Weeknotes #12

“I have no idea what’s going on. Be it with the government, at work, or with life in general” is roughly what I said to my colleague Paul on Friday. Still, this was a relatively enjoyable week, especially since much of it was spent catching up with some friends and familiar faces.

On Monday I grabbed lunch with Jeremy, who I discovered via Rob has begun working at the DfE too. Then in the evening, I met Christiano who valiantly tried to advocate the wonders of React (I wasn’t having it). In fact, during our conversation, it became clear how little I now care about the tactical aspects of web development — design systems, frameworks, etc. It all just seems so transient and trivial. Move beyond arguments about different technology stacks and approaches, and you soon discover that it’s more substantial (though harder to reason with) concerns like culture, processes and people that ultimately dictate the success or failure of projects, and its those concerns that increasingly attract my interest.

On Tuesday I was expecting to get the train back to Brighton with Harry. As is so often the case, after much confusion, delay and hilarity, I finally found him parked in the middle of my street, car door flung open, bellowing his usual apologetic greeting. Instead of the pub, we opted for a more gentile tea — plus chocolate, slices of fruit… frankly anything he could find in his fridge! Wednesday evening, and I was back in another pub, this time with Andy, who has also been doing some work with the DfE. I’m not sure how attentive I was to be honest, as I was still recovering from an earlier team lunch at Pizza Express.

On Thursday evening, after joining colleagues for after work drinks, I rushed over to Old Street to meet up with Chris, Frank and Mário. Arriving late to Gloria (an Italian restaurant with a burlesque vibe), I only had time for a truffle pasta. Which is just as well because that alone cost twenty quid! The evening finished in the Griffin, for which the records will show that I brought a round.

I’m clearly making the most of my time back in London, and for good reason. Given that most of the software I’ve helped to design and build over the years has had a limited shelf-life, I’ve realised what tends to endure is not so much the work, but the relationships. Pretty much every project I worked on at Clearleft has long since disappeared, but through those, I got to know so many smart people in and around Brighton. I doubt there’s much left on the Guardian website which I can say I had a hand in, but four years since leaving, I still get to spend many an evening in London with the brilliantly funny and supportive friends I made there. For all the madness and uncertainty in the world right now, that counts for something, I reckon.

Digest

Right enough of all that, here are a few noteworthy articles that caught my eye over the last seven days:

  • How the UK lost the Brexit battle

    POLITICO has spoken to dozens of leading officials, diplomats and politicians in Dublin, Paris, Berlin, Belfast, London and Brussels — including in No. 10 Downing Street and chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier’s team in the European Commission — about the nearly three years of negotiations.

    The story that emerges is of a process in which the EU moved inexorably forward as Westminster collapsed into political infighting, indecision and instability.

    We’re still a member of the EU (for two more weeks at least).

  • This One Technology Will Solve All of Your Problems

    Kelly Sutton shares a memo written in 1953 by H. G. Rickover whose message remains as relevant today as it did at the middle of the last century. I particularly enjoyed this observation:

    Perhaps it was working as a developer evangelist for a bit, where you see up close that many open source initiatives are actually marketing and recruitment activities in disguise. Not all OSS is rooted in altruism, curiosity, and community. Some companies just have a hard time hiring.

  • City life

    Having moved from building websites in deepest, darkest Sussex to developing ‘web apps’ in the heart of London, Trys Mudford wonders if the city is a bubble where needless complexity finds its oxygen:

    We kid ourselves into thinking we’re building groundbreakingly complex systems that require bleeding-edge tools, but in reality, much of what we build is a way to render two things: a list, and a single item. Here are some users, here is a user. Here are your contacts, here are your messages with that contact. There ain’t much more to it than that.