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Senongo Akpem - Responsiveness, being a chameleon - Video Archive - The Conference by Media Evolution
""In an increasingly global world we need design that is culturally responsive."

Senongo Akpem, Senior Designer at Cambridge University Press, talks about culturally responsive design. Senongo discuss how cultural variables can affect our perception, and how to build visual and cultural diversity into design in a thoughtful (and occasionally subversive) way."

[See also: ]
senongoakpem  2015  culturalresponsiveness  highcontext  lowcontext  culture  design  webdev  webdesign  2013  ambiguity  directness  collectivism  individuality  power  relationships  powerrelationships  authority  slow  fast  messaging  speed  communication  difference  adapting  adaptation  universality  context  inequality  fastmessaging  slowmessaging  fastmessages  slowmessages  individualism  appropriation  punchingup  truthtopower  yinkashonibare 
september 2015 by robertogreco
Meet Nava
[Notes below by Sha:]

"terrible title, but okay.

"Removing distance has made the process a lot clearer and a lot cleaner"

I need to get better at phrasing this:

"The less complex the software better, Nava says. But that's easier said than done, especially when you're translating paper to pixels. Managing how much information a user needs to divulge—and how the digital system processes it—becomes a new challenge.

"From a design perspective, general problems come up from a transition between designing for paper forms, then designing for websites," Sha Hwang, Nava's design lead, says. "On paper you need to handle all of your edge cases, you need to have every possible question that could possibly arise to fulfill your decision tree. A lot of the work we did last year for retooling the application process was figuring out which questions were necessary to ask of everyone and which ones were only necessary for certain people.""
nava  government  hcgov  press  shahwang  us  via:sha 
july 2015 by robertogreco
A Museum Educator’s Takeaways from Museums & the Web 2015 | Art Museum Teaching
"Digital leaders are often museum change leaders

Finally, one of the biggest threads of the conference was about how change is affecting our institutions (you can track lots of different conversations at #MWChange). You’ll notice that “digital” wasn’t in that sentence, but it seems to me that organizational change is, at many institutions, being spearheaded by digital staff. I think this is because digital projects are often catalysts that force museum staff to rethink business as usual."
change  organizationalchange  museums  2015  digital  institutions 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Strategies against architecture: interactive media and transformative technology at Cooper Hewitt | MW2015: Museums and the Web 2015
"Cooper Hewitt reopened at the end of 2014 with a transformed museum in a renovated heritage building, Andrew Carnegie's home on the Upper East Side of New York City. New galleries, a collection that was being rapidly digitized, a new brand, and a desire for new audiences drove the museum to rethink and reposition its role as a design museum. At the core of the new museum is a digital platform, built in-house, that connects collection and patron management systems to in-gallery and online experiences. These have allowed the museum to redesign everything from object labels and showcases to the fundamentals of a 'visit experience'. This paper explores in detail the process, the decisions made – and resulting tradeoffs - during each stage of the process. In so doing it reveals the challenges of collaborating with internal and external capacities; operating internationally with online collaboration tools; rapid prototyping; and the distinct differences between software and hardware design and production."

"In early 2012 at the National Art Education Association conference at the Metropolitan Museum of Art a group of junior school children working with Queens Museum of Art got up on stage and presented their view of ‘what technology in a museum should be like’. The kids imagined and designed the sorts of technologies that they felt would make their visit to a museum better. None of their proposed technologies were unfeasible and they imagined a very familiar sounding museum. The best invention proposed was a tracking device that each child would wear, allowing them to roam freely in a geo-fenced museum like home-detention prisoners with ankle-shackles, whilst their teachers sat comfortably in the museum cafe watching them move as dots on a tablet. The children argued that such a device would allow them to roam the museum and see the parts of it they actually wanted to see, and the teachers would get to fulfil their desires of just “hanging out in the cafe chatting”.

Often it feels like museums make decisions about the appropriate use of technology based upon short term internal needs – the need to have something ‘newsworthy’, the need to have something to keep their funders happy, and occasionally to meet the assumed needs of a specific audience coming to a specific exhibition. Rarely is there an opportunity like the one at Cooper Hewitt, to consider the entire museum and purposely reconfigure its relationships with audiences, all in one go. Even rarer is the funding to make such a step change possible.

The D&EM team established a series of unwritten technology principles for the new galleries and experience that were reinforced throughout the concept design stages and then encoded into practice during development. At the heart of these was an commitment to ensure that whatever was designed for the galleries would give visitors a reason to physically visit – and that nothing would be artificially held back, content-wise, from the web. Technology, too, had to help and encourage the visitor against the architectural impositions of the building itself.

Complementing a strategic plan that envisioned the transformation of the museum into a ‘design resource’, and an increasing willingness to provide more open access to the collection, concepts for media and technology in the galleries was to –

1. Give visitors explicit permission to play
Play was seen as an important way of addressing threshold issues and architecture. Entering the Carnegie Mansion, the experience of crossing the threshold provided an opportunity to upend expectations – much like the lobby space of a hotel. Very early on in the design process, then-Director, Bill Moggridge enthused about the idea of concierges greeting visitors at the door, warmly welcoming them into the building and setting them at ease. Technological interventions – even symbolic ones – were expected to support this need to change every visitor’s perception of how they were ‘allowed to behave’ in the mansion.

2. Make interactive experiences social and multi-player and allow people to learn by watching

The Cooper Hewitt, even in its expanded form, is a physically small museum. It has 16,000 sq ft of gallery space which is configured as a series of domestic spaces except for the open plan third floor, which was converted from offices into gallery space as part of the renovation. If interactive experiences were to support a transformed audience profile with more families and social groups visiting together, the museum would need experiences that worked well with multiple users, and provided points of social interaction. Immediately this suggested an ‘app-free’ approach even though Cooper Hewitt had been an early adopter of an iPod Touch media guide (2010) and iPad App (2011) in previous special exhibitions.

3. Ensure a ‘look up’ experience

Again, because of the domestic spaces with narrow doorways, encouraging visitors to be constantly referring to their mobile devices was not desirable. There was a strong consensus amongst the staff and designers that the museum should provide a compelling enough experience for visitors to only need to use their mobile devices to take photos with.

4. Be ubiquitous, a ‘default’ operating mode for the institution

The biggest lesson from MONA was that for a technology experience to have the best chance of transforming how visitors interacted with the museum, and how staff considered it into the future, that technology had to be ubiquitous. An ‘optional guide’, an ‘optional app’, even a ‘suggested mobile website’ might meet the needs of some visitors but it was unlikely to achieve the large scale change we hoped for. Indeed, the experience of prior technologies at Cooper Hewitt had been considered disappointing by the museum with a 9% take up rate (Longo, 2011) for the iPad guide made for the (pre-closure) blockbuster exhibition Set In Style. Similarly, only having interactive experiences in ‘some galleries’ threatened to relegate certain experiences to ‘younger audiences’ – something that is common in science museums.

5. Work in conjunction with the web and offer a “persistence of visit”

We were also insistent from the start that whatever was designed, that it had to acknowledge the web, and that ‘post-visit’ diaries were to be considered. The museum was enamoured with MONA’s post-visit reports from The O, and similar initiatives that followed including MOMA’s Audio+ (2013) and others. This idea grew and the D&EM team began to build out a sizeable infrastructure over 2013, the desire to ensure that everything on exhibition in the museum would also be available online – without exception – became technically feasible. As the museum’s curatorial staff began to finalise object lists for the opening exhibitions, it became clear that beyond the technology layer, a new layer of policy changes would be required to realise this idea. New loan forms and new donor agreements were negotiated and by the time objects began to arrive for installation at the museum in 2014, all but a handful of lenders had agreed to have a metadata and image record of their object’s presence in the museum not only be online during the run of an exhibition, but permanently on the exhibition’s online catalogue."

"As a sector we have spent a couple of decades making excuses for why “digital” can’t be made core to staffing requirements and the results have ranged from unsatisfying to dismal.

The shift to a ‘post-digital’ museum where “digital [is] being naturalized within museums’ visions and articulations of themselves” (Parry, 2013) will require a significant realignment of priorities and an investment in people. The museum sector is not alone in this – private media organisations and tech companies face exactly the same challenge. Despite ‘digital people’ and ‘engineers’ being in high demand, they should not be considered an ‘overpriced indulgence’ but rather than as an integral part of the already multidisciplinary teams required to run a museum, or any other cultural institution.

The flow of digital talent from private companies to new types of public service organizations such as the Government Digital Service (UK), 18F (inside GSA) and US Digital Service, proves that there are ways, beyond salaries, to attract and retain the specialist staff required to build the types of products and services required to transform museums. In fact, we argue that museums (and other cultural institutions) offer significant intrinsic benefits and social capital that are natural talent attractors that other types of non-profits and public sector agencies lack. The barriers to changing the museum workforce in this way are not primarily financial but internal, structural and kept in place by a strong institutional inertia."
cooper-hewitt  aaronstraupcope  sebastianchan  2015  design  museums  experience  web  internet  ux  api  userexperience  hardware  change  organizationalchange  billmoggridge  mona  theo  davidwalsh  digital  privacy  identity  absence  tomcoates  collections  soa  servicesorientedarchitecture  steveyegge  persistence  longevity  display  nfc  rfid  architecture  applications  online  engagement  play  technology  post-digital  18f 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Cultural factors in web design | Design | Creative Bloq
"By factoring in cultural variables, we can create sites that are relevant for a wide variety of users around the world"

"Some cultures are High Context. This means most communication is simply understood rather than explicitly stated. These cultures have a much higher tolerance for ambiguity and understatement. You could say that, in a High Context culture, the responsibility for understanding rests with the listener and it’s left to them to divine deeper meaning from the conversation or statements coming at them.

Low Context cultures, on the other hand, are much more explicit and often rely on directness and true feelings to communicate. These cultures are great at creating an external set of rules and responsibilities for the members of society as this is the only way that people can figure out what is to be done. In these types of cultures, the responsibility for understanding is on the speaker to convey their ideas clearly and without ambiguity.

Within these two types of cultures, there are four variables that I believe have a huge impact on the design, and more importantly, the acceptance of that design by users around the world. They are each related to a High or Low context culture.

1. Ambiguity and directness …

2. Collectivism and individuality …

3. High power distance and low power distance …

4. Slow Messaging and Fast Messaging …

Being culturally responsive
So what do we do for our own sites? People need to feel at home with the cultural references in our designs. By using the variables above, we can create culturally responsive sites that are accepted and used by people across the globe. I propose we use cultural variables to show the appropriate content for specific groups of users in the same way that we use media queries to show content according to viewports or breakpoints.

Perhaps the easiest step is to localise the language in your site. Translate the important content, particularly the calls to action, descriptions and contact forms. While you may not be able to make it perfect, it can help to make the site usable for speakers of different languages.

Another step is making the design visually relevant to the user. Add colour, images and queues that are responsive to the users perspective. By referencing culturally significant themes, it makes your design more welcoming and responsive to the user.

Finally, put it all together. Use media queries to adapt to the content blocks and the viewport, and the variables above to display a site that adapts to the user’s culture.

Every culture contains a deepness and richness that comes when groups of people get together. As we design for ever larger audiences and as the web reaches deeper into homes and private lives, we need to think more about how our sites contribute to those cultures. We need to adapt them to a wider variety of situations beyond simply viewport or pixel width. How do we make our fellow humans comfortable with our interfaces and site? Start using cultural queries in our designs."

[See also: ]
senongoakpem  webdev  webdesign  culture  2013  highcontext  lowcontext  ambiguity  directness  collectivism  individuality  power  relationships  powerrelationships  authority  slow  fast  messaging  speed  culturalresponsiveness  communication  difference  adapting  adaptation  universality  context  individualism 
january 2015 by robertogreco
GOV.UK – GDS design principles
"Listed below are our design principles and examples of how we’ve used them so far. These build on, and add to, our original 7 digital principles.

1. Start with needs*
2. Do less
3. Design with data
4. Do the hard work to make it simple
5. Iterate. Then iterate again.
6. Build for inclusion
7. Understand context
8. Build digital services, not websites
9. Be consistent, not uniform
10. Make things open: it makes things better"  design  guidelines  principles  ux  needs  open  consistency  context  digitalservices  inclusion  iteration  simplicity  data  lessismore  inlcusivity  inclusivity 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Episode Forty One: When You're Part Of A Team; The Dabbler
"The thing is, a lot of this behaviour is very easy to mistake for cult-like behaviour from the outside. Apple frequently gets described as a cult - not only are its employees members of the cult, but its customers are described in terms of being followers, too. And you see this cult behaviour in terms of the reverence expressed toward dear leaders (Messrs Wieden and Kennedy, for example, or the brain trust at Pixar, or Steve at Apple) but also in terms of the transmission of the values of those leaders. Wieden prides itself on a number of maxims ranging from a thousands-of-thumbtacks installation done by members of its advertising school of the slogan FAIL HARDER (with requisite misplaced thumbtack) to pretty much every employee being able to understand what's meant by "the work comes first" even if they do need a bit of re-education as to how, exactly, the work comes first (ie: it is not a get out of jail free card when you disagree with the client about what counts as good work). Then there are the Other Rules, the ones practically handed down from the mount (or, more accurately, discovered in an office scribbled in pen) that state:

1. Don't act big
2. No sharp stuff
3. Follow directions
4. Shut up when someone is talking to you

and turned out to be a parent's note to their child but actually not that bad advice when you think about it.

[See also: ]

And now, another nascent organisation, another one that I constantly harp on about: the UK's Government Digital Service. I don't think it's a coincidence that from the outside two of the people (but certainly by no means the only people) influential in the success of GDS and its culture are Russell Davies and Ben Terrett, both of whom have been through the Wieden+Kennedy, er, experience.

Russell is an exceedingly smart, unassuming and humble person who has a singularly incredibly ability to be almost devastatingly insightful and plain-speaking at the same time. It feels rare to see both at the same time. But what he's articulating at the moment in terms of GDS strategy and implementation is the thought that "the unit of delivery is the team" and when you're building a new organisation from the ground up, and one whose success is tied directly to its ability to embed within and absorb the culture of an existing massive entity, the UK civil service, it feels like watching a (so far successful) experiment in sociology and anthropology being deployed in realtime. A note (and thanks to Matthew Solle for the clarification because it's an important one): while the GDS works with the civil service, it's not actually a part of it, instead being a part of the cabinet office and being more tied to the government of the day.

So there are macro-level observations about Pixar that you glean from books and other secondary sources, but it's not until you visit the place and start to talk to the people who work there that understand starts to feel that it unlocks a little more. I'm lucky enough to know one person at Pixar who's been gracious enough to host me a few times and while we were talking about the culture of the place and how, exactly, they get done what they get done, one thing that struck me was the role of the individual and the individual's place in the team.

You see, one of the things it felt like they concentrated on was empowerment and responsibility but also those two things set against context. My friend would talk about how every person on his team would know what their superpower was - the thing they were good at, the thing that they were expert at - and everyone else would know what that superpower was, too. And the culture thus fostered was one where everyone was entitled to have a reckon or an opinion about something and were listened to, but when it came down to it, the decision and authority rested with the expert.

Now, this might not sound like a stunningly insightful revelation. Allowing people to have opinions about the work of the greater team and then restricting decision-making to those best qualified to make it sounds on the surface like a fairly reasonable if not obvious tenet, and maybe even one that because of its obviousness would seem reasonably easy if not trivial to implement. Well, if you think that, then I'm sorry, it sounds like you've never been a good manager before: it turns out to be exceedingly difficult.

At this point the narrative begins to sound rather trite: Pixar, and the companies like it that consistently achieve "good" results and are able to marshall the resources of large teams to accomplish something greater, are simply trying harder than all the other ones. And in the end, it may well be as simple as that. It's easy to have a mission statement. It's easy to have values. It's significantly harder to try as hard you can, every single day, for thirty years, to actually live them.

In the same way that one does not simply walk into Mordor, one does not simply say that one has a set of values or culture and it magically happen.

This is perhaps best illustrated in the blindness of the new wave of stereotypical valley startups that rail against bureaucracy and instead insist that their trademarked culture of holocracy inures them to the requirement of bureaucracy. That the way they instinctively do things is sufficient in and of itself. Well: bullshit to that. That simply doesn't scale, and the companies that think they're doing that - and I'm looking at you, Github, winner so far of the Best Example Of The Need To Grow Up award of 2014 and we've not even finished the first quarter of the year - are living in some sort of hundred-million-dollar VC-fueled fantasy land. Which, I suppose, goes without saying.

I began this part by implying something about teams, and I sort of alluded to it when mentioning the GDS maxim that the unit of delivery is the team.

I think it's becoming clear that the type of delivery that is expected in this age by its nature requires a multi-disciplinary team that works together. It's not enough, anymore, to have specialisms siloed away, and one thing that jumped out at me recently was the assertion in conversation on Twitter with a number of GDS members that there isn't anybody with the role of "user experience" at GDS. Everyone, each and every single member of the team, is responsible and accountable to the user experience of delivery, from operations to design to copy and research.

The sharpest end of this is where digital expertise had traditionally been siloed away in a sort of other. In a sort of check-boxing exercise, organisations would recruit in those with digital experience and either for reasons of expediency or for their own good, would shepherd them into a separate organisational unit. Davies' point - and one that is rapidly becoming clear - is that this just doesn't make sense anymore. I would qualify that and say that it doesn't make sense for certain organisations, but I'm not even sure if I can do that, and instead should just agree that it's a rule across the board.

Of course, the devil is always in the detail of the implementation."

"The thing about hobbies in the networked age is that it's incredibly easy for them to become performative instead of insular. That's not to say that insular hobbies are great, but the networked performance of a hobby comes with seductive interactions built not necessarily for the hobbyist's benefit but for the benefit of the network substrate or medium. As a general reckon, hobbies in their purest form are nothing but intrinsic motivation: whether they're an idiosyncratic desire to catalogue every single model of rolling stock in the UK or increasingly intricate nail art, before the hobby becomes performative it is for the self's benefit only, a sort of meditation in repetitive action and a practice.

The hobby as the networked performance, though (and I realise that at this point I may well sound like a reactionary luddite who doesn't 'get' the point of social media) perhaps too easily tips the balance in favour of extrinsic motivation. Whether that extrinsic motivation is in terms of metrics like followers, likes, retweets, subscribers or other measurable interaction with the hobbyist the point remains that it's there, and it's never necessarily for a clear benefit for the hobbyist. You could perhaps absolve blame and say that such metrics are intrinsic properties of the enactment of a social graph and that they're making explicit what would be rendered as implicit feedback cues in any event, but I don't buy that. They were put there for a reason. Friend counts and subscriber counts were put there because those of us who are product designers and of the more geeky persuasion realised that we could count something (and here, we get to point the finger at the recording pencil of the train spotter), and the step from counting something to making visible that count was a small one and then our evolutionary psychology and comparison of sexual fitness took over and before you knew it people were doing at the very least SXSW panels or if you were really lucky TED talks about gamification and leaderboards and whether you had more Fuelpoints than your friends.

So that's what happened to the hobby: it moved from the private to the public and at the same time the dominant public medium of the day, the one that all of us had access to, marched inexorably to measurement, quantification and feedback loops of attention."
danhon  leadership  administration  management  pixar  wk  russelldavies  benterrett  authority  empowerment  collaboration  teams  2014  hobbies  expertise  trust  tcsnmy  lcproject  openstudioproject  motivation  performance 
march 2014 by robertogreco
managers are awesome / managers are cool when they’re part of your team (tecznotes)
"Apropos the Julie Ann Horvath Github shitshow, I’ve been thinking this weekend about management, generally.

I don’t know details about the particular Github situation so I won’t say much about it, but I was present for Tom Preston-Werner’s 2013 OSCON talk about Github. After a strong core message about open source licenses, liability, and freedom (tl;dr: avoid the WTFPL), Tom talked a bit about Github’s management model.
Management is about subjugation; it’s about control.

At Github, Tom described a setup where the power structure of the company is defined by the social structures of the employees. He showed a network hairball to illustrate his point, said that Github employees can work on what they feel like, subject to the strategic direction set for the company. There are no managers.

This bothered me a bit when I heard it last summer, and it’s gotten increasingly more uncomfortable since. I’ve been paraphrasing this part of the talk as “management is a form of workplace violence,” and the still-evolving story of Julie Ann Horvath suggests that the removal of one form of workplace violence has resulted in the reintroduction of another, much worse form. In my first post-college job, I was blessed with an awesome manager who described his work as “firefighter up and cheerleader down,” an idea I’ve tried to live by as I’ve moved into positions of authority myself. The idea of having no managers, echoed in other companies like Valve Software, suggests the presence of major cultural problems at a company like Github. As Shanley Kane wrote in What Your Culture Really Says, “we don’t have an explicit power structure, which makes it easier for the unspoken power dynamics in the company to play out without investigation or criticism.” Managers might be difficult, hostile, or useless, but because they are parts of an explicit power structure they can be evaluted explicitly. For people on the wrong side of a power dynamic, engaging with explicit structure is often the only means possible to fix a problem.

Implicit power can be a liability as well as a strength. In the popular imagination, implicit power elites close sweetheart deals in smoke-filled rooms. In reality, the need for implicit power to stay in the shadows can cripple it in the face of an outside context problem. Aaron Bady wrote of Julian Assange and Wikileaks that “while an organization structured by direct and open lines of communication will be much more vulnerable to outside penetration, the more opaque it becomes to itself (as a defense against the outside gaze), the less able it will be to “think” as a system, to communicate with itself. The more conspiratorial it becomes, in a certain sense, the less effective it will be as a conspiracy.”

Going back to the social diagram, this lack of ability to communicate internally seems to be an eventual property of purely bottoms-up social structures. Github has been enormously successful on the strength of a single core strategy: the creation of a delightful, easy-to-use web UI on top of a work-sharing system designed for distributed use. I’ve been a user since 2009, and my belief is that the product has consistently improved, but not meaningfully changed. Github’s central, most powerful innovation is the Pull Request. Github has annexed adjoining territory, but has not yet had to respond to a threat that may force it to abandon territory or change approach entirely.

Without a structured means of communication, the company is left with the vague notion that employees can do what they feel like, as long as it’s compliant with the company’s strategic direction. Who sets that direction, and how might it be possible to change it? There’s your implicit power and first point of weakness.

This is incidentally what’s so fascinating about the government technology position I’m in at Code for America. I believe that we’re in the midst of a shift in power from abusive tech vendor relationships to something driven by a city’s own digital capabilities. The amazing thing about GOV.UK is that a government has decided it has the know-how to hire its own team of designers and developers, and exercised its authority. That it’s a cost-saving measure is beside the point. It’s the change I want to see in the world: for governments large and small to stop copy-pasting RFP line items and cargo-culting tech trends (including the OMFG Ur On Github trend) and start thinking for themselves about their relationship with digital communication."
michalmigurski  2014  julieannhovarth  github  horizontality  hierarchy  hierarchies  power  julianassange  wikileaks  valve  culture  business  organizations  management  legibility  illegibility  communication  codeforamerica  subjugation  abuse  shanley  teams  administration  leadership 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Episode Nine: Everything In Silos, Forever and Ever, Amen
"Just Good Enough is bullshit. Just Good Enough means that a company doesn't have to produce a useable site that provides easily findable manuals or reference for its product, because Google will index that content eventually. Just Good Enough means I can just about use your site on my phone. Just Good Enough means that the timekeeping software that everyone in the building uses (and has to use - otherwise the entire business screeches to a halt) is only Just Not Irritating Enough to have to deal with. Just Good Enough means that you can whip up a Word document that you can save and then email to me for comment and I can open it up where it's saved in my Temporary Outlook Files and then save it as Your Document - Dan Comments.doc in my Temporary Outlook Files and then email it back to you, where you'll revise it and then send it to a project manager who will then rename it Your Document - Dan Comments - Final Feb 4 2014.doc and then email it back to me for more comments. Or where Google Docs is Just Good Enough to use single sign on so that in theory we can all use it together, but that its text formatting doesn't quite work and not everyone uses it.

It's bullshit. Just Good Enough should be offensive. Just Good Enough is the digital/software equivalent of a bridge that doesn't quite kill anyone most of the time, instead of one that actually does the fucking job. "


"This is what the threat of the consumerisation of IT is, then, to entrenched divisions and groups. It means that five years ago, the apocryphal story of someone at the BBC being quoted however many tens of thousands of pounds for a Rails server from outsourced IT deciding to, bluntly, fuck it and just stick an AWS instance on their card and expense it was the inevitable sharp end of the wedge: digital, devolved from some sort of priesthood that existed to serve itself, and instead unlocking its potential to the people who have problems that need solving now, and don't particularly care whether something is a solution or not, or has properly gone through procurement (and yes, I realize that this opens you to the possibility of a raft of 'Just Good Enoughs').

But you can't have one without the other. Leadership that reacts to teams reaching for their cards and organically using AWS or Basecamp or whatever because it's Just Good Enough and flies under the procurement radar, or reaching out to Get Stuff Done with small external groups rather than using internal resource by asking: "what's the problem here, and why are our employees choosing to react in this way rather than internally?" and fixing that internal provision of resource are the ones that are going to win. Which is, again, why GDS is building internal capability rather than external.

In a conversation with GDS's Russell Davies about this, the one comment of his that stood out was that none of this was new to those of us who've been working in digital or interactive. There was no stunning insight, no secret sauce, no magic recipe. Just that, from a leadership and organizational point of view, digital was an important concept to align around as a way of achieving their goals: and then, GDS conceived on (again, my external reckoning) with teams constructed around delivery. It was just that the will was there.

So here's the thing. (And this type of wrapping up inevitably feels like a Church of England sermon or Thought for the Day).

Siloed organisations, where digital is "over there", aren't going to succeed. At the very least, they're only going to unlock a fraction of the opportunity that's available to them. At the very worst, they'll find themselves both slowly ("oh, they've only got a few tens of thousands of users") and quickly (Blackberry, Nokia) disrupted. Runkeeper will come and eat their lunch. Netflix will become the next video network. Uber, much as I hate them for being Uber, will come along and work out that hey, digital actually can make your business of cars that move things from one place to another better for the end user. 

They're just not. 

It's just a question of how fast we get there.

My brother, when asked when video games will finally be treated as mainstream culture, used to say: "When enough people die." 

GDS is showing that we don't need people to die for digital to work. We just need leadership that wants it."

[Reference post: ]
danhon  2014  russelldavies  services  digital  organizations  technology  edtech  bbc  basecamp  problemsolving  leadership  management  siloing  culture  it  justgoodenough 
february 2014 by robertogreco
They may have the money, but we have the tools of technology. — Medium
"I went to a London comprehensive, called Woodbridge High School. OFSTED reports had it hovering around ‘average’ among similar schools. That’s about 60% of students getting 5 A-Cs at GCSE. Put frankly, the education was awful. I can list everything I learnt from the curriculum in my time there: a little bit about the war poets from a teacher who was quickly seduced into the private education sector, some cold war history, and that using your year 8 speech to speak out against homophobia gets you beaten up. I looked forward to being a grown up, being my own boss, and playing with the real world.

I was incredibly fortunate. At the age of 13, from my comfortable bedroom I began to tinker with computers. I got interested in a new technology called Ruby on Rails, an opinionated framework for making interactive websites, around which more intelligent and experienced people openly discussed and shared best practices and code. I learnt along with them, and within a couple of years, it turned out that knowledge was very profitable. Working as a programmer enabled me to drop out of my A levels, sidestep the recession, the generational debt and the joblessness being handed to all of my peers and was able to work in whatever industry or company intrigued me. By the time I was 23, I had worked in Business Continuity, the Music industry, Media, Advertising and Design. It was like industrial tourism: a never ending series of internships, except I was valued and got paid, sometimes very well.

You might think the BBC news website article narrative here charts how a boy in his twenties taught himself to code, left school and founded a dynamic startup. It could have been an iPhone app that sold a few million copies, an industry disrupting platform for whatever, or (if I was feeling fluffy and socially conscience) a social innovation startup, perhaps enabling homeless people to become just like me, a self-reliant self-starting entrepreneur!

All very tempting, but these saccharin narratives of geek boy done good carry a political message that I’m not comfortable with. People are incredibly excited in and outside of tech and in the mainstream media about specific aspects of the tech world. They are fascinated by profits, newness and the political issues of data protection and surveillance. But beyond this there is a severe lack of debate about how the tech community participates in our socio economic context. Because for all the excitement around the new powers of technology, the tech community became one of the most powerful practitioners of the neo liberal agenda, with only some of us noticing.

Many developers I speak to shy away from politics. They comfort themselves with ideas of our community being meritocratic, that the good guys will win out over partisan and agenda based politics because we are working towards a more logical, educated society. This is, of course, the same lie as the fully informed rational consumer of market liberalisation. They shrug when it’s pointed out that we’re nearly all white middle class men. The discussions around women in technology have only just started, and boy do they get defensive about it, and we haven’t even begun discussing class based privilege, so repellant is the idea of discussing something as political in our rational meritocratic nirvana. ‘Check your privilege’ is an idea that flies directly in the face of our self narratives of the underdog nerd proving himself with his intelligence and well meaning intentions.

Our generation is generally adverse to ideologies. I don’t have too much of a problem with this. I find that Ideologies often cause nothing but obstacles to those people who are actually getting things done. But as developers we are both close to the ground, and have real power. In his new short book “The new Kingmakers”, Stephen O’Grady very effectively makes the case that software developers are just that. It’s time we stopped making toys for quite rich people to make very rich people even richer."

"I have a suspicion. I suspect that the idea of the public sector not only doing something well but better than most of the private sector offends them. Turns out the best way to piss off market libertarians is to make government work.

Sure, I hear moans from Silicon Roundabout that the government is sucking up all the best talent in London, but while they’re saying that, GOV.UK increased signups to the organ donations register by 10,000 every month with just a bit of clever A/B testing as a side project. I could be working on your socially network website that tries to convince parents that fruitshoot isn’t awful for their kids (I have actually done that), or I could be doing what I’m doing now, helping bring real change to the office of the public guardian so they can do their job better. They provide support for those caring for someone who has lost mental capacity, whilst checking that the carer isn’t abusing their position.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love the software developer community. I love being a part of it and I’m constantly excited about what we are doing. But I’m also frustrated. We seemed to have been coerced into working for a future that we didn’t sign up for. But hopefully, as anger amongst my generation grows at the world that has been handed to us, maybe more of us will realise that they may have the money, but we have the tools of technology."
design  government  politics  2013  ideology  technology  designfiction  brucesterling  elitism  privilege  meritocracy  jamesdarling 
october 2013 by robertogreco
U.K. Official Urges U.S. Government To Adopt A Digital Core : All Tech Considered : NPR
"When he read about the technical failures plaguing, Mike Bracken said it felt like a real-life version of the movie Groundhog Day. During the past decade, the government in the United Kingdom faced a string of public, embarrassing and costly IT failures. Finally, a monster technical fiasco — a failed upgrade for the National Health Service — led to an overhaul of the way the British government approached technology.

Instead of writing behemoth, long-term contracts with a long list of specifications for outside contractors, Parliament greenlighted the creation of the Government Digital Service, a "go-team" of 300 technologists who began streamlining 90 percent of the most common transactions the British people have with government. It appointed Bracken, a tech industry veteran, as the first ever executive director of digital — a Cabinet-level position.

Two years later, is a single, simple platform connecting the hundreds of British agencies and allowing people to pay taxes, register for student loans, renew passports and more. Doing technology this way is saving British taxpayers at least $20 million a year, according to government estimates.

Not everyone is onboard with the reforms. For one, becoming "digital by default" means those who prefer a more analog relationship with government services are forced to adapt. And one of Bracken's biggest critics is a man named Tim Gregory. He argues that putting technologists at the heart of government stifles business investment in the U.K. Gregory is the U.K. president of CGI, the global contractor whose American arm was the biggest contractor on (Bracken calls Gregory's complaint "beyond parody.")

The energetic digital chief was in Washington, D.C., this week to speak with the Presidential Innovation Fellows, some of whom are part of the "tech surge" aimed at helping fix the system. He sat down with me for an extended chat about the "not sexy" heart of the failure, his hopes for what comes from this crisis and the lessons he learned abroad that could help the U.S. (The interview has been edited for length and clarity.)"
codeforamerica  government  2013  digital  consolidation  systemsthinking  us  uk  digitalcore  mikebracken 
october 2013 by robertogreco
russell davies: a unit of delivery
"When I start telling advertising/marketing people about this stuff the same themes seem to come up. So let's address those:

This is not about a bunch of private sector digital experts parachuting in to save the day. (Although we might sometimes behave like that, which is bad.) I'm not sure of the metaphor but we're somewhere between a catalyst, the tip of the iceberg and in the right place at the right time. We've certainly been very lucky. We are civil servants, most of us long-time civil servants. We are building on years of work from fellow civil servants who haven't had the benefit of our mandate. And we're working with huge numbers of colleagues across government who are as talented, driven and imaginative as we are, they've just been stuck in systems that don't let that flourish. Part of our job is to help shift those systems.

This is not about comms. We're not the new COI. We don't spend money on marketing, even digital marketing. Personally I think GOV.UK will soon be a great example of a new way of thinking about that stuff ('the product is the service is the marketing') but that's a post for another day. When we do use traditional 'agency-type' comms and design skills (which we do ourselves) it's to help the service/product communicate about itself. (That probably doesn't make sense yet, I've still not found a way to explain that properly.)

There is no 'client'. This really messes with agency people's heads. Obviously we're accountable if we screw up, the website falls over, the facts are wrong or the site's unusable. But it's not an agency-type relationship where someone distant and important has to 'approve' everything. This is mostly because our chief responsibility is to our users - they approve our decisions by using or not using the services we offer them. Or by complaining about them, which they sometimes do. Also, because you just can't do Agile with a traditional client-approval methodology. That's going to be a thing agencies are going to have to deal with."

"But, what does this mean for BRANDS!!?

Nothing. Obviously.

Well, maybe a bit. Iain was kind enough, the other day, to point back at a post I wrote about working at W+K [ ]. I think there's a similar post brewing after a year and a bit of GDS. I have learnt an incredible amount here and I think there are some obvious lessons for agencies and their clients in what we've been up to.

As a tantalising teaser I'd say they are:

1. The Unit of Delivery is The Team

2. The Product Is The Service Is The Marketing

3. Digital is Not Comms, And It's Not IT, It's Your Business

And a bunch of others to be named later.

Anyway. I'll try and come up with something useful."

[See also: ]

[Update 5 Feb 2014: see Dan Hon's remarks on the same: ]  wieden+kennedy  russelldavies  2013  marketing  branding  government  agile  digital  business  services  teams  teamwork 
july 2013 by robertogreco
The tyranny of digital advertising — I.M.H.O. — Medium
"Let's be clear: big businesses have grown up around the availability and theory of mass media and buying attention. Any big client older than15 years old will have grown up with the reassuring ability of tv and print advertising to reach mass audiences. Those were methods of advertising predicated on guaranteed access to peoples’ attention through interruptions in mass media.

And thus the marketing and business plans and briefs for those companies assume that you market your product or service by delivering a message to a stupendously large number of people in a short amount of time.

The Product is the Service is the Marketing

At roughly the same time as my two year anniversary in advertising land, Russell Davies recently wrote up a storm explaining what the UK’s Government Digital Service does and what GOV.UK is for.

Simply, their job is to save money by making the digital provision of government services so good that the public prefers to use them.

One of the points that Russell makes in his post is that, in their case, the product is the service is the marketing: the product (a government service) is the service (the delivery and usage of that service) is the marketing (the clear communication to the target audience of the benefits of that service). The tying together of those three different items - product, service, marketing, and how GDS have achieved that aim, has implications as to why good integrated (and so digital) advertising is so difficult to achieve."

"Anything but display advertising
But then there's the whole other, other side to interactive advertising that isn't confined to formats defined by media agencies and associations. And I might be biased, but they seem way more interesting than display advertising.

Here's some examples:"

"There is a shift at the heart of this. There are new brands out there - Kickstarter, Etsy and Amazon come to mind - that got big and profitable without conventional advertising. They’re also brands built in a world reliant upon the network. They do not need advertising, at least, they don’t need advertising the way your mother’s fast moving consumer goods company needed it. Their products are services, and the way their services behave are their own marketing. Google’s own Dear Sophie and Parisian Love adverts are critically acclaimed examples of advertising letting products and services speak for themselves.

So what does an advertising agency do for them?"
danhon  advertising  digital  2013  experience  russelldavies  marketing  service  product  kickstarter  etsy  amazon  nike  nikefuelband  fuelband  ilovebees  jay-zdecoded  arg  oldspice  attention  chrysler  television  tv  wieden+kennedy 
july 2013 by robertogreco
GDS design principles
"Listed below are our design principles and examples of how we’ve used them so far. These build on, and add to, our original 7 digital principles.

1. Start with needs*
2. Do less
3. Design with data
4. Do the hard work to make it simple
5. Iterate. Then iterate again.
6. Build for inclusion
7. Understand context
8. Build digital services, not websites
9. Be consistent, not uniform
10. Make things open: it makes things better

*user needs not government needs"

[Related: the style guide , performance franmework , AND Leisa Reichelt's take on the project ]
2012  designprinciples  gds  uk  principles  webdesign  philosophy  government  ux  design  leisareichelt  webdev 
november 2012 by robertogreco
GDS design principles [performance framework]
"The Government has set out a clear objective on the use of performance management to help Departments drive improvements in transactional service delivery. By the end of this year, we want to establish a consistent set of cross-government metrics for digital service delivery, and publish the cost per transaction of high value services. This will enable the Government to monitor and continually improve its services.
GDS has developed this framework as a first step in helping teams to achieve this goal.

1. Understand user needs
2. Decide what to measure
3. Install and configure platforms
4. Establish a baseline
5. Aggregate data
6. Analyse and visualise data
7. Monitor, iterate, and improve"
gds  2012  data  measurement  government 
november 2012 by robertogreco

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