Weeks 50 and 51

I was sick for most of last week – a bone-chilling flu that kept me wrapped up while GOV.UK was busy winning awards – keeping my blogging arm at bay for a few sickly days. On the plus side I got a lot of sleep.

Haar/We Are Words and Pictures

Haar is a lovely word. However, as anyone who’s bought me a whisky in the last year knows, it is a useless word. While one-person companies are basically just games of Pretend Office, names still mean something. Names you have to spell each time you say them don’t mean quite as much though.

So, I made the changes necessary to do what I should have done right when I started out – register the name We Are Words and Pictures. It’s kept evolving as a project for almost five years now, long may that continue.

However, this hasn’t been entirely without problems. The registration happened much faster than anticipated, delaying my contract extension at GDS and leading to all kinds of unnecessary hassle. I fully expect that state to continue for the rest of April, after which I’ll start thinking about how to do things like sort out the WAWAP website, get Sandsmark moving, etc.

GDS

Contractual wrangling aside, the GDS team had a great couple of weeks. The service manual I mentioned a month ago launched Version 1 while I was down with flu, on top of which they won the Design of the Year award. Russell’s written about that, and it’s a neat summation of the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of GDS right now.

SMEE

Flat-planning a newspaper for Anne stirred all kinds of muscle memory from the Paper Science days. Very good fun, and lovely work from the designer too. I’m looking forward to seeing that in print.

Week 46

With a tiny exception for a bit of consultancy, last week was all about…

GDS

…specifically, preparing the Digital by Default Service Standard and Government Service Design Manual for release.

Government Service Design Manual homepage

Andrew’s blog post explains more about them. For my part, I’ve been editing mountains of guidance and working on several iterations of the navigation and introduction since New Year. It’s been a big challenge, helping to get the lessons learned from dozens of staff members out of their heads and into a markdown document, but it’s been very satisfying. The reaction has been fabulous: lots of praise, lots of constructive feedback, lots of debate among people interested in the nitty gritty of it.

For the team involved, there’s a lot of work to get it updated, polished and refined in time for the formal release in April. I’ll be swooping in at the end to help out with that, but first I’m taking a couple of weeks break.

Onwards!

Week 45

Peaks

A lovely end to the week, spending a couple of days looking at pretty places with Ellen and Toby. Much needed too, as the week to come proves to be crazy-busy…

GDS

Final few days of work on the Service Manual before it goes out on a public beta. Lots of writing, lots of skirmish lists, lots of prioritisation. The feeling within the team is generally one of relief; soon it’ll be in front of people, and real work can begin to make it work for users.

1000 Words

Mikey and I had our first chat about running another day of talks for Thought Bubble this November. We also ran a quick retrospective of the last one, resolving to ask fewer people to speak and to start a little later in the day (I didn’t eat until 5pm last time, which nearly drove me mad). Next up we need to chat to the Thought Bubble team about how best to start wrangling speakers.

Haar

Started checking the boxes I need to get through to change the company’s name this week. Existing contracts mean I might not be able to do that for a while, but hopefully that’s something I can get to in a couple of months time. I also absolutely failed to finish off last quarter’s accounts, so that’s something I carry into Week 46.

Week 44

I like trains…

GDS

I’m jotting this down on the train back from Sheffield, where I’ve spent a morning chatting to DWP staff about digital capability. It was brilliant; super useful feedback, and a good way of snapping out of the perspective of the ‘home ground’. It’s also a massive contrast to the card sort exercise I went through with Alex on Friday to make sense of the guidance we’re coralling for services throughout government.

Such massive differences in task made for a very good week, actually, though I was knackered by the end of it. February was a lot of hard work, after the ‘infinite Monday’ that was January, so I’m looking forward to a holiday at the end of March.

SMEE

As retribution for last week declaring that work on the SMEE films had finished, I found myself playing runner for a day of filming on Sunday. Shoots in Brighton and St. Albans made for a long day of train journeys, but the interviewees made it well worth it. Lovely people.

Haar

A tiny bit of work left to wrap up my quarterly accounts, and then it’s time to do a bit of a review of the last near-year. The way I currently keep my books means I don’t have especially good oversight about how much money has been spent on different projects, so I need to find a way of adapting my current process to keep track of that. Shoudn’t be too hard, but a bit of a bugger to backdate. Later, I will find ways of graphing such things.

Anything else…

First theatre trip in ages, a miserable encounter with one of those vile people from Foxtons, a bit of poker (I left a little ahead, for a change), a gig, many booze. A good week, all told.

Week 43

I’d forgotten how important a change of environment can be to powering through work. Two days in the last week I’ve worked from home, and gained about a day back on my to-do list. It introduces other complications (communication across team, slightly more time spent getting up to speed the next day) but it feels like a worthwhile trade-off from this direction.

SMEE

Freshest in my mind, as it looks like I’ve wrapped up most of the work I need to do on this project. Last week I went through the interviews with Anne to pick out highlights for a print edition. Really nice to get a different perspective on the speakers, and it should be a lovely accompaniment to the films.

I might have a bit more work once the drafts come back from the designer, but for the most part I’m done. The films are now being graded, the sound is being mixed, and Anne’s putting the finishing touches on the edits. It’s been fun playing a part in her creative process.

GDS

Lots of copy triage, reviewing guidance on how to build services for new teams across different departments. I’ve got a skirmish list (a pre-release checklist of triage and tweaks) that’s behaving more like a game of whack-a-mole than a to-do list. Work on that will dominate the start of Week 44.

Anything else…

A very small bit of work for Lonelyleap, and a day out in London Town for The Story.

Also worth drawing your attention to two things I can’t visit. Secure, The Koestler trust’s exhibition of artwork from prisons, secure hospitals and by people on probation opens in Wales in a couple of weeks. Playng a small part in judging this year’s awards was hugely eye-opening, humbling and rewarding, and if you’re in the area it’s worth taking a look. Meanwhile, Zainab Akhtar is working to establish a Comic Collection as part of Leeds City College Library – keep an eye on that as I’m sure it’ll blossom as the year rolls on.