Week notes #180

This week I’ve been doing:

Rogbot, what do you know about Roger?

I wanted a new project so I started developing a chatbot for my website that will surface information about me from my CV, personality test results, and my user manual (thanks to Becky for the inspiration). I wanted to try to find a way to make the conversational interface more than just ‘here’s stuff from my CV’ and ‘here’s stuff from my personality test’, so that it isn’t about presenting individual documents but has some sense of a cohesive picture of what I’ve done, what I’m doing, what I’m like, etc. So it needs to surface the info in the documents rather than the documents themselves, and in the context of questions that someone might ask.

I started with Postit notes on a wall to help me see each item I wanted to include in the bot. This helped me figure out how to connect it all, and the answer was to allow the user to create a unique(ish) journey by connecting each answer the bot provides to three other pieces of information that will allow the user to jump between work history, projects, ideas, etc., without me having to preempt the journey.

My first iteration is a short quiz about me, which was really just about getting the chatbot on my website with something vaguely interesting to interact with. The next thing on my roadmap is to use the Trello API to pull in my life roadmap and the Google Calendar API to enable the bot to show what I’m doing at any point in time.

Jab, cross. Track, review

I started Krav Maga. It’s been in the Next column on my roadmap for a while so I decided to start classes and move it to the Now column. I also added it my ‘Lead an intentional life’ OKR for 2020 so I can track how many classes I go to. I currently have 130 key results to track against my three objectives, and my current score is 0.12 (but hey, we’re only two weeks into the year). I think I’d like to add reading books to my KRs but I’m not sure I’ll have time so will probably review this in a couple of months.


This week I’ve been studying:

Balancing academic with ideas

Term starts next week so this is my last week without lectures for a while. I am only studying one module this term, ‘Innovation in the knowledge economy’, so I can spend less time studying course material and hopefully have some time to progress some of my thinking about how anarchism and systems thinking can change how we thinking about innovation.

I started reading Ten faces of innovation and The Free-Market Innovation Machine.


This week I’ve been thinking about:

Running discovery on a new role

How can we start in a new role in a way that gives you the best chance of success? Approaching it as a fire control problem I could develop an understanding of the target and target space, move early in the direction of the target, get regular feedback to course correct so that I have the best chance of hitting the target. I need to give this a lot more thought and formalise it to make it useful.

In How to start, Lauren Currie talks about the conventional wisdom and the reality of starting a new role, things like fixing problems, making a good impressions, and learning the sweet spot between the company way of doing things and how you work.

What does county council innovation look like?

I read Tom Harrison’s weeknote about the new Buckinghamshire County Council website. Seeing a bit of how he and the team there are approaching this work is interesting in itself, but it’s especially interesting for me because I live in Buckinghamshire and it is becoming a unitary authority, which makes me wonder if the new website is a result of that and how an organisation going through such a complicated process affects the process of building the website.

It also made me think about what an innovation team could do for a county council. Having seen the experience someone went through in applying for a blue parking badge it looks like there would be lots of opportunities for rethinking the processes that citizens go through and making them easier and more efficient for everyone.


This week, people I follow on Twitter were saying:

Making decisions

There seemed to be a bit of a theme of talking about the different ways of approach decision-making. Kent Beck showed his cycle for observing effort/output to outcome/impact, and how difficult it is to connect the two. Simon Wardley talked about how maps don’t tell you what to do, they help to create a shared understanding of the landscape and challenges to make more informed choices, and that Cynefin is an excellent decision-making framework. Allen Holub was talking about how T-shaped teams have all the skills they need to make decisions and don’t have to delay waiting for an expert from outside the team.

Blaming the product

There were tweets about Microsoft Teams. Lots of people don’t like it and I wonder about why that is. Could it be that blaming a product (which is faceless and immediately in front of you) feels easier than blaming the people behind the product (which we probably don’t even think about that much)? Products are the way they are because of decisions people have made. MS Teams has an extra layer of that as the people at Microsoft who built it made decisions, and then there are people at the implementing organisation (usually the IT team) who also make decisions about how to configure it. Making those decisions is always going to be complicated and dependent on lots of constraints, and I guess it should be for a Product Manager to take on the responsibility for them. Of course, in many organisations implementing Teams there won’t be a Product Manager who can speak to users to understand their needs to inform those decisions.