Weeknotes S01 Ep10

Weeknotes FTW

A quieter week because of leave, I don’t think that there were more than five people in the room together at once. It felt better than last week because some of my stakeholders were also off so I had a bit more space to think, but I’ll be honest, I don’t like it much when it’s quiet.

On Monday I got in, and managed to get through emails and have a relaxed cup of tea before any significant meetings.

I had a call with a stakeholder and their supplier about delays to the development work they are doing, and why. To be honest, it sounds like the supplier have messed up so it’s pretty cheeky to try and get my stakeholder to pay for additional work.

Later in the day I had a call with the team I mentioned in Ep09 who are working on something which has a marketing exemption. It was actually about how to manage the spend controls and assessments process because this is part of a wider piece of work. But it was interesting.

One thing I have noticed though as the week has gone on is that this has the potential to become a “black hole” project. I don’t mean that in the sense that requirements go in and are never seen again. But I feel like the work has a certain gravity, and is pulling other work towards it…

I know, Brian. I know.

In the afternoon I travelled across to GDS to help with Dogfood; a supplier presentation by hangout. I met some new people and had a very brief conversation about an Olafur Arnaulds record which made me realise that if I worked at GDS I would be very close to Rough Trade. This may or may not be a good thing (for my bank balance).

At the end of the day I had a hangout with Clare, a User Researcher at GOV.UK Pay who is helping us on our Beta Assessment panel next week. She seems great so I am very glad she is joining us.

On Tuesday morning I miraculously didn’t have any meetings, which meant that I actually had some time to spend with things and concentrate on them. I reviewed some requirements documentation. I also had a hangout with Adele about various current projects, which also included organising a trip to the pub next week — that was good.

In the afternoon I had a meeting with a stakeholder within a very important section of the department. This has been a really good thing because it has meant working closely with one of my fellow BPs Joe, and we are collaborating well. I’m also always really pleased with our team because we bring a new level to “working at pace”, Joe has achieved more in a week than some teams manage in months.

In the afternoon I had a 1:1 with Luke who is now back from holiday, and also had a call with another stakeholder whose requirements look like they might be sucked into the “black hole” [1].

Wednesday morning was One Team Gov breakfast club, I was late. Louise and Ben were there and that was exciting because later in the day we had our “weeknoters meetup” planned, and it was cool to have a pre-hello.

For reasons I won’t go into I think I’m going to give these breakfast meetings a bit of space for a while and follow progress on Trello, Slack etc until I know whether I can actually contribute.

A little later I had a call, the third one organised by the stakeholder where his key contact didn’t show. Bad form.

In the afternoon I had a call with stakeholders who I first spoke about in Ep03. The team want to use a native app which is out of policy. The team also want to use this in a “live” scenario which will be seen by the public, as they believe that this is the only way to get proper results.

It was a difficult call, with Adele and I on the side of controls and assurances, explaining they why’s and trying to be as pragmatic as possible about how they could be met.

The team just want to get something done, using this live scenario as a “pilot”.

I’m all for trying and learning quickly, so I have to empathise with that, but I believe that there is a risk involved with using this in a live scenario. Also in order to be compliant with standards, they should be running a discovery and testing the application with users in a controlled and methodical way. With a user researcher. This is the policy for everyone.

There is also possibility that this could work well within the gravity of the black hole situation, and maybe that would lead to a more structured approach?

Sometimes though, you get a sense that you aren’t going to win the battle. Sometimes people interpret your advice as just that, advice, without the weight of experience behind it. Sometimes I want to shout “THIS WILL MAKE IT BETTER!” Anyway. Rant over.

Thanks, Barack.

I ran straight from this call, a little muddle of pent up frustration and headed to Millbank to meet all the guys for our Weeknoters meetup!

Yes yay, Tina Fey.

We met in a rather grand room with a loudly ticking clock, and there was no agenda, just an opportunity for us all to chat and to compare notes. There was me (obvs), king of the weeknoters Matt @jukesie, Dan, Louise, Ben, Jonathan, Ryan and Julie. Conspicuous in their absence were Debbie and Ellie — next time!

Some things I came away with:

  • Even though we had never met before it felt like we had, and we already knew what each other was working on and the hows and whys, I’m fairly socially anxious and this made it all so much easier.
  • We talked about why we write, what is hard about writing and what is good about it. It made me start drafting a blog called The why of Weeknotes, which I am yet to fully realise.
  • Some people write for hours (me, Dan) some people don’t spend more than 30 minutes on their weeknotes (Matt) we all get lost in gif land looking for “the perfect gif”.
  • We talked about our careers, and we talked about GDS’s professions and how they do, or don’t work.
  • Matt gave some sage careers advice, talking about a time when he’d simply changed his job title in the footer of his emails to better reflect what he does 😉
  • Matt seems to know everybody.
  • We talked about Medium stuff, like tags, claps, stats. How many claps is an acceptable amount?!

There will also soon be a new publication on Medium that we can all post to! Yay!

After that we went to the pub and it was really good to get to know more about the people behind the weeknotes, we had some drinks and people had to get their trains back to the provinces.

L-R Dan, Jonathan, Louise, me, Ben, Matt and Julie.

Myself Dan, Ben and Jonathan stayed around for what I would probably say was one drink too many for me (I fell asleep on my train home and had to get a taxi back, I cannot remember the last time I did that).

On Thursday I worked from home.

I had a meeting with David from the Heritage Foundation at 8.30am and worked in the morning from a coffee shop in town, again. I’m enjoying that as a working location, I thought I would find it difficult to concentrate but it’s actually quite the opposite.

I had a call about a programme of work I’m doing at the moment, and I spent some time with emails and writing some bits and pieces. In the afternoon I came home to work and spent some time with my “Opportunities and Outcomes” document, adding some new fields about the nature of the work (the category or type) and then about the role/s I’m doing.

This will give me a really good overview of exactly what I’m doing and how. Stats! Yay!

I also set up a spreadsheet which we can use to record use cases for applications, because it will help to give us a backlog of things that we can suggest to the apps team to bring into their catalogue.

And that’s pretty much it!

We are hiring! If you want to work with Luke who is brilliant, and work on some interesting public services and tools for Civil Servants at the centre of government, then please apply. We are currently looking for a Business Analyst and a User Researcher.



Things I’ve been thinking about this week:

  • I call myself an introvert, and I think that’s right. My energy is depleted by too many interactions.
  • But at the Weeknoters catch up I felt conscious that I was doing a lot of talking. Maybe more than others, when I didn’t want to hold the floor – I wanted to listen and learn.
  • Sometimes when I’m nervous I worry that I talk more, or that I don’t read situations well. I would like to be quieter and more thoughtful. I would like to be more considered in my responses. Sometimes when I’m in social situations that’s a difficult thing for me to manage and afterwards I spend ages wondering if I presented myself in the right way. Was I too cynical? Negative? Did I generalise? Did I make assumptions about the people I was with?
  • I think this is an extension of imposter syndrome, and something which I think in CBT they call a “post-mortem” and I need to get better at working through it, hence including it here.

Things I’ve been reading / watching or listening to this week:

  1. The Semiotics of Mansplaining. If you’re interested in language this is a good thing to read, actually.


2. I’m not particularly a fan of Jack White, however his Third Man Records studio and pressing plant is so good. This documentary by Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame (one of the best people ever) is really, truly brilliant.

3. I read an article about how Pantones are created:


4. I also watched the full three Episodes of Utopia on BBC4 which was brilliant and included Letchworth which was ace.


5. I listened to Orbital’s new track, Copenhagen. Over and over and over.

[1] Does “black hole” sound too negative? That’s not the intention.

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