52: Week Five


*Really* short this one thanks to the bank holiday and an extra day for the Queens birthday (doffs cap) and even when I was in the place felt a little ‘Marie Celeste’ like. A combination of the days off and half term meant people were thin on the ground.

My biggest success this week was probably starting to get my head around Lotus Notes! I’ve not used it for more than a decade and then only as a email system. Here it is central to everything with ‘databases’ (a particular Lotus Notes version of that concept for sure) dominating working life. I am pretty competent with the email (though its a long time since I had such a low inbox limit), the calendar drives me nuts and with no way to export it and no access to my account unless on a wired connection meaning it isn’t hugely useful – I’ve regressed to print outs and screenshots to know where I am supposed to be. The document management side of things really takes some getting used to but I did at least start to find my way around it a bit more. Its slow going but I am getting there.

The other major thing that popped up this week was the publication of ‘Communicating Statistics: Not just true, but also fair‘ by the Commons Public Administration Select Committee (PASC). I’ll be honest I’ve worked on some bad websites in my time but never anything that comes with the levels of scrutiny surrounding this one. The fact that a committee of MPs spent a considerable around of time basically discussing the failures of the website does somewhat drive home the profile of the work I’m now doing!

I actually thought it was a good report – nothing in it was a surprise if you’d followed the evidence giving earlier in the process and most of the recommendations seemed fair and sensible. One thing I found particularly interesting was a set of principles that had been set down in 2007 regarding using the web to disseminate [government] statistics;

1 Statistics are collected to be used and as wide a use of them as is possible should be encouraged.

2 UK government statisticians should adopt an exploratory and experimental approach to dissemination and access to statistical data through the Internet.

3 Government departments that publish official statistics should seek the full involvement of other web professionals in the presentation of statistical data on their websites.

4 Government departments that publish official statistics should recognise that web design and web culture are still developing and should set up an appropriate mechanism to keep accessibility issues under review.

5 User needs, interests and capabilities should determine the design and operation of statistical dissemination over the Internet.

6 Statistical products should be specifically designed for the Web.

7 Data should be presented in a layered or hierarchical way to allow users to drill down to the level of detail they desire.

8 There should be one point of entry – a government statistics portal – giving access to official statistics across the UK government and those of the devolved authorities.

These were pretty forward thinking for 2007 – especially 3, 5, 6 and 8 – and it is a pity they weren’t more closely adhered to previously.

The report gave me plenty of food for thought and ideas for a couple of products to float internally. There is a real opportunity to do something genuinely useful here for a good sized audience but settling on where to focus resources to make the most difference is not proving to be easy.

In the inspiration category this week is this wonderful iPhone game from the Australian Bureau of Statistics; Run That Town. A Sims like app that uses Aussie census data to allow you take over real cities throughout the country and play through a series of scenarios as ‘mayor’. It is wonderfully well done and has a depth to it that I wasn’t expecting. Now I wouldn’t have chosen to do a iPhone only game as we’d get hammered for not making it more widely available (and GDS would not be pleased) but adding that layer of gamification to all that data is a nice model for the future (on a similar note I am really interested to see what ViziCities deliver – its not a dissimilar concept but more ambitious and with multiple data sources feeding in.)

Still not managed to launch our blog – getting the domain sorted is proving frustrating. It may take a while longer.

Next week is heavy on the meetings but hopefully I’ll carve out sometime to actually *do* some stuff! Top of that list is a paper on the benefits/issues of moving to responsive design though I am thinking I might need to write that this weekend if it is ever to get completed.

2 responses to “52: Week Five”

  1. Hi Matt

    You seem to be enjoying your new role even with the luggage you have to carry every day! I was interested to read about the 2007 principles above – where are they set out, and were they officially adopted? Really interested in no 2 which suggests engaging digitally by individual statisticians to me.


  2. ‘Enjoying’ might be too strong a word but its an interesting challenge with some good people and the opportunity to really make a difference.

    The principles were in this document: Data on Demand – Access to Official Statistics – http://www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/reports—correspondence/archive/statistics-commission-archive/research/report-34–data-on-demand—access-to-official-statistics–june-2007-.pdf

    As far as I can tell they were never widely adopted and as they pre-date most social media I think (2) in particular is a product of its time but I agree seeing it today thats what I would take it to mean.

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