How to be positively subversive

Tom Steinberg offers six tips on how to set up organisations like his own mySociety.  I find the last two the most immediately appealing:

5. If you aren’t pissing off at least some people all the time, you’ve probably been captured by the establishment.

6. Take whatever your first website plan is and remove 90% of the features you want. Then build it and launch it and your users will tell you which features they actually wanted instead. Build them and bask in the warm glow of appreciation.

Tom’s genius is to stand outside government and subvert it.  Those of us on the inside should set ourselves the tougher version of number 6:  to strip out 90% of the underlying process complexity and then build back in only those parts which improve service and efficiency, before encouraging others to develop its presentation while abstracting from 90% of the complexity which is left.

I don’t think we are anywhere close to doing that yet.  But then it’s not long ago that Tom was pissing off quite a lot of people quite a lot of the time.  Now he has been captured by a new establishment, which he played no small part in creating, so radical decrementalism may be closer than we think.

Comments

  1. It’s a slightly snide allusion to “radical incrementalism”, which has a bit more google weight than decrementalism. What I had in mind was the idea of making things better by subtracting from them to make them simpler, rather than making things better by adding to them and thereby making them more complicated.
    The mySociety approach has proved its worth in creating simple, imaginative and flexible tools and so improving the user experience. But that often sits on top of a dinosaur back end which can’t be fixed by external guerilla activity. There are some good reasons for the difference – to quote an earlier related post,
    “Tom makes a virtue of not caring how local authorities pick up and deal with the information which FixMyStreet passes to them. But the real value to the citizen is not the reporting but the resolution – so local authorities have no choice but to care how they efficiently translate reports of problems into activity planning and into the activity itself.”
    http://strategytalk.typepad.com/public_strategy/2008/02/government-1-ma.html
    But the fact that there are reasons for the difference doesn’t mean that we should throw our hands in the air and not address the underlying complexity which is the underlying cause of so many user experience problems.

  2. Strip it down to whats good.

    If you want people on side and working together, less is always more.
    Tom Steinberg knows that. He runs MySociety, the very successful charity which punches above it weight using the internet to help people collaborate to improve civil society. Among…

  3. Keep Stripping

    If you want to people on side and working together, less is always more. Tom Steinberg knows that. He runs MySociety, the very successful charity which punches above it weight using the internet to help people collaborate to improve civil

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