8.6 Oh Canada…week two

#jukesiesjaunt continues but I am currently a bit broken – a combination of booze, eating the wrong things, timezone related tiredness and if I’m honest running on fumes as far as being in Jukesie(tm) mode has shattered me – I am totally failing to make the most of Vancouver but have decided I really need to recharge and recover properly as I have a week and a bit left and I really want to enjoy Oakland.

So what has been happening?

Well I caught a plane across continental Canada and ended up on Vancouver Island. Funnily enough was on the same plane as Emma-Rose who is one of the OTG team over here and she interviewed me for the blogpost about us sponsoring.

I ended up getting a little drunk in Sidney (the little town that Victoria Airport is actually in) as my hotel room wasn’t ready and there wasn’t a whole bunch else to do.

Sunday I changed hotels (planned this time) to the spectacularly hipster Hotel Zed. VW Campers, Vespas, water slides, yo-yos, typewriters, rotary dial phones….this place was a kitsch wonderland. The staff were also really nice and it was actually pretty quiet and comfortable all things considered. Big thumbs up from the Bristol contingent.

I was lucky enough to get a bit of a tour of the area from Scott Leslie – a local I know a bit from my ‘open ed’ days with Jisc (but mainly from Twitter of course). He turned out to be a great guide and we also had a good chat about the challenges of sticking to your principles in this world of work.

Monday I found myself slightly trapped in my hotel as the Victoria Day parade literally was staging outside the hotel! It was fun to watch though – the bigger challenge was the atrocious weather – it poured down. All day.

I popped in to ‘help’ with the OTG set-up but was less than useless and so I just set up my table (I really did bring sooooooooo many stickers) and got the lay of the land before the big day Tuesday.

Tuesday was great – really well organised throughout and the emotional greeting from some indigenous locals was a brilliant way to kick things off. It is always heartwarming to see so many people come together and just demonstrate a real passion for improving public service.

I mainly stayed to the edges and ‘corridor camped’ as is my tradition but a couple of observations were –

  • It wasn’t really ‘Global’. There were 3 of us from the UK and a couple of folks from the US. What it was though was a truly Canada wide event.
  • The scale of Canada and some of the complexities with their Government structures mean different places are in very different stages on the internet-era journey. Some of the conversations seemed pretty early on and a little naive to these cynical old ears. Elsewhere the conversations were right up to date and pushing ahead.
  • It didn’t feel like the movement had really extended yet to people outside of public service but who care deeply about it – there is a passionate civic tech community in Canada and hopefully Gabe from Code for Canada and others can find a way to sync up with OTG
  • It was slightly weird being the only commercial sponsor – especially given we sell zero services in Canada
  • People love stickers 🙂 ..but not talking to people sat on stands!

I had dozens of great conversations but was pretty exhausted by the end of the day so only lasted for two beers at the after party.

I want to thank all the organisers and volunteers for the amazing job they did. You should all be very proud. Also thanks to everybody who did come and chat to me – I met so many wonderful people and learned a great deal.

Wednesday I got the Sea Plane to Vancouver which was very exciting and a little scary. I’m still not great at flying but crave these little adventures on these trips – they are the things I remember after.

My hotel here is fantastic (thanks for the recommendation Kylie) but it is dangerously close to a lot of bars and the weather is also (finally) lovely. I ended up going off the rails a bit Wednesday – too much beer, bad food (including sugar) and generally wrecked myself. Thursday was HARD. I had to cancel a meeting, leave my diner breakfast unfinished, cut short my visit to the Pacific Innovation Fair (but I did chat to some of the Stats Canada people and meet the Domain 7 team who are a Notbinary-esque company over here…2 minutes in and we were comparing procurement systems!) and generally just retreat to my hotels outdoor space to chill out (and write much of this amongst other things).

Got to do a solid amount of graffiti/street art spotting Friday before the rains came and also caught up with Warren Anthony – a Brit ex-pat service designer doing gov stuff at EY here in Vancouver (and further afield). Really interesting conversation about his time over here and he confirmed some of my impressions to date.

Tomorrow morning I fly to San Francisco and then somehow get to Oakland for four days of rest and relaxation before back at it with the Code for America Summit and at least some of the International Design in Government Day.

8.5 Oh Canada!

Blooming heck this has been quite the week. That was the plan of course – #jukesiesjaunt is – by design – an ambitious civic tech / digital gov tour but it has surpassed even my high expectations.

It hasn’t been without its challenging moments – hotels particularly have been less than ideal. I only managed one night in my first one in Ottawa due to a combination of poor location and a slight feeling of being less than safe – weird as I suspect Ottawa features a list of worlds safest cities. I successfully moved to a much nicer place so that worked out OK. In Toronto my room has a view of a shopping centre escalator – so close that if the window opened I could hold the handrail! The room is actually fine if a bit tired and the location is perfect so I’ve made my peace with it. I’ve also had to make a change to my stay in Victoria as I had managed to miss a night in my mass booking. D’oh.

Anyway other than those hiccups it has been great. Flight was brilliant. Trains have been on time and comfortable. I’ve been leaning on Uber a bit unfortunately but needs must. Also my Canada/US sim has been really useful.

So I’m just going to do a little day by day summary.

Monday

Moved hotels. Felt much better immediately.

First meeting got cancelled. Worried it was all going to go pear-shaped.

Weather in Ottawa terrible – ended up working in my new hotel (after a brief explore and a SconeWitch.)

Went and met Ross at CDS and had a bit of a tour and a chat about what they are up to. Really interesting – it is all still in that early, anything can happen phase. Also interesting to see the mix of GDS and 18F DNA in the approach.

Amusingly met Steph Marsh for the first time in the CDS offices as she was also visiting. Also Keith Emmerson as he has recently moved from G to C DS…and Martha who has done the same.

We all went out for dinner and Liv Neal joined us as well (she also did me the HUGE favour of sorting a way for me to watch Game of Thrones!)

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Tuesday

Managed to muddle calendars for my first meeting of the day – but did allow me to visit an amazing little cafe – Art House.

Rescheduled things and thus got to meet Mike Gifford – local open source and accessibility community leader and someone who once again demonstrated how small this network is as we name checked contacts we had in common! Great chat and really good to hear about his ideas about accessibility and building expectations and knowledge on the topic in to the procurement process in public service.

Visited Impact Hub Ottawa. Met Doug who managed the space and also is one of the organisers of the Ottawa Civic Tech meetup.

Which I spoke at. I gave my ‘Working in the Open’ talk – it felt a bit rushed and it was obviously far too UK centric for an international audience but it seemed to go down OK and folks liked the stickers! Also got to meet a couple of chaps from Statistics Canada which is always fun.

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Things I discovered. Places in downtown Ottawa close early! Getting a meal after 8 was not easy!

Wednesday

Attended the OneTeamGov Ottawa Breakfast at the National Arts Centre (amazing venue.)

Had a really nice chat with a bunch of public servants and academics from across the city.

Learned about the Canadian Civil Service and their hiring practices. Still shuddering.

Train back to Toronto.

Seat dancing to Homecoming by Beyonce.

Dinner with Laura and Jamie from ONS who coincidently are in Toronto for a conference. Also weirdly they had been staying in the hotel I am now in (they had already moved to swankier accommodations!)

Thursday

Spent the morning at the Ontario Digital Service with Honey, Ebony, Kelsey and others talking about Service Standards, assessments, community building in Government, procurement and many more things. They are doing some inspiring stuff.

In the afternoon I visited Gabe at Code for Canada for a chat about – for want of a better term – the supplier ecosystem supporting digital transformation in Government. It is quite different from home at the moment – there is very little middle ground.

I also got to attend the one year anniversary celebrations of Civic Hall Toronto.

One of the lightning talks was about a new street art finder app and the social impact team behind it. Talk about on brand for me!

Had some nice chats (and one Brexit rant) and actually – for maybe the first time ever – handed out business cards.

Friday

Met Matt Thompson for a chat over a cuppa. Matt is someone I met briefly a couple of times through Mozilla but his writing on openness and generally his work with them had a big influence on my approach. It was a really great chat – his current consulting practice and the book he is working on about teams is incredibly aligned to a lot of my thinking and I’m really keen to find a way to bring the framework he is working on to our projects in the UK to try it out here. Also he gave me some great feedback on my own book idea and some advice on tackling it all.

The rest of today is likely to be look for street art and street food – I’m a little burned out so am not going to venture too far plus my flight to Victoria is a bit earlier than I remembered tomorrow and the airport isn’t close by.

Tune in next week for another exciting instalment of #jukesiesjaunt

8.4…demob happy/horrified

This has been one of those short weeks that somehow feels like three times activity than space have been crammed in without much care as to the effect – a little like my packing for Canada really.

It was just as well it was Bank Holiday Monday as my recovery for a day drinking session in Birmingham Sunday was slow to say the least. For the first time in a decade or more I fell asleep on the train and missed my stop (thankfully there are two main stations in Bristol!) I did get to catch up with my lawyer (and best mate!) though and talk absolutely shite for hours. It was good for the soul.

Hhhmmmm what have I done work wise?

Had a call about a meet-up series Adam – (People Person) – wants to run. It is a nice idea – something a little different in a crowded space and I am totally on board if we can work through a few logistical issues. It’ll be London based but – hopefully – also streamed. Should be fun – Adam and Sara (Marketing Person) are going to see how far they can progress it when I’m away.

Did a LOT more work doing responses for DOS again. Like buses these opportunities always seem to all come together. Dave (Bid Person) has really set things up to make this much easier than it could be but it still takes time and just by the nature of the process the odds are pretty long no matter how great your initial responses. Still it needs doing and I do enjoy it. Honest.

Met up with Luke from MadeTech. When I finally found their stealth office – which is lovely once you spot the entrance. MadeTech are a competitor working in the same space with really similar approaches and yet – because people in this community are brilliant – we were able to have a lovely conversation, share some war stories and some ideas of how to make this way of working better. Thanks Luke.

Sara and I met up with Rob from Disruption Hub – who are part of our group – to discuss any opportunities to work together a bit more – part of my campaign to broaden my writing beyond my own blog and to also add a stream of marketing activity beyond our grassroots / unconference / blogging focused strategy (which is still primary). It was another great chat – a really exciting event opportunity looks like it is going to emerge from it. The Disruption team audience is much more private sector institution people (lots of BIG companies) rather than public service and as such I have pushed the idea of ‘what the private sector can learn from public service digital transformation’ on the basis that actually we are better than many of these large companies trying it! I want to totally subvert the usual narrative – if the Hertz/Accenture and TSB taught us anything it is that there are lessons to share. The more I think about it the more I think the idea really has legs and many of you reading this might well get tapped up one way or another 😉

Thursday afternoon we had a meeting with representatives from all the members of the Group to discuss our social impact strategy and ways of working in the future. I worry I was too vocal at times – I’m new to operating at this level but I am opinionated (shocker I know) and actually when I totally disagree with things I disengage and go quiet but when I think things are *almost* right (according to me!) I can be a little pushy and strident I think to try and push things where I think they should be. This has generally been pretty successful for me but not sure it is sustainable or appropriate.

New website is on the cusp of being ready. It looks great. The words seem to work (though Sara is getting them proof read because I’m useless) and I’m much happier with the proposition and focus of it all. It is only a foundation which we can build on but it feels solid.

Managed to pop to the Two Chairmen for #samdancon just for an hour. Really lovely to see everyone – there were folks from MHCLG, DfE, Parliament, BEIS, Hackney, consultants, contractors and who knows who else – all standing around telling tales and sipping ale. It was great. I’m not sure how I ended up knowing so many wonderful and generous people but I really do appreciate it.

As I’ve hinted at before there are some changes afoot at work and they do effect my role – in a positive way I think – and there have been a bunch of calls about that today. I suspect that will become public when I am away next week – but at least the time difference isn’t too bad.

I fly out to Canada tomorrow. I’m excited and nervous in equal portions at the moment. It really is an amazing opportunity I have been handed and it is important I make the most of it – and also represent Notbinary to the best of my ability but also the UK Govcamp/OTG community! No pressure.

My luggage (or lack of it) has amused a few people.

https://twitter.com/jukesie/status/1126827501249073157

In other news I have officially downgraded my book ambitions to a Kindle Single weighing in at around 5,000-7,500 words and exploring the topic of ‘Can working in the open rebuild public trust in institutions in the internet-era’ – mixing the focus between public service orgs (including charities) and private sector (mainly challenger banks and energy companies I think). Going to call it ‘The Age of Open’.

Might be another print incoming…decision to be made after publishing this post —>

8.3…darling buds of May

This week has very much felt like the end of term or something – though not in the watching videos in class sort of way and more in the scrambling to finish assignments and mentally preparing for a lot of change after a bit of a break.

I finished my project in Taunton – 3 months after I’d initially planned. It has been a somewhat unusual engagement with the main planned activity rather being superseded by events locally and so I ended up doing a lot more quiet coaching and strategic support than I had envisaged. At times it was frustrating and at times it was really, really interesting but the people were always great and it feels like I’m going to miss out on the fun stuff as they are really ready for lift off now – and it has the potential to be a truly amazing place to do digital, data and technology in a public service setting. Keep an eye on Taunton talent spotters!

This week was also my end of year review. I am still here so it obviously went well enough – in fact it was better than that. I always enjoy chatting to James and Sacha (the founders of the company) and it was a good opportunity to cover a LOT of ground – particularly about my future in the business and my wider ambitions. I’m not always even honest with myself about some of this stuff so it is helpful to occasionally be poked a bit for an honest appraisal.

As I’ve said before I think I find myself more and more interested in the business of our business rather than just seeing it as a vessel for me to continue with my ‘digital delivery’ activity in Government in another guise. I’m learning all the time and enjoying that challenge.

Part of that learning it was great to catch up with David Mann, MD of dxw, this week as well. David was a digital doer in Government for years and was part of GDS before it was GDS. He is has been at dxw for a while now and has settled in to a role of authority at a company that is going gangbusters in our space so it was great to chat and get some insights from him. I love that even on this side of the fence everyone remains so generous and supportive. #loyaltothenetwork

What else? I caught up with Sara in Bristol and went through a bunch of marketing plans for the weeks and months ahead. I have ideas as ever. Some of which are quite ambitious. Ben was also in Desklodge so we had a catchup about our new website. It really looks great but I really need to work on more words before I go away!

Did a bunch of stuff for DOS. Stage One of these things is an interesting and slightly odd challenge – almost like some kind of game where you get points for slotting the right piece into the right space. It is not entirely unpleasant (if you don’t do it all the time!)

Operation #jukesiesjaunt is pretty well set – all logistics are locked in. Stickers have been printed and posters are being done locally. I am working on a set of questions to report back on for our Board and I have arranged to write articles about elements of the trip for a couple of different online publications which is exciting.

One week to go!


 

Well Game of Thrones was exciting wasn’t it! Well once I rewatched it with my TV settings updated so I could see it 🙂

Reading Coders at the moment – it is an interesting if not revelatory read. Some interesting things to say on the history of computer science and Silicon Valley.

New print incoming –>

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8.1 ..keep the Doctor away

In recent weeks I’ve been struggling a bit with both my anxiety levels spiking and my physical health being pretty rubbish. It has been hard to untangle them. Headaches, insomnia, allergies, stomach pains, weakness. It has been a real buffet of shitiness.

The fact that it all triggered around my birthday is – I think – a coincidence as worrying about my age has never been one of my hang ups.

I feel like I have started to come out the other side of it now and one thing I have decided is to return to some routines that I had let slide and see if that helps keep me on track a bit. So here I am again – series eight of my #weeknotes. An attempt to dump some of the crazy in my head out into the crazy that is the open web.

——

So whats the haps this week then?

Started the week by pitching for a new project in Westminster – it is a really interesting Discovery/Alpha and I really enjoyed the pitch. Good people asking good – hard – questions. I’ve said it before – and inevitably will say it again – but I am so surprised at how much I enjoy the whole pitching process. Not so much all the broader hoops that you have to jump through in procurement terms (but Mr C deals with most of that for us!) but writing proposals and doing pitch presentations is kind of fun. I mean I really, genuinely love the work we do and the processes we use for it all so it is a bit of treat to get to talk about it without people dozing off.

It was good that it was fun though as elsewhere a couple of projects are really not in great shape for one reason or another and unpicking them and working out the best way to mitigate some of the issues definitely dampened my enthusiasm for my chosen profession (when you find yourself longing for your days at Tesco you know you’ve had a day!).

Had a chat with OC – who lead one of the projects and is generally a smart guy and a trusted colleague – about what some of these mitigations might look like and also what we’d need to do if we won the other work we had pitched for. Was a reassuring conversation – if for no other reason that was useful to talk it through with someone other than the voices in my head!

We also had a good conversation about ‘conversational interfaces’ – chatbots/voice etc. Which I enjoyed – I am one of the people who thinks ‘voice’ is going to be big one way or another – but I may have watched too much Star Trek. Also played ping-pong at WeWork for the first time – I wasn’t as terrible as I expected.

At a different project in the South West (is Best) I’m coming to the end of my time but have a fun little last assignment. Thinking through what a Service Standard Assessment -esque process might look like for them – without signing up to the broader process.

This lead to a blogpost —> https://medium.com/notbinary/trust-but-verify-reimagining-service-assessments-38202affaa48

Which was good because bloggers block has been another side effect of my meh-lancholy recently.

It is an interesting challenge that seemed easier at the outset than it actually is. There are some quite tricky obstacles to cope with to get it right. I’m enjoying it.

I’m also helping the team there arrange a series of talks for staff around a whole bunch of topics – particularly the strength of multi-discipline teams. This is likely to lead to some of you reading this getting DMs 🙂

——

What else?

Oh I am almost sorted for #jukesiesjaunt – my trip to Canada and the US. I am no longer even pretending it is a holiday.

I’m going to be in Ottawa – Toronto – Victoria – Vancouver – Oakland (I suppose I’ll also be in SF but I’m going to try and just stay in Oakland this trip!).

I am seeing people from

Canadian Digital Service
Ontario Digital Service
Code for Canada
ITAC (I think it is like the BCS for Canada)
Three companies who do digital gov work

I am attending

Ontario Civic Tech meetup
OneTeamGov breakfast (Ottawa)
OneTeamGovGlobal
Pacific Innovation Fair
International Design in Government
Code for America Summit

I am away for 20 days.

I suspect I will need an additional 20 days to recover.

I have new limited edition stickers incoming and a bunch of my popular ones being reprinted so I am feeling organised.

——

This evening I am attending the little celebration of the 10 year anniversary of the first ‘National Hack the Government’ hackathon – an event that – along with Govcamp – is part of the DNA of all the good digital government work that came after it. I only attended twice I think – but I did get ONS to sponsor one of the events – which was a big win at the time.

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Downtime..

Read the new Expanse book – ‘Tiamat’s Wrath’ – was better than the last couple – totally powered through it. Won’t make a lick of sense though if you haven’t read all the others.

Next up is ‘Coders’ by Clive Thompson.

Watched Shazam. It is wonderful. An actual fun, Silver Age style super hero movie. The final act is just brilliant if you know the comics – totally didn’t expect them to go there!

 

Watched Beyonce’s ‘Homecoming’ on Netflix. Not for the last time I suspect. Amazing!

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