Interesting elsewhere – alpha gov special edition – 16 May 2011

Things which caught my eye elsewhere on the web, rather a lot of them from the Alpha.gov.uk blog.  This is only the second time ever that one of these posts has been so skewed to a single source (and is just as unintended and emergent as the first time). So the Alpha team get one of the highest accolades this blog can offer – all they need to do now is come up with a couple of aphorisms.

  • It’s all about the nodes and what lives at them | Alpha.gov.uk team blog People are arriving from search engines looking to complete a specific task, so we decided to build an unashamedly flat, task-focused website to help people find the ‘quick do’ as we termed it.The assumption is that people are coming from a search engine, and for those who aren’t we provide an autocomplete search box with a more traditional search results page as a backup – again to get people straight to the answer as quickly as possible. It’s about the nodes not the network.
  • Agile does work in government | Alpha.gov.uk team blog Just as there are trends in technology, there are fashions in project management and some feel that agile is poorly suited to government and is just a fad. One of the principle objectives for this project was to demonstrate that an agile approach can work.
  • Broadly, the visual language of Alpha.gov.uk | Alpha.gov.uk team blog Search logs from existing Government sites show that over 90% of traffic is people arriving at deep links, typically coming from Google to a transaction page, wanting to complete their task and leave. From this perspective, the homepage is rarely seen and very little horizontal navigation around the site is necessary, at least in the citizen parts. The original concept was to keep the homepage simple, much like Google, but in the end we had to make a few concessions internally and we’re presenting a lead news story as a backdrop to the search, plus some news articles further down the page.
  • Schneier on Security: Status Report: The Dishonest Minority The term “dishonest minority” is not a moral judgment; it simply describes the minority who does not follow societal norm. Since many societal norms are in fact immoral, sometimes the dishonest minority serves as a catalyst for social change. Societies without a reservoir of people who don’t follow the rules lack an important mechanism for societal evolution. Vibrant societies need a dishonest minority; if society makes its dishonest minority too small, it stifles dissent as well as common crime.
  • Preaching to the unconverted « honestlyreal As with most difficult public policy issues, from asylum seekers to disability claimants to identity, there’s always an easy, quick answer that will get heads nodding in the pub and taxi. But which is almost always utterly, hopelessly, WRONG. Who wouldn’t like an easy answer to a hard question? To avoid any deeper thinking about the subject. Or acknowledgement of history, personal responsibility or sense of others? To gloss past the difficulties that arise when something that looks (from a huge distance) a tiny bit like a simple, familiar, backyard activity is attempted on a scale of tens of millions of people and transactions.
  • Alphagov – in which we remove potential threats of leopards. | Rel.ly If you’re from a Government digital services background then you’ll be aware of Martha Lane Fox’s report on which our work is based. You’ll know the word radical was used. And so it is, in the scheme of Government work. Leaving aside the ‘how is it developed’ and ‘what technology are you using’ questions (which become part of the problem and explanation), the frustrating part is plenty of people before Alphagov could see the problems and probably a good few of the solutions too. They were not able to act on them (and many have privately told us of their struggles). And they probably feel like, well, like how everyone feels when the consultants waltz in and say exactly what you’ve been saying for the last however many months. We have been given the utopian blank slate that others have only dreamed was possible. To those people, I can only say this: we aren’t wasting the opportunity.