Weeknotes #010: Community

What I did in the 46th week of 2020


Team work continued, but I spent more time than I have in months on GOV.UK, and wider community activities.

Learn to code

I helped out with one of our Learn to Code sessions, coaching non-developer staff through some introductory exercises. This week was HTML and CSS. It’s a great programme, I wish I’d done things like this regularly in other places where I’ve been a developer. My colleagues have blogged about it before: Learning to code at GDS and our syllabus is open if you’d like to take a look.

Buddy system

I spent quite a bit of time this week buddying with two new developers to GOV.UK. They have returned to a project I worked on back in January - March to improve GOV.UK navigation. We had a chance to start, but then Coronavirus hit and we got moved elsewhere. However experienced you are starting on GOV.UK can be overwhelming. I think I was really lost just after I joined. So it’s a nice feeling to help some others get settled in. Buddy systems are great, more places should have them. Especially for onboarding or picking up previously paused work.

Cross Government Networks

I’ve been attending more Cross Government / Cross Whitehall events. They’re a chance to find meet some more civil service colleagues from elsewhere, learn a bit more about some topics I’m interested in and generally see a bit more of government outside of my digital patch.

Mostly that has been with the wonderful X-Whitehall China Network, sadly they don’t have a home page just yet. I’ve been attending a range of events they’ve been connecting us into. The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) team in China, have been running a few morning briefings. We’ve also had some external speaker in to share their views. These are public and up on a YouTube channel. All well worth a watch.


Found time to do some training too, Part 2 of clear writing. With a focus on accessibility this time. I’ll do a separate post about what I learned there.

Also got back into some Mandarin Chinese lessons through the cross-Whitehall China network. Much overdue study I really need to put in some time over the next few months - I reach for words and I can kind-of find them, but they’re covered in rust and cobwebs. Time to study.

Being social over the web

Had some time to get to know some of my team colleagues better, and caught up with a few from outside the team too. It was really nice. I think it surprised me how much work has just been about work recently. Yet I am surrounded by all these interesting, talented people. If it was the pandemic before-times it would have been great to get a lunch or a drink. However a bit of slack and video chat can go a long way too it turns out.

So… pretty good week I think.


Made it to double digits on weeknotes 🎉.

Not always on time, not always that insightful. However, writing regularly feels good and gives room for improvement. I’m trying to keep them short. With limited success this week. I suspect the value will be in going back over old thoughts and seeing how they changed.

I’ve been working a little later and taking a longer lunch break to let me face hit some sunshine for a bit longer.

Seems to make an annoyingly big difference to my mood. Stupid winter.


I finished “The City we became”. Great read, highly recommend it. A series is intended apparently, I look forward to reading more.

Listened to

Outside/In - Fortress Conservation - October 23, 2020.

These folks are just knocking it out of the park recently. It’s rare for me to find such a streak of episodes I love this much. Another installment in what I think is a wider season about natural places and how we relate to them. I used to study things like this, and have a prior interest. So it’s a shock for me to find that I’ve slipped into so many traps about thinking of the “emptiness” and “untouched” wild parts of the world.

We underestimate how long we’ve been having an impact for. Few places are left that don’t come with human histories. This podcast does a fantastic job of proving that in one of the wilder spaces of the US imagination.

Thinking about

| Huw