[2024] Week 24

Coming back to work after two weeks off is always a bit of a struggle for me – it is just enough time to actually shut off and relax but also just enough time to lose the track of what was going on (and what it is you actually do!). Given I was having a bit of an angsty moment about my role anyway I was a bit twitchy as I logged in Monday morning.

As it turned out though it was a pretty painless reentry – I’d retained a watching brief on Slack while I was away and actually get very little email these days so there were no surprises lurking and a just a couple of things that benefited from my attention but nobody was banging the door down.

I had nice catch ups with Ben, Tracey, Ann and Ollie, agreed to write a blogpost, offered to help with a proposal and was generally low-key a contributing member of the company.

Wednesday I was in London for a panel at TICTeC (mySociey’s civic tech conference) about the UK’s journey with civic tech, open data, digital government etc. Alex invited me and I was really honoured to be asked but honestly I’ve rarely felt more out of place in my life. The thought I couldn’t shake as I sat at the front of this room was somehow I have become the Forrest Gump of this world

I mean look at the panel – Alex is Head of Product at Cambridge while doing his PhD at Oxford, Sym is founder, former and now CTO of Democracy Club (which after mySociety is THE civic tech success story for the UK and a genuinely key piece of democratic infrastructure), Ira who was the founding Product person for CKAN, board member of Open Knowledge Foundation, founder of ReDecentralize and much more (she has a bloody Wikiperdia page!), Mevan who is News and Information Credibility Lead at Google(!) but has also been Deputy CEO at Full Fact, interim CEO at Democracy Club and part of the Obama Foundation Leaders program!…and then there is some bumbling Bristolian who does a jobs newsletter and is clearly caught in this picture wondering how the hell he ended up here!

As I got the train up to Leeds after the panel (which did go well, I said some sensible things amongst some very insightful comments from the others and didn’t embarrass myself or Alex for inviting me) I was still thinking about Forrest Gump! Without ever really being directly a part of things or knowing why or how I have found myself around for the early days of Govcamp and GDS and ended up friends with some of the leading lights. Got to know some of the founders of mySociety and briefly work there. Met the founding leadership teams of 18F, United States Digital Services and the Canadian Digital Service. Chatted with Mitchell Baker (Mozilla), Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia), Lawrence Lessig (Creative Commons) as well as people like Bill Thompson (BBC) and Cory Doctorow. I’ve been invited to give talks to Government colleagues in Canada, America and New  Zealand mainly (I think) due to proximity to these big happenings rather than my contributions to them. Anyway for a shy chap from north Bristol it really baffles me that somehow I’ve been lucky enough to be around for all these things…and here I remain.

Anyway – enough of that.

The reason I was Leeds bound was Debbie and myself were hosting the fifth edition of Product for the People (the third Musketeer, Steve, couldn’t make this one.) 

From my point of view this was a great success – we had about 35 people attend from across Gov Depts, consultants, interested parties – a lovely mix. We tried some different this time with a couple of speakers to start the day – and were very lucky these were the amazing Matt Edgar and Calei Smith who really got people energised ahead of the unconference sessions in the afternoon.

Pitching and voting via EasyRetro worked a treat again and we had six lively sessions (I even facilitated one about AI).

The facilities were first class and the support from our NHS hosts went above and beyond. Thanks to everyone (especially Debbie who was an amazing event wrangler!). I did have at least two too many wines after though.

Read the latest Bosch/Lincoln Lawyer book in a couple of sittings – Connelly is still a master of the craft of the procedural page turner but Old Man Harry is a bit depressing as a character now.

I’m also flying through Questlove’s Hip Hop is History. As you’d expect it’s impeccably researched and gives an insider view on some of the hip hop myths I’ve grown up with (as hip hop has grown with me).

Spent Sunday wandering the streets of South Bristol to catch up with this years Upfest paintings. It’s a really strong year I think with barely a misstep (I do really dislike one piece on a favourite wall though!)

I’m hoping to get to Leicester soon to compare the Bring the Paint festival walls!

Oh I thought I should say that after all the moaning about my health that things are a little more stable now. I am still rattling with all the pills I am taking and still having a bit of a rough time with the diet but all the side effects have pretty much abated, my energy levels are pretty reasonable (for me) and generally I am in fine (albeit pharma enhanced) fettle!

That’ll do – thanks for reading and take care.

Leave a Comment