Weeknotes #007: Crunch time

What I did in the 43rd week of 2020


A short week, I was off on Friday.

Crunch time is near, we’ll be looking to launch soon. The core of the product is there, it has been for some time now. So the work now divides down into filling in those last gaps, removing bugs and applying polish.

Early in the week I got to work with our tech writers, helping them understand our docker based development setup, so they could help us clarify our documentation. We’ll get some additional people to help for the last few sprints. Good docs should help ease the friction of joining in.

Tech writing is something I wish I was better at, so much complexity to parse through to find simple, clear, helpful guides for future devs. There are some how to tech write sessions coming up through work, I’m looking forward to learning some more.

Back on the application we started to see designs settle into actual pages. Now the work of content designers really starts to shine out. I didn’t know about content design before I joined GDS (my colleagues recently did a good podcast about it if you’re not sure either).

They work out what a user would be trying to achieve at any point in a feature or flow, and then summon the right content to help the user on that journey. The result sees placeholder text (that seemed fine to me at the time) vastly improved with clear, consistent and unpretentious language. It often seems to be about removing words as much as adding them. They’re editors for the internet, and their work helps make our services easier for everyone to use.

Being on a discovery has been great for seeing how disciplines contribute across the different stages. I look forward to seeing what happens after we launch.


I was off on Friday in hopes of visiting a friend in Wales. Alas Coronavirus intervened.

Instead we decided to go see the sea closer to home. We drove up to Boston, the small Lincolnshire town whose people took the name with them when they were setting up American cities. The plan was to get lunch there, but we were a bit late, so ended up stopping off at a nearby marsh to wander around and look at some birds.

It’s got me interested in the fens. It’s so nearby, but seemed less domesticated than the countryside closer to home. I looked for roads to drive down to The Wash. I expected a seafront, paved walk, car parks and roads to the water. Instead it seemed a tangle of farmers tracks and flood protecting banks, with finger salt marsh creeks between that send you miles in land looking for a bridge.

I saw wildlife and birds I’ve never seen before, and they’re only a couple of hours north.


Nearly caught up on podcasts… but at least, I’ve started reading again this week, I’m reading some collected essays from Peter Scott, the naturalist (who seems to have written quite a bit about the fens). Also started N. K. Jemisin’s ‘The city we became’, really enjoying it so far.

Listened to

Two this week, I couldn’t choose.

On the Media - Emergency Mode - October 16, 2020. There’s a great segment in the middle looking at the apps that are being used to recruit in the US right wing militia movement. Fascinating. Terrifying! I really like this kind of reporting though, what movements believe and say is important, but we so rarely get to see the logistics of how they go about trying to organise.

Talking Politics - Democracy for sale - October 22, 2020. In a similar theme, a semi-logistical look at what the ‘elites’ actually mean in British political society. Who do we mean by the elite (an apparently smallish cast of reoccuring faces who’ve wandered towards it) and how do you get in (apparently smallish table stakes compared to other democracies).

Thinking about

| Huw