52: Week Eight

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This week I was very much at the mercy of First Group. Monday morning a broken down train meant a 3 hour commute to the office that included a (very late) train, a coach and a bus. The security levels at this job mean I can’t access anything remotely and don’t have a ‘crackberry’ or anything for email (I don’t even have a work mobile) so those 3 hours were just lost and it put me on the back foot all day. This lack of access when out and about was a bit of a theme this week.

Tuesday I was down in Titchfield interviewing for our Product Manager roles (another 5 hours in the grip of First). I have a weird relationship with this side of the recruitment table to be honest – I am happy to be interviewed but I really dislike being the interviewer. It is such a difficult task and I find the responsibility daunting. Quite a lot more of it to come though so need to get better at it fast.

I spent a lot of this week talking and basically fretting about ‘personas’ and audience research in general. I’ve become a little concerned that we don’t really have a handle on the idea of the ‘citizen user’ which is supposed to be underpinning a great deal of our work moving forward. I think there is a pretty important piece of work that needs to be done around this and conversations this week (a) convinced me of that fact and (b) reassured me that we weren’t quite as far from answers as I feared. I’m looking to push forward with this asap really as it clearly feeds in to everything we do.

Wednesday Laura, Sam and myself (the Digital Publishing management team) had a long and fruitful meeting that left me feeling very positive if a little overwhelmed at the task ahead. There is a great deal to do and some of it really isn’t easy but I think a path is starting to become clear and it is really pretty exciting.

On Thursday I proclaimed myself ‘King of the Railways’ after managing to successfully catch a total of seven rail transfers with tickets only valid on specific trains in order to attend a meeting in Fleet. The meeting itself was a real win I think – the team there are working on a major open data project from the ONS which will launch later in the year. At which point large aspects of it will become the responsibility of my team. We covered a great deal in the four hours or so I was there – in particular elements of managing API evangelism, practical upkeep of the site, some history (including some hugely helpful discussions about users and audiences) of the project and also some thoughts on the opportunities for innovation it offers. All good stuff and it left me with plenty to think about on the multi-train journey home.

The highlight today has been the opportunity to pick the brain of Ben from Jisc who has recently launched their great new website. I was interested in the process they had been through – in particular the research elements and how they validated that work. I was also curious about some of the technology choices they had made. The discussion has had a bit of a dual effect really – it has strengthened my resolve to approach the audience work in a particular, structured manner but it has also caused me to second guess some technology preferences. Need to chew on that further.