myWeek (s4e09)

The Venice of the North


As I have mentioned before mySociety is a remote working organisation. There are a couple of small clusters of people in Oxford and Bristol who tend to work together but for the most part we are pretty scattered. This has a whole bunch of benefits but also presents a few challenges — especially if like me you have spent your entire career working in more traditional offices.

As it happens things haven’t changed for me that much. History has long since proven that I do not react well to working from home on a regular basis so pretty much any day I am not travelling I head into town and my desk at a co-working facility. This week that has had pluses and minuses.

On the plus side I finally decided that just crouching over my tiny, little laptop with tiny text really wasn’t doing me any good so I Amazon’d myself a new workstation. Nothing fancy — I really wanted a mechanical keyboard but (a) 120 quid is a lot for something to type on and (b) oh the noise!!


It has immediately made a difference to my comfort levels as well as just feeling more settled. I need to get a riser for the monitor though (or maybe just a big book!).

The negative this week was a company within the co-working office has expanded and started to take all the spare desks near where Sam (the other regular, mySociety resident) and I sit. This means it basically feels like we are squatters in someone else’s office now. There are consistently meetings at desks and people popping in which basically means it is a distraction-fest — just as I get settled! I don’t blame the new residents — they are just working — but it might have been nice to have a heads up there was this extent of change incoming. I probably would have waited to move in quite so extensively!

In other ‘remote’ news I spent Monday up in Brum visiting Stuart. I’m keen to intersperse some face time (not FaceTime™) in amongst all the Google Hangouts with the team which is why we have monthly meetings but also I’m trying to doing monthly, in-person one-to-ones as well.

Stu joined about the same time as me (from our friends at the ODI) and has slightly taken the brunt of our current context switching conundrum. Balancing the product work with our work for hire stuff is an ongoing challenge so it was good to get his thoughts on that and to have a chat about some of his ideas for product development and new features. Before ODI Stu worked in local gov so has a pretty unique mix of insights that we need to make use of.

He also loves a hipster coffee shop and lunch venue 🙂

When Stu wasn’t sipping ‘Flat Whites’ (or whatever!) he also got a great little application working that meant I got to supply some really useful data to a client. This was a nice thing to tick off my to-do but more importantly I could start to see a whole set of features around potential dashboards we could offer so double whammy!

Despite the best efforts of First Great Western to prevent it I spent Thursday in London talking communications & promotion planning with Myf (our one-person Comms team) and Mark (the boss). Poor Rachel got entirely swallowed up by the rail issues and basically managed to get to the meeting just in time for a summary, a coffee and to turnaround and head home!

It was a really great meeting and I came away from it both excited at the possibilities but also a little exhausted just at the thought of how much needs doing! It is all good stuff though and exactly the sort of thing I love (more blogging, more newsletters, more screencasts, more social media, more slidedecks — basically more!). We had some good conversations about our audiences and channels for communicating with them as well as you’d expect. This is going to need a little research and a bit of development to get everything in the right shape but is going to be well worth it.

This work coincides / is driven by our need to register for GCloud9 — the Government procurement framework for *aaS — which I started working on this week as well. GCloud is important as it makes it much easier for Government orgs to buy from us because it really can be pretty hard work for both sides.

An example of this side of Government procurement this week. A potential client asked their primary supplier to purchase something from us but they needed us to be an approved supplier to them which meant them suggesting we signed up with a reseller they already worked with who in turn sent an email that just seemed like spam. It took some calls and multiple emails to clear up but I think we got there!

I published the team ‘sprint-note’ on our external blog (have I said how much I love that we have an internal blog!). The first thing I had to admit was that we really aren’t ‘sprinting’ at the moment — it is a bit of a mix of Kanban and ‘all hands on deck’ to be honest!

I’m reasonably relaxed about this for now as I’m confident we’ll find our rhythm as a team and nothing is dropping through the cracks at the moment. Our Waffle board of open cards is pretty intimidating — having a small team with such a broad remit, including some open source projects that have been around a decade, means you can end up with one heck of a backlog!

Next week is our second team meeting in Bristol — I’m quite excited again — it is great to have everyone in one place. The agenda is (too) packed but it is all interesting stuff (IMHO) so it should be a fun day plus if the weather is nice I think I’ll take the team to the Temple Quay Food Market!