Things which caught my eye elsewhere on the web

    Designing digital services that are accountable, understood, and trusted (OSCON 2016 talk)
    Questions of accountability, understanding and trust are only going to become louder.

    These issues are only going to get harder to solve as we ask users for more data and to trust code to make decisions for them.

    The organisations that understand this and start thinking about how to make services that are accountable, understandable and trusted will have the advantage.

    Technology Won’t Kill Meetings — But We Can – The Future of Work by shapingwork – Medium
    We thought the world of work was to be reimagined. The death of the office. The end of email. A utopia of work/life integration fueled by work-where-you-want technology.

    The blurring between Design Thinking and Agile – Front Line Interaction Design – Medium
    The Agile Manifesto embraces this notion of perpetual beta and that software should be developed with a continuous loop of customer needs going in and ‘good enough’ software coming out.

    This state of continuous refinement is ultimately the same as design’s process of jumping backward and forward. The only difference is that with design we stay in this state for the duration of the project, whereas in Agile we stay in this state for the lifetime of the software.

    Need a strategy? Let it grow like a weed in the garden | Henry Mintzberg
    Strategies grow initially like weeds in a garden; they are not cultivated like tomatoes in a hothouse. In other words, the process of creating strategies can be over-managed. Sometimes it is more important to let ideas emerge than to force a premature consistency on the organization. Allow those strategies to form, as patterns, not having to be formulated, as plans. The hothouse, if needed, can come later.

    Science fiction about AI never seems to talk about the interesting stuff, tax and geography and… – Medium
    We’re past the point where we can pull the plug either physically, technologically or societally around AI and automation of the workforce, or would want to. Humankind augmented by AI can achieve so much. It’s time to get serious about the financial and societal implications. The whimsical notion of the legality of a robot being able to make money from their actions in Bicentennial Man are long gone. It’s time to understand how to reform an economy where human labour becomes a less valuable commodity and taxable personal income is a scarcity.

    Technology doesn’t shape the future | mmitII
    More of us who aren’t geeks need to engage with and be involved with the creation technology. It’s no longer enough to stand on the sidelines complaining that it’s all too complicated to understand. Here’s a secret: whilst some of the technologies we use today are quite complicated, much of it is really quite simple, just rather dull and tedious.

    But this shouldn’t any longer be about “us” and “them”. I’ve spent most of my career as an outside in the world of technology, trying in my own little ways to show that the success of software depends on much more than the software. It’s about culture and behaviour and politics and Politics and psychology and sociology and art and design and passion and belief and luck and timing and storytelling and truth. And probably a few more things besides.

    A Minimum Viable Product Is Not a Product, It’s a Process · The Macro
    When you build a product, you make many assumptions. You assume you know what users are looking for, how the design should work, what marketing strategy to use, what architecture will work most efficiently, which monetization strategy will make it sustainable, and which laws and regulations you have to comply with. No matter how good you are, some of your assumptions will be wrong. The problem is, you don’t know which ones.

    Is Whitehall’s obsession with business cases getting in the way of delivery? | Civil Service World
    Business case development is really just as fickle as the conviction-led era that preceded them. It is just a good deal slower, and concealed in a veneer of numbers and buzzwords. Business cases are astrology, not astronomy.

    That is because at their heart, business cases are crystal ball gazing with Excel tables. Experience has shown that there is no better way to guarantee poor predictions than to use individual experts to make assumptions about the future, and sprinkle on a little cognitive bias. Yet this is exactly how we still cost up all the biggest public sector investments.

    When You Change the World and No One Notices — Collaborative Fund
    Big breakthroughs typically follow a seven-step path:

    First, no one’s heard of you.Then they’ve heard of you but think you’re nuts.Then they understand your product, but think it has no opportunity.
    Then they view your product as a toy.Then they see it as an amazing toy.Then they start using it.Then they couldn’t imagine life without it.

    This process can take decades. It rarely takes less than several years.

Original source – Public Strategist

Where do you start when doing a discovery into so much content? We had 6 weeks to sensibly review and make recommendations about GOV.UK content for international users – not an easy task when GOV.UK has thousands of pages.

Users of international content were put into groups

Users of international content were put into groups

Define ‘international’

We needed a way to decide what international content meant for this project. Without a clear definition anything could arguably be used by anyone in the world (worldwide web innit!). We came up with this definition: ‘international content tells you something you need to know or do that is different because of your nationality or your location’.

This definition helped us review the content and the user needs. For example, a British person abroad may need to replace their lost driving licence, but they don’t do it any differently than a person in the UK. Therefore, we didn’t include it as an international user need.

Audit all the things

Once we had our definition we needed to review the content that was in scope. We decided the place to start would be to do an audit. This allowed us to understand what was currently on GOV.UK. It also told us how departments are communicating with users.

We reviewed GOV.UK content from several departments including:

  • Department for Exiting the European Union
  • Department for International Development
  • Department for International Trade
  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  • Home Office and UK Visas and Immigration

Straight away we saw how big this was – over 33,000 pieces of content matched our definition.

User groups and reviewing their needs

Because of the scale of the content we needed a quick way to review it. We decided the best way to do this was to review it based on who may need the content and what they may need it for. We found there wasn’t a clear distinction between professional and personal users, they’re all just people trying to do a thing.

We decided on 4 user groups:

  • British citizens – outside and inside the UK
  • non-British citizens – outside and inside the UK

We then looked at the tasks these groups may need to complete on GOV.UK, such as:

  • get a UK visa
  • find out how to set up a business in the UK from abroad
  • find out where the UK spends aid money
  • get help when in distress abroad

This helped us to quickly categorise all the content. We found:

  • duplicate content
  • publications that didn’t have a clear user group or task
  • inconsistent user journeys

Whilst it wasn’t an exhaustive content audit, it helped us focus our efforts on international user needs in the context of our 6 week discovery.

What did we find?

We’ll be publishing more posts about what we found out and what we’re planning on doing next.

Original source – Inside GOV.UK

Yesterday was a good day. It was the unawards in a cinema that saw prizes given in 18 categories to an audience of 140.

We gave out the prizes and then mopped up the disappointment of those who missed out with a film. ‘Groundhog Day’ was the main feature. This is a story of a man in the media forced to live his life over and over until he changes his ways.

Chatting to people over lunch afterwards it seemed the choice of film echoed a strand in people’s professional lives.

Every day people fight to get good things done.

Which is why getting out of the office, learning and above all talking to people are so important. Be reminded it’s them. Not you.

And every day while you’re in the office do one small thing better or differently. It doesn’t even have to be big.

In six months time you’ll look back where you came from and be amazed at how far you’ve come.

I’m and @danslee. Shout if I can help.

Original source – The Dan Slee Blog » LOCAL SOCIAL: Is it time for a Local localgovcamp?

“It’s only words, And words are all I have” sang the Bee Gees (and later of course covered by seminal boy band Boyzone) and on that theme here is a quick post about the importance of clear language and how every word matters.

Christmas bin collections are one of those local government functions around which there always seems to be a substantial amount of citizen cynicism; a hair-trigger barely held for 11.5 months before the announcement of changes to the usual pattern are announced.

Communication should always seek to be clear, to be easily understood and not easily misconstrued but in situations where you know your audience can react with anger (seemingly no matter what you’re telling them) that need is ever greater. Every word matters.

Take this post by hyperlocal site Birmingham Updates on this very subject – bin collections in the forthcoming festive season (hat tip to Stuart Harrison for the comment spot). The headline for their post this year is ‘Birmingham refuse collections for Christmas and New Year’. Now, while the English is a fascinating and multi-faceted language is can also be ambiguous, for native speakers and ‘not-first language’ folk alike – and this a textbook case.

Refuse / refuse. Certainly a preferred local government piece of jargon referring to waste and its collection. But could also be read as denial of that service, a stubborn ‘we won’t’ delivered straight to the citizens poised for their council to hear just that.

Comments under the piece when posted via the site’s Facebook page suggest they have been read in this latter way. ‘There won’t be any [collections] just like last year’, ‘drop them off at the council house, they soon move them’, ‘I’ll be dropping my rubbish on the corner. how u like them apples’, ‘is that re-fuse or refuse collection??’.

The site’s use of ‘refuse’ as a synonym for rubbish is justified and the implied meaning fairly assumed to be obvious – this is not a post to point a finger at them but they have served a timely example. The specific language we use should be as considered as the wider message we communicate. Assumptions are one of the easier traps to fall into as communicators and so it’s always worth a step back and look from a different angle. Or even better some evidence gathering to help you see the forest through the trees (metaphors have their own special place in the confusing language spectrum).

In previous projects I have banged on to my teams about how ‘every word matters’ and led writing, testing, evaluating, and adapting cycles to make sure that online content (in particular) is using the right language, the right layout, the right visual design to achieve objectives. I have been obsessive about detail down to the multi-varient testing sentence structure to get the best understanding and therefore the best outcome. It’s about optimisation and evolution as much as creation.

These testing phases have led to some surprising discoveries, things that have challenged assumptions in multiple ways. As local government communicators we’ve long fought the battle for plain English – I doubt there are many of us not sporting the scars of ‘it’s a tip not a civic amenity point’. But guess what…the battle has raged so long the public have adapted. While we have encouraged our organisations to think and speak more like the people they serve, those people have impatiently and grudgingly got on with starting to think like the organisations in order to find their way to those services.

In one round of testing – specifically looking at naming of sections in a structure (or nomenclature if we were using jargon) – we proposed the use of the word ‘tip’. Our users expressed surprise, and a little confusion. ‘Yeah, that’s what everyone calls it, but we know you call it something else and I’d be looking for those words. I know I have to look for your words now.’ We have fallen further down the communications rabbit hole and must look again at what we do. This user behaviour is not an excuse to give up and stay in the comfort of the language our organisations have created for themselves, but a challenge to us as communicators to mediate more, to challenge everything, to try and move faster to communicate successfully.

Evaluation is great – but can sometimes come too late in the process. Get some testing of your messages and your wording in early. Make sure that every word you use, every nuance of the language is working in the way you want and expect it to.

It’s not just what you need to say, but how you say it. Ride that line between dumbed down and plain, find the beauty in the simplicity of being functional. Be clear, be unambiguous. And question everything, test even more.

Enjoy some Bee Gees…


Birmingham is having its rubbish collected this Christmas, just not on Christmas Day, Boxing Day or Bank Holidays in lieu where those days fall on a weekend. They were almost certainly meaning refuse ‘rubbish’ not a sudden and stubborn refusal to take your bin.

I’m a freelance content strategist, journalist and editor – if you’d like to work with me find out more about my background and please get in touch. You can also find me on twitter.

Original source – Sarah Lay

I’ve talked about the weight of starting before, but stopping something you’re working on is also hard. We fall in love with our own products and creations. It’s a choice to work on things we think are important and in […]

Original source – Ben Holliday

Summary: The deadline for submitting tabled questions for Cambridgeshire County Council’s full council meeting on 13 December, is 1:30pm on 06 December. 

The deadline of 06 December gives council officers a week to brief the executive councillors of the responses to public questions tabled for the meeting on 13 December at Shire Hall – it starts at 1:30pm if you’re interested. The meeting details are here.
I have just tabled the following questions to

1) What legal powers does the county council have, and what legal duties does the county council have regarding poor air quality in Cambridge and towns in the county?

2) What plans does the council have to bring in a smart ticketing system that works for all bus and/or public transport providers?

If you are at college and are free that afternoon, the campaign for lower fares for 16-18 year olds by the Campaign for Better Transport may be of interest. You could table a question to councillors about that. Alternatively, email them via
On air quality, this stems from the bumper-to-bumper traffic in my neighbourhood that is becoming more frequent far outside of rush hours. This seems to coincide with me now having to use inhalers because it is having a bad impact on my breathing. Furthermore, the alerts in London today from the Mayor of London tipped me over.
The second one is sort of related – all day and season tickets between different bus firms are not interchangeable in and around Cambridge. Oh the efficiencies of privatised bus companies. With the Cambridgeshire County Council elections coming up in May 2017, my thinking is to get as many issues onto the public record and on video so as to help stimulate and inform debate across a number of areas that the county council has responsibility for. That might help concentrate the minds of the parties standing candidates in the elections.
Anyway, if you’ve not seen what asking questions is like, I made a guide below:
If you want to ask a question in public at the meeting on 13 December, you need to email your question to by 1.30pm of 06 December.

Original source – A dragon’s best friend

I’m experimenting in December. I’m planning to publish something every day in the run up to Christmas. I’m cheating slightly, in that I’m not committing to weekends. I used to always look forward to the web design advent calendar – […]

Original source – Ben Holliday

Struggling for present ideas? Not anymore. We’ve spent ages on the internet tracking down some ideas. 

by Dan Slee

Let’s face it there’s nothing worse than getting a rubbish pile of presents. So, here’s some I’ve chosen from an extensive review of the internet.

Enjoy. For you. Or the person in your life.


Leuchturm notebook. A 249-page notebook that fits into your bag beautifully. About £11.

Waterman fountain pen. A good pen About £30. 

Sticky notes. A big pack for creative. £5.


Tubesperation! by Andy Green. Inspired by using dead time on the underground for creative inspiration. You can use the tips on any commute. About £10.

The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding From You by Eli Pariser. A book that helps you understand the future challenges that are facing you and your family.

FutureProof: Edition Two edited by Sarah Hall. A cracking round-up of new writing for comms and PR. 

Trust me: PR is Dead by Robert Phillips. When the book came out there was a storm from the industry about the title. But very little about the contents. Post-Trump and Post-Brexit this book is becoming an essential read in understanding what next.

Anarchists in the Boardroom by Liam Barrington-Bush. A couple of years old now but a useful reckoner on understanding how to make the most of the social web in an organisation.

The Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District by James Rebanks. Your job is stressful. So you’ll be glad you can escape to this. It emerged from a Twitter account from a shepherd with an iphone.

Scilly Sergeant: Adventures of High Tide and Low Crime by Colin Taylor. The best Facebook page in the UK was the Isles of Scilly Police. When the officer moved to the mainland he published a memoir that is superb escapism.

Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book by Mary Berry. Of course this should be in a comms, PR and digital list. Of course it should. About £15.


A RAV4 Powerbank for when your mobile phone may be struggling for power. £23.

Samsung Gear VR virtual reality headset. This headset works with a high end Samsung phone and is leading the field in VR. About £90.

Samsung Gear 360 camera. A camera capable of shooting 360-degree footage which works with Samsung products. About £300.

Google cardboard. This works with pretty much any smartphone and is a brilliant entry-level device that you can assemble yourself. About £5.

Smartphone projector. A neat device that helps you impress your friends and family by showing films in a traditional style straight from your smartphone. About £20.

Smartphone tripod. Useful for taking pictures, shooting video or selfies. About £5.


If you achieve greatness you’ve hired the right PR firm. A simple message as a t-shirt for £16.

Happiness is being a public relations officer. Not entirely convinced by this, to be honest. But there’s some irony in there. About £8.

Mail order coffee. Three months of coffee posted to you from indie coffee merchants Rinaldo’s who are based in the Lake District. £25.

Headspace app. Three months of meditation through the app. Around £23.

Gloves you can still text and use a touch screen with. Useful when its nippy. About £12.

Dan Slee is co-founder of comms2point0.


Original source – comms2point0 free online resource for creative comms people – comms2point0

A name stands feet high in stark white against the black of a cinema screen, Take That plays loud over the PA as the audience applauds. Someone whoops their approval. The lights glint off the engraving on the medal being handed over. A name booms loud along with the words Lifetime Achievement Winner…

by Sarah Lay

*Record scratch. Freeze frame*

Yeah, that’s me, stood at the front of the Everyman Cinema in Birmingham in December 2015. At the age of 36 I’ve just been crowned as the winner of the second comms2point0 UnAwards for my work across digital in the public sector and as a music journalist and PR. Just 24 hours earlier I’d quietly taken the decision to put in for voluntary redundancy due to a restructure in my team and so this surprising, humbling and ever-so-slightly ridiculous win was a bittersweet swan song to a 12 year career pushing forward with digital transformation in the public sector, a glittering ‘hello again’ as I returned more significantly to music journalism.

For me, the UnAward came at a weird and wonderful point in my career and life. I’d achieved a huge amount leading the Digital First project and team at Nottinghamshire County Council, and as co-founder of LocalGov Digital. Alongside it I’d been nurturing my career in music, mainly as editor of Louder Than War. I’d never intended to choose between them but sometimes things go in unexpected ways – although in a diminishing public sector perhaps it is not all that shocking that this choice presented itself.

Leaving has given me a whole load of opportunities – things have continued to surprise me. Not least that I am now half of an independent record label and get to spend my days choosing vinyl colours and listening to amazing music by brilliantly creative musicians (Reckless Yes Records seeing as you asked – please buy our stuff). I’ve been able to take work across digital and the public sector which fascinates and challenges me. The Lifetime Achievement award for me came at the end of something, but also at the start. Of course, that makes it hugely significant to me. But, more striking than how it relates to my personal and professional achievements and timeline is what it taught me about influence.

Influence is one of the areas that fascinate me in my digital work. Networking and the importance of connectors as well as connections, the links which are forged between individuals and groups and how those pathways endure even if only lightly or infrequently trodden.

The nomination was the firing of one pathway – a decision by someone that work I had done was worthy of recognition. The public vote was quite another and the win something else yet again; a humbling experience and strange for someone who suffers imposter syndrome more days than not and was up against some impressive and worthy individuals. But even more than that – it was startling just how far my work had spread, how things I’d done with little thought had catalysed work elsewhere or even just given people pause or triggered their own thinking.

We consider little about how connected we are these days, probably even less about what our networks truly look like, and the reach and influence each of us have in our professional and personal lives. This award, any award or recognition of our efforts, should encourage us to reflect positively on the journeys we’ve made and the ones still ahead. It should help us to see how far the ripples spread from the work we directly do and light up pathways around our network which we didn’t even know were there. It should help us connect further as well as celebrate.

Good luck to this year’s Lifetime Achievement nominees Phil Jewitt and Karen Newman- whoever is handed a medal this year you should already mark this up as a success, see it as a beacon in your networks and a valued milestone in your professional and personal journeys.

Sarah Lay is a freelance digital content strategist and music journalist, available for hire. Find her at and on Twitter @sarahlay. She’s joining the comms2point0 panel to blog about digital from 2017

image via Sonny Abesamis

Original source – comms2point0 free online resource for creative comms people – comms2point0

Digital Outcomes and Specialists was due to close to new opportunities on 2 December 2016. We’ve extended it to make sure that buyers can continue to buy services until Digital Outcomes and Specialists 2 is available on the Digital Marketplace.

We can keep Digital Outcomes and Specialists open for new opportunities until 2 September 2017 but we expect to close it before then. We’ll email Digital Outcomes and Specialists buyers and suppliers 30 days before we do this to let them know the new closing date.

Suppliers who want to continue selling their services after February 2017, must apply to Digital Outcomes and Specialists 2 by 5pm GMT on 14 December 2016.

We expect users to be able to buy and sell Digital Outcomes and Specialists 2 services on the Digital Marketplace in February.

Original source – G-Cloud