Jason Cale by Jason Cale

Week 157

Hello my dears, here are the notable experiences for our last week.

Gov UK

On Wednesday myself and Neil spoke with some of the team responsible for the DirectGov mobile site. They wanted to know how we could continue providing a mobile experience once the new platform goes live.

From day one we decided it would be a good idea to go ‘mobile first’ adding media queries to the site’s stylesheets to enrich and unfold the layout when viewed on increasingly bigger screens.

This also means that the default is mobile friendly; a simple single column layout that should behave fairly sensible on mobile devices, and any older browsers that don’t have support for media queries baked in.

Our actual implementation is probably cause for another article, but I’m pretty happy we decided to do this from the get go. The team from DirectGov were very happy that we had answered all their potential questions and MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL we did so with real working software already out in the (http auth protected) wild. Boom fo’ real. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.

O2 & #blue

Tom and Chris spent the week in our office entertaining Rich, Kev and Karl from O2 Labs. Working on improving the load handling ability of the super cute conversation keeper #blue.

We have been tasked with helping scale the infrastructure up as part of a larger O2 project that is super hush hush at the moment, but dependent on #blue to make it extra honey.

They spent the week discussing and implementing various approaches, subjecting each one to deep scientific performance tests and weighing up the results.

We even borrowed some of the computational firepower from CERN to hit it hard. It passed with flying colours, so we helped them find some Higgs bosons which had been nested in between some dirty text messages.

Chaos Returns

For some extra brownie points a few weeks ago I decided to contribute some code to our bad ass Chaos Administrator, the mighty vixen Harmonia.

We needed to do our annual return, so I had a quick word with her, and low and behold on Monday she appointed Tom to sort it out big style.

As I writing the implementation I realised I had no actual idea what submitting our annual return involved so the email which Harmonia would send out was fairly vague and asked for exploration.

Once the task has been tackled, we can document the steps needed to submit the return inside our own software (by updating the email template) for next year when it will be assigned to someone again.

This is a great way of accumulating knowledge. If we bake it into our code it not only enables us to easily automate some of our admin flimflam but it’s in a place which we feel comfortable; in the blooming source code, shared freely for the whole world to see.

Remote working

James A’s good lady Roz moved to Austin mid-last year to undertake a postdoctoral position after finishing her PhD (high-fives) here in London. I’d have to let James fill in the details of what Roz is actually doing because I’m just an idiot with a paintbrush in black yoga hotpants.

Consequently James has periodically been working under the sunny Texan skies whilst we shiver and age within the cruel grey London discontent (I’m perpetually cold, hence my penchant for yoga in a 40° room).

This is an interesting and relevant situation for how we steer the GFR ship whilst fabricating the hull in the middle of the ocean. Once we have discussed and reflected, hammered in a few more nails etc, James intends to write up our thoughts and solutions for how this might work long term.

New Adventures

On wednesday evening I took the train up to Nottingham for second installation of Simon & Greg’s super bad ass conference New Adventures (in web design).

It was good to see old friends and hear in more detail what people have been up to, especially as I took a break from the conference circuit in 2011 to try and figure out why I actually go to conferences.

The actual day was true to the good form established in the first incarnation last January. I was engaged and bewildered, often in agreement and sometimes not so much.

I’m glad I went, but the real juice of the experience as ever was afterwards; chewing the fat, getting intimate over an pineapple juice or two.

Bristol Usability Group

Ok, so this is in fact a note about the expected future.

But, if any of you folks are in Bristol this coming Wednesday I’m giving a talk on our leaderless revolution for the good folks at the Bristol Usability Group, come say hello and give me a hug.


Week 158 is set to be a jam-packed donut, so I best opt for that restorative consciousness commonly know as sleepytime.

Until I’m randomly picked to write you a story once more…

If you have any feedback on this article, please get in touch!

Historical comments can be found here.