Nation shall speak unto nation using Objective-C
November 28, 2012 11:20 AM   Subscribe

My favourite parenthetical note in the story is:

"He went on to head a large team devising “BBC 2.0”, which was cancelled, and now works at a vastly expanded Cabinet Office devising "GOV 2.0" – a project to streamline public-sector websites. After months of deliberation, the GOV 2.0 recently standardised on a new font for Whitehall sites, called Transport."
posted by Hartster at 11:27 AM on November 28, 2012

Great link - thanks for sharing.

For better or worse, I know this world a little too well. Getting long established organizations to do something new is really, really hard.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 11:42 AM on November 28, 2012

Yes, this is another good case study in how to get to do something cool, well: small teams of smart, dedicated people, shelter from internal and external bureaucracies and people willing to make the right decisions quickly.

You can only really do this if somebody else has their eye off the ball though, because they believe what you're doing isn't worthwhile, or because they're mired in their own megalomaniacal version of what you are doing...
posted by MartinWisse at 12:10 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think that's a little unfair about GOV 2.0 (aka GOV.UK). It's not like the only thing they were doing for months was umming and ahhing over the font; all in all I've been impressed with the redesign, which happened surprisingly quickly for a government project. It's also nice that they did the work in-house rather than farming it out to a bunch of overpriced incompetents.

Back on topic: This seems like a great example of a skunkworks project where some really effective people were allowed to go off and do their own thing. Very Innovator's Dilemma.
posted by adrianhon at 12:22 PM on November 28, 2012 [5 favorites]

"Karas ensured the programmers were kept well away from the data store.
“Programmers don’t have a clue how databases work, particularly the security side,” he said. “I hired a database administrator just to keep them off the system.”"

As a programmer who works with database-driven applications, I sincerely wish my management would show me the same kindness. But I think the BBC operates with a somewhat larger budget.
posted by yath at 12:34 PM on November 28, 2012

After months of deliberation, the GOV 2.0 recently standardised on a new font for Whitehall sites, called Transport.

Transport has been around since the 60s - it's the typeface used for road signs in the UK. uses New Transport, a redesign of the original.
posted by zamboni at 12:39 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Not just a little unfair. is a broad sweeping initiative that has completely rethought how access to major UK government sites should work. It's oriented toward the questions and needs that people actually have rather than some abstract sense of how government is organised. They're also replacing all of the individual departmental websites with a single "Inside the Government" site.
posted by honest knave at 12:46 PM on November 28, 2012 [5 favorites]

They missed an opportunity by not naming it
posted by Apocryphon at 2:00 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not just a little unfair.

This is The Register we're talking about. Wouldn't want to push them out of their comfort zone.
posted by dhartung at 3:42 PM on November 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

Hartster: That jumped out for me for a different reason. Orlowski, who appears himself in the history of the interwebs exactly nowhere (having never contributed anything except trolling-for-money), apparently has a hard-on for slagging Tom Loosemore for no reason whatsoever.

Story's not even true. It took that team 'months' to build a replacement for the entire British government's online presence. Orlowski, contributor of nothing whatsoever to the sum of human existence, is wrong about that as well.
posted by genghis at 4:19 PM on November 28, 2012

Story's not even true. [...] Orlowski

Two concepts that often go together. You should try reading his utterly terrible climate pieces sometime [1]; it's entirely possible that his hate-on for the BBC management in general comes out of the fact that they have taken the stance that talking about climate scepticism isn't actually scientifically balanced. I understand that his main H&S risk is sparks off those axes.

[1] Short version: it isn't happening and hippies want to use it as a lie to destroy capitalism.
posted by jaduncan at 4:59 PM on November 28, 2012

I think I managed to derail my own FPP right out of the gate, which must at least equal the record.

I don't really pay much attention to either The Register or Orlowski (or, in fact, Gov 2.0), but this seemed a good article, including interviews with the main players, on the difficulties/issues of getting big projects done in large organisations, for which I'm always a bit of a sucker. It was in this context that the Loosemore remark stood out. I appreciate the corrective to his snark.
posted by Hartster at 12:46 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hartster: it's *an* article, certainly, and a good history about the genesis of BBC News does deserve to be told. That said, there are some glaring inaccuracies and, well, it's a bit par for the course for an Orlowski/Register article.
posted by danhon at 10:33 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

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