James Adam by James Adam

Week 198


As ever, we split our brains and geographic loci between continuing work on Inside Government and GFR stuff, including Harmonia. You know the drill.

Harmonia is almost ready. Ish.

(Harmonia is a tool that we have been building to help run our company. It knows about all the various tasks and chores that need to be done on a regular basis, from watering plants to paying taxes, and distributes them in a fair and timely way between everyone on our team. We’re getting it ready for other people – maybe you? – to use.)

It’s been a week of polishing, going through the signup process, tweaking designs and testing in various (Internet-fscking-Explorer) browsers, thinking about text and all sorts of other little bits of work, but we really are very, very close to being able to start inviting more people.

I had hoped to have some nice screenshots to show you, but alas, we have not quite finished icing the cake yet.

If you’re the kind of attractive, successful and nice-smelling individual who reads these weeknotes, you will have already realised that Harmonia is the organisational tool that you’ve been waiting for. However, for the rest of you: I COMMAND YOU TO SIGN UP NOW.

That, friends, is a call-to-action.

Inside Government

(Inside Government is the second major part of the UK Government’s “Single Domain” project, bringing almost all departmental and organisational publishing onto a single “platform” which is modern, clear and designed with users in mind.)

With the first department moving to the single domain platform in a couple of weeks, most of our recent effort has been focussed towards getting scraped data from their old site imported into the new system.

It’s been occasionally messy: a combination of stricter deployment controls, human error and Microsoft-fscking-Excel have made this a slower and more arduous procedure than I think anyone was hoping for.

Anyway, hopefully the worse of the pain is over. Tom is back from a short holiday in Cornwall, and so I’m sure he will wrangle it successfully. I’ve certainly been reminded of some of the lessons I learned on previous projects (previous jobs, previous lives…) about importing data: get it out of human hands as soon as possible!

In the meantime, we continue to fight the good fight and try to keep code quality high and continue to deliver features where possible.


Chris, James M and I went for our monthly “GFR Social” on Tuesday, with impromptu guest appearances by our friends Murray Steele and Paul Battley. That pleasant sensation you awoke to on Wednesday was in no small part down to us having fully set the world to rights the night before, and yes – before you say anything else – you are welcome.

Having an office is a) expensive, but b) very pleasant except c) when you have to do all sorts of stuff to satisfy the law. In this case, it’s arranging to get the electricity tested (“is it the right colour? does it have somewhere to drain?”), and making sure that the place isn’t a blazing inferno deathtrap waiting to happen the next time Chris decides to mull something. It’s boring, but it needs to be done.

Tom and I have been playing Letterpress, along with the rest of the planet.

Beyond Harmonia

While Harmonia’s functionality serves a very definite purpose for our company, it is also playing a more subtle (and in my opinion, much more important) role. We’ve been building Harmonia with the larger goal of learning how to develop our own products.

(If you’ve read us writing about ‘the company goal’, that’s a part of this. If you’ve read most of these weeknotes, you’ll recognise that this is pretty much always on my mind.)

For me, this is a vital step for the success of GFR. I’m confident that client work will be a significant part of our company’s portfolio for quite a while yet, but we need to get better at being our own client if we’re going to fulfil some of our longer-term goals.

It’s hard to be a product owner. From a developer’s perspective, a good product owner is a source of decision making authority, and while we may challenge the reasoning behind some of those decisions, the product owner always gets the final say.

When you are your own product owner, all of that external authority evaporates. Worse still, when you’re working as part of a pseudo-cooperative where nobody is (in any real sense) in charge, there’s no obvious alternative source of authority either! For me, this is the challenge that we – GFR – face, if we’re going to add a non-client string to our bow. We need to figure out how to be effective without those external forces.

Will we succeed? Will we survive the importpocalypse? Will those faulty soldering irons that I keep plugged in near a precariously-balanced bucket of water be a problem?

Find out next week.

– James A.

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