Thursday 5 May 2011

Room for the halves

Sometimes I wonder if we've forgotten that non geeks can have good ideas too. Forgotten that it's not just developers who see opportunities to make things better. In local government, the deelopers are so far away from the front line that they need analysts in the middle to translate.

The same, I think is true outside of local government too. Developers can see opportunities, of course they can. But as the Local by Social series recently found out, put residents, developers and ideas bods in a room with local government added for good measure and you start to hear real issues raised, real every day problems raised by people who in some cases are sick of raising those same problems week after week and getting no joy - but put them in a room with people from lots of different backgrounds and skillsets and magic can happen.

I don't mean any disrespect to developers. I don't mean to say that they're doing anything wrong. They're not. I remain impressed with the epic stuff emerging from assorted Hack Days.

But I can't help thinking about the nature of tech, of the source of the tech being zeroes and ones. What happens if the world is only built by those who see in zeroes and ones? What happens if no one non-techy ever questions those people because they're not techy enough and don't feel that they really understand? What happens when it is necessary to state that user experience of a new shiny website should be observed directly? Something so fundamentally obvious that it makes my head hurt that this is a new concept, somehow, yet doesn't surprise me either, as years of battling with appallingly designed websites are suddenly explained.

Technology is wonderful. It is magic in the palm of my hand. But it is inanimate. It does not speak. It does not feel. Only humans can do that, and for humanity to end up with a web which is truly representative, enabling, empowering and intuitive, input must be encouraged from those for whom it is not second nature to email, tap or swipe.

I believe the future of the Internet should be in the hands of the halves, as well as the zeroes and ones.


  1. Hi,
    Here here to that. In Leeds we are trying to achieve just that. Engaging the halves. Working with Mike Chitty and friends to open up council web development to the people our web services are for. Linking to our customer access strategy. Work in progress.

  2. I think you make a really good point Lou. There is definitely something to be said for trying to get developers closer to the issue instead of having them several stages removed.

    Local government ICT departments who sometimes have such a hard time grasping what it is that a particular application wants to achieve that it can end in constant backwards and forwards conversations, endless meetings, dragging on over months with little or no results.

    Maybe what we need to do is co-locate developers with the teams/departments who want the shiny technology building for them so that the developers can gain a better understanding of the purpose - rather than just the tech?