So to coin a phrase ‘that was the week that was’.
Week two had the distinct benefit of being a little shorter due to a much needed and unusually lovely Bank Holiday.
Tuesday I was back to sunny Titchfield. It is a train journey that takes you (slowly) through some truly stunning bits of the country. It was another day of back to back meetings with lunch an after thought :)
We had some very interesting discussions about taxonomies (I know – is that really possible!), the information architecture of the site and some potential UX elements. I also chipped in to the debate around responsive design that has been going on for a while I think. The morning had quite an ‘agile’ feel with plenty of show and tell amongst the discussions and I felt I learned alot and was also able to start contributing.
There was also some discussion about site search and the benefits of Solr. This took me down a bit of a rabbit hole Tuesday evening as I re-acquainted myself with the ins and outs of Lucene based search (well as much as my little, non dev head could cope with).
Later on we had a fascinating conversation with some external folk from Make Sense who amongst other things introduced me to the Miso Project and Datawrapper – both of which are now high on my learning list.
Wednesday we met up with Neil Williams, Product Manager supremo for the Inside Gov stuff over at GDS. Neil had one of the all time worst First Great Western experiences getting out to Newport (and back!) so it is safe to say next time we’ll be going to him :)
The conversation was the start of what is likely to be a longer dialogue about how best to display Government funded statistics online when for the ONS in particular the need to be clearly independent of the Government of the day is fundamental to the organisation. It is a knotty issue that will require technical, design and policy thinking to align but I think it has the potential to be a genuinely useful piece of work.
One of the primary objectives of my role is this idea of developing ‘digital products’ that will improve the experience for the citizen user. What I discovered Wednesday afternoon is that just about every product that has a multimedia dimension (video, screencasts, audio, slidecasts, animations…) is called a ‘podcast’ here. Was more than a little confusing for a bit! I am lucky to have a really enthusiastic team with a mix of editorial and CMS skills (with a sprinkling of A/V technical know-how that will grow) and alot of people in the organisation keen to try out new channels. The challenge now is to identify formats that work for the topic and can be sustained at a high standard going forward to ensure we live up to user expectations.
I spent some time with the guy who heads up our social media team (I know – a team!) and am getting a good feel for the kind of opportunities we have in that space. Thanks to Anne at GCN I also kicked off the process to get the Twitter account verified and also got permission to start a team blog – taking our lead from the GDS and MoJ blogs in particular (and not forgetting my friends at BIS, DH and Jisc). I’m going to take the GDS route to getting it launched in particular and just use a WordPress.com site and pay the $99 to map our domain, get rid of the ads and tweak the CSS to get it on brand.
A major move to using Agile is underway in the organisation at the moment and I attended a meeting about that and was pleased to be invited on to a working group to help with that going forward. My preference for Agile is pretty well documented and it is already well established in my area which is hugely pleasing.
Today (Friday) I had a bit of breathing space and spent it following up on the various actions I noted down for myself over the previous nine days, properly digesting the business case for the programme I am working on and trying to consolidate and synthesize seven years worth of persona work. Felt good to actually get some stuff done. That said I have a terrifying to-do list for next week and have brought work home with me for this weekend so the bad habits are starting early!