[dot] Cotton anniversary

Tomorrow I will have been working for ONS two years exactly. This basically means I am still barely seen as more than a newbie in ONS time but given my professional history it is quite an achievement for me 🙂

It has been quite a journey over the course of those 24 months. It hasn’t always been easy but I am very proud of the work I have been involved in and especially pleased to see that some of the change I have had a small part in making happen is giving people I work with an opportunity to really flourish. There is a long way to go but I am genuinely optimistic – not a natural state of mind for me really!

There is often this idea of people in hoodies vs people in suits in this digital world of ours. I just look like a mess most of the time – albeit a mess in nice trainers (always Adidas Superstar) but it is safe to say I am not really one for respecting the traditional ways of working. I am incredibly lucky to have Laura as a boss to cover for me more, I’m sure, than I’m ever aware. I’m no less lucky to have Sam as a colleague who helps navigate the internal politics of the place and has, more than once, prevented me from falling flat on my face thanks to a quiet word.

I like to think I am respectful of people but not processes. I am happy to do whatever needs doing to make projects work as long as I understand why it needs doing. What value does it add? At times this has led to frustrations for me and more so for people working with me trying to wrangle me. Things are getting better and I hope so am I but as anyone who sits near me with confirm there are still a number of things that can set me off on a rant!

The work we did on the Alpha project from discovery to the final deployment to live was the best experience of my career to date. I was very lucky and privileged to get the opportunity to run that project the way I did. It allowed me to put so many ideas of how I think these things should be done in to practice – liberally stealing ideas from GDS, Eric Ries, Matt Mullenweg and who knows how many other people and organisations in an effort to find a style that worked best for us rather than try to just clone from elsewhere.

The launch of Visual.ONS was also something I took a lot of pleasure from. It was the culmination of an idea I had been bouncing around for many months. The idea of a neutral point of view Ampp3d was where it started but also as an idea for a laboratory for trying out some of the approaches people like NPR were taking to technically delivering data journalism. It has had a bumpy start due in part to purdah and a lack of staff at times but I think Alan and his team are really going to make it into a great success. It is one to watch.

I love that the ONS Digital blog has become such a staple of how we work as a team. It is safe to say I am a bit of a fan of this particular outpost of the social web but I seem to have successfully infected all manner of people in the the team (and beyond – some great guest posts coming and a new blog for a specific audience).

There is not much credit I can take for how great the ONS social media – especially Twitter – has become. Andrew did a great job there before he moved on and Lauren and Gareth have kept the fire burning. The new Social Media Lead is going to be a very lucky person as I genuinely believe our blend of personable customer service, carefully considered content specific to the channels, in depth monitoring and the ability to occasionally add a little personality in to the mix is as good as anything out there.

The work we are now doing on the Beta is an evolution of the work we did on the Alpha in all respects and it is notable for really having its own culture separate to the Alpha despite the majority of the staff being the same. The way the previously discrete strand of work around ONS open data is intertwining with the Beta is brilliant to see – an unplanned convergence that has the opportunity to really improve both projects.

To date the Beta phase of the project has been difficult personally as I have been trying to juggle too much and nothing has been getting enough attention which has certainly effected my enjoyment of the work (even if it hasn’t really effected the work itself.) I’ve decided to be proactive about trying to change that and while it is early days I am feeling better already.

So two years. Usually this would lead to me doing a ‘Main Source’ and ‘Lookin’ at the Front Door’ (mandatory obscure hip hop reference) but this time nothing could be further from the truth. They aren’t getting rid of me that easily.

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