This weeknote doesn’t carry much about the work I am doing. I was finding my weeknotes about work probably worked better as their own standalone blog posts. If I write any work related blog posts I will link out to them from my weeknotes.

Bit of a crazy week that. Let me see if I can unpack it a little.

A good weekend of running, a slow 7km session with the dog on Saturday followed by a nice 21km-er on Sunday. Loved a very fresh run along the Tyne on Monday night and a late roadside session on Wednesday. Up early this morning for a dog accompanied 10km-er through the woods and along the Canal. And nothing on Tuesday and Thursday: Rest is good! If I can squeeze in 20km tomorrow that’ll have been a great month of running, especially as week one was an illness-ridden wipe out. (I guess my monthly run note will tell that story.)


  • Feels like a week of mainly nudging people to start stuff and keep doing the good work they are doing. (Nudging being get together and get on with something.)
  • On Tuesday a team looking into recruitment in/for social care came to the NHS BSA offices in Newcastle and we did a run-through of NHS Jobs for them and answered a whole slew of questions.
  • Thursday had a fun service blueprinting session, drawing on user research to help get down the shape of the service as viewed by someone seeking to find a job. Too much we get pressure to record and view these journeys and the service through the lens of “the business”, so leaning on the user research was a nice start. As ever the real challenge with these sessions is trying to politely keep the conversation rolling along.
  • Had a few catch ups with other people all over the place, designers of different flavours, user researchers, a couple of product owners, and a board director.

Three days in Newcastle this week and all served by train journeys. On Thursday morning’s train it was announced before we left Leeds “Unfortunately this train is going to have to take the long way round to York, so we’ll be arriving 20 minutes later than planned.” Sometimes the long way is what’s needed to get us somewhere. Maybe we don’t take or allow ourselves the long way round enough.

I’ve been mulling over a few things this week, doodling out thoughts, trying to tap some into shape. The last few weeks I’ve been dwelling on the emphasis of empathy when designing human-centred products and services and how we bring wider understanding into our work. If good service design sits, for example, in the area where user needs, business requirements and, say, policy meet then it won’t be empathy across all of those, more understanding. Nothing profound or more than that at the mo, at least in a way that makes sense out of my head.

I visited my GP this morning who confirmed what I have — maybe even we have — felt was going to be the case for a while: I am diabetic. After months — over 18 — of monitoring a/my healthier — and healthy — way of living I have officially “done as much as [I] can”. Next week I start on some drugs. I got good service from my GP today. And it’s always good to hear a medical professional tell you “you’re in really good shape”, by the way.

Doctor Who last weekend was quite good fun (it’s only a TV show!) and managing to stay on top of Picard. That’s probably the limit for my TV watching capacity at the moment.

I started reading The Pursuit of Endurance which has been a nice one to take in leisurely.

Next week I am looking forward to spending a day next week in Edinburgh at Service Design in Government. There’s lots of good running options too! And I’ve updated my now page to list any upcoming events I am going to. Feel free to have a look and say hi if you’re there too!

If you’re into design and looking for an end of week read could I suggest you read this by Paula Scher. Lovely stuff.

Oh, and on Tuesday Town won, again! I had to get up early on Wednesday and couldn’t get my head down until I knew it had ended 4-2. Even when Wright scored Town’s fourth in the 84th minute I just had to make sure.

Did you like these weeknotes? Maybe looking for some that are better? Give these a try: Mark Boulton, Mark Hurrell, Matthew Solle, Chris Thomas.

Original source – Simon Wilson

This weeknote doesn’t carry much about the work I am doing. I was finding my weeknotes about work probably worked better as their own standalone blog posts. If I write any work related blog posts I will link out to them from my weeknotes.

Watched The Good Place, well finished The Good Place. It was good it ended and it was good it ended well. It told its story. Is knowing when is enough that tricky a skill, especially — especially — in television? That there’s only going to be that one season of Watchmen was personally satisfying. Enough closure, some trails for a possible future, but contained enough and a mighty fine story told well. Big Little Lies, why oh why that second season? The first was so so on point. Why the need? Viewing figures? I could keep going on on on. But The Good Place knew its place and time and when to bow it. I’ll miss my regular viewings on new episodes of The Good Place, but most good things have an end. That what keeps them good.

Also: Bad things can end too. Hang in there if you’re in that place and can’t find the door out.

Deakins got his second Oscar, fuck yes. Keep going, Roger.

Lots and lots of train time and waiting at stations time this week. Burrowing through Radical Help. Lots of good reminders in there service as a means to an end v a service as the end itself, do we create a process or a relationship and invitation to participate v ordered to participate in those, talk with or at?

Also managing to crack through the 150+ tabs I have built up in the browser on my phone. Yes. 150+. Some of them go back three years. Yes. Three years. The fail of reading about interesting stuff on the Twitters, opening them, and thinking yeah, I’ll read that later.

Had a few moments this weeks that raised reacting to surprise symptoms versus finding (and fixing the root cause.

Had some nice workshoppy days at work, like this one.

Felt I was less forgiving about some stuff this week. Not back into don’t suffer fools lightly territory, but anyway. What does good look like, eh. Maybe what does useful look like and what does acceptable look like.

Good chat this week about too much the product lifecycle being seen as linear. We don’t talk/show enough about the forks and experiements we do underneath or concurrently — so too many people see it was one thing, step to step to step to step.

Not much running as wanted this seven days. The storm over the weekend curtailed that (although managed to get 3km out before the rain really came down) and lots of travelling during the week reduced me to two runs out of five week days. I just need to be a bit firmer next week. Fancy trying a marathon distance jaunt. Faster versus further though? I was mulling earlier this week (and not just about running). Distance it is on the running front.

A few months back I read about now pages. I had a working lunch to sort the home page of this site, move some stuff to a now page and other stuff to a past page. It was also a chance to think about what I do now. The now page is here. The past page is here.

Being content isn’t always about happiness, yo.

I had half an hour on Apple TV watching music videos. Video playlists as the new MTV2? I would be so there for that. Apple TV is a great example of a hub or even a dashboard, a lovely layer that sits over the things you use to watch TV in its various places, surfacing them in one place. The video for the Cure’s Close to Me is still 👌🏼.

Down at the gym I saw a music video rip off of Scott Pilgrim’s battles (in the movie) against Todd and the twins. Such a shitty rip off too. At the end of the video there’s a title card. DIRECTED BY. I wouldn’t be so proud, mate. No idea who the band or song were. Feels a more important thing but hey. But I know right they still make music videos!

Listened to a lot of HAIM. Could just keep listening to HAIM.

Had a lot of grief from my MacBook this week which meant time in the Apple store. First time the service was great, quick yeah we’ll sort that, leave it with us. The second time was a longer visit but also good-in-a-different (as annoying as the repair has caused my Mac to die). The diagnostic stuff when your MacBook is hooked into the network and the iPad runs it all is close to magic. The guy who looked after me let me have a good look at the staff interface on their iPads and yeah design for context don’t just copy and paste interface approaches because it works in a different context and ding dong done.

Looking forward to looking at some proper design books next week. Phwoar. I miss chats about typography and kerning and form and stuff like that.

My daughter is 17 now. Where did that time go etc etc? Life huh.

Did you like these weeknotes? Maybe looking for some that are better? Give these a try: Mark Boulton, Mark Hurrell, Matthew Solle, Chris Thomas.

Original source – Simon Wilson

This weeknote doesn’t carry much about the work I am doing. I was finding my weeknotes about work probably worked better as their own standalone blog posts. If I write any work related blog posts I will link out to them from my weeknotes.

I’ve felt groggy most of this week, pretty bad chest infection, and only really started to feel with it on Thursday. Noticing the change from feeling foggy minded to being clear minded was obvious though. On Thursday I felt like everything joined up in my head, in a way it hadn’t for quite some time. Maybe having a little more time this week to think things through helped rather than React! React! React!. Trust the process and respect the process.

Work-wise one of those weeks you get questioned a lot, scramble half an hour here and there to nudge things along, nod/give thumbs up to others’ work, find half a day to work through something, and keep checking people are OK and getting what they want from work. Probs a ‘good’ week though.

Last weekend I published a work note for January and a run note for January.

Leeds Gov Design number 13 happened on Friday. Went well, as a ‘curator’ really enjoy asking people if they can do something and seeing what they do. Phil Hesketh talked about ethics, Ethics Kits and Consent Kit. I asked Imran Hussain from Defra if he could do something around communities as services and voila! he did. As it was Services Week I squeezed in a little service mapping exercise and used half an hour to talk about the work I’ve been involved with on NHS Jobs, mainly about asking yourself what do you want a map to do?, rather than being fixated on existing structures and tools. Start with your needs.

Mark and Sarah did their own little things during Services Week too, and I am proud of them. Being front and centre isn’t easy for all, maybe not easy for many. 👏🏼

I’ve been musing a lot on road maps (ones for work, not ones for driving your car along), especially as my time in digital teams usually reduces these to a collection of user focused user stories or even more basic feature maps for digital products. Theory: If we position good service design (and a good service design) as sitting in the area where user needs, business requirements, and policy touch/crossover then how do we stay in touch with the problems from those angles? I shared a bit of this on Twitter and the responses were interesting. I’ve been dribbling notes down over the last couple of months around and it’s going to be one of those I kick about next time I catch up with a couple mates in a similar area.

Last weekend I told the Global Service Jam Leeds team I can’t help with the jam this year. Setting up and running weekend gigs is tough, especially ones that last the whole weekend, you spend a lot of time away from your fam during the week because of work, and your fam do things at the weekend you want to see too. It was a difficult decision to say I can’t do it – I’ve been involved with the Leeds jams for a few years and I still believe there’s a lot of good in service designing – but in another way it wasn’t difficult. Spending time with the fam is most important. You only live once. 🙏🏼 (And there’s the midweek Leeds Gov Jam to do too.)

I got blood test results back this week, revealing my HbA1c level is still hovering around 50 mmol/mol, two years on from the first test that hinted I could be diabetic. 50 mmol/mol is described as very high. (If you want to know more about HbA1c I recommend the Diabetes UK page on it. HbA1c being a longer term indicator of health is fascinating. There a lot of excellent clear content through the Diabetes UK site as well.) It’s down from the 55 mmol/mol reading from a year-and-a-half back so there’s positives. And I also found out my cholesterol is well down over the same two year period and everything else is Good. And, yes, I have spreadsheet with all this in, now.

I had to log into SystmOne — which my GP’s surgery uses to interface with patients through the internet — to look up previous test results and record them somewhere else. Instead of a simple list of your previous tests SystmOne makes you choose two dates, forcing a date picker on you (no type in option available), let’s you know ah! you need to limit your dates to a 60 period so you date picker date pick again and find there’s no tests in that period. I ended up scanning through my digital calendar for “test”, “blood” and “nurse” and jotting down dates and aaarrrggghhhh I want to know why TPP made that so bloody difficult. But, yes, I do have that spreadsheet with all this in, now.

May I take a moment to dedicate a paragraph to draw your attention to your own health. I wish I’d proactively done the “health check at 40” thing rather than reactively finding out — maybe even accidentally finding out — at 42. Whatever your age find a little time to take a check if you haven’t recently.

Not much running because of The Illness. 3km was all I could manage last Sunday, but turns out that was actually quite fast. Had a fine 6km-er along the canal yesterday. I didn’t feel 100% but much better and a decent pace too. Hoping for a bit more this weekend.

Reading: I finished Scott Jurek’s North and moved onto Radical Help. Thought I’d read it already. Turns out I haven’t. Doing OK on the reading front this year though. Getting trains about a bit more has helped. I love reading, I don’t do enough. Your critical faculties are an amazing tool, even more amazing when your ability to critique is grounded in as much as you can absorb and merge into your existing thinking. Reading is the greatest window to widening your critical faculties.

Also reading: Looking at some loose loose cycle of running book, design book, graphic novel, looser worky type book, fiction book.

This weekend I really should fix the gate in the garden and finish off The End of the Fucking World.

Things of note elsewhere

Simon Hurst’s The needs of user researchers

J.J. Foreman explaining design

Sarah Drummond’s form follows function

Paul Clarke on some recent shots taken in the Houses

Did you like these weeknotes? Maybe looking for some that are better? Give these a try: Mark Boulton, Mark Hurrell, Matthew Solle, Chris Thomas.

Original source – Simon Wilson

This weeknote doesn’t carry much about the work I am doing. I was finding my weeknotes about work probably worked better as their own standalone blog posts. If I write any work related blog posts I will link out to them from my weeknotes.

I inaugurated my daughter into the world of wearables. She’s got an elevated heart rate which reaches over 200bpm when she’s doing a bit of minor exercise, which the doctors reckon is fine. I’m a bit more there’s possibly something to keep an eye on here. She also wants to get fitter. She’s not unfit, but wants to do a bit more exercise, regularly, probably motivated by a trip to Spain in the summer to walk 120km in a week. Anyway anyway looking into getting her a tracking watch took me back a few years to when I was last playing and making physical products. Back then I was doing stuff like repurposing an old mobile telephone into a tracker for the dog, iterated on it a few times, and managed to sell the work on. Good times. Back then — what, maybe six years ago now? — any article about Fitbit explained explicitly a Fitbit was a thing that you wore and it tracked you. Now Fitbit is a recognised brand, a thing absorbed into wider awareness, consciousness. I remembered Jawbone’s UP, a visually really distinctive product, minimalist in its interface relying on the app to do the analytics. Wearables have come a long way in the last decade, but especially in the last five where they have become omnipresent. But have they also reverted in physical design, to just looking like the Casio watches we had as kids? Anyway, I got the daughter a Garmin. Long battery life (my pet peeve with my Apple Watch), looks cool apparently, steady away as a product, and it’ll be ~fun~ interesting to go over the data and analyse her heart rate. And we’re collecting the data for a reason. (Unlike, say, the Amazon Kindle which seems to store every touch interaction I make with it for… some reason…)

Doing a bit more map stuff at work this week. Not going to delve into that here, but we do mapping for Reasons (and there’s a good video of Katherine and Louise from the Co-op talking about that — boss sneaks Katherine is wearing too if you need further persuading to watch). How often though do we use maps in service and product work to tell us where we are? I was reminded of things like the between-levels screen in games like Ghosts ’n’ Goblins.

A grab of the animated map from the video game Ghosts N Goblins, showing the levels one by one, side by side
A grab of the animated map from the video game Ghosts N Goblins, showing the levels one by one, side by side

How often do we take the chance between “levels” in our work to pull back a little from the steps in the journey we are on and remind ourselves where we are going? If you don’t, try it.

The tea market in the UK is apparently worth £667m a year. You know when you see a number of think I thought it’d be more than that. The population of the UK is about 67m people, so that’s roughly £10 per person. ONS predicted the adult population in 2018 at 52.4m, so that’s £12.73 per adult. With tea regularly brandished as a trophy of English life I assumed that for such deep token of culture its value — based on an actual market — would be way more than a tenner per person.

Coming to the end of the first month of 2020 and I have that 2000km running target for the year. I’m heading out after I publish this to get in 10km and nudge myself over 170km for the month, stay on track. This week I’ve done a lot of traveling, it’s been a frustrating few days, On your way home from a day away, when your train rolls in into Leeds 25 minutes late so you’ve missed your planned connection — that last little train journey back to your home station — and you get home later than planned, you’ve got chores to do first, you’ve got to get to bed because you’ve had some early starts and long days, the pinch point is the run. Even though you have planned you could fit it in. There was a half an hour to do one, but the train journey home denied me that time, took away that time. Twice. Outcomes.

Did lots of reading and writing on the trains though. Which was nice.

Decent reads

Jeremy Keith’s Architects, gardeners, and design systems

Ellie Craven on embracing the unknowns

The British Red Cross team testing ideas

Did you like these weeknotes? Maybe looking for some that are better? Give these a try: Mark Boulton, Mark Hurrell, Matthew Solle, Chris Thomas.

Original source – Simon Wilson

This weeknote doesn’t carry much about the work I am doing. I was finding my weeknotes about work probably worked better as their own standalone blog posts. If I write any work related blog posts I will link out to them from my weeknotes.

  • Started last weekend helping with Coder Dojo in Bradford. Ending up doing one of those great one on one lessons, sitting with a young person who was just so self-interested, keen to get on, willing to try stuff, and made progress. A joy! Fair enough HTML is such an easy-ish language to pick up once you get the turn-on-and-turn-off mechanism of the code, but anyone with a computer can get on with it (on a Windows machine you just need Notepad and a browser, which come as stock) and as a language — and as a language that is run — it’s pretty forgiving, allowing you to get into trying and debugging with no harsh punishments. Due to half term dates the next Dojo is pencilled in for Saturday 29 February, if you’re interested — or better still your kids are.
  • As segue from that I’ve been reflecting more on what I want to get out of work. Through the last weeks of last year I wrote a list to help me focus this year, but I didn’t really weight stuff. What’s the importance of each? The freelance life doesn’t lend itself much to coaching and developing the people you work with or the culture of designing. Yeah, there’s the soft stuff from working alongside people, but… I think by a good distance it’s the thing I miss the most about being just-a-designer as a freelancer. Nurturing people and environments.
  • I started the week wanting to do a couple of middle-of-the-day runs. Short days means not seeing a lot of daylight. Short days means usually running in the dark. Short days means gym visits are up. Goals: Try to avoid the gym. Get the light! And the fresh air! Monday, working from home, was a great chance. I started work early, got changed at 11:45am, went back to the shed to do a couple of things, then it’s 12:30pm, I’ve a meet at 1pm and half an hour isn’t enough time for a decent run. 2pm though I was out. Totally worth it. It’s easy to use timeboxing as an excuse to do the familiar, but I broke left out of our street instead of right and headed through Thackley and along the back roads to Shipley. My first time along there. Just something familiar enough — I’ve driven along there enough — but with enough change, the slow pace being on foot meant I saw there’s a path down there I need to check another time and stuff like that that. I didn’t think about much during the run which is a new experience for me. There’s usually something. I shifted along at a decent pace too. I tried the middle-of-the-day run again today too, something longer on a familiar route with a little twist to keep it different. Going to try to keep at it, although being away a bit next week is going to challenge that.
  • On Thursday, having looked forward to New Adventures for months I ended up not going. I ended up working a 12 hour day and after that I just wanted to flop, bring forward my running rest day and take something in. Mark mentioned in his recent weeknote about the Frank Stephenson documentary Chasing Perfect. It’s on Netflix. Some proper industrial and product design stuff in there, lots of great stuff about prototyping. Stephenson’s always come across as a massive doodler/sketcher and that came across. The Fiat 500 story is a lesson for a lot of people. It ends with that thing everyone rolls their eyes at: A designer wanting to work on things that will have a positive impact. But why can’t Stephenson? Bags of experience and a can do approach. It also ends with a warming tribute to dogs, unexpected — and which would have been great if my dog wasn’t sprawled out on the sofa and I was bunched up at the far end. Good doc anyway, although the sound editing is really off.
  • Talking of Stephenson: Minis (because he was involved the modern design of them). I was driving about at night this week for five minutes without my headlights on. The switch for the lights is a dial below the steering wheel. I usually have it on automatic, because y’know light sensors. As I’d got in or out my knee must have rotated the dial to off. Not such good design that.
  • Flapjack update: A couple of weeks back I had three recipes. Number 1 I covered in the first week. Numbers 2 and 3 have been made and consumed since. Recipe 2 was a bit of a miss. The flapjack was too crumbly. Recipe 3 I ran out of syrup while making them and had to go half syrup and half honey. But they turned out to be great flapjacks, Great Flapjacks, amongst the best.
  • Got back into the reading groove this year already. I’ve not finished it yet but really enjoying Running to the Edge, all the stuff around different coaches’ methods, assumptions versus science, learning what works, learning what is better, learning what is worse — and in a time when it wasn’t about just jumping on the internet. A summer spent learning about a topic meant books and phone calls and meetings and courses. The stuff about watching out for future runners, scouting basically, is great too. We don’t do too much of that in our industry. Not as much as we should anyway.
  • Anyway, time to head off and spend time with my kids. I have been trying to give them some good chunks of time. I have probably not been that great at that over the years. I will ends here and hit publish. Thanks if you read this far down! Hope you get something from these notes.

Decent reads

Good discussion starter from Danny Safer on what is a design decision

The Risks of Imitating Designs (Even from Successful Companies)

Andrea wrote a nice post on Human-centred policy? Blending ‘big data’ and ‘thick data’ in national policy

Doppelgänger and digital twins, urban glimpses and drawing data

Scott Colfer’s great post on discoveries at MoJ

What big corporates often get wrong about Service Design (highly relatable)

Did you like these weeknotes? Maybe looking for some that are better? Give these a try: Mark Boulton, Mark Hurrell, Matthew Solle, Chris Thomas.

Original source – Simon Wilson

Tim Paul and Laura Stevens record a segment for the Government Digital Service podcast on the GOV.UK Design System

The GOV.UK Design System is a collection of tools and resources that helps teams across the public sector deliver better services. Service teams across central and local government use its styles, components, and patterns to develop accessible and consistent services.

Tim Paul, Head of Interaction Design and Product Manager of the GOV.UK Design System at the Government Digital Service (GDS), helped launch the design system back in July 2018. Since then, it’s had a significant impact. The code base is found in more than 300 services on GOV.UK, website traffic has grown 250% since launch, and it’s estimated to save the government £17 million annually.

For February’s episode of the GDS Podcast, Tim talks to Laura Stevens, Creative Content Producer at GDS, about how the GOV.UK Design System works, who uses it, how to measure its value, and other design systems across government. The episode also features 2 users of the design system: Adam Silver, Interaction Designer at the Department for Education, and Emma Lewis, Lead Frontend Developer at the London Borough of Hackney. 

Emma Lewis speaks to Laura Stevens for the Government Digital Service podcast on the GOV.UK Design System

Emma Lewis speaking on the GDS Podcast

You can subscribe to the GDS podcast on Apple Music, Spotify and all other major podcast platforms.

You can read a transcript of the podcast on Podbean.

Original source – Government Digital Service

Image shows head and shoulders photograph of Danny Mclaughlin


I joined DWP Digital in 2014 as the opportunity to make an impact was something that excited me. I’ve been our Head of Product since May 2018.

Making a difference

I joined because I wanted to have a positive impact on others. Our challenges are huge and impact thousands of lives every day. So to be involved in designing, developing and understanding our services to improve the user experience was a big draw.

It’s fair to say the 2 years that followed were more challenging and very different to anything I’d done previously. The pace of change was not what I’d known and my own learning and level of capability was not where I wanted it to be. So I read a lot to get up to speed with practices, for example the agile approach and I learnt to write Java albeit slowly with a capital ‘S’!

Joining the paratroopers

I’m now just about to begin a new challenge – as a reservist with the paratroopers – and I’m really excited. It’s the Parachute Regiment, part of the 23 Royal Engineers.

It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while and I’d been looking for a unit to join. My grandfather was in the armed forces and when he passed away it made me think about myself and my life and what I can do to ‘make a difference’ and ‘give something back’.

I also wanted to do something for myself. I used to be a footballer and I’ve missed that type of team spirit.

Unfortunately, I’m too old for the Marines, so I began looking at other opportunities which would challenge and excite me. When I first visited the regiment they made me feel welcome. The atmosphere felt professional and thorough. I met a variety of people, from ex regular servicemen and women to civilian reservists, and I felt that it was something I wanted to be part of.

I’m really enjoying the camaraderie within the Red Devils (as we’re known). I was one of the oldest during my selection exercise and it’s fair to say I got a lot of ribbing for that! We all joke around with one another – I guess it’s part of bonding experience, and it makes it more fun.

Joining the Army was quite a rigorous selection process. Sixty of us travelled up to Scotland for the assessments but only around 35 were made offers. The assessments were a mixture of academic and team building tasks. We also had thorough physical and medical tests. One of the physical tests was a 1.2 mile run. To get into the paras you have to be fast; if you can’t complete the run in under 8 minutes 15 seconds, you’ve failed. Fortunately, I managed it in 7 minutes 30 seconds!

The flexibility to get involved

Being a reservist is a commitment of 27 days each year, 16 of which will be spent on camp. I feel very lucky to work in an organisation that not only supports volunteering of this kind but encourages it and offers flexible working conditions and the time to take part. The Civil Service recognises the vital role reservists play and, as well as allowing time off to take part, offers up to 15 days’ special leave each year for training.

There’s a cross-over of skills that I can bring to my day job and vice-versa. The leadership and teamwork ethic is something that complements each role. I hope to be able to use these different perspectives and experiences both in the forces and at work.

I’m really proud to have achieved a place at the Regiment. I’m not a fully-fledged paratrooper who can wear my wings with pride yet, but I do know that when the time comes it will be one of my proudest personal achievements.

My Phase 1 Bravo training began on 31 January at 19 hundred hours.

Join us

We’re an organisation that embraces a diverse mix of cultures, perspectives, experience, skills and ideas. Every person matters.

If this sounds like somewhere you’d like to work have a look at our latest vacancies now.

Original source – DWP Digital

This blog post is part of a series investigating different demographics and uses of mySociety services. You can read more about this series here

I saw a comment on Twitter the other month along the lines of: “is civic tech too boring? It’s dominated by reporting potholes to councils”.

As someone working in civic tech I find this terribly unfair because civic tech is about so much more than that! For instance, we also report dog poo to councils. 

But it’s certainly true that there are a lot of potholes involved. It’s the largest use of FixMyStreet, representing a quarter of all reports. People have submitted over 361,000 reports and over 54,000 photos of potholes. As a result, while the FixMyStreet database represents a fraction of all potholes, it represents one of the largest datasets of pothole reports covering the whole country. 

And while it’s easy to think of potholes as the obsession of people pointing at roads in local papers, they are a serious problem. There are a lot of them, they appear everywhere, cause problems on roads when people try to avoid them, and damage when they don’t.  For cyclists, potholes can be fatal

Given that, what does FixMyStreet data tell us about potholes?

How many potholes are reported through FixMyStreet?

Up to the end of 2019 there have been 423,736 potholes or road surface defects reported through FixMyStreet (either .com or a cobrand), with 90,000 reported in 2019. Working from a rough figure of 675,000 actual pothole reports a year, this is around 13% of all potholes reported in the UK. 

A feature of reports to FixMyStreet  is that, while the majority of reports are made by men, there are different ratios in different kinds of reports and categories are often gendered in terms of reporters. Deriving the gender of the reporter from their name, potholes and road surface defects are mostly reported by men, and disproportionately more than the site in general. 

As explored in a previous post, this isn’t an essential gender difference but is likely to result from men having far more cause to encounter potholes. In 2013, men in the UK were on average driving twice as many miles per year as women

People who report potholes are more likely to have reported multiple problems than other reports. Most pothole reports are made by people who have reported multiple reports and represent a smaller proportion of single report users than other report types.  

When are potholes reported?

Potholes tend to be reported during the day, but disproportionately compared to other requests around the evening commute. The chart below shows the distribution of reports by time of day, where green indicates the number of reports is higher than the general distribution of FixMyStreet data. 

While potholes are associated most with the start of the year, they occur in smaller numbers all year long. The number of potholes reported through FixMyStreet peaks on the 28th February. 

Where are potholes reported?

While reports in FixMyStreet are less likely to be made in less deprived areas in general, this effect is larger for potholes:

This effect is driven more by reporting being lower than usual in more deprived areas than especially high in less deprived areas:

This pattern was generally similar for the Income and Employment domains of deprivation. This does not necessarily mean there are more actual potholes in these areas, but possibly that people in areas with higher income and levels of employment are more likely to report them. 

Examining reports using the deprivation subdomain that measures difficulty accessing services (GPs, supermarkets, etc) shows a different pattern, where a disproportionate amount of pothole reports are made in areas with the least access to services

The access to services measures in Scotland and Wales also reflect that the least accessible places have  a large number of pothole reports compared to the general dataset:


The area with the worst access to services (typically a measure of distance to services) has a disproportionate amount of total pothole reports on FixMyStreet. This doesn’t necessarily indicate this is where most of the potholes actually are, but more remote, less traffic-ed potholes will rank lower in risk-based calculation than those on busier roads, and hence may go longer without fix, and make a report on FixMyStreet more likely.

Repeat potholes

Fixing potholes is a never-ending task, as they are an inevitable result of erosion of roads over time. That said, poor repairs will make the return of a pothole more inevitable than it might be. The issue isn’t just that  the same pothole returns: if a pothole initially formed because the road surface was poor, others are likely to form in the same area too. 

Looking at reports on FixMyStreet up to the end of 2016, for 3% of potholes a new pothole was later reported within 10m between six months and two years after it was first reported (with an average time lag of 15 months). Expanding that ratio to a 20m radius, 7% of potholes had a new pothole reported in the same time range. 

While FixMyStreet’s data on potholes is far from universal, the geographical range gives us better scope than any single local authority’s data to see how reporting of potholes relates to social factors. You can examine this data yourself, on our geographic export, which gives counts of different categories of report by LSOA. 

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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Original source – mySociety

Flooded road and fields

Great floods have flown from simple sources, William Shakespeare once said.

And great cursing will have flown from more than one person caused by the UK floods of 2020.

Few parts of the country have been unaffected by weeks of heavy rain.

But in any emergency there are lessons to learn for all comms people.

In any crisis, people perform well or if they don’t people tell them and they learn quick. It’s been the case since bonfires were built to warn of Viking ships on the horizon.

Forget the emerging channels such as TikTok or instagram. In an emergency, your website, Twitter and Facebook are the three places to concentrate resources.

All this may be flood related. I’m convinced there are approaches you can transfer to your regular comms.

A website done well… clarity is the lesson

Simple information clearly presented.

What warnings there are and where.

Flooding alerts can be found in England, here, Wales here, Northern Ireland here and Scotland here. A map accompanied by clear messages helps point people towards their part of the country so they can read the relevant update.

But aside from a page on the council website can be handy to provide extra information. But if the CMS is clunky and you struggle to update it then a pop-up WordPress site ideally you’ve made in quieter times can be useful as a way to get the message out.


Email alerts… sign posting from your inbox is the lesson

If you’ve opted in for Midland alerts through the Met Office here for example then that’s what you get. Which takes you to the relevant webpage.


Again, clarity is the lesson.

Video on social media… real time updates are the lesson

We don’t trust text that much. We trust photographs a bit more but right now in this era of deep fakes we trust video the most. So, updates from the scene in selfie mode are fine.

One of the weaknesses of Twitter is that it has slipped to 7th in the rankings of most popular channel. One of its strengths is that it has a lot of journalists and opinion formers on it. So, if you want to get this out by the regular media let West Mercia Police show you how to do it.


Facebook… sharable content is the lesson

Here, Telford & Wrekin Council give a real time image with a real time date stamped warning. Such sharable content mean it can find its way into community Facebook groups.

On Facebook, people really want to stay on Facebook and never leave. So, chucking the link to the flood warning page won’t really cut it. Post the content in its entirety if you can so you put the information where people are.

You shouldn’t expect people to come to you.

You should be going to them.


WhatsApp… an internal group is the lesson

Email is great but the flexibility of a whatsapp group can cut through really effectively. One for the comms team, absolutely. But also one for people who are on duty. It’s an excellent way to channel back footage and images that help the decision makers and also inform the public, too.

Facebook… reaching the right community group is the lesson

A Facebook group is a digital Parish pump. It’s where people get together and share notes. So, when Ironbridge is at risk of flooding the Ironbridge Gorge Community group is where the community goes.


Social media… Devolving it to the frontline is the lesson

I’ve been banging a drum for this for the best part of 10 years. Police and the Environment Agency are still those who have picked the ball up and run with it best. Give frontline staff training and the tools to access social media and in an emergency you can tap into that. Like this Environment Agency officer.


Web resources… pre-prepare is the answer

Where can you get sandbags? What do I do if my property is flooded? These are part of a list of questions you’d be asking if you were a resident.

Chances are if 500 homes were at risk of flooding there’d be 500 people all demanding answers to the same questions and the phone would be ringing off the hook. If you have a place where people can go for the answers you’ll have the info provided.

Like Gloucestershire County Council here.


What’s extra clever is that they don’t just have it as a web resource but they have it as a printable advice guide, too. Why printable? Simple. Because sometimes the power is out and people don’t have access to the web. If that’s the case then printing of resources can be useful. If your team is thinly stretched friends, family or others can do the task too as its on the website.


With thanks to Heleb Evans, Nigel Newman, Michelle Atkinson, Becky Allen, Mirian Louise Brown, Charlotte Walker and Nicola Davies.

Original source – The Dan Slee Blog » LOCAL SOCIAL: Is it time for a Local localgovcamp?

nursing and midwifery council communications jobs.png

Recruiting to key comms roles is a nice problem to have. And there’s an excitement to be had in hopefully unearthing some new stars. Especially when plum roles are up for grabs.

by Edward Welsh

Turns out the world changes and the way people view the world changes too. It’s our job as communication professionals to make sure that how we engage with our audiences keeps pace. It also means that communication teams are constantly changing and evolving too – just like ours at the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

Many of you won’t know much about the NMC; I won’t hold that against you! We’re the professional regulator for nurses and midwives across the UK, and nursing associates in England. We uphold the highest professional standards for more than 700,000 practitioners on our register and promote public confidence in our professions.

This April, we’re launching our new corporate strategy for the next five years, a very big deal for us. We have spent the last year finding out from the public, our professionals, partners and NMC employees what kind of organisation we should become.

What difference do we want the NMC to have made by 2025? What should our purpose be? As the world of health and social care changes, what should we be focusing on? What kind of culture should we be living and breathing? These are the questions we’ve been asking ourselves.

Our strategy will set out a clear ambition for change, improving how we fulfil our core regulatory responsibilities, and how we can actively support our professions, the public and partners as well as influence the context for learning and care. 

Our highly talented communications and engagement team – which I am so proud to Iead – has been working really hard to transform how we operate to support the NMC achieving this ambition.

At the heart of this transformation has been a focus on strategic communications to make sure we are ready to embed and implement our new corporate strategy. What this has meant in practice is ensuring our communication activity is underpinned by research and evidence, with clear objectives and a corporate narrative aligned with what we’ve heard and tested.

Over the past 18 months, the team, built around a core of people who have worked at the NMC for four or five years, has continued to change. Communication posts that were based in other directorates have been consolidated into our team.

We’ve invested in colleagues, up-skilling and providing opportunities to progress, and created new posts responding to what our professionals and partners have told us about how they want us to engage and collaborate with them more.

Through this period of change, of course, people have also decided to move on, with offers of great, new opportunities and promotions in other organisations. 

So if you are interested in joining one of the biggest professional regulators in the world, committed to playing its part in improving everyone’s health and wellbeing, then why not consider one of the roles coming up in our team in the next few months.

Take a look here at the next two roles we are recruiting to:

Assistant Director Stakeholder Engagement

Head of Strategic Communications

And check out our website or email me if you have any questions!

Edward Welsh is director of external affairs at the Nursing and Midwifery Council

Image by Michael Havens

Original source – comms2point0 free online resource for creative comms people – comms2point0