James Mead by James Mead

Week 160

In her never-ending battle against the increase of entropy and the accumulation of kipple, Harmonia has decreed that I should once again note the week. Despite having tended Harmonia’s wounds, it looks like I jinxed matters with last week’s comments about the unpredictability of randomness. Anyway here goes…


This week we’ve started to handover the Whitehall app to some of our colleagues from the Citizen team now that their public release is out of the way. In a typical IT project handover, the project grinds to a halt while the outgoing team writes wads of documentation before departing abruptly and leaving the incoming team to pick up the pieces. However, we aim to tackle a handover in a more collaborative and iterative manner. And to this end we’ve spent some time this week helping our new team-mates get up to speed. It’s great to see how quickly they’re picking things up and Paul lifted our spirits by patching rake so we can run our tests faster using Ruby v1.9.3.

It’s always tricky keeping a project moving forward while changing the makeup of its team and I think progress on the project has faltered a bit this week due to a shortage of GDS developer time. Happily this looks to have been addressed and the project should be back up to full speed in the coming week. It certainly helps that the Whitehall app is already integrated into the GovUK ecosystem and that we have comprehensive suites of automated tests which can act both to prevent regression and as living documentation.

Jase also deserves a lot of kudos for the way he’s applied “just enough design” at every stage of the project. This means the app isn’t now weighed down with too much design baggage and is in great shape for bringing into line with the latest look & feel of the citizen-facing site. Jase has also made further progress in his mission to make the site design thoroughly responsive.

Public release

This week has also seen a welcome influx of writers and editors from across government, such that the Whitehall team now forms two serried ranks amidst the hot-desking mêlée at Aviation House. It’s really good to have these folk on-site and able to give us direct feedback on what we’ve built and great to see new content on the site bringing it to life. Although internally we’re always releasing, the imminent public release of the Whitehall app has been focussing minds on story prioritisation.

In other news

Our accountant started finalising our end-of-year accounts and asked us to work out the value of our work in progress. James did an admirable job of figuring out what that meant and came up with the necessary numbers. I fiddled about with (and tried not to curse) the HMRC Basic PAYE Tool in order to apply some new tax codes. It looks like Tom has given recap a bit more love and James has converted this site to use it for deployment. I fixed one bug in mocha only to discover that I’d caused a more serious one. During the week I played with #blue for the first time in a while and was impressed how snappy it was - thanks to the recent work by Chris, Tom and the O2 gang.

On Wednesday we managed to get the whole company together for a pancake lunch at My Old Dutch on High Holborn. As we slowly reduce our involvement with the Whitehall app and our friends at GDS, we’re hoping to carve out some time in between client work to think more about what direction we should take with Go Free Range in the months ahead. In particular we’ve always thought we’d like to build some products of our own, partly for fun and partly to develop alternative revenue streams. Interesting times!

Hasta la vista.

— James.

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