Better Cities update: Central City

I write fortnightly team updates for the mySociety internal blog and have decided to experiment with publishing a lightly edited version publicly as well so here we are. The naming convention is A-Z of fictional comic book cities in case you were wondering :)

It is safe to say the Easter Bunny was victorious by unanimous decision this most recent ‘sprint’. At one point or another Matthew, Dave and Stuart were on leave and Rachel and myself have had our own medical mishaps (your author recommends not spilling a pot of boiling water on your feet…it stings.)

That isn’t to say things have been quiet. Rachel, Stuart and myself reached the end of our probation periods which required a number of meetings. It was interesting having my own review one morning and then being involved in giving them to other members of the team within a couple of hours. I like the format used by the organisation — it is clearly more tuned to annual reviews but I still found it useful and so much easier that the review processes I went through in the Civil Service.

1) Personal reflection
a) What are your key achievements/successes? What are you most proud of & why?
b) What didn’t work so well & why — what could you have done differently?
c) How did you find working with other people?
d) In what way could we have done things differently/better to make sure there were more successes and fewer disappointments? What should we do differently from now on?

2) Feedback from manager
a) What we think you did well, and why
b) What we think could have been better, and why
c) What we think we can do to help you in future

3) What the plans are for the next N months

4) Any questions we should have asked but didn’t?

We started to enforce the MapIt API keys and the new tiers as well which somewhat put the cat amongst the pigeons for a day or two. It turned out to be some short-term pain for already obvious longer term gain. We have much better intelligence about who is using MapIt now (and how they are using it) which makes it easier to support our users from now on and continue to improve performance.

Dave spent a good bit of time wrangling data related to Bus companies — I’m not saying it was stressful but he has now run off to New Zealand for a month. He also continued to work on the Dominican Republic project which continues apace. As ever there were some bugs that needed crushing after the launch we talked about last time and now attention has shifted to the next phase of the work.

A meeting with a local Council who use FixMyStreet was extremely useful for both them and us. We were able to resolve a bunch of their frustrations pretty much straight away but they also gave us some incredibly valuable insights into their workflows — which were not what we thought and talking through their work arounds was really interesting. Talking to real users for the win!

Another client is in the final stages before launching a major new version of FixMyStreet Pro* — their staff are piloting the system..hard. It is creating brilliant, actionable feedback that is clearly improving the product (and in some cases proving some long held assumptions that were not acted on due to lack of evidence). Being on a call with Matthew, who has written an incredibly high percentage of the FixMyStreet code, as the feedback was discussed was a lesson in the history of the product as he reeled off former discussions and decisions (often referring to specific Github tickets) and we soon had a way forward for pretty much every issue raised.

After spending some time before his holiday sweeping up a bunch of old tickets for a commercial client and indulging his Rails love affair Stu is now working on a nice little website build using Jekyll working closely with Zarino. We are doing ‘the hard work to make it simple’ on this one and I think it is a fun little project (maybe because it is a bit closer to home for an old school web manager like myself.) It is also great to watch the guys collaborate openly in both Slack and on the tickets. I am a big fan of this kind of transparency and am coming to understand it is even more important in a remote organisation.

My personal big achievement was getting the GCloud9 application finished. I had no idea how much work this was going to be but it is so important to how we operate in Better Cities I needed to get it right.

*Oh and I changed the name to FixMyStreet Professional from FixMyStreet for Councils which is probably my biggest product decision to date ;)



Updates from the Better Cities team @ mySociety

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