Another week that was so busy I find myself writing this on a Sunday morning slightly worse for wear as I ‘enjoyed’ the rugby a little more than planned yesterday.
Dan has written another great weeknote and he mentions the difference between how he sees his role compared to how myself, Sophie and Ben describe ours in these notes. I understand where he is coming from — I have been where he is. Like him in the past I was ‘trying to steer a ship’ and it was often difficult to articulate what that entailed day to day other than ’meetings and decisions’. These days I am much more hands on — there just aren’t enough people not to be. I am loving it and hadn’t realised how much I missed it — but it isn’t without challenges — there is a lot of rust to shake off to say the least. I do feel like I am finally being a real product manager though. Well maybe.
It felt like a productive week with some notable wins.
Started the week with an important meeting with a local Council. I spent a good chunk of time preparing for this meeting — going completely over the top (it turned out) planning scenarios and making sure I had answers for each. I think I might have been a real hard arse to suppliers in the past! The meeting went really well though — we were prepared and professional and they were open and collaborative — and I was feeling pretty pleased by the time I hopped on the (inevitably delayed) train.
A big part of Tuesday was preparing a talk for Bath:Hacked on Wednesday evening — and importantly one that can work as my mySociety ‘stump speech’ in the future. I’ve written before about my approach to creating talks — it is not something I take lightly and it is a bit of a time sink during the early stages of getting it right.
I think either Giles or Russell said somewhere that it takes 40 hours or so to prepare a good 1 hour talk.
I worked through a bunch of existing mySociety decks and a few more high level documents and asked a lot of questions on Slack — I’m looking for a story to tell rather than just a summary of what we do. I think I have a hook emerging but it isn’t quite there yet so the Bath:Hacked talk was a bit of hybrid…and too long. I talked for over an hour. It was really useful though — the small audience really over delivered with good questions that will help me iterate things.
Wednesday was the first team meeting of the ‘Better Cities practice’. I booked the ‘Surf Shack’ at Desklodge, I bought too many doughnuts (forgetting a team member was coeliac — d’oh!), got a bunch of new super sticky Post-Its and Sharpies and we set at it. It was a pretty full agenda and we just about got it all covered. Some really important ground was covered — especially around how we describe our products and features plus the start of what will soon become our public product roadmap. All those blogposts and books I have read over the years where I cursed all the ‘selling’ stuff that was of no use to me in the public sector? Thank god I didn’t skip over those chapters as this stuff isn’t easy!
I also had the team do a retrospective. This is the agile ceremony I am most devoted to. I think it is the best health check a team can do and the most efficient way of identifying ways to iterate as a team and keep improving. It seemed to work well — there was a nice mix of common successes and issues that we could address and some outliers where we can hopefully remove a little friction for people. Well worth it.
Thursday was the traditional post meeting/workshop activity of turning Post-its into useful things. I wasted a bit of time trying to use Github Projects for our rough roadmap but I found it a bit frustrating. We are pretty tied into Github for our workflow (using Waffle with it) and I was trying to avoid adding a different service into the mix but I ended up using Trello as I needed to get it done while it was still fresh in my head. It has ended up being a bit more Kanbanesque than roadmap as I fell back on using Emily’s format just to give it some structure. Needs another iteration or two but it’ll soon be shareable.
I also recycled some work Zarino had done for the MapIt pricing pages to create a mockup of something similar for FixMyStreet for Councils. I just wanted that familiar price = features list grid as something to hack away at until it was completely clear and transparent. I’m pretty happy with where it has gotten to — my copy is a bit crappy — clear English it ain’t! It is starting to really make more sense to me though.
Friday was blogging — one of the things that came out of the team meeting was a desire to just clarify the remit and objectives of the team. It emerged from a different team that was focused on ‘work for hire’ opportunities and while we still do that our priorities have evolved and while everyone is aware of that to some extent it just seemed to need clarification. I think it was a pretty coherent post — unusually for me!
Had a call with an editor for an online publication that covers the public sector technology scene — it was a really nice chat and nice to be able to do it now I’m not a civil servant. I think I’m going to do a bit of blogging for them which should be cool.
Related to that I also managed to do a non-weeknote post here — basically just expanding on a reading list I pulled together for someone who asked recently. I need to get back to writing more ‘useful’ posts I think — I have an ideas notebook I might need to trawl though for inspiration.
Saturday I popped over to Cardiff to attend OpenDataCamp. Starting the day with breakfast at Bills with Laura was a nice way to easy into things and the event was well attended. As usual there were loads of people there I wanted to chat to — both ONS and EA/Defra were well represented, I finally got to properly meet Mevan from FullFact and while as usual I didn’t attend any sessions the layout did allow me to earwig in on things more than usual. I had a great time just chatting to new folks and catching up with old friends.
I did have every intention of returning after sneaking off to watch the rugby but like I said at the start I ‘enjoyed’ the game a bit much so had to head home rather than embarrass myself 🙂