Weeks 65 and 66

I’m combining the last two weeks. We had a bank holiday and a privilege day (a Civil Service thing) so I haven’t been around all that much.

Last week, I hosted our all-staff monthly meeting, down at the big lecture theatre over at KCL’s Waterloo campus. It was the second time I’ve hosted it - I was called in last-minute - but it was just as enjoyable as the last time. The potential irony in hosting an event in a lecture theatre, having not having gone to university, hasn’t passed me by.

Also last week, I spent a bit of time with Kirsty from OCTO, looking at the technology branch of the Fast Stream programme. We’re interested in what its skill-set would be if it focussed on areas like service design and engineering.

On Search and Browse, we had some more discussions about centralised search indexing. We’ve decided to put it on hold whilst the Publishing team build out the Content Store. After talking with Alex and Brad, it was clear that both pieces of work would look really similar once finished. It doesn’t make sense for us to start building something huge for it to be superseded in just a few sprints’ time.

That aside, I’ve been picking up some work to tag mainstream content (eg. VAT rates) with the departments and agencies that they relate to. We have a few thousand items of mainstream content, so we’re trying not to tag them all by hand. As a first-pass, I’ve written a script to infer organisations based on the needs in Maslow that are associated with the content.

This week, we’ve been doing some forward planning for our team. We had a sketching session on Wednesday afternoon where we came up with a bunch of new concepts for browse pages. One idea is a browse page for both ‘mainstream’ and 'specialist’ users together, rather than having separate silos for each. If it’s done well, it could make a lot more sense to users. We’re going to build a prototype and test it in the lab.

On Thursday afternoon, we spent a few hours planning our team’s mid-term roadmap. Now that we’ve released the first iteration of unified search, we were struggling to work out what we should do next. It was becoming clear that we needed to step back a bit and talk about the things we think are important. I think there’s a bigger picture for search and browse across GOV.UK that we should look at. In particular, we should combine many of the user experiences that all behave in a similar way.

Outside of work, I’ve been doing lots of my own planning, for my trip to the West Coast in a couple of weeks’ time. If there’s anywhere I shouldn’t miss whilst I’m in San Francisco or Los Angeles, let me know.