Week notes: 19 – 25 February 2024

Good governance, running lines, “my bumhole came out of my nose”.

I swear yesterday was Monday. But no, another week’s gone in a flash and I’m back in Michael’s caff/juggling family weekend stuff while cranking out another one of these! (By choice obvs, still loving those web log gains 💪).

On bad blog posts and learning out loud

Screenshot of 2 Twitter posts. One from Kat Arney, Feb 17, which reads "I just cringed so hard my bumhole came out of my nose". A reply from Sharon O'Dea, same day, "Same. Eyerolled so hard if you'd harnessed the power [it] would solve the energy price crisis at a stroke"

There was a truly terrible blog post by the CDDO, published on GDS’s Technology in Government blog, featuring a superhero comic about cross-government collaboration in Microsoft.

As well as being cringeworthy it was jaw-droppingly sexist and patriarchal. It rightly got called out online, caused a couple of FOIs (don’t hold your breath for answers), and has since been taken down. There’s a copy here if you need the context (see the 18 Feb snapshot)

Now. Speaking here as the person who commissioned the blog.gov.uk platform to enable cross-govt blogging in the first place… 

  • What should have happened is a swift mea culpa and “thank you for pointing out our error” and “we will learn and do better”, ideally at the post’s original URL. 
  • What mustn’t happen is a knee-jerk imposition of clearance controls in blogging workflows; (nor a social or mainstream media cancel-culture pile-on targeting the blogger a la Baskers-gate).
  • But, that said, people with the keys to the publish button must have the skills to do a basic sensitivity read, sufficient to catch anything that exhibits any of the -isms as blatantly as this post did.

Everyone involved really should have known better. But it’s all about the growth, and making things open makes things better – and it’s best when the growing happens in the open too. Agile comms will entail mistakes, mistakes lead to learning, learning leads to improvement – so there’s an opportunity for some quality out-loud reflection here and I hope the folks at CDDO (and Microsoft and GDS?) will come through with that, not just delete and move on.

Take it away, Maya: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” 

Work, work, work

A cyber security sitrep for the board, headlines for the board, prep for the new Chair visiting on Monday.

An internal blog post announcing an org-wide software audit, another on making hybrid calls in meeting rooms less clunky.

A trio of meetings to move big things forward, and an all-staff town hall. 

Stuff like that. 

I said I’d need to blitz things this week, and with the help of my top team (both meanings of top) we got it done – but at a cost to other work, planned leave, exercise and stress levels. 

We really need to reduce the relentlessness but it’s a wicked problem. One thing we can control is getting into a groove of producing our comms assets and progress reports as a by-product, so they’re at our fingertips when we need them.  Working on that, too (one of the above “big things”).

The cyber security paper was a good example of governance doing its job right – a board commission that drove helpful focus and action. A few words said in a boardroom can have a huge positive impact …or create busywork (a timely reminder, cos I’m putting my hat in the ring for this).

I didn’t quite close all my open loops but the post-it pile is gone and I feel a bit more on top. OneNote is ugly as all hell but kinda does what I need as an external brain, for now.

It’s not all work, work, work

Bubble tea in CP = happy Neilly.

You’ve been worried, but my instant boiling water tap has now been replaced (after 3 weeks slumming it with a kettle). I got a Qettle, eschewing the pricier Quooker. Silly names.

Dylan finished second-round GCSE mocks. A respite now until the real thing.

On Thursday, Joel got subbed onto a school play, backfilling a kid who dropped out… with just 4 days left to rehearse! Running lines all weekend. 

🔎 Found, interesting 🧐

BOOM! The Radical How. Top work from PD and Nesta.

You should also read James Plunkett’s earlier book, End State if you haven’t. 

“You’re calling it Slack?”

Look at how Audree weeknotes, with inline reflections in bold. That’s good. Reflection: I should do that too, but I probably won’t. 

Nice to see good news for once on the topic of cybercrime

Why does our strategy keep changing? 

Film studio expansion cancelled cos of Sora. First real impact of many, I fear.

This cool post by Steph led me to this one on working with mavericks. I like it! Back in the day I got called a “trusted maverick” by one boss and “the most subversive man in the civil service” by another. Not sure it still applies but I’d like to think I’m at least enabling the mavericks around me!

Marty Cagan on why transformations fail and Vicky Teinaki on designing through uncertainty (both via internet of public service jobs

Good quick vid from Peter Kappus on OKR mistakes (via Poss). More here. Gonna meet Peter for a coffee. Cos ❤️ OKRs!

Truly this is the age of Douglas Adams technology.

Last week I poo-pooed immersive gallery experiences (as just rooms with stuff projected on all the walls). By contrast via web curios here’s a terrific example of a digital exhibit in the browser. 

Listening, watching, playing, reading

📽️ Dune. Popped back to Arakis for a recap, cannot wait for part 2 next week! 

📽️ Casting JonBenet. What an artful way to do a true crime doc.

📽️ Pretty Woman. Still “so good I nearly peed my pants” after countless watches.

📽️ The Twilight Zone: The Movie. This week’s featured image. Worth seeing for curiosity only. The story of its making entails an American Werewolf-ruining tale of John Landis and his part in the on-set deaths of 3 actors. 

📽️ Four Lions. Believe it or not, a first watch for all of us. Great!

📺 Ep1 of The Curse starring Emma Stone, on Paramount+. I want to like it but can’t get a handle on its tone at all. 

📺 Marion & Geoff, showing the kids. Stands up.

📺 New F1 Drive to Survive (S6). 🏁

🕹️ Cocoon cont. Hate the bosses, adore the puzzles.

🎧 Charge It ENNY

🎧 Finished S1 of Things Fell Apart. Extraordinary. Onwards to S2! 

📓 Finished the Ted Chiang. Ultimately found these stories cold and bleak apart from the one Arrival is based on. Great, plausible ideas though – like the last one about biotech for manipulating brains to no longer see faces as beautiful or ugly. 

📓 So it’s perhaps an odd choice to have then started The Coming Wave, a well-argued pessimistic text on the likely impacts of AI and biotechnology. Stephen recommended it, and so far it’s convincing and terrifying.


Dave asked me my dream Taskmaster line-up of past UK contestants. It’s: James Acaster, Kiell Smith-Bynoe, Fern Brady, Bridget Christie and Bob Mortimer. What’s yours?

Voxpops of cinema audiences coming out of Alien in 1979 

Chat GPT went momentarily berserk

Downpour games

It’s been lovely, but I’ve got to go and run lines with Joel some more. Thanks for being here, Byee!

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