Interesting elsewhere – 29 January 2016

Things which caught my eye elsewhere on the web

When bright people make dull policy recommendations | Nesta
The disadvantage of the adviser’s approach is that it doesn’t put a premium on originality. After all, most good policy ideas aren’t original, and most original policy ideas aren’t good. You would expect even a very good policy white paper to include lots of old ideas. This is a problem if you are expecting the chapter to tell you something new and fresh.

What if boldness were an explicit value of the civil service? — Medium
I’ve always been drawn to boldness. I find boldness in others inspiring, infectious, empowering, creative and meaningful. I want to spend time around bold, honest, open people. I want to be inspired and empowered to boldness myself. I know I am at my best when I can feel the weird whoosh of terror and relief that comes from real, heartfelt boldness. And I don’t think you can lead a great team, or transform organisations or services without a healthy amount of boldness.

Alex Blandford — Elbow grease
Fixing big government digital problems takes elbow grease. It takes political campaigners to get the politicians buy in and the budget, it takes business planners and procurement people to get civil servants used to agile, it takes product managers and delivery teams to show value for money, it takes a range of disciplines, skills beyond sharpies and patience beyond saints.

Why Big Companies Keep Failing: The Stack Fallacy | TechCrunch
The stack fallacy provides insights into why companies keep failing at the obvious things —  things so close to their reach that they can surely build. The answer may be that the what is 100 times more important than the how.

Helping Civil Servants help Citizens | No Quick Wins
I am very much in favour of public servants being trusted to make professional judgements within the context of their work.  But if we want to drive a change towards more modern and efficient tools we should make it easy.  And at the moment, it’s too easy to carry on using a clunky combination of email, attached documents and corporate file shares rather than put the effort into assessing whether an online collaboration tool is fit for purpose – and then working out how to transfer the ‘final version’ into the official record.

Bits or pieces?: Cloud is outsourcing but it’s not outsourcing (as was).
The problem with outsourcing in the past wasn’t the concept of outsourcing but instead that organisations outsourced entire systems for which they had no situational awareness. This was foolish and of course outsourcing got a bad name except from the suppliers who cottoned onto the scam and made oodles of cash out of it. The simple reality is that there’s nothing wrong with outsourcing if you break down complex environments into components and outsource those industrialised ones.

Designing a New Operating System for Work — What’s The Future of Work? — Medium
Large organizations are a kind of technology, a technology for scaling up economic activities while minimizing costs of doing so. You could think of it as an operating system for work that’s been running for a century. And now we’re creating a new operating system, based on always-on Internet, mobile devices, social media, sensors and geolocation technologies. But this new operating system for coordinating human activities and creating new kinds of value could also be riddled with catastrophic bugs, pushing large swaths of the population to labor at subsistence levels, with no benefits and little predictability over their earning streams.

The Politics of Empathy and the Politics of Technology — The Message — Medium
The people who run the Internet platforms are making calls about who they think is deserving of empathy. That makes their decisions thoroughly political. The fact that I sympathize with the challenge of making these decisions is not what is important. Rather, I am pointing out that none of these are decisions are automatic outputs emanating from the technology itself, nor are they independent of technology and its characteristics. There are genuine constraints and issues about what’s possible, easy and straightforward to implement. The geo-fencing versus spam issue, for example, cannot be resolved without discussing the Internet’s architecture. Encryption cannot be deactivated for some people (the bad guys) without making all of internet insecure, for example. The politics of technology is politics, but it’s never just politics.

Mobile, ecosystems and the death of PCs — Benedict Evans
The things you can only do on a PC, with a native PC application, keep shrinking. Indeed, I’ve argued elsewhere that it’s time to invert our mental model and think of the PC, not the smartphone, as the limited device.

So, each new computing platform will never be used for real work, but the platform gets better and the work changes to fit the new platform. In tech, ‘never’ seems to be 5-10 years (so does ‘soon’).

A blog is your brain, over time, on the internet
Over time, a blog becomes a corpus of knowledge – your knowledge, or your organisation’s knowledge. A blog is your brain, over time, on the internet. An archive of what you think now and what you thought before. And that means it’s one of the simplest and most effective ways you can make things open, and make things better.

Stop saying technology is causing social isolation — Digital Culturist — Medium
We need to stop thinking technology is ruining everything, making us a slave to it, mindlessly using our smartphones all the time. It is not. It is enriching our lives, connecting us to the people that matter the most to us regardless of how far away they are, connecting us to all kinds of people whom we wouldn’t have met otherwise. So, stop feeling superior for making fun of other people because they’re using their smartphones, stop pretending our lives and society would be better without them, stop blaming technology for natural human behaviors.

Gotta catch ‘em all, or, a story about digital transformation in four movements | Matt Edgar writes here
Members of high-performing teams bring more of themselves to their work. Suits must mix with t-shirts, uniforms must be considered harmful. The broader its collective perspectives, the more empathy a team can build with all its users.

What if users were in the room with you? Would they feel at home? Would they understand the words you use? Would they feel valued and respected? Because workers are users too. And if the way we live our lives is changing, then so must the way we do our work. You can’t truly deliver one without the other.

What World Are We Building?
It’s easy to love or hate technology, to blame it for social ills or to imagine that it will fix what people cannot. But technology is made by people. In a society. And it has a tendency to mirror and magnify the issues that affect everyday life. The good, bad, and ugly.

So you want to manage a product? — The Product Management Coalition — Medium
Being a product manager is about making compromises between what your team can accomplish within a given period of time and what your customers absolutely need. You will continually be torn between your team, customers, and business in an impossible race against time. The minor victory is in balancing short- and long-term product strategy, no matter if your product was conceived today or twenty years ago.

Putting the “design” into organisation design – FutureGov
Good organisation design is one of the most important factors in making transformation happen, and here’s why: because we can’t bring radical change to the services we deliver without bringing radic

You Mustn’t Criticise The Status Quo At A Hackday ← Terence Eden’s Blog
If you work at a large company, or in a powerful industry, you must listen to your critics. You don’t have to believe everything they say about you, nor do you have to accept their arguments. But if you can’t listen, you’ve lost. For everyone brave enough to stand on stage and voice their displeasure, there are many more silently nodding in agreement.

Volkswagen and the Era of Cheating Software || Zeynep Tufekci
The good news is that there are well-understood methods to safeguard the integrity of software systems. The bad news is that there is as yet little funding for creating the appropriate regulatory framework for smart objects, or even an understanding of the urgent need for it. We are rightly incensed with Volkswagen, but we should also consider how we have ceded a lot of power to software that runs everything from our devices to our cars, and have not persisted in keeping tabs on it. We correctly worry about hackers and data leaks, but we are largely ignoring the ramifications of introducing software, a form of intelligence, to so many realms — sometimes called the Internet of Things.

Richie | Data is not an asset, it’s a liability
You don’t start with the raw data. You start with the questions you want answered. Then you collect the data you need (and just the data you need) to answer those questions.

Think this way for a while, and you notice a key factor: old data usually isn’t very interesting. You’ll be much more interested in what your users are doing right now than what they were doing a year ago. Sure, spotting trends in historical data might be cool, but in all likelihood it isn’t actionable. Today’s data is.

This is important, because it invalidates the whole premise of storing data just in case you’ll need it later. You simply won’t, so incurring the cost of storing and managing and safeguarding it makes no sense at all.

Actionable insight is an asset. Data is a liability. And old data is a non-performing loan.

Interesting elsewhere – 11 September 2015

Things which caught my eye elsewhere on the web

The Security Risks of Third-Party Data – Schneier on Security
Organizational doxing is a powerful attack against organizations, and one that will continue because it’s so effective. And while the network owners and the hackers might be battling it out for their own reasons, sometimes it’s our data that’s the prize. Having information we thought private turn out to be public and searchable is what happens when the hackers win. It’s a result of the information age that hasn’t been fully appreciated, and one that we’re still not prepared to face.

It’s not about us, it’s about collaboration | Government Digital Service
Digital transformation isn’t just service design, it’s organisation design. It’s as much about people as it is about pixels and processors. And it’s hard. Re-thinking digital services means re-thinking how your organisation does things and why it does them in a particular way. It means challenging the status quo and constantly asking “Why?” and “What is the user need?”

What I’m talking about when I’m talking about government as a platform | Dave Briggs
Digital is not about technology, and government as a platform is not about IT. It is instead a way of rethinking the operating model of an organisation to meet the current and future needs of its customers, in the digital age. The technology is an important enabler, but it is the means rather than the end.

The Future of Firms. Is There an App for That? — Medium
For most of the developed world, firms, as much as markets, make up the dominant economic pattern. The Internet is nothing less than an extinction-level event for the traditional firm. The Internet, together with technological intelligence, makes it possible to create totally new forms of economic entities, such as the “Uber for everything” -type of platforms/service markets that we see emerging today. Very small firms can do things that in the past required very large organizations.

Russell Davies: You can’t fix services with engagement
How did so many organisations end up here?

Because they’ve spent money on making their marketing digital, not their processes. They’ve got good at social media rather than service design.

They’ve invested in conversations, not services, so now they spend their whole time having conversations about how shit their services are.

Ben Holliday » Asking the right questions to frame the problem
I’ve found that framing the problem is something that teams really struggle with. This should be something we constantly refer back to as we look to iterate and improve what we’re working on. Framing the problem should provide the constraint and reasoning behind new features, or be used to guide the prioritisation of any content and design changes.

Web Design – The First 100 Years
Here we are, fifty years into the computer revolution, at what feels like our moment of greatest progress. The outlines of the future are clear, and oh boy is it futuristic.

But we’re running into physical and economic barriers that aren’t worth crossing.

We’re starting to see that putting everything online has real and troubling social costs.

And the devices we use are becoming ‘good enough’, to the point where we can focus on making them cheaper, more efficient, and accessible to everyone.

So despite appearances, despite the feeling that things are accelerating and changing faster than ever, I want to make the shocking prediction that the Internet of 2060 is going to look recognizably the same as the Internet today.

Digital transformation strategy | Deloitte University Press
What separates digital lea­ders from the rest is a clear digital strategy com­bined with a culture and leadership poised to drive the transformation. The history of technological ad­vance in business is littered with examples of companies focusing on technologies without in­vesting in organizational capabilities that ensure their impact. In many companies, the failed imple­mentation of enterprise resource planning and previous generations of knowledge management systems are classic examples of expectations falling short because organizations didn’t change mindsets and processes or build cultures that fostered change.

Lessons for the Public Sector from the Evolution of Early Life | Richard Copley MSc, BSc, SMSITM (and CIO)
It is necessary for each partner to give something up if the eukaryotic organisation is to be created. The thing that you’re losing is sovereignty over some functions. To my mind the kind of protectionism/sovereignty that we typically see in the public sector is a crime. ‘Sovereignty’ is really little more than macho chest thumping and posturing. It is a dog, scent marking its territory. We need to grow up.

Interesting elsewhere – 17 July 2015

Things which caught my eye elsewhere on the web

The WTF Economy — Tim O’Reilly — Medium
Over the past few decades, the digital revolution has transformed the world of media, upending centuries-old companies and business models. Now, it is restructuring every business, every job, and every sector of society. No company, no job is immune to disruption.

I believe that the biggest changes are still ahead, and that every industry and every organization will have to transform itself in the next few years, in multiple ways, or fade away. We need to ask ourselves whether the fundamental social safety nets of the developed world will survive the transition, and more importantly, what we will replace them with.

Office, messaging and verbs — Benedict Evans
The way forward for productivity is probably not to take software applications and document models that were conceived and built in a non-networked age and put them into the cloud, or to make carbon copies of them as web apps. This is no different to using your PC to do the same things you used your typewriter for. And of course that is exactly how a lot of people used their PCs – to start with. Just as today we make web app copies of software models conceived for the floppy disk, so the first PCs were often used to type up memos that were then printed out and sent though internal mail. It took time for email to replace internal mail and even longer for people to stop emailing Word files as attachments. Equally, we went from typing expense forms (with carbon copies) to entering them into a Word doc version of the form, to a dedicated Windows app that looked just like the form, to a web page that looked just like the form – and then, suddenly, someone worked out that maybe you should just take a photo of the receipt. It takes time, but sooner or later we stop replicating the old methods with the new tools and find new methods to fit the new tools.

danah boyd | apophenia » I miss not being scared.
Is our society really worse off because youth take risks and adults don’t? Why are they wrong and us old people are right? Is it simply because we have more power? As more and more adults live long, fearful lives in Western societies, I keep thinking that we should start regulating our decision-making. Our inability to be brash is costing our society in all sorts of ways. And it will only get worse as some societies get younger while others get older. Us old people aren’t imagining new ways of addressing societal ills. Meanwhile, our conservative scaredy cat ways don’t allow youth to explore and challenge the status quo or invent new futures. I keep thinking that we need to protect ourselves and our children from our own irrationality produced from our fears.

Spaces of possibility | Catherine Howe
The redesign of physical spaces provides an opportunity to reimagine their surrounding digital space. I have been talking here of libraries but this is true of housing, or parks of any other kind of regeneration. My worry is that is if we don’t think about it then we risk ending up with a mish mash of smart vending machines, intelligent lampposts and clever video walls with generic content. These are all marvels in their own right but they don’t create a space for the community which they are designed to serve.

Some notes on Obama in Charleston | thenextwave
We make our own futures through our choices, if not under the circumstances of our choosing. While speeches rarely create change, they can crystallise it. They can help us choose.

me.gov – the future of digital government
By applying the techniques of successful marketers and eCommerce businesses, digital can and should deliver more than efficiency savings for governments. It can improve outcomes by supporting behaviour change and ensuring that the right people access the right services at the right times. And it can improve trust and engagement between citizens and the public services and institutions that their taxes pay for.

Interesting elsewhere – 26 June 2015

Things which caught my eye elsewhere on the web

Discovering discovery | Make it quotidian
Not enough people actually begin at the beginning.

Often when I meet teams working on service transformation, or digital change projects, I find that they’ve begun somewhere else. Perhaps their work began when someone decided the organisation should be using a particular system, so they’re busy trying to implement that, or someone thought a particular process should be put online, so that’s what they’re doing. They’ve been presented with a solution and told to make it work.[…]

This tends to result in teams who are doing their best, but are feeling rather put-upon and disempowered; teams who find that the priorities and targets aren’t entirely clear, or that they keep shifting; teams who can’t really explain the purpose of what they are working on, or who it is for, or what will happen to it after they’ve finished their particular project.

GovTech is Not Broken | Civic Innovations
The most under-appreciated characteristic of the government procurement process as it exists today is that it’s current design is largely intentional. Much like the federal and state income tax systems, we imbue a number of values deemed important into our procurement processes in the hopes of fostering desired outcomes.

Ben Holliday » Thinking about iteration
It’s important to design and test different design approaches to the problem. This means that we quickly throw away things that aren’t working and move on to something else.

With our approach to prototyping in government the cost of throwing things away should be outweighed by the value of what we’re learning.

It’s only when we’re then confident enough about how well a design approach meets user needs that we should be looking to improve or iterate on this user journey.

Tomorrow’s World | Perfect Path
In all technology, we face a tension between our desire to make life easier by replacing human labour with code or machines and our attachment to human labour as the primary sense-making tool of life and the means by which most of us get the things we need to live.

We seem to understand that work is changing but most of the #futureofwork stuff I’ve seen assumes capitalism based on corporations as a given.

I do have an opinion on this, I think we need fewer jobs and to really accept that people don’t need any more to work as hard or as long doing stuff to justify staying alive. What I want to do more though is point out the incongruity that our tech efforts go into replacing human labour but our politics, culture and society, our communities and social interactions assume that everyone should have a job or some easily understandable means of income like owning or a company or assets that create value.

being more human at work – disambiguity
Consider every business process as a (usually) poorly solved design problem and approach it like a design team should – firstly understanding the what the actual problem is then thinking about different ways it could be solved, and then choosing the one that actually solves the problem – remembering that businesses are really nothing but groups of humans trying to work together to do something great.

diamond geezer
Those who push their chair in I like, because if one of them is in place I can escape from my desk. Alas they’re also in the minority. Most of the people they send to sit next to me are chair-leaver-outers, getting up for a coffee or a meeting and blocking the aisle in their wake. I want to sigh deeply at their thoughtlessness, but by that time they’re not usually there, so I simply push their big office chair back under their desk and proceed.

Interesting elsewhere – 12 June 2015

Things which caught my eye elsewhere on the web

Government as a platform, or a platform for government? Which are we getting?
The distinction here – and government’s choice – between a blueprint for GaaP that supports participation versus one that supports mere access, is critical. The former is about democratic re-invigoration, and the latter is about – well, just technology. Participation is much more disruptive to existing modes of organising within government.

The importance of selective inefficiency » The Spectator
When people try to introduce market competition into a monopoly or public sector organisation, what they generally mean is ‘to make it ruthlessly efficient’. This is a mistake. Successful private sector organisations usually follow the Kano model — they learn to practise selective, symbolic inefficiency because customers like it better that way.

Where innovation sits in public service reform | arbitrary constant
Very little can truly be thought of as “innovative”. Having a more honest appraisal of the extent to which something is “new”, in my view, leads to a better understanding of the extent to which this “thing” might achieve change. This also provides us with a better understanding of the practical approaches, tools and techniques that might be useful to take the innovation from its current “degree” to the next, higher “degree”.

Stock and flow / Snarkmarket
Stock and flow is the master metaphor for media today. Here’s what I mean:

  • Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind people that you exist.
  • Stock is the durable stuff. It’s the content you produce that’s as interesting in two months (or two years) as it is today. It’s what people discover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time.

Designing digital democracy: a short guide | Geoff Mulgan
My guess is that the most successful models in the next few years will fuse representative and direct elements. They will be honest that the buck still stops with elected representatives – and that the online tools are inputs and supplements rather than replacements. They will present conversation and deliberation as preferable to relying on occasional elections, and the odd binary petition. But they will also be clear that the 21st century parliament or city council has to be a hybrid too – physical and digital.

FutureGov | A nuanced post about local government finance
Austerity and the inevitable next wave of cuts is daunting, but throwing our hands up and saying there’s nothing we can do about it is wrong. If you’re a public servant, you can become an accounting archeologist, finding out where money is going and where it’s sitting, uncovering its potential and using it now to invest in public services of the future rather than propping up the past.

The pursuit of power: Why Isis loves spreadsheets and mafia bosses build chapels – Ian Leslie
The politician, the gangster, and the terrorist all want something from you, though each of them wants something different. The politician wants your vote. The gangster wants your money. The terrorist wants your soul.

On the complex relationship between political ignorance and democracy | British Politics and Policy at LSE
Political analysis, if it is to have meaning, should take the ignorance of democratic citizens seriously – but it should also probably take it as a non-negotiable feature of the way that democracies work in the era of mass voting publics.

The Approaching Tidal Wave of Technological Change – RSA
What is remarkable about these achievements is not that they happened, but that they happened in such a short time from when such feats were confidently deemed impossible. Thinking like Gordon Moore rather than Thomas Watson Sr., computers over-taking humans in many more areas is a given.

A new operating model for government | Open Policy Making
Why do we expect government to be immune from the more radical impacts, just because we don’t have the luxury of going out of business? It is not just a case of feeding modern digital tools into our existing policy processes (though that too), it is about recognising that these technologies have the potential to allow or even require a different operating model for government.

Weasel words and no-apology apologies | Patient Opinion
Targets on response times were introduced and closely monitored by our board but there was little emphasis on the quality of our written responses.

Writing weasel words is not easy. Finding ways to express an apology without actually saying you have done anything wrong is an art form.

Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me: Leadership, Vision and Statecraft | NAKED DIPLOMAT
Politics is easy when you are building, ‘on the up’ and offering clear choices in simple language. Politics is easy when power is concentrated, when the rules are clear and, while they might not agree, everyone is all playing on the same chessboard.

Politics is hard when the power is fragmenting, when the rules of the game are in flux, and when there are players willing to turn the chessboard over. Politics is hard in the periods when your constituents don’t think you, or any of your rivals, matter – and wouldn’t trust you even if they did.

Interesting elsewhere – 12 March 2015

Things which caught my eye elsewhere on the web

4 Elements Of Successful Digital Transformation – DIGITAL LEADERS
We start from strategy. My strong belief at the start of this was that we did not need a separate digital strategy. We needed a business strategy with digital throughout. We need to retain our focus on our customers who still demand multi-channel access to our services. Business leaders that get digital don’t differentiate between business, digital and technology – the latter represents thinking from the early 2000s.

Is it time to ditch Digital Government? – PolicyBytes
As we all seek to further progress during the next Parliament with digital government, big data, smart cities, the Internet of Things, crowdsourcing and Government as a Platform, let’s make sure we say what we really mean: ‘reforming public services’, ‘making better use of information’, ‘improving cities’, ‘connecting devices’, ‘engaging the public’ and ‘coming up with common tools and ways of doing things’.

Schneier on Security: Everyone Wants You To Have Security, But Not from Them
The reason the Internet is a worldwide mass-market phenomenon is that all the technological details are hidden from view. Someone else is taking care of it. We want strong security, but we also want companies to have access to our computers, smart devices, and data. We want someone else to manage our computers and smart phones, organize our e-mail and photos, and help us move data between our various devices.

Those “someones” will necessarily be able to violate our privacy, either by deliberately peeking at our data or by having such lax security that they’re vulnerable to national intelligence agencies, cybercriminals, or both.

Rebooting the government | Civil Service World
Those first few years of work have been an alpha of a different sort: proving that radical change is possible, that digital should be at the heart of government, and that people are key to making big change happen.

What’s really different at DWP? — Medium
Just because the fundamental purpose of the department is different doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be delivering the digital services people expect, in a modern and efficient way.

In one sense, our unique purpose makes it easier for DWP to define its vision than a commercial enterprise, because we won’t have a competitor who will come along and disrupt our market. We need to disrupt our own delivery — which is why it’s such an exciting and challenging opportunity to bring fresh thinking from outside. Is it frustrating at times? Of course!

When experience matters (and when it doesn’t) – disambiguity
Lack of diversity in experience-levels (and lack of diversity in general) in the team will reduce their ability to consider a full range of service design options that can streamline the experience for users. This will limit the potential for transformation.

There are some roles where experience the domain of the project is essential and teams would be foolish not to include them. Designers and user researchers are not those roles.

Internet of Crappy Things – IoT | Kaspersky Lab Official Blog
In general, the problem is that those who develop home appliances and make them connected face realities of a brand new world they know nothing about. They ultimately find themselves in a situation similar to that of an experienced basketball player sitting through a chess match with a real grand master.

Things get even worse when it comes to the users of connected devices. They don’t bother with security at all. For an average user, a connected microwave is still just a microwave. A user would never imagine it is a fully-equipped connected computer which has means of influencing the physical world.

Technical architecture at MOJ Digital | MOJ Digital
Making sure that change isn’t expensive is vital for digital services because they have to change and adapt.

Bits or pieces?: On Government, platform, purchasing and the commercial world.
As with any large system where one size fits all project methodologies are ineffective, the same is true with purchasing. Any large scale system requires a mix of time and material, outcome based, COTS & fixed contract and unit / utility charging. Each has different strengths and merits as with project management methods. All activities evolve and how you purchase them will change accordingly.

Business Design for an Agile world — Medium
In our future world, the change is never finished. Our Business Design is for an organisation that continuously iterates to improve itself. Is our Business Design a TOM? If you think of a TOM simply as the description of the way that we want to operate a business, then it certainly is.

But if you see a TOM as a prescriptive, absolutist, linear description of exactly how the organisation will work in 2020, then that’s not for us.

This thing called agile might kill us all | plate and serve
Agile transformation through service design is inherently political and therefore a challenge to established power structures. One, service design cuts across organisational boundaries, because that’s what customers do. They are ruthlessly horizontal in a way that vertically silo’d organisations really struggle with. Two, agile is ruthless in its slaying of sacred cows because it has to prioritise ruthlessly, based on the as-pure-as-you-can-get empirical customer and operational data.

Interesting elsewhere – 22 January 2015

Things which caught my eye elsewhere on the web

Day 1 – Postbureaucrat
Whoever walks into ministerial offices after the 7th May, it’s likely there will be new faces with big ambitions and even higher expectations about how digital tools can help them win stakeholder, media and public support.

Falsehoods programmers believe about addresses

The challenge for web designers in 2015 (or how to cheat at the future)
Most of those won’t work if you try them on a laptop browser, but they will on your phone or tablet if you use chrome or firefox. This is partly the point, the technology is here, not in the tools that we use to design things for the web (laptop browsers), but in the place where users are spending more time.

Written evidence – Sir Stephen Laws KCB, QC (Hon), LLD (Hon)
The UK constitution is currently best analysed in terms of politics. The most important balancing and control mechanisms within the UK constitution are all essentially political, rather than legal. The doctrine of Parliamentary sovereignty is no more than the articulation of a political fact of life, namely, that in the last resort politics always trumps law.

Good Intentions, Bad Outcomes
Many large organisations, in both the private and public sector attempt to reduce a small risk to zero risk, yet in the no doubt well intended processes they create, the overall costs to the service escalates. Many organisations don’t place sufficient value on time. If time had been a measured factor in coming up with this process, it is probable that a leaner procedure would have been devised. Finally, often a lack of trust between the politicians or those in positions of authority and the rest of the workforce results in too many prescriptive procedures, adding to the overall cost of the service.

The Innovators – lessons from the digital revolution – davebriggs –
People and computers working together in a kind of symbiosis is where the real sweet spot in digital innovation lies, rather than in artificial intelligence. Instead of trying to make machines that act like humans, we should leave the computers to do what they are good at – crunching through data and calculations – which frees up the people to do the creative, intuitive bit that machines struggle with so much.

Unexamined Privilege is the real source of cruelty in Facebook’s “Your Year in Review” | Jeffrey Zeldman Presents The Daily Report: Web Design News & Insights Since 1995
If we keep throwing only young, mostly white, mostly upper middle class people at the engine that makes our digital world go, we’ll keep getting camera and reminder and hookup apps—things that make an already privileged life even smoother—and we’ll keep producing features that sound like a good idea to everyone in the room, until they unexpectedly stab someone in the heart.

How Markets Crowd Out Morals | Boston Review
Markets are not mere mechanisms; they embody certain values. And sometimes market values crowd out non-market norms worth caring about.

Optimism, Technology and (Citizen) Diplomacy | NAKED DIPLOMAT
If digital information is the 21st century’s most precious resource, the battle for it will be as contested as the battles for fire, axes, iron or steel. Between libertarians and control freaks. Between sharers and exploiters. Between those who want transparency, including many individuals, companies, and governments. And those who want privacy, or as its critics call it, secrecy. Between old and new sources of power. The next wave of technological disruption will be faster and greater than anything we have ever experienced. But we can and must be ready for it.

Interesting elsewhere – 15 December 2014

Things which caught my eye elsewhere on the web

De-geekifying open data | LocalGov Digital | Lucy Knight
But here's the most important thing for me about open data; the reason I support it and promote it the way I do. It's not about the cool stuff we could do with it (although obviously there can never be too much cool stuff). It's about fighting the perception that the public sector is full of people hiding information from the public. I'm tired of being seen as part of some evil cynical fact-obscuring machine. 

What is a ‘policy’ – and what is good policymaking? | David Allen Green
Good policy is the considered course of action by which a supposed public benefit is accomplished, which otherwise would not be accomplished, by the best use of the resources available. It is grounded in reality and thought-through as to its consequences. But get policy wrong and instead of the desired benefits there may be further and unintended problems, or even nothing achieved at all.

arbitrary constant | Up to and including itself
Basing policy on evidence is common sense, isn’t it? Why would you base policy on anything else? Shouldn’t we only spend tax-payers’ money on what works?

But scratch the surface of these questions and things aren’t as rational, predictable, and benefit-maximising as evidence-based policy would have us believe. There are similar heuristics when it comes to making policy.

‘Generalists don’t know what they don’t know and that can be dangerous’ | 21st Century Public Servant
Clearly there is a balance to be struck between generalists and specialists – I would like my surgeon to be a specialist and the person who signs off the safety of new buildings to have technical expertise – but it seems to me that there is a tendency to overstate the dangers of generalism. Generalists who don’t know what they don’t know may be able to be more innovative and experimental than people whose specialism leads them to see an existing service intervention as the solution to every problem.

Stumbling and Mumbling: Leadership in question
Is leadership and hierarchy really the best way of running political parties and government? Could it be that our idiot political culture which demands "strong" leadership is, in fact, an obstacle to good governance?    

This is a post about tone policing
If you see someone who is angry and upset about something that was said or done to them, don’t tell them they should be nicer. Instead: Recognize their emotions as valid. Recognize that their emotional state is an indication that something extremely harmful was done to them, whether it was by you, or someone else

The Whitehall ideas machine must go: politicians are the cause of bad services | John Seddon | Society | The Guardian
For innovation to flourish the locus of control must shift to the frontline where people deliver public services. Innovation requires freedom to learn and experiment; it can’t happen if it is constrained by consensus and regulation, especially when that consensus is largely developed among people with no knowledge. The Whitehall ideas machine must go. It is at the heart of the current malaise and is a disservice to ministers, entrapping them in a situation where they always need to be right, hate to have their opinions challenged, and are obliged to lay down the law.

Risk management of cyber security in technology projects – GOV.UK
Unusable systems encourage users to find workarounds, resulting in systems that are unproductive and insecure. Well-designed systems are both enjoyable to use, and more secure as a result.

Interesting elsewhere – 31 October 2014

Things which caught my eye elsewhere on the web

The Hollow Men II: Some reflections on Westminster and Whitehall dysfunction | Dominic Cummings’s Blog
Politics is dominated by discussion of ‘strategy’ and ‘priorities’, but few know how to think strategically (or even what ‘strategy’ is) or how to make and stick to priorities. Misunderstanding of strategy, and the proliferation of rhetoric masquerading as strategy, causes huge problems, including with national leaderships’ attempts to define ‘national strategy’.

This is a huge gap in Whitehall but the system has gone so wrong few even realise the gap is there and those who do cannot do anything about it.

Who is nudging whom? | The Enlightened Economist
What is ‘better’? Is it the (largely) white, male, middle class experts who work in the policy world? What will the wider consequences be of adopting nudges that get ordinary people to pay more income tax and cheat less on benefits, without looking for nudges that get bankers to pay themselves lower bonuses or extract more corporate tax revenues from big companies?

Mobile Is Eating the World | Andreessen Horowitz
There is no point in drawing a distinction between the future of technology and the future of mobile. They are the same. In other words, technology is now outgrowing the tech industry.

Managing Complexity: The Battle Between Emergence And Entropy
And here is the underlying conceptual point. The more open the organisation is to external sources of energy, the easier it is to harness the forces of emergence rather than entropy. What does this mean in practice? Things like refreshing your management team with outside hires, circulating employees, making people explicitly accountable to external stakeholders, collaborating with suppliers and partners, and conducting experiments in “open innovation”.

7 things you (workplace folk) should know about the #futureofwork – #wtrends14 | Perfect Path
We’ll work anywhere. We recognise that no environment will ever be perfect, but we can make the most of any space that comes along.  Stop worrying about making somewhere that fits every need – keep it simple and we’ll adapt. But not necessarily the same “anywhere” everyday There is no single space or form of space in which people can best work.

How Does Google Handle IT for Its Workers? Ask CIO Ben Fried – WSJ – WSJ
We have this enormous and unique opportunity to set the culture of the companies we are within, with technology.

I remember years ago, when I joined Google, I looked at the personal technology that Google gave to its people. Google allowed people to use whatever they thought was relevant to them, when everyone else gave people a black laptop and a BlackBerry and said, “You are going to do it our way.”

I think that CIOs need to understand the cultural thing—they define the culture of their company by the technology they give to their employees.

How to influence policy? An interview with Owen Barder of the Center for Global Development – 80,000 Hours
I do think the transparency of government is an important issue. It just makes it much harder to make bad decisions if the analysis that underpins all those decisions is public. It becomes politically unsustainable to do stupid things.

What’s Wrong with Twitter’s Latest Experiment with Broadcasting Favorites — The Message — Medium
In tech platforms, when our signaling ability is limited to technical affordances, we adopt existing tools and transform them into social signals. Things that start off as utilities, or only “technical” affordances, soon acquire social meaning. In Twitter, this is true for both block and favorite (but not mute because it is not visible — hence it is not a signal to the other party. A signal, by definition, is visible).

Government doesn’t get complexity
Government investigations of significant IT failures do not seem to recognise the effects of complexity. Usually, problems are laid at the door of uncertain requirements, poor governance or inadequate management skills. Of course there have been straightforward programmes that have failed for these reasons but, where complexity applies, blaming these alone – and not getting to the root cause – will perpetuate failure. The problem is not in plans, people or methods – it’s in mindset. Trying to build things that really need to be grown just won’t work – no matter how they are managed.

Interesting elsewhere – 8 October 2014

Things which caught my eye elsewhere on the web

Digital and change: what to get excited about | Digital health
Sometimes we might still choose to be laggards of course. The internet will still happen around us anyway, changing the ways we can get things done. But I’d rather do the extra work to accelerate changes that particularly suit us, where they have the greatest potential to improve our work. That’s the real stuff to get excited about.

From the archive: Parkinson’s Law | The Economist
A is a conscientious man. Beset as he is with problems created by his colleagues for themselves and for him—created by the mere fact of these officials’ existence—he is not the man to shirk his duty. He reads through the draft with care, deletes the fussy paragraphs added by C and H and restores the thing back to the form preferred in the first instance by the able (if quarrelsome) F. He corrects the English—none of these young men can write grammatically—and finally produces the same reply he would have written if officials C to H had never been born. Far more people have taken far longer to produce the same result. No one has been idle. All have done their best.

Culture Stories: Introduction and Milk.
I listened to various simple, actionable, additive1 and modern sounding things we could change to the way we work. Add some tablet computers here and more video conferencing there. I worked in the digital department, and at the time I was working on our internal tools so I guess I was meant to write these things down and agree wholeheartedly. But I struggled. It felt like there was a bigger problem not being mentioned by anyone. Culture.

MOT status check: a five minute business case – honestlyreal
Shall we just reflect how far things have come that a well-intended (but clearly underinformed) blog post can pop-up – get a useful response directly from an agency CEO within a couple of hours, with not a hint of spin, snark or press officer flannel – and lead to a better informed me, and hopefully you, dear reader?

Publishing and Reading — Medium
No book need ever be out of stock, or out of print, anywhere in the world. It used to be that if you were OK with people in Podunk having inferior access to books than people in Brooklyn, you were just a realist about the difficulties of making and shipping physical stuff. Now if you’re OK with that, you’re kind of an asshole. In the twenty-first century, not being able to correctly stock or distribute a product whose main ingredient is information suggests a degree of technical and managerial incompetence indistinguishable from active malice.