myWeek (s4e16)

The grape depression

Gentle reader let me be honest. Monday was bad. The kind of hangover that makes you rethink decades of decisions. The kind of day where the idea of being vertical sounds like a fairy tale told to scare children. Where any food of nutritional value was worthless and ignored. It had an underlying impact on the rest of my week — a low hum in the back of my mind bringing my cognitive functions down a tier (or two.) Listen to your Uncle Jukesie — booze is bad!

So what else was happening this week?

It was a heavy week on the support side one way or another. I covered the FixMyStreet user support inbox all week (I usually share responsibility for it but I’ve not been pulling my weight so it was good to get stuck in.) Everyone knows that support emails are a goldmine of user insight and it is an interesting experience diving in each day. There are some clear trends in the requests and in some cases pretty clear solutions — we just need to find the time to prioritise them. There are some common misconceptions as well — we get our share of emails believing we are the Council missing that we are middleman in the process. It is only a glimpse into what Council customer service teams must face day in, day out.

Users can be pretty careless with their personal data as well! A pretty high percentage of emails are regarding removing identifying information from free text fields or removing photos with clearly identifiable cars or homes. I do enjoy helping people — it was why I was able to spend all those years in retail before I discovered the web — but it does take time and I’m not sure I really schedule it into my day well enough yet.

Elsewhere there was more commercial support to be done — including sorting out an issue of my own creation due to some sloppiness on my part. Not a massive problem but also not my finest moment and it needed some time spent untangling it. Not unconnected to all of this I have been spending a bit of time trying to learn more about MapIt. The snap election has caused a massive uptick in interest in the service but I haven’t really been able to help field many queries as I just lack the depth of knowledge. I’m working on that though and starting to get more clued up (slowly).

Also related to the user support inbox I dived down a bit of a rabbit hole to look into the small percentage of Councils who refuse to accept reports from us. I was trying to see if there were any identifiable trends (whether there was a surge in refuseniks, whether the Councils saying ‘no thanks’ had anything in common..). As is so often the case in these things I need more data! I just tried sampling for the time I’ve been around but am going to need to look at a couple of years.

We are planning to start a Better Cities newsletter pretty soon as part of a bit of a general profile push (a new blog is also on the backlog) and I was keen to get some feel for the kind of things people rated. As usual Twitter provided! A number of people pointed me at How a simple email newsletter can transform your business by David Hieatt (the jeans chap). It is a short but snappy read with some useful tips but also a lot that reinforces my own impressions of what would work — which I always like. I’m looking forward to this to be honest. I love blogging and doing newsletters etc (I know right — who would have guessed!). It is the aspect of this work I enjoy most. In fact there is a strong argument that I do the other stuff just so I can have an excuse to do this sort of thing.

I’m on the look out for recommendations of blogs etc to subscribe to on the topic of local democracy, cities, urban design…anything that might find itself in a list of links in a newsletter called Better Cities really.

Had a good client meeting as well — just a bit of a checkin really learning as much about what they are up to next as what we were. I still find it really a bit odd being on the ‘other side’ of these conversations. I recognised a lot of what they were talking about, the challenges they were facing and the approaches they were proposing to take to get things moving. I really think I could help in these kind of circumstances — I’ve never really seen myself as a consultant but perhaps there is some value I could add and it would give me more opportunity to contribute to the bottom line. Something to mull on anyway.

On the topic of the bottom line I continued to learn more about that side of things this week. Though there were some glimmers of light at the end of the ‘pipeline’ that were not there last week so that is reassuring. They are only the faintest glow but I still feel less stressed than I have been. Spotted an interesting and fun (particular definition of fun here) procurement opportunity from a Council as well today so going to take a punt at writing a proposal for that.

It was #pubcamp IV this week. It was lovely again but feels in danger of becoming a little private club rather than a meet-up. Maybe that is OK — I certainly enjoyed seeing everyone and had some great conversations. Was told to be less cynical as well — which is a decent shout.

It is almost time for OpenTech so this weekend will be at least partially about working on my talk — it is all about the importance of blogging for openness and sharing. Might be a struggle to fit it into 17 minutes. However as I am never drinking again™ I should at least be clear headed writing it!

Thanks for reading!

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