Work stuff

Bit of a meh week finishing up Q2. It’s always good to have a new start to look forward to but I wish we’d achieved more this quarter. The main problem was that we work on tiddly bits that don’t build up to a successful narrative or coherent outcome, it’s just little things that need doing. We also spent the majority of our time on unplanned but necessary work, which took us away from achieving the goals we’d planned to hit. Having said that, the unplanned work was valuable and puts us in good stead for future quarters.

We spent a fair amount of time addressing accessibility issues raised in a recent audit by the Digital Accessibility Centre, and I prepared the accessibility statement for GOV.UK Pay ready to publish on the evening of 22 September. We’re planning on doing another round of accessibility research next quarter which will be valuable, as part of Pay’s value proposition is taking care of accessibility on behalf of service teams.

We’re also keen to explore barriers to making payments. For example, if you don’t have access to a smartphone or computer, can you still pay government for things? This got me thinking, so I tried making a payment using a Kindle, which worked! There’s more to be done though, particularly around Strong Customer Authentication, which may disproportionately exclude older people from completing a successful transaction online. Might be good to partner with the Good Things Foundation on some research.

I planned to demo the new feature we built to hide sensitive card details from call agents working from home, but was hampered by technical problems. I’ve upgraded my work Macbook to macOS Catalina which has a raft of new privacy features. These are great, but I hadn’t presented my whole screen before – only Chrome tabs – so I was asked to give permission for the screen to be broadcast…which requires a Chrome reset afterwards. Darn. Anyway, it was hilariously ironic because I said I hadn’t done a rehearsal but that didn’t matter. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

We started defining our areas of responsibility on Pay, to be distributed amongst the team. I came across this in a podcast with a Product Lead from Asana and it sounded like a great idea. The main aim is to give an individual responsibility for a few areas, so that they’re the most knowledgable person on that subject. We have areas tacitly assigned to people at the moment but it’d be good to share things evenly and make it more formal. I made some notes on areas of responsibility.

Xander and I finished writing our blog post about asynchronous communication, keep an eye on the GDS blog for it. You can receive updates by email or RSS! There’s a couple more experiments we want to run to determine our approach to free-range working, how we use the office and meeting our team members’ needs.

Really excited to have a user researcher, interaction designer and new delivery manager join us next quarter, as well as another developer. Good to finally have a properly-staffed multidisciplinary team.

Sad to be missing firebreak next week, but it’ll be fun teaching at General Assembly again.

Not-work stuff

Woah, Bushy Park is a bit nice, innit? It’s at the start of London Loop section nine, which we walked last weekend, and it’s bloody glorious. We saw deer, birds, fish, pretty trees, and a couple of stags chanting that guttural rutting croak. A stark contrast to the end of section nine which spends the last 2 miles in Heathrow’s flight path.

This Radio 4 Analysis programme about how governments can help societies abandon rampant short-termism and adopt a more long-term approach was really good, particularly considering the epoch we’re in. It also meshed nicely with The Value of Everything book by Mariana Mazzucato that I’m reading. In essence, because everyone’s focused on making short-term gains / profits / political successes, very few people consider what we want to happen in the long term. We’re told ‘Everything is variable in the long term’ which is true, but it doesn’t mean we can’t develop and iterate strategies for reaching a brighter future. For example, GOV.UK and (hopefully) GOV.UK Pay are likely to be around forever – tech isn’t going away – so how might that alter what we put forward in business cases and the Comprehensive Spending Review? It’s starting to get rather work-based now, so I’ll stop…

It’s a little under three weeks until I move house, so packing and arranging things continues. I got rid of a bunch of stuff and left some unwanted tech on the street, which got taken quickly. Hope people enjoy that Xbox 360, I barely used it. Can’t wait to be near the sea again!

I need to get better at keeping notes.