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.

Interesting elsewhere – 9 September 2014

Things which caught my eye elsewhere on the web

Why I Just Asked My Students To Put Their Laptops Away… — Medium
The fact that hardware and software is being professionally designed to distract was the first thing that made me willing to require rather than merely suggest that students not use devices in class. There are some counter-moves in the industry right now — software that takes over your screen to hide distractions, software that prevents you from logging into certain sites or using the internet at all, phones with Do Not Disturb options — but at the moment these are rear-guard actions. The industry has committed itself to an arms race for my students’ attention, and if it’s me against Facebook and Apple, I lose.

You Are Not Late — The Message — Medium
Right now, today, in 2014 is the best time to start something on the internet. There has never been a better time in the whole history of the world to invent something. There has never been a better time with more opportunities, more openings, lower barriers, higher benefit/risk ratios, better returns, greater upside, than now. Right now, this minute. This is the time that folks in the future will look back at and say, “Oh to have been alive and well back then!”

The last 30 years has created a marvelous starting point, a solid platform to build truly great things. However the coolest stuff has not been invented yet — although this new greatness will not be more of the same-same that exists today. It will not be merely “better,” it will different, beyond, and other.

The spirit of the age | Flip Chart Fairy Tales
It’s not just funerals and retirements that change attitudes. The process by which whole societies change their minds about things is much more interesting than that. Generational attitudes waver and people move with the times. The word zeitgeist translates as spirit of the age. That spirit moves in mysterious ways.

Beyond belief – towards a new methodology of change | Matthew Taylor’s blog
Perhaps the biggest challenge to the beyond policy paradigm is that it requires fundamental changes not just in the way we do policy, but in how we think about politics, accountability and social responsibility. The solidity of traditional policy making is contained within a wider system which cannot easily contend with the much more fluid material of ‘beyond policy’. When, for example, I tell politicians there their most constructive power may lie not in passing laws, imposing regulations or even spending money but on convening new types of conversation, they react like body builders who have asked to train using only cuddly toys.

Already Here: the importance of ordinary innovation | Native
I’ve grown to learn that the greatest innovations are not always with the new ways to tell stories, or the new ways to make a noise. Instead, the truly revolutionary are often somewhat banal. They’re the innovation that disappears as soon as it happens, that arrives and makes us immediately forget what it was like to live without it. Not showy, but subtle and just-so.

How to Harness the Wisdom of Crowds in Public Services
Polls, referenda and consultations request individuals’ views on a subject. They ask citizens to express the level of their support for a particular measure, or to state their preference from a list of pre-set options. Gathering such qualitative responses may be helpful in revealing the strength of public opinion on a specific issue. But the pressing need for good policymaking is having ideas and information. A more interesting and potentially fruitful approach would therefore be to ask citizens to provide facts or answers to specific questions; to provide knowledge that government alone could not find for itself.

Not just the government’s playbook – O’Reilly Radar
Whenever I hear someone say that “government should be run like a business,” my first reaction is “do you know how badly most businesses are run?” Seriously. I do not want my government to run like a business — whether it’s like the local restaurants that pop up and die like wildflowers, or megacorporations that sell broken products, whether financial, automotive, or otherwise.

Interesting elsewhere – 6 August 2014

Things which caught my eye elsewhere on the web

War – the mother of the tech sector | Flip Chart Fairy Tales
War, then, is good for technological development. Of course, it’s not the killing and destruction itself that leads to innovation. You can do a lot of that with relatively primitive technology. What drives the scale and speed of technological innovation is a massive concentration of investment. It’s just nothing seems to promote quite that level of investment quite like armed conflict, or the fear of it.

The UX problem with Agile | mmitII
One element that can help is for the providers of systems to try to hold onto empathy for their users – and to understand fundamentally that sometimes what we see as “making things better” might not be perceived in the same way by the people using a service. For most of us the status quo, no matter how buggy or badly designed, is initially favoured to the new because, whilst it might be crappy, we know its limitations and have built coping mechanisms to work around. Every improvement runs the risk of initially removing a level of self determination from the people who are using the system.

FutureGov | Play time is over
We can’t just sleepwalk into this stuff, we must think about the impact of decisions we make and the values we want to design into the public services we build. Technology and open data is not neutral anymore than anything else we do. We need to think carefully about whether and how we want to design with people. To give them access to their data – or not. To support participation in public services – or not.

Why I Tweet | Sharon O’Dea
I tweet because it makes me look good. I tweet because I’m selfish; I’m a voracious collector of half-remembered knowledge, and by sharing what I have, I gain more than I give away. And I am lazy; why find the answer when the hive-mind can tell you in an instant?

I tweet because I’m a selfish, vain and lazy person who wants to change the world. And so are you.

Let citizens spend tax revenues rather than the technocrats at the top : RSA blogs
In these creative times, when people have so much more confidence in their capacity to think for themselves, develop ideas and change theirs and others’ worlds, a relationship built around the notion that citizens should simply hand over cash in return for top-down provision is bound to cause annoyance and confusion. It also encourages the very abdication of personal responsibility which politicians now tell us we need to revive to meet the challenge of long-term austerity.

The Quiet Movement to Make Government Fail Less Often – NYTimes.com
The United States government has historically been good at the big stuff, from fighting wars to breaking new scientific ground. It’s everything else that tends to present a problem.

Government should be joined up and grown up | LabourList
Mature and competent ministers can work very successfully with officials. Politicians should provide a sense of direction. Civil servants should carry out the work that ensues. It may not always be easy, but it must be doable.

more work required: on ‘big govt IT’, ‘transactions’ and the future of public service design | new tech observations from the UK (ntouk)
Many current government ‘transactions’ are merely automated versions from the old paper world, moving electronic versions of forms from one place to another — either literally, or by mimicking the form online in a series of interminable web pages that ape the paper world. We can throw all the tin and software we like at these ‘digital forms’, but it’s not going to do much to improve the quality, efficiency, or relevance of the services involved.

Why big IT projects always go wrong | Technology | The Observer
The message is clear: if you run a big company or a government department and are contemplating a big IT product, ask yourself this question: can your company or your ministerial career survive if the project goes over budget by 40% or more, or if only 25-50% of the projected benefits are realised? If the answer is “no” go back to square one.

10 Lessons from 4 Years Working Remotely at Automattic | When I Have Time by Sara Rosso
When you work with a distributed team, the only way you measure if they are working is on their output. Did they do what they said they would do? Where is the result of that work? Did they even say they would do anything, or have they gone dark? It’s frightening easy to notice when a distributed coworker checks out or becomes disinterested in what they’re doing…they stop communicating, they stop creating. There’s no output.

Don’t blame the mandarins | Freethinking Economist
From time to time you will read columns revealing how some great idea has been being thwarted by Mandarins.   This is usually the clearest sign than an incompetent spad has been on manoeuvres.  It isn’t a coup.