I did this as a bit of a joke last year but what the heck here we go again — the winners come from a small pool (basically my Twitter follows) but this is just a little thank you for inspiring me this year of all years.
Blogger of the year
So there were a few contenders this year — Ben Holliday has been writing a lot — much of it great but occasionally I really find myself disagreeing with his take — but thats probably good! Andrew Greenway once again provided some thoughtful moments but his stuff almost seems to have transcended blogging and he seems like a columnist these days!
So my blogger of the year for 2016 goes to Simon Wilson — who has consistently blogged about life at NHS Digital, design thinking, usability, service design and stickers. So well done Simon — you get #noprize
Blogpost of the year
There were loads of great one off posts these days. Here is my top four (why four? Why not.)
Ann certainly wins for the ’strike a nerve’ award for her ‘leaving Government’ post. It was like catnip for the (weirdly passionate) digital government trade press. It was brutally honest and I imagine many people recognised a lot of what she wrote (I certainly did in places) and I am thankful to Ann for putting her head above the parapet and speaking her truth.
It is pretty well established that I am no fan of ‘linked data’ but Micheal Smethurst at the Parliament Digital Service wrote an epic post that came as close as anything ever in convincing me that it wasn’t a waste of time! More than that it demonstrated just how much work is needed to truly build a data-centric website and why it is important to do it right.
It was a tough choice between these last two posts. They are both amazing tour de forces of blogging — the sort of writing that could only really exist in this format.
The runner up is the King of Cakes Mr Dan Barrett. His extended metaphor of baking for business and doing digital at Parliament was a joyous piece of writing that was also genuinely insightful and just right. There is no way I can do it justice here — you have probably read it — if not go now and read it. If you have…go now and read it.
The winner though was ‘The Government IT Self-Harm Playbook’ by Dan Sheldon. This post cuts close to the bone and pretty explicitly washes ‘our’ dirty linen in public. It is an unfortunately accurate description of the overwhelming number of organisational anti-patterns those of us working in Government Digital/IT/Transformation are still constantly battling against — and why some of us have recently retreated. Congrats Dan — a #noprize for you as well.
Surprise of the year
I have to be honest the second GDS implosion in two years was something of a shock. I didn’t know Steven Foreshaw Cain well but the way that was handled with the leaks etc and a new leadership team parachuted in from a different Department (with no open recruitment process I might add) was dreadful.
The loss of great people like Janet in the immediate aftermath — not to mention all the people I admire who have left since — was/is unfortunate. People move on though — look at my CV! Articles about ‘brain drains’ aren’t helpful and just not representative of the world we work in.
The Semantic Web award for tech for techs sake award
Blockchain is still bullshitting its way onto tech blogs and in my corner of the world Linked Data lives on like a Walking Dead extra but this year though the things that mainly lead to me tuning out and going to my happy place or quickly clicking away was anything to do with
- the ‘internet of pointless shit’…sorry ‘internet of things’
- Artificial Intelligence (christ we can’t even get recommendation engines to be my vaguely useful and we are worried about the Singularity!)
But this years big ‘We need one of those’ to finally replace mobile apps is CHATBOTS.
Now I actually really like the idea of conversational interfaces and think they have a lot of potential but most of the stuff out there this year was rubbish — or faked — and everyone seemed to want one. Damn you Slackbot 🙂
Talk of the year
So this was another close one and basically breaks down to three sub categories.
The best talk I saw live this year was by Jane Austin, then of the Telegraph now Moo, at the Lean Event in Brighton. If the success of a talk is how much thinking it leads to after the talk then this one was a real medal winner. I was buying books Jane recommended while she was talking and the talk influenced my approach ever since. I also learned after the fact that, like me, she suffers from serious nerves when it comes to doing public speaking so I admire it all the more.
Best talk I saw on video after the event was this brilliant one from Melinda Seckington that took place at The Lead Developer →
Melinda’s talk was especially interesting to me as it articulated what I had been trying to do at ONS in a way that I was never able to do — it endorsed an approach I had stumbled in to and gave me a load of new things to try out and ways to improve what I was already doing.
Finally the best talk where I just read the slides and the accompanying blogpost? This masterpiece from Richard Pope that he gave at OSCON. ‘Designing digital services that are accountable, understood, and trusted’ has to be our goal in the ‘internet of public service’ and nobody is better at setting out the challenges and the possibilities than Richard.
Event of the year
I had quite a few opportunities to speak this year — including in Wellington, New Zealand, which was great fun. The projector failed on one occasion and I did the 40 minute talk free styling it and answering questions as I went.
The most fun I had giving a talk this year was at Agile in the City: Bristol — I don’t get that many home games, I got to give a talk that I wrote ages ago but hadn’t actually done in public and nobody walked out. Score.
Open Data Camp was also in Bristol this year and I took my ‘corridor camping’ idea to the extreme and just spent the day camped out on a table in the Watershed bar chatting to people as they came and went. Was a lovely day.
As a pure event though I hugely enjoyed the Lean Event. It had a great bunch of speakers, a lovely venue and I won an amazing prize. It is rare for me to attend conferences without some kind of role these days so that was a real pleasure. So #noprize for the Software Acumen gang.
Tweet of the year
Tom Loosemore on digital
Well this one was easy. Might make t-shirts.
Team of the year
My team of the year were runaway winners this year. I have been consistently impressed by their commitment to working in the open and trying out new ideas. It can’t always be easy given their internal ’stakeholders’.
So congratulations Parliament Digital Service you get the biggest #noprize of all.