Here in the North East of England, the local metro has a quirky phrase when there are delays "train delays, Metro apologises" (which even spawned a parody Twitter account in the 2010s). It has felt like a month of delays, with a lot of travel leading to delays and just the slow trudge of January that is finally at an end.
That said, looking through my notes of the month as much as it felt like a slog I actually got a lot done! I got to attend two unconferences (UKEduCamp in Edinburgh and UKGovCamp in London, a mere week after each other, which was possibly a bit much), wrote a few blog posts and made a few diagrams, and even got to do a bit of sightseeing in London around Govcamp. I went to the Royal Court's Cowbois, The Design Museum and also Abba Voyage.
- Last month I mentioned getting Dynamics in Document Design and this month I finished it. The book has an excellent timeline of document design, relating it to both to how business writing evolved as a profession against industry and other achievements. It's also worth a look in its discussions of designing information posters and other printed material: I liked the idea of asking people in a session who they thought the author of a particular material was and what the message was that they were intending to get across.
- I listened to Sahil Lavingia’s The Minimalist Entrepreneur: How Great Founders Do More With Less. Lavingia founded the creator platform Gumroad (which back in the days before I had a credit card always used get my Visa Debit card flagged for potential fraud, but I won’t hold that against Lavingia) and reflects on trying to be a unicorn, failing, and then realising that actually a profitable business was… enough. It’s a quick and easy listen and is probably a good companion piece with Scott Belky’s The Messy Middle (about his experiences with portfolio platform Behance).
- I'm continuing to read books about histories. Janina Raminez’s Femina which looks to bring out lost female voices in medieval history — interestingly thanks to other reading on history I already knew about Marjery Kempe of Kings Lynn (then Bishop’s Lynn) and vaguely knew of the Cathars (though not from The Da Vinci Code, but, of all things, the early 2010s Walt Stillman film Damsels in Distress) but others such as various queens and nuns were new to me. It shows that women in the past were often more recognisable to us than we might think in their views and even their support from men, but also that religion was often one of the few means for women to have an education rather than be married off. It also talks about ‘overwritten’ women whose stories become filtered through others (for example the women who made and may have even authorised the making of the Bayeaux tapestry). I also finished Martin Puchner's Culture which uses examples from Egypt to George Elliot to show how key people often carefully took from and reinterpreted past cultures to inform the present.
This month in digital government and design
- I dashed off a blog post about when the team doesn’t meet the standards that then seemed to get shared a lot—funny what resonates!
- There have been several discussions about doing design work in discovery, Kuba Bartwicki wrote in defense of sometimes starting with solutions, and Steve Messer similarly wrote about starting with solutions (which includes a diagram I made about how to triage UX work into delivery that I've been talking about for years but finally created for work and may turn into its own blog post)
- You know that funny but true org map about different big tech companies? I’ve finally found the original sources
- Craig Abbott has written a bit recently, in stop trying to recruit unicorns with acorns he talks about the dissonance between what accessibility specialists are expected to do with the compensation (comparative to the high salaries of tech at least). Accessibility and web chat does what it says on the tin.
- The GOV.UK Design System team invested in team coaching and has seen results (props to the intrepid Imran)
- Ros Boyes of HMTCS has written about How to grow capability across UCD disciplines with a ‘design a service in a day’ workshop
- Simon Duncan writes about designing an IT department for a world defined by change — for my sins, I hadn’t actually read Simon Wardley’s doctrines, but they are nice heuristics (common language and transparency sounds easy but aren’t)
- “We also need to stop making big bets on enterprise IT, and seductive silver bullets that have a frightening tendency to end up in our own feet.” Mike Bracken’s take on avoiding another Horizon. Also good analysis: Dafydd Vaughn’s ‘repeating patterns’
- From last year, Duncan Brown’s talk to GOV.UK developers about forgetting and remembering through decision documents (though yet another blog where it’s hard to find the name of the author!) Also on decision making: good decision making video by Sensible Tech.
- speaking of remembering, more happening over at DfE on their research ops and standards and assurance
- Alex Lee talks about going beyond prototypes for sharing work. Someone has actually asked if I could make videos about prototyping—I'll be honest that I put it off partly because of general video terror but also as it takes ages to caption stuff…
- Kara Kane, Martin Jordan and Viktoria Westphalen have written about organising the 24-hour international design in government event. And the Formfest 2023 videos are up.
- because I am old, I have only just discovered the treadmill strut trend. I tried out the Taylor Swift treadmill strut playlist and to be honest found it a bit slow. I may need to do what others have done and amend the format to add inclines or do a longer workout. Still, it helped me get over a long time fear of treadmills (I tend to use ellipticals) so in that respect it's been great.
- my friend suggested I go to the cinema to see the Argentinian Trenque Lauquen Part 1 and 2. It’s indie filmmaking at its best: unpretentious and ingenious, with a second part that goes in a completely different direction to the first. I was reminded of William Gibson’s quote “the future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed” since for every person using a smartphone there is 90s library card systems, 80s lack of seatbelts and actual gauchos.
- I’ve been binge watching the Vanity Fair videos with actors reflecting on their career or reflection on key scenes from their career.
- And the most wholesome meme of recent times has to be the University Challenge ‘we need jungle, I’m afraid’.