Getting hold of knowledge is harder than we think. Most of what a search engine returns is information, and it’s our job to piece it together and generate knowledge: facts and things we know.

Google is really, really good at giving you information and lots of it. But, on average, how many of us click more than one link from the first five results? How many of us honestly take snippets from multiple sources and reason our own judgements?

In making it easy to get to information, Google has made itself a primary source of knowledge nutrition. …

For organisations that use computers to get stuff done, the Internet means you can spread bits of your organisation out geographically and temporally.

Spreading a workforce geographically is usually called remote working or distributed working. That’s when workers aren’t necessarily close to the location of the main office, they live and work elsewhere. There’s also hybrid working, which is when people are expected to come into an office some times but can work from wherever they like the rest of the time.

Spreading a workforce temporally is usually called flexible working or asynchronous working. That’s when workers aren’t always required…

Each weekend I spend around 2 hours writing about what I did in the ~38 hours I spent at work that week. Why? Good question. Here’s a few reasons why spending more time than is necessary writing about work is a good thing.

It helps me think

Writing is a reflective practice. By going over what you did and writing about it, considering the objectives you were trying to meet and whether you got there, you actively think through and reflect on your work. You spot areas for improvement or things you forgot to do. …

Weeknotes S09E09

Stiffkey saltmarsh is a vast muddy creek on the Norfolk coast, exposed as the tide retreats to the North Sea. It’s a haven for wildlife, a lovely little spot. Where the marsh meets a sand bank, you dip below sea level and the horizon is above your head, waves crashing against the beach. Anxiety is in the air, like sea spray. The tide could come rushing in at any moment, cutting you off from the land, leaving you stranded amid the foaming torment.

This week felt a little like being on that beach. Except when you check the tide tables…

Weeknotes S09E08

Every day I wake up around 5.30 a.m. This is not because I choose to, it just happens. Most of the time I’ll just lie in bed until my alarm goes off but every other day I go for a run. Except today it’s cold and wet outside and I don’t much feel like running in that. So I’ll write these weeknotes instead because that seems productive.

And after that, I can have an enjoyable bank holiday weekend of lazing around doing sweet F.A.!

Work stuff

Mondays are always quiet and, frankly, the worst day to be dragging people into meetings. Instead…

Over the years I’ve managed several product teams, always from first principles, and as I’ve matured as a product manager I’ve written a few memos to myself. Things that got us over a hump or feedback I received from colleagues. Every so often I’ll glance back at these memos to remind myself how to do things well. These are the must-haves and key things to remember which help me start or join a product team and hit the ground running.

This is a living list, so it might change. Check back every now and then.

The foundational principle

As product manager, you look…

Photo by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels

Originally published at on February 22, 2020.

Being a product manager can often feel like being a lone wolf. Despite working closely with a team of designers, developers and other digital specialists, you’re usually the only member of the group representing the product discipline. So who can you turn to for advice or help solving a product problem?

Communities of practice are a good remedy, loose structures that support people doing the same job to come together and help each other. The product community at GOV.UK, …

Originally published at on January 25, 2020.

This is a talk I gave to the GDS product management community a year ago. It’s mostly aimed at other people working in digital transformation of government, but actually I think everyone should blog a bit.

There’s lots of ways of working in the open, blogging is just one of them.

So what is the point of blogging?

First we should define what a blog is. The noun ‘blog’ means a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style.

Blogs have been a…

Digital government, its inherent politics, and humility in design

Originally published at on January 8, 2020.

Recently I’ve been working on a team thinking about what digital government services might be like in the near future. Conor, our interaction designer, summed up the last 9 years rather well.

‘We essentially create boring magic.’

It just rolls off the tongue.

There are things that people have to do — like pay tax, register a vehicle, work out what to do with dead farm animals, etc. — which are boring. These things only exist because of government. Our job is to make those tedious experiences a bit magical: simple, clear…

Design, product, the Web and data

Originally published at on December 14, 2019.

Here’s a bunch of articles and blog posts that got me thinking about digital government, product management, design thinking, the World Wide Web and data this year. There’s also a couple of nice stories I enjoyed thrown in. Oh, and some stuff about attention too, because this list is full of useful distractions.

I’ve not included anything about privacy, which I should have, but I think that probably deserves its own post.

Digital government

Just enough Internet: Why public service Internet should be a model of restraint

Heavyweight thinking on good, responsible technology in public service from Rachel Coldicutt, which has been this year’s hot topic alongside…

Steve Messer

Product manager, GOV.UK Pay, Government Digital Service

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