The Book of GDS (and beyond)


A couple of tweets this week led to me buying ‘The Book of OpenStreetmap’ — a collection of interviews from founding contributors to OSM by the original founder Steve Coast. It is an interesting read but I found it even more interesting for reasons outside of the content.

I really want to write a book. Not for fame or fortune (as if!) nor even for any kind of ‘personal brand’ (ha!) reasons. I’ve just always wanted to be able to say I was a published author and type my name in to Amazon and see something I sweated over appear. Even if the only copies purchased were sympathy buys from friends and family. Something to do with having an English Lit degree I assume.


My vague idea — such as it is — has been to write (or edit) some kind of story of the last five years or so of digital government in the UK (but also touching on the US, Australia…maybe somewhere like Estonia) since the publication of Martha’s ‘Revolution not Evolution’ report. I’ve been around the edges of things from the start without ever being a GDS insider so it has always been interesting to me to document it all somehow. So not a history of GOV.UK but wider than that — about how the conversations changed (or not) and how things like GovCamp, Rewired State, MySociety and FutureGov helped lay the foundations for GDS, and others, to build on.

The lightbulb moment reading the OSM book was the format. A series of interviews with key players involved from the very start. It got me thinking that could be an interesting way to approach my idea as well.

I either know or am only one degree of separation away from most of the main players in the UK and more than a few in the US (and one or two down under) and I also know a few of the high profile critics of the GOV.UK approach and if I was to do this I’d want to be even handed.

I even think there is probably a way to present the interviews in such a way as to present a kind of implied timeline of events. Maybe.


The other interesting thing about the OSM book (as regards this idea) was that it got off the ground as a Kickstarter — something I’ve long been interested in trying out. Given I have zero idea how real publishing works it seems something like a Kickstarter might be the best way to get something like this off the ground? Anyway it would be fun to try.

So what do you reckon? Worth a punt? It would at least keep me from speaking at events!