Week notes #197

This week I did:

Does it work?

I’ve been writing test cases for a new website, and I’m keen for them and the results to add to a body of knowledge about how the product works. Testing that is just about making sure it works as expected is useful but isn’t as valuable as testing that validates assumptions that have grown throughout the design and development. 

Teams and Sharepoint 

I put together a Proof-of-Concept implementation of a Microsoft Teams site with content powered by Sharepoint and automation by Flow. It’s an interesting and potentially powerful combination, especially for teams and functions that are document heavy. The trick is to get the meta data structure right from the start. It makes me wish for a block-orientated content management system from Microsoft that could drive consistent information out to a variety of sources and applications.

This week I studied:

Data, information and knowledge 

We discussed the differences between data, information and knowledge, and how they are used competitively by businesses. I’m interested in knowledge management as a competitive advantage, and I like understanding the definitions of concepts like these so I found it an interesting topic.

  • Data is raw facts and observations
  • Information is processed data
  • Information can be processed information
  • Knowledge is processed information
  • Knowledge can only be produced by intelligent beings (humans at the moment but maybe not for much longer, but that’s a whole other debate)

Unfortunately I’m finding the lectures a bit dull. I don’t know if it’s because they are delivered over video call or if the pace is too slow, or that the content isn’t engaging enough but I don’t think it should take two hours to understand the difference between data, information and knowledge.

Analysis of Shopify’s business model 

I’ve chosen Shopify for my assignment because their business model involves lots of topics from the Digital Business module; they use open source software, produce a digital good and support information goods and have a pricing strategy that creates a coherent business model around maintaining a certain level of quality in their customer’s use of their product. I’m going to enjoy the analysis but the recommendations of what they can do to improve might be a bit more of a challenge. 

This week I thought about:

Start simple, use what works, evolve towards complexity

Gall’s Law says, “A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over with a working simple system.”

Maybe Gall’s law provides an interesting parallel to Mui’s famous mantra of “Start small, think big, learn fast“. So, “Start simple” tells us that beginning with what is known and easily expressible gives us a reliable foundation. “Use what works” tells us to be realistic and pragmatic in how we build on validated knowledge and proven mechanisms. “Evolve towards complexity” tells us to remember it’s a journey and that good outcomes are best achieved in increments. 

Visualising over conceptualising

Humans are visual animals, no doubt about it. We take in information visually, communicate visually, and when we’re trying to build a product to solve a problem it seems easier to start with ‘what’s it going to look like’ rather than ‘how is it going to work’. This can be problematic. A Proof of Concept most often provides the proof part visually to show how something works, and this is considered more important than the concept part, which is either assumed or ignored. If we don’t understand our concepts in a meaningful way we run the risk of misunderstanding how things actually work. How we express and discuss concepts coherently is another challenge. 

This week on Twitter:

The league of accessible websites

Silktide has an index of public sector websites ranked by accessibility. I think it’s a fantastic idea and think UK charity websites should be on there.

Browser detection for better website experience

James, Ross and I had a chat/online brainstorm about cookies, responsive content choices, accessibility, and using browser feature detection (in a way that doesn’t exist yet) to allow users to shape the experience they have of a website.

How small teams do good work

Amir Salihefendic, CEO of Doist, tweeted about his experience of how small teams work best to do good work, including things like vision, constraints, autonomy and dependency. 

Strong tools, loosely held

Interesting thoughts from Andric Tham on not relying on specific tools to enable a workflow but instead having strong mental models that can be applied whatever the tools. Useful if you work in an organisation that has policies about tool use and because getting the right mental models is so important for so many things. 

Twenty five takeaways from Escaping the build trap

Escaping the build trap is right at the top of my ‘to read’ list, but in the meantime Paulo Andre tweeted twenty five useful things to think about from the book.

(Twitter seems to be getting over its Covid-shock and returning to its usual self)