Group - Public / Third Sector Digital

Welcome to The Perfect Curve.

There are 19 posts in total.

Council digital teams - have we stopped innovating?

simon gray - 2017-10-05, 16:15:41

Way back in November 2013, as part of the project to improve Birmingham  City Council's website I was leading on, I wrote a blog post speculating on a few ideas which might be coming up in the Local Government digital sector in the coming year; at the time of writing I didn't expect I'd be likely to be implementing any of the ideas myself, because at that point my project was principally an information architecture and content strategy project, we weren't at that point expecting to be in a position to improve the underlying technology behind the site. So these things which I predicted somebody else might do were: 

  • Open data, 
  • Mobile, 
  • ‘The Internet of Things’, 
  • Responsive Design, 
  • Ebooks, 
  • Crowdsourced content, and 
  • Real time information 

So when recently I was copying the old blog posts from the site for that project into this site, that original post caught my eye – in the sense that I was moderately surprised that[...]

Applying for a copy of a Birth, Marriage, or Death Certificate

simon gray - 2017-01-20, 16:08:44

tl;dr - Applying for a copy of certificates from your council's register office is considerably more painful than it should be. And for online applications, it probably makes more sense to signpost people to the central government General Register Office site.

A couple of years ago it occurred to me that I didn't know where my copy of my birth certificate is, and that it might be a good idea to get another one. When I went to the website of the council where we lived until I was 10, I saw there was no online process to order copy certificates, meaning an order process of sending a cheque or postal order through the post. Since I've not had a chequebook for about 10 years, that meant going to a post office to buy a postal order - and Birmingham city centre only has two post offices,[...]

Local Government Digital Service Standard Summit, 19 September 2016

simon gray - 2016-09-19, 13:20:35

Earlier in 2016 the Local Government Digital Steering Group, of which I'm a member, held a workshop day at the Government Digital Service to discuss whether there was any mileage in creating a local government version of the GDS Digital Service Standard. Not surprisingly, there was overwhelming agreement that it was indeed a good idea, so the steering group set to work in collaboration with local government digital practitioners up and down the country to create one - the Local Government Digital Service Standard. Today there's a summit at City Hall in London to share the work that's been done so far, gaining insight from people working in central and local government in their experiences of using the standard - and an important point being emphasised that it's not about creating a whole load of bureaucracy, and neither is it about replicating the same thing across[...]

UK Parliament petitions website - potentially compromised?

simon gray - 2016-06-29, 12:39:08

In the aftermath of the referendum vote to leave the European Union, one of the things being focussed on is a petition (which ironically was created a month before polling day by a Leave supporter when it was looking like there would be a likely Remain win) calling for a second referendum. At over 4 million signatures it is probably the most-signed petition in history. Or at least it would be, if those signatures were valid.

Suspicions started to be raised when somebody had a look at the raw open data JSON feed for the petition and noticed there were a number of signatures appearing to come from the UK - including more signatures from certain countries than those countries' populations! The Government Digital Service is already investigating these potentially fraudulent signatures and removing them.

As much for a programming exercise to learn how to parse a JSON feed[...]

A content strategy for local government

simon gray - 2016-06-21, 12:45:57

In a previous job role on the main corporate webteam for a local council, one of my main focuses was on website content strategy, for the Birmingham City Council website; towards the end of that role (before the team itself was fundamentally changed in a departmental restructure) I completed the first draft of that strategy. As departmental and corporate priorities have shifted my original document has been changed and expanded considerably, but I thought it seemed worthwhile sharing it here for the wider community - the Local Government Digital community and any other public / third / educational sector digital community to use as a basis for their own work on developing content strategies.

It is high-level, strategic in nature; its goal is to outline principles to be followed when creating content; although there are some specific matters of detail towards the end of the document, a content strategy should not[...]

Wuthering Bytes – A Festival of Technology in the heart of the Pennines

simon gray - 2015-09-30, 17:12:37

I went to the Wednesday session of Wuthering Bytes, which was called Tomorrow’s People, exploring the future of public service provision and how councils, SMEs and individuals can work together. It was quite a departure from the usual local government technology events I tend to go to in that the topics were more of parallel relevance to my usual job rather than of direct relevance – but that said it was still of use for me to take back to work tomorrow, especially the talk about Open Source Circular Economy Days. It was also an good reminder to those of us who’ve become accustomed to the unconference / Open Space Technology format of events that it’s not the format of the event which makes it good or bad, it’s the quality people who turn up to speak at it.

I’ve not written a prose account of the day, instead, here are my bullet-point[...]

www.birmingham.gov.uk Alpha project - Thinking a bit further ahead

simon gray - 2013-11-28, 17:05:14

Back in late September 2012, as part of my work at Birmingham City Council, I instigated and led on a programme of incremental improvements to the council's website, blogging about the ideas and progress along the way, taking inspiration from Shropshire Council's Project WIP and the Government Digital Service work on www.gov.uk. The site on which I blogged has been taken down now, but I thought it worth reposting the more broad-reaching content from it here.

Our primary focus for this project is on delivering an improved website in 2014 which will meet the needs of users and ourselves for the next few years, and which will be scalable and extensible for the few years again beyond that.

Whilst the world of the internet is still a fast-moving world, there’s no denying that the world of the local government internet is…

…a little slower! When dealing with technological[...]

www.birmingham.gov.uk Alpha project - To feature or not to feature? Where information turns out to be not as important to citizens as we expect it to be!

simon gray - 2013-11-06, 16:28:50

Back in late September 2012, as part of my work at Birmingham City Council, I instigated and led on a programme of incremental improvements to the council's website, blogging about the ideas and progress along the way, taking inspiration from Shropshire Council's Project WIP and the Government Digital Service work on www.gov.uk. The site on which I blogged has been taken down now, but I thought it worth reposting the more broad-reaching content from it here.

For many working in some form of communications function in local government, winter is our favourite time of year. Why, you may ask? One word:

Gritting!

We love gritting in local government communications – it’s the nearest we get to taking part in the excitement of 24 hour rolling news coverage; eyes are constantly tuned to the Met Office hourly forecast to see what the temperature’s doing, ready to push out to the 

www.birmingham.gov.uk Alpha project - A usability review of council websites

simon gray - 2013-10-31, 11:31:44

Back in late September 2012, as part of my work at Birmingham City Council, I instigated and led on a programme of incremental improvements to the council's website, blogging about the ideas and progress along the way, taking inspiration from Shropshire Council's Project WIP and the Government Digital Service work on www.gov.uk. The site on which I blogged has been taken down now, but I thought it worth reposting the more broad-reaching content from it here.

We of course have our own ideas about what makes a council website usable – and part of the point of sharing the work in progress of this project here is to test if our ideas are shared by our citizens and our industry peers. But it’s always best practice not just to rely on one’s own generalist expertise and one’s own individual consultation work, but to also engage the[...]

The C Word

simon gray - 2013-10-14, 17:07:46

Over the last week or two at work I've actually started being a little bit naughty.

The webteam in Birmingham here, like many council webteams, sits within the Customer Services division of the council, rather than within either Corporate Communications or IT, like in many other councils. This means the word which underpins all the work we do is the word 'customer'.

Being frank, I was never particularly happy about us being moved from comms to cs when it happened - as a person out on the street who buys things, my overwhelming experience and view of 'customer services' is they're the people you take a faulty product back to, who spend a lot of time trying to pursuade you it isn't faulty, or the people you complain about an intangible service to, who spend a lot of time telling you the majority of their customers think the service is just peachy.[...]

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Please note! This is work in progress - if you have come across it by accident you're free to stick around, but please be aware not everything will work as intended yet. I have a To do list.