[S05 E08/9] “After Hours”

There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired.


I’ve been struggling a bit since I got back from New York. I don’t ever recover that quickly from long haul flights (even though it isn’t really that long..) and on touching down the pace didn’t really relent at all. So I’ve been tired and also pushing myself quite hard as there was/is a lot to do and well now I am a bit ill to be honest. I’m off to Rome tomorrow for the weekend though — and it is entirely non work related and will include being dragged around by a six year old — so while it might not be wholly relaxing it will be entirely distracting.

I had hoped to write episode 8 while I was in Belfast for (the wonderful) Open Data Camp but that just didn’t happen as the weekend got hijacked by work on the Japanese and Argentinian elections — which was stressful and high pressure and I was not entirely without blame for it getting to that point. I am very thankful to have some amazing colleagues who really went above and beyond to get things sorted. While I am prone to #corridorcamping this time I basically found a corner and worked for the majority of the event — seeing few sessions and little of Belfast in the process. Not ideal.


Anyway as it happened the projects did launch on time (give or take) and were a success so that is good but shouldn’t hide the fact that this was hard and that mistakes were made (by me..I am not speaking on behalf of anyone else involved.)

We have much more ambitious plans for this kind of work and I have a pretty large role to play in that so I need to take on board some lessons. Not least of which is that the combination of multiple (major) time zones, languages and cultures do not justify complacency!

Just quickly I want to say OpenDataCamp really did seem great — it is a brave decision to move locations every time and going to Belfast was a big move but over 100 people on the Saturday and a decent showing all day on the Sunday proves it is worth it. As ever the people were lovely — I wasn’t drawn to loads of the talks but that was probably because I was so distracted but where I did pop into them they were interesting and insightful (though a couple of times I wished I had that old ODI slide showing the data ‘continuum’ — to remind people that ‘open data’ isn’t the same as ‘personal data’ etc..).

David has joined now as Sales Director for Better Cities as well — in fact he joined while we were in New York. Having him on board is a massive weight off my mind to be honest. He genuinely knows what he is doing and immediately has loads of ideas about how to get FixMyStreet Pro into more councils. We spent the day together Wednesday last week which was great — we were able to go through the product a bit, talk about current customers and some potentials out there and generally just have some conversations about what the future might look like there.


Interspersed in amongst these weeks there were a bunch of calls with Facebook, conversations about Facebook and messages send via Workplace by Facebook. I definitely had one the evening after meeting up with David and there were others. There is certainly something of a cognitive leap required shifting from dealing with local government to internet giants sometimes within minutes of each other. I like both though — I remain excited about the possibilities the Facebook work offers us more widely and I will always be comfortable dealing with public servants (they both have some challenges as well of course!)

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Monday Dave* and I spent the day with Blooming Rose which was initially unexpected (we thought it was going to be an hour or two max and it ended up being five) but it was really worth it. The project has been rather grinding forward like it still has the handbreak on sometimes but we covered so much and were able to make so many decisions in the day (due to people being able to pop in) that I really came away feeling like it had gathered serious momentum again.

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After the Blooming Rose meeting I tried to listen in on a status call for White Pigeon (not sure I have mentioned this before — it is a project that is repurposing the FixMyStreet platform for a different use but still very community based.) Trying to listen in from the station platform in the rain wasn’t great though and my decision to hop on a train didn’t make it much easier but still I managed to listen to it all which was very useful. Then I needed to get home and spend some time updating the client records — I’m dreadful at this sort of thing. I hold everything in my head (or narrative blogposts!). My dreadfulness was effecting other people though and I’m not comfortable with that.

Much of Tuesday was catch-up video calls and research about Wikidata. Oh and another Facebook call…which led to me finally starting to write up my thoughts about what a programme of work might look like to deliver what we talked about in New York. This was rough as you like — and got rougher the deeper into the evening it got writing it — but having something written down to iterate on feels reassuring.

I had an early start Wednesday (05.30) to make sure I could get to a meeting on Merseyside by 10.30. This was the return of Scuffletown to the playing field. It was an interesting meeting — a different cast of characters than I expected and they clearly could have benefited from a meeting without me in the room first. That said they are a really nice group and they are really keen to do something with us — the pace is just pretty glacial. I’m glad I made the effort though as I think I was able to convince the couple of naysayers in the room.

I got to have lunch with Zarino which is always a pleasure but then unfortunately things went downhill a bit. My train was cancelled which meant a later journey smack bang in the middle of peak periods with no seat reservations (or seats at all for half the trip). Also my general feeling of ill health from the last week or more seemed to accelerate into something more full blown on the trip — I was pretty broken by the time I finally got home (and today, Thursday, I haven’t actually really got up all day as a consequence!).

Next week is another busy one. I get back from Rome Monday evening, then it is the mySociety retreat somewhere near Minehead for a couple of days. Thursday I am speaking at ‘Agile in the City Bristol’ and Friday I fly to Oslo to speak at ‘FSCON’ (both times doing variations on my blogging talk — though I need to find some time to tweak it for Oslo — more Mozilla less GDS basically). Then I am taking a week off to catch up on sleep and cinema!

OK. What’s next?

*there is now a Dave and David and a Matt and Matthew in the team. Also Struan replaced Stuart.