Things which caught my eye elsewhere on the web

Technology is neither magical nor neutral | Gerry McGovern
We are only now getting a new generation of managers who actually realize that technology is not magic. That is does require careful management to get the best out of it. This is what the essence of digital transformation is about. It is about the transformation of management practice so that it can better manage the technology that is essential to its survival.

How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds — from a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist — Medium
I learned to think this way when I was a magician. Magicians start by looking for blind spots, edges, vulnerabilities and limits of people’s perception, so they can influence what people do without them even realizing it. Once you know how to push people’s buttons, you can play them like a piano.

And this is exactly what product designers do to your mind. They play your psychological vulnerabilities (consciously and unconsciously) against you in the race to grab your attention.

Our “No Asshole” Rule —
In software there is a concept called “code debt,” which refers to future liability for continually patching bad code. The little fixes that save time in the short term, create a ticking time bomb. Eventually the system blows up and costs a tremendous amount of time and money to fix. But until that event occurs, things look considerably more profitable. Culture operates identically. Companies can offer retention bonuses and cajole a rosy facade for a while. Eventually though, the underlying issues show and the culture debt is paid.

Why the arrival, not the journey, matters | Memex 1.1
If, as now seems obvious, the Internet is a General Purpose Technology, then our societies are only at the beginning of a journey of adaptation, not the end. And this may surprise some people because the Internet is actually rather old technology. How you compute its age depends really on where you define its origins. But if you think — as I do — that it starts with Paul Baran’s concept of a packet-switched mesh in the early 1960s, then it’s now in its mid-fifties.

So you’d have thought that our society would have figured out the significance of the network by now. Sadly, not. And that’s not because we’re short of information and data about it. On the contrary, we are awash with the stuff. Our problem is that we don’t, as a culture, seem to understand it.

The Real Bias Built In at Facebook – The New York Times
With algorithms, we don’t have an engineering breakthrough that’s making life more precise, but billions of semi-savant mini-Frankensteins, often with narrow but deep expertise that we no longer understand, spitting out answers here and there to questions we can’t judge just by numbers, all under the cloak of objectivity and science.

If these algorithms are not scientifically computing answers to questions with objective right answers, what are they doing? Mostly, they “optimize” output to parameters the company chooses, crucially, under conditions also shaped by the company.

Would putting all Ministers in one building help them beehive? | Mark Langdale | LinkedIn
With so much change affecting both the size and location of the UK Government’s civil service machine, both in Whitehall and across the country, should Downing Street now consider creating a more effective physical centre for Ministers to work together?

Product Success
In order for a product team to solve hard business problems, it’s not enough that the solution just work technically, and it’s also not enough that the customer loves it, but also, and often most difficult, the solution must actually work for your business.

The different types of design in government | GDS design notes
Design is a broad field, with many different specialisms. We’ve split design into four distinct roles. No one of these roles is more senior than the other. Our roles are specialisms, not a hierarchy. We’ve created specialisms because we operate at a massive scale, and no one person can be good at everything. There’s no ‘right way to be a designer’ you can be one, or all of these things – with more chucked in for good measure.

It’s not about the technology! (Apart from when it is).
“Digital/transformation/business is not about technology it’s about design / strategy / culture” is a recurring meme. It can be a comforting thing to cling on to, and it’s probably true a lot of the time, but is also not true in some important respects.

Technology does matter. Good digital / design / business / transformation / culture / strategy requires an understanding of the materials.

Alex Blandford — Digipology
Think of it like a Wikipedian in residence. Modern organisations conducting user research generate hundreds of hours of video, thousands of scirbbled or hurriedly typed notes and transcripts. Get someone to be a custodian of those with a remit to get deeper understanding out of them, and be open (but respectful to the participants).

Putting down roots | Catherine Howe
Look far ahead and in front of your nose at the same time: I am less and less of a mind to write a strategy – I am more inclined to work with people to develop a big ambitious vision and a series of reasonable steps towards it as no strategy ever survives contact with reality and change needs the momentum you gain from just getting stuff done
Audacious optimism: Really. You are trying to change a WHOLE SYSTEM – you have to be ludicrously optimistic!
Know you will fail: This is why the optimism is audacious . Your plans will be diluted down and you will make compromises but how you fail matters and if you have learned and if the world is a tiny bit better rather than a tiny bit worse then bank it as a win

Seven principles to help us strengthen our data infrastructure | News | Open Data Institute
Society is not currently treating data as infrastructure. We are not giving it the same importance as our road, railway and energy networks were given in the industrial revolution – and are still given now. Good infrastructure is simply there when we need it. We know our data infrastructure is working when it is boring – when we don’t need to think about it.


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