English.


I've finally started watching Succession (yes, it is great). Before this, I, like many, drank up images of the show's "stealth wealth" sartorial choices. Much has been written about the "ludicrously capacious" bag that Greg's date brings to an event. But beyond this, there is a lot of careful costuming choices that various people have picked apart. The New York Times has some great Succession recaps, but I enjoy Amy Odell's Instagram reels, from Roy's Mosey suit to Kendall's mid-life crisis to Tom's style evolution, and even Conor's wedding.

People are starting to create 'digital gardens' - spaces online where they can tinker. Early 2000s internet, anyone?

Pedro Pascal as academics.

In 2017, a group of developers hilariously competed for who could create worst volume control interface in the world. Here are the results.

And finally, the internet is full of cats, so you can either pick cats with jobs or, one of my favourite twitter accounts, places where cats shouldn't be:

Until next time,