Who do I support and why?

In my own extremely modest way I give little bits of money regularly to a few organisations that I think are important – this is separate from one-off more spontaneous donations.

It’s an interesting illustration of where I am willing to put my money which might encourage a few others to chip in as well – maybe as your New Year’s resolution?

So in no particular order the list is:

The Open Knowledge Foundation – I have done this for a number of years to help run their servers once I realised the importance of their work.

Wikimedia Foundation – roughly for 18 months or so. Well I do use their site a lot.

The Open Rights Group – I have been a member for several years because I am interested in privacy, net neutrality and other issues.

Today I have just started giving money to Mozilla who create and run Firefox. I have used Firefox for such a long time it seemed worth helping out and made me think of creating this list.

I also give to Shelter who probably need no introduction but do great work providing help to the homeless.

The Medical Foundation for Victims of Torture was founded by the late Helen Bamber who was one of the first people into Belsen concentration camp as a very young nurse. Hearing her speak about this many years ago make me want to support their great work with truamatised victims.

Finally Medecins Sans Frontieres who I came across by my love of France as they were founded by Bernard Kouchner in 1971 and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999. MSF are totally independent and have no religious, political or economic ties. They are often the first into regions in crisis and the last to leave. Their doctors and nurses often put their lives at risk.

So that is my list. It’s not quite Bill Gates but every little helps…

Who are the real ‘digital leaders’?

I see a number of groups these days called ‘digital leaders’ which made me reflect on:

who/what is a digital leader?

how many are there; is there a finite number?

what elements constitute this kind of leadership?

Some common features of leadership are:

leading from the front and setting an example

taking a calculated risk

being willing to make mistakes, learn and move on

be different from the crowd

If there are a large group of people now called digital leaders can/do all these attributes apply to them? Are some people now digital leaders due to being in a post called digital leader?

Are we looking in the wrong place for our digital leaders?

What about the first people who blogged about what they do in the public sector without explicit permission that they could do?

Or the pioneers who set up the social media channels at their own risk; channels that are now taken a core communication tools?

How about the people who give up their weekends or evenings to attend Meetups to talk about digital issues; or go to events such as the various unconferences or camps.

What about the people who take the initiative to set up and run such events which eats deeply into their personal lives?

Or the person who championed the users or open data long before it became fashionable?

Surely these are the people showing true digital leadership? They live these values every day and show/ed their commitment by doing what they say and making significant personal sacrifices.

What do you think?

I want the ‘shiny’

I have always loved the Monty Python sketch in the operating theatre where one of the surgeons says ‘I want the machine that goes ping’. He is only happy once it is in the corner of the room pinging away.

In the digital world the same phrase could be ‘I want the shiny’.

What is the ‘shiny’?

The shiny is the web page/site/application that is relatively quick to build and not too expensive that puts a nice and no doubt improved skin on an existing service.

The typical sequence is to choose an ‘easy’ target of a poorly functioning service; run an Agile project; do lots of user workshops; spin up some web pages; Alpha; Beta etc. The end result is a nice feature that users like and generates some good feedback. Cue some pats on the back; presentations and repeat. Plus there is a new shiny.

So what’s the problem?

Exactly, what was the real problem? Was it the skin that was changed; or the underlying infrastructure/process? Was anything done about the later? Probably not. Why not? Well that is a bit more of a challenge involving often some complicated moving parts; multiple organisations and legacy systems. Who wants to work on a project that will clearly take many months or years; why not go for the ‘shiny’ quick win, take the money and run.

An interesting conflict arises when an organisation actually wants to look at the deeper longer term problems but externally it is put under pressure to do the shiny.

So if you are working on a digital project you might want to ask yourself ‘am working on a shiny? Or if you are a commissioner ‘am I asking for a shiny’? Go on be honest….

Accountability Hack #AccHack15 – lessons learnt

What did we learn from Accountability Hack 2015?

That bad weather and broken trains will not stop determined developers coming to a great event.

That the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee wants much better quality public sector data – watch her introduction to the event.

That data quality is still a massive issue – read my separate Medium post.

That user research is important, APIs can always be improved, great ideas come from sharing and challenging each other; and developers have a great sense of humour – read our Storify.

That teams want to come back next year. Cheers