#ukgc19: Making More Time and Space to Think Betterer

So this is, and isn’t, my ukgovcamp post. I wanted to reflect on the day, and write up my session notes, but ended up focusing on my thoughts coming out of the session that I ran. So there’s not much here on the day itself. But I had an amazing day, as always. And massive, massive props to all the organisers, who hopefully I’ve thanked already in other places. You still never quite get used to the enthusiasm and passion on the day. I urge anyone interested in where democracy and government is going to try to get along next year. There are loads of amazing round-ups to read through to get you in the spirit (or help you reminisce).

Admin note: This was first published on my own weeknotes blog, if you’re not a Medium fan. Read it wherever you like.

The background

On the train, the night before. I have a few minutes in the carriage, among tourists’ oversized baggage and creaking fold-down tables, to work out a session for ukgovcamp 2019. A week-long Twitter poll indicated that people were interested in how to stop and think, which is something I’ve been not-stopping about recently, but have been doing a lot of thinking about. I wrote down in my notebook.

If our survival depends on passing information between us rapidly, and making good decisions, then why are we so busy doing stuff, instead of listening and sensing?

As OCSI‘s only head of technology, I am in charge of not just “THE TECHNOLOGY”, but the whole tech team. Actually, it’s hard to be “in charge of” technology as a thing – at a certain scale (ie once you start using it), technology has a life of its own – software updates, hardware failures, security risks, new services, old legacy code and technical debt. All these things will do as they will. I’ve come round to seeing that it is the Tech Team that I am in really in charge of, and that this team is responsible for tending to the technology, in the same way that a gardening team tends to the plants. So team first, tech as a by-product.

As a tech team, working with the forces that make up technology, we often have to react to incidents, either external ones, or ones we’ve made through our own past selves. This will never completely go away, there will always be a reactive aspect to ‘Technology’. But we can be a bit smarter about it.

But being smart is hard when there are lots of things to react to. And this is a problem which seems to affect a lot of people – there is so much to do, and then so much on top of that as well, that being smarter about it just doesn’t get any love.

So at the start of the day, I got up and pitched a pitch, based on the fact that we make bad decisions just because everyone is in a rush. How, indeed, do we – as individuals, and as organisations – deliberately make more time to stop and think, so that we can listen better, reflect better, and make more awesome decisions?

Lots of arms up, indicating I’d hit a nerve, so a good start.

A photo of the quiet room at uk gov camp 2019, which is empty.

The session

I had one of the first sessions on the almighty matrix of time and thought.

The ukgovcamp session grid against the glory of the Ministry of Justice's Petty France building.

Here are the ‘official’ session notes.

The room was full, but no-one was standing – about 17 or 18 of us, which felt about right and the conversation seemed to flow well. I have a fear of talking too much and taking over. And a fear of the conversation drying up. And a fear of everything being too chaotic to get any sense from.

We did introductions and I gave a bit of background spiel about how I’m very busy, etc etc. I mentioned my weeknotes practice and how that had encouraged me to reflect more. After that, the session mostly ran itself, which was good.

I was particularly interested in what stopped people from stopping, and whether that was a practical thing (actually too much to do), a cultural thing (got to be seen to be doing stuff) or what. From the conversation, I confirmed that it’s definitely not an uncommon thing to always be on the go, and that while it’s a shared experience, everyone has slightly different obstacles and opportunities. Some people had more flexible and remote working possibilities (which can help take more time, or hinder it). Others had particular spaces or times allocated to thinking (although not always necessarily used for this). I wrote down terms in quotes such as “different hats”, “treadmill”, and “safe space”.


The notion of Permission came up a few times, which I noted down with a bubbly squiggle round it. “Giving permission to yourself” came up a bit – and this forged on into what it means to be part of a team with expectations about how we work. We are, fundamentally, social creatures. It can often feel self-indulgent, almost arrogant, to give yourself some space and time. Like you’re taking a break, like you’re slacking. Apparently, in the 21st knowledge-worker economy, you’re only productive if you’re typing, or in a room with somebody else.

This idea of “permission to think” reminds me a bit, and slightly randomly, of the notion of Parrhesia set out by Foucault, or the notion of being able to speak freely, for different reasons, but often to explore a situation and gain truth from the scenario. This could be in a democracy, in a court, or even in a diary approach (cf. weeknotes again) to explore one’s own, private situation or behaviour. But there is, in all cases, a sense of ‘formality’ and practice, even ritual to it. It is not ‘casual’ speech, but speech with gravitas, and the value of this speech is that it has a real impact on something – often this is the reflection involved, and the realisation that emerges from that.

Parrhesia refers to speech and writing. And yet, it is firmly tied to the idea of permission – and the act of considering what to say is fundamentally an act of thought, not of speech itself.

So perhaps, practically speaking, there is an interesting avenue I can explore further here on the links between interrogation, evidence, progress, truth and structures of time/space.

Cultural values

This idea of “permission” seemed to tie directly in with the values that an organisation has. In any organisation, how people communicate, and what people expect from each other, will emerge from a variety of factors, from the building itself to the organisation’s brand, and also – obviously – from how the people in the group choose to interact with each other, or think they should. If the organisation lead, whoever that is and how they got there, seems to value “busy-ness”, then it is a struggle to go against that.

At one point, I asked everyone in the room if they felt they had the power to change things, and everybody seemed to put their hand up. Maybe that’s the ukgovcamp crowd, or maybe I asked the wrong question in a mumbled way. It’s hard to tell. But I like to think that none of us is so disempowered that we can’t have an impact on the people around us, no matter how small. We’re all potential agents for cultural shift.

So expectations are a big part of this. Expectations to deliver, to produce, to create, in a visible way. (My wife mentioned the term ‘invisible labour’ a while ago, and I keep coming back to this, and will again do below.) We feel like we need to be part of that group, and work in the same way. We have traditional, accepted forms of taking a break – namely lunch, TOIL, and annual leave (including bank holidays). Other, less regular forms remain an enforced group session, such as away days and other team building exercises. And everyone loves those, right?

In the session, this led on to some really interesting tips for how to change a team’s Values and Culture. Louise brought up the User Manuals for yourself that Cassie Robinson put together, and mentioned how doing this across a team offers a way to be open with each other, rather than let habits fester that nobody really likes. Other people (sorry – comment if it was you!) mentioned the idea of ‘share backs’ – holding (alcohol-free) ‘speakers corners’ events on a Friday, ‘team tea-time’ sessions, and other ‘all the things’ timeouts which take us away from direct deliverable work. And this aspect of building groups informally, and feeling comfortable around each other, seems really important, making it easier to take the permission about doing things differently.

There were also some handy tips to do if you can. Someone – possibly Katy I think – came up to me afterwards and mentioned an experiment to have 2 minutes of quiet mindfulness at the start of each meeting. Not enough to eat into the meeting, but enough to stop, feel uncomfortable, push on, and get some grounding back. Little things make such a difference, sometimes.

(In)visible Labour

Returning to this idea of visibility, I was (and am) very interested to explore how we could value thinking time more. As one session attendee noted, if you’re by yourself, but at least drawing on bits of paper, it makes it look like you’re doing something.

As mentioned, the wife mentioned “invisible labour” to me a while ago, which is a term often associated with working mothers to highlight the work they do without getting paid, and also with jobs that society doesn’t want to acknowledge. I’ve come to think about it more as I try to get across to people the value of what I do as a “technologist” (someone what understands technology a bit), and increasingly as a “strategic” thinker. Your brain is going a mile a minute, but your body is staying still. And that’s GOOD. But thinking is a kind of invisible labour at times*.

So there are different ways of being more visible with our thinking time. Being active in the space is one. Sharing it with others, in whatever way is another, whether that’s lunch time sessions, or meaty documents, or even just internal blog posts – this small dissemination/communication activity is often overlooked, but is a valuable tool for both shaping our thinking, and for letting others in on it. It’s why (I believe) weeknotes, and open working generally, can be so powerful.

We didn’t discuss much about being more open about asking permission, and ways to improve that. I can imagine a more structured approach might involve being clear about what question or problem you’re trying to tackle. A good way could be to book in a calendar item, clearly with yourself as thought time, and to set this question as the agenda. “THIS IS WHAT I AM THINKING ABOUT. Leave me alone.”

* That said, I do prefer thinking ‘out loud’ on a massive whiteboard, or with a thousand post-it notes.

Where next?

Well, first up, massive thanks to all the attendees and note-takers who came along and made it a great session. Someone came up to me in the pub after and said it was their best session of the day, which made me smile A LOT.

There are lots of places I could go with this. I want to try more things out, on a personal level, at work – especially around being more open with my thought time, and making more space for that “As A Thing”. I’m in a good position to not be toooo crazy, and to set my own agenda and be something of a role model. Got to count your blessings.

I’m hoping that draws more attention to the need to set aside proper thought time. I’m also hoping that it brings more attention to the kind of problems I’m thinking about, and why they’re actually important.

Sadly I don’t think I’ll be able to do the User Manuals across the whole team yet. But I’d like to do one for myself, to help others understand the MYSTERY that is me. And it would be a useful tool in about 4 or 5 months, I think.

Otherwise, I’d be very happy and keen to keep the conversation going, and stay in touch with anyone else interested in discussing it, or getting support on it. If that’s you, then drop me a comment, or say hi at @6loss on Twitter, or you can even email me.


Here’s a list of potentially useful resources, some from the session, some from after, and some from my memory:

How Do We Avoid “Diversity” Becoming a Business Thing?

(Disclaimer: Thinking out loud, as with all my blogposts. Do feel free to agree/critique/argue, and I reserve the right to change my(/your) mind and progress my thinking as part of this process.)

Catherine Howe’s weeknotes/fieldnotes on “multidisciplinary-working” delves into something I keep passively returning to: the value of diversity as a first-and-foremost value. We stand at a point where we need to establish diversity as a conscious act if we want to allow it to exist against a tide of anti-diversity in the world. As Catherine notes, this requires:

a decision to create a shared endeavour of a blended practice that is built on diversity because you believe the outcome will be better because of that diversity of experience and mindset

This is something I’ve come to realise more formally and faithfully in the last few years. When going through an exercise to establish “shared values” within a team, how can we not begin with an understanding that we are establishing a common set because we are already inherently different?

However, I have a love/hate relationship with this view that diversity = a better outcome. I love it because, in one sense, I am an outcome. So many different people have influenced me in my life, and it would be impossible to draw a distinction between myself and that crowd of opinions, backgrounds, knowledge and love.

And yet, a bit of me worries about turning diversity into a proposition for “better business”. Which is always a worry in capitalist society. And which is not to say I think Catherine or myself are purely adopting a “diversity is great for profit” perspective. More that, if we’re not careful, that is how such well-intended social value modelling can quickly go.

Thinking out loud, can we break the value-of-diversity into three slightly-distinct forms?

  1. Diversity as impacts the individual (the self) in order to gather a wide range of experience into one single mind.

  2. Diversity as impacts business effectiveness, ie heterogeneity either produces more sustainable or effective ways of producing business value, purely through less groupthink, or it helps a business to link into wider external needs, such as a larger market.

  3. Diversity as impacts our democratic sustainability as a society, and hence our more general sustainability as a species. Without diversity and integration, the risk is not that we become ineffective like a business, but that we become hostile and warmongering.

Of these, #1 and #3 are potentially likely to be pushed out by #2. It seems to be a sad truth that we’re moving towards a world in which humans and experience are valued primarily for their economic value. Perhaps this is the desperate, dying efforts of a society hooked on the growth of capital, and the need to generate database numbers from anything easily and virtually1 exploitable. An endless supply of get-rich-quick subjects.

Personal experience counts for little these days – not unless you can blog it and get sponsored. It remains to be seen if democracy and non-war have any particular foothold in this century.

1 By “virtually”, I mean anything that can be modelled into numbers, and hence have generic algorithms run against it.

Weeknotes TEN:4 – Flappy

How do I feel?

It’s Friday, and I would say that I feel “flappy”. This week has been a rather mad buzz of ideas and different strands of work. I’ve been quite heavily involved in most of it, so it’s largely been good, if tiring. I haven’t had much time to prepare for each thing and – ironically after my ukgovcamp session on making time to think* – have often just been jumping context without a break.

I’m not sure if that’s life, or if I’m at a particular point in projects, between all the different worlds going on. It feels quite fragmented, like everyone has the confidence to have their own pet project, and I’m not quite sure if my attempts to get some focus through a planning spreadsheet are working or not, and causing me stress or not. I know I like having it there as a checklist, either way. And I suspect there will come a time when it all comes in use across the whole team. Just not yet…

* Still planning to write this up. Wow, when do you other people get time to write more than just weeknotes?

What was I proud of?

  • Finally running a quarterly update for the management team on what the Tech Team have been up to (see below). This is something I’ve learned from marketing head Kim over the last few years – presenting your work isn’t just a status update for others, but a way to show and prove the value that is important to you – to highlight what you’re bringing to the table. At a higher and vaguer level of work, or when your area is not so easily understood, communicating that value to others really helps to clarify it.

  • Trying out some User Story Mapping techniques in our UX session for a new data dashboard. I’ve read the User Story Mapping book and loved it, and caught the end of @Darwin‘s USM session at ukgovcamp at the weekend. Back in the meeting office, we plotted out major steps and used it to break down user needs, raise questions, and locate ideas. Between three of us, we had very little experience with doing this, but we managed to cobble something together, and what we did do really helped us to work out what was the important stuff.

A photo of our dashboard story mapping session.

What could I have done better?

  • Mostly, going to bed earlier. Ukgovcamp on Saturday left me pretty exhausted, as did going to bed later than hoped (11pm rather than 10pm), and being woken up in the night by #son2. Been running on coffee and that notion of momentum mostly. Fortunately the work has all been constructive, ‘comfortable’ work and there’s not been much need to ‘cover up’ or pretend to be too serious, etc.

  • Chasing up little admin-type things which are starting to build up. I feel like I’ve been letting this happen a bit this month, and suspect it’ll overwhelm me in a week or two.

  • Writing things down. I had a question to ask the week noters crowd, and I’ve totally forgotten it.


A photo of the frozen pond outside the house.

  • The week began with a total lunar eclipse and the first frozen pond of the year. Jogging through the frost of the morning was a good way to wake up after sleeping badly. #son2 is getting quick on his scooter.

  • Spent the morning diving in to hotfix a live bug. Useful test of a git merging script I’d put together before. And kickstarted a hotfix review process – we haven’t done this before IIRC, but now is a good time. Web dev John started a handy document for people to chip thoughts in. Sometimes that’s all it takes – when something fails, I think it’s good for people to have somewhere to write down thoughts for later. Maybe error review process is similar to the therapy aspect of week-noting?

  • Two good meetings in the afternoon, delving into story definitions and interface design. I think I did a good job in the first of staying at the “Why” level – pulling people away from the detail when the conversation started to go that way.


  • Chatted with Alex (developer) to go through his process for merging and releasing code at the end of a sprint. We broke the steps up into stages, and by type of task, and compared this to the script we already have for hotfixes. (No, autocorrect, not “bodice”.) A few clear, distinct scripts emerged from this, which along with understanding Alex’s brain more, made it fairly easy to write up a much clearer spec for what we should do next.

A photo of Alex's process and notes.

  • Spent a good, solid chunk of time writing up slides for presenting tech team progress to the rest of the management team. This felt good because two reasons:
  1. I’ve come to realise the value of telling people what I do, in order to avoid feeling/being taken for granted. Sometimes you can’t just sit back and wait for people to appreciate your own work.

  2. I got to put a bunch of gifs in of animals and typewriters

A monkey typing on a laptop.

  • Found out Mary, our recently-new researcher, researched blockchain use in international aid at Uni, which means I have someone I can waffle on to about blockchains when I get really drunk?


  • Caught the management team up with what happened last quarter in the Tech team, what we learnt, and what’s coming up next. That middle one, “what we learnt”, felt like the most valuable section. We’re all learning, but it can often be that we only realise we’re learning that we turn out into “experience”.


  • Trying to focus on my sprint work while trying to make sure some incoming work got the planning it needed. As I mentioned right at the top, we seem to have a lot going on and kicking up, and there’s a good chance that we’ll end up very fragmented, chaotic, disrupted and frustrated in about 2-3 weeks. I’m trying hard to navigate a route through, between doing the work I’ve lined up, and responding to work coming in.

  • Idea to self: Get some time to work out where my skills are needed in all the work going on, as it doesn’t look like anyone else is going to sort out the work planning side of things.

  • I still love unit testing. I wonder how it could be applied to non-coding things, like politics and communication. Test-driven democracy, anyone?

Random stuff

(Unhappily for everybody, a utopia, as a perfected human condition, is a static society, and static societies are dystopias)

Weeknotes TEN:3 – Twisty and Strange

Can you believe it’s Monday already? Last week feels like eons ago, as I jumped on a train Friday night, and then UkGovCamp 2019 happened. I want to write that up separately, but just wanted to say that the weeknotes session organised by Lizzi and Jenny was great. It was amazing to see all the people in the room who had started, or were thinking of it – almost as amazing as seeing Jukesie seem to wonder and tremble at what he hath created. 😯

This week we went for a truly eatable lunch to celebrate Joel leaving and Mary and John having birthdays, at Chilli Pickle where the ceiling was stars and a green pepper wiped me out for a good 5 minutes.

Photo of decorative stars hanging from a restaurant ceiling.

1. The path of a manager is twisty and strange

I finished reading The Manager’s Path by Camille Fournier this week. I can’t remember who recommended this originally but I think it was one of the weeknoters. If it was you, then thank you!

It’s a very readable book, and comes across with the air of a gentle, experienced mentor. There isn’t lots of detail or huge practical exercises to try. What it did do was confirm that I am on the right path – as far as I can tell. There was enough advice in the book that made sense, and fitted with I already do. Up until now, without a particular mentor (but some management training courtesy of Martin Johnson), I feel like I’ve been running off instinct and personal values (or “making it up”).

So that’s a nice boost. There’s also some really good advice on structure and cultural strategy in the final chapter, and I’d love for others in the company to read it. I’ve suggested it, but I still struggle to hook people into the things I find interesting. Maybe it’s just their loss. Maybe I’m not persuasive enough?

Here are my takeaways from the last chapter anyway:

p. 192 looks at what kind of teams a structure-light setup works well in – namely, task-oriented, small and homogenous, lots of communication, and low skill specialisation. That’s basically my team, and it’s fascinating to think which bits have been consciously guided vs unconsciously guided, vs by accident. (And yes, the point on homogeneity has very important implications for diversity, values and process.)

Quotes on the interplay between failure and structure, which reassures me that it’s not “One Right Answer” but all about context and learning:

  • “there comes a time for adding structure, and that time is usually when things are falling”
  • “… failure is the best place to investigate and identify where your structure needs to change.”
  • “Using failure to guide evolution lets you apply structure at the right level.”

And something I really want to remember from p. 183: “If you want a team that feels comfortable taking risks and making mistakes, one of the core requirements is a sense of belonging and safety.” I think this ties in with my own sense that I don’t know anything and nor should I. Isn’t it better to find out quickly, rather than assume slowly?

There are also some good thoughts on creating culture, but I want to come back to them separately, one day.

2. The endless cycle between actions and values

Apparently this week is one of the most depressing weeks of the year, but I don’t know. I’ve been feeling pretty good this week – I’ve got a bit of mojo on as various plans develop and emerge. I’ve started using Daylio on my phone as a mood tracker recently, and last week’s chart is reassuring:

Screenshot of a line chart of daily moods, generally pretty good moods too.

My wife described me as “sort of arrogant” some time ago. I think she was being kind? I’m not sure if/where arrogance blurs with confidence, and at the and time I’m not sure I’d describe myself as either 🙂 But perhaps there’s something else, something that treads that fine line.

Personally, I try to be neither arrogant nor overly-confident. I find it’s easier and more effective to concentrate on practical things, and the adjectives come out by themselves – Do, don’t Be. The things I try to do (or avoid) are pretty simple really. Something like:

  1. Don’t panic
  2. Don’t jump to conclusions quickly
  3. Do think things through based on previous experience

Or, even simpler: assess a situation, then think about what will happen.

3. Walk the work, re-walk to work it out

Craigmod’s newsletter* on walking, lines, and re-walking tied in with my re-visiting of my tech strategy at the moment, in particular:

Rewalking grounds the walker, allows the walker more noticing.

There is a joy of exploration when walking – that you simply cannot get to the endpoint quickly, that slowing progress down is key. You observe change, you enter into a much richer world, full of feedback and ideas-that-move-even-slower. The landscape adjusts, but in a way you can think of and reflect on. Walking is thought-movement.

Is strategic planning and review like this? “Making a strategy document” is not a case of just writing a bunch of words. How long do you need to create such a thing? How much time should you spend “re-walking” your original plan, and comparing it to what has really happened, and is continuing to happen now?

I’ve ended up making copies of my original documents, and going through the process of re-writing it, as if the “Final” version from September was nothing but an unkempt draft, a scratchpad. The themes are still there, but this re-writing is my own re-walking. An opportunity to think faster than the words are changing.

* Worth a subscribe if you like walking. And Japan.

4. Thursday day notes

  • Calendar Tetris. Lots of team meetings to think through upcoming work, which is great. But it takes a while to then organise – knowing who’s involved in each is essential, as is shared calendars. Maybe I need to give Jeni Tennison‘s new calendar tool a go. Should I be worried about her hacking my calendar though?
  • I deliberately added 15 minutes to these meetings with a specific agenda time to write up notes. I can’t remember who suggested this originally either. 🤔 (Extra Monday note: This didn’t work.)
  • Hence Discovery tag” is my new motto to stop people thinking about detail at the wrong time. But I’ll stop saying it, because mottoes get annoying really quickly.
  • Writing up meeting notes is one of those things that gets easier with practice.
  • We started our new sprint naming scheme. Sprint Zubat hands over to Sprint Ab Fab, to kick off our favourite TV shows. Sprint 141, can you believe that shizzle?

A gif from Absolutely Fabulous, in which, um, Patsy is pretending to have nipple tassles?

Note to self: Totally do an Ab Fab weeknotes gif special.

We were also visited by Luke’s two daughters, who brought us an extra yummy gingerbread house.

Photo of a Gingerbread house that is sadly now in tattered, half-eaten pieces.

And I changed my Slack icon to the face of Totoro, which led to a rather disturbing Totoro murder conspiracy article (spoiiiiler alert) and this photo of some Brighton street art.

Photo of street art in Brighton showing the cat bus from the film Totoro.

And surely there’s no better way of ending a weeknote than with a cat bus picture.

Weeknotes TEN:2

Hello readers. Here we are, caught between Gregorian cycles and a super blood wolf moon eclipse. I have a beer, and I’ve just noticed the back of my work notebook has “Daddy’s Big Book Of Stuff” scrawled on it by an 8-year-old. Here are some things that interested me this week.

(Note: More than three things interested me this week.)

1. Cost of context switching is not just for coders

Monday morning: I flick through my calendar and prep for the week, like anyone with socks and a brain. This week is blocked-out; maybe I’ve “made it” as a manager or something, as it’s all annual review this, 6-month review that, strategy here and steering group there. Which, to be fair, is what I’ve come to love. Can’t complain.

There are pockets of non-blocks in there too, the rests between agendas. It’s so tempting to check the to-do list and mentally cram everything else into that space. Some code I’ve wanted to do for a while. Some personal research. Some write-ups. Some blogposts. It’s what I’d usually do.

But it’s still the start of the year. There’s a long way to go in 2019 yet. And experience and weeknoting tell me that, like new weeknoter Giuseppe, meetings and conversation – deep conversation about people’s lives and year-long focuses – takes a lot out of me. The blocks are big enough and the train travel is long enough that I should be fairly tired by Friday.

And switching context from “people” to the more heads-down, isolated, introverted work will turn that “tired” into “shattered”. And when I’m shattered, I get pretty grumpy.

Grumpy me attacking the world

And I’m trying to avoid that this year.

So the decision, right at the start of the week (subconsciously, probably the weekend before) is to avoid switching mindset/context as much as possible. If I need to be talkative, I’ll stay in external, talkative mood all week, and try not to get bogged down in detailed work, if possible.

4 days on, writing this on Friday: my mood is good. I got woken up at 5.20am today, but I feel (relatively) fresh. Fresh enough to write weeknotes, at least. The rest of the house has collapsed.

2. The megatropolis bubble effect

On Thursday I travelled up to the Big Smoke. London welcomed me with its gift-wrapped buildings, growing inside silver sheets like alien pupae. I got 50p off coffee for having my own mug, and men with guns stood protecting the Underground’s escalators.

I had a clear head and navigated the tube, noticing how at home the signposting was. The stark lines, clear fonts and bold colours of the system stand out against the melody of adverts, and I’m always amazed at how quickly I can pick out where I need to go. Great design.

As I get back toward home, and the train slides through a broad, pale sky drifting over barrow tumuli, I can’t help noticing the effect of entering a city. Everything it needs is there in abundance, like the world has been rebuilt in localisable miniature. There’s no need for the things I’m returning to now, like pheasants and out-of-town supermarkets, because cities are, effectively (in both senses) self-sufficient.

I don’t know why this is weird to me today. Brexit, perhaps. Thinking about viewpoints. How do you explain out-of-city living to people contained in that bubble? I lived in Brighton for years, but hardly ever went out into the nearby countryside, and never ever visited small towns for their charity shops and playing fields. That’s my world now though, so far away.

What some sort of dancing anime bear maybe

I don’t really know why I’m mentioning this, except to perhaps savour the difference that our environment makes on how we think. Does a frantic ambience speed us up, distract us from slower thought? Can a sense of open space lead to more open ideas?

3. More than I know

I think I am maybe now am “expert” in social value. Not in the “traditional” sense. More like I now know enough about it to be utterly confused by it. Which, I think, is the sign of an expert? Not that you know how to do something, but that you know how not to do something, and what not to do, probably to the point where nothing ever gets done. If you can explain that to other people, you’re a consultant.

Seriously though, I had two conversations delving into social value this week, and I think I have my head wrapped round it pretty well. It’s an area that brings together data, policy and society, plus I’m adding my own technical backing into the mix, having been working on a social value tool for, uh, 5 years? 6?

It’s not an area that fits well into one discipline or another – applying metrics to social bonds is tricky for a few key reasons (see above note about explaining it well). Without some research training, it’s hard to get what it is/isn’t – much harder, I think, than explaining what “Pure” data is (like counting road cones or something). I think maybe it’s one of a whole field of ‘weird data’ – ie efforts in society where we so desperately want to turn it into a database, and yet there are huge practical and emotional reasons why it doesn’t fit our current scientific approach.

Anyway, no details here or I’ll be off on one. But it feels nice to note that this is an area I’ve stumbled into, and accidentally seem to have a fair bit of knowledge on. I have no idea if that’s good for future plans or not. Should I make something more of it? Is it what I’m interested in?

Knowing about social value is like being a small wide-eyed creature, apparently

Anyway, it’s a topic I’m vaguely happy to chat on if anyone needs 😉

What else is in my head?