Day: 28 January 2021
Maps vs Lists
The tension between the appetite for clarity and certainty and the messy impact of the vicissitudes of life runs through every project, every programme and every strategy there has ever been. Some try to manage that through detailed precision, creating something very strong but potentially very brittle. Others embrace uncertainty, prioritising flexibility and responsiveness and eschewing the temptation to specify everything in advance.
This post expresses that tension by contrasting a map-based view of the world with a list-based view. It’s a simple but powerful way of illustrating something important, not least that many people have a clear preference for one or other of those ways of capturing their understanding of the world and the progress they want to make through it. As someone who, like Matt, has a strong liking for maps, it rang true for me, but the post might also help lovers of lists appreciate why not everybody shares their enthusiasm – and the core argument is that mappists and listists need to make sure that they have found ways of conveying information to each other.
And there’s a lovely point of detail about ‘roadmaps’, which are not maps of roads and are usually not maps at all.
Applying digital to everything
The internet is a rich complex system. One of the side effects of that is that good things bubble to the surface of the information soup with apparent randomness, to be seized on before they sink back down again.
This video presentation from 2019 is just such a good thing. It is a bravura exposition of the power of user-centred design in a policy-dominated culture and environment. Its strength is not so much in the individual thoughts, powerful though those are, as in their weaving together into something which is both a rich picture and a powerful manifesto for change.
The original audience were clearly digital people who needed to understand that policy people were not weird, incompetent or malevolent, but this is perhaps even more powerful in explaining to policy people why user-centred design should be seen as a powerful and empowering way of doing things, rather than as an incomprehensible threat from uncomprehending digital people.
The whole thing is 30 minutes and well worth watching, but there are two gems which are worth pulling out. One is the best one liner from a presentation which isn’t short of them:
The medium of choice for communicating between policy people and delivery people is the hand grenade.
The other is a triangle, originally by Chris Yapp, about the implementation of change. We would all like change to happen now, everywhere and by agreement – but that’s not possible. Choices have to be made about which of those to prioritise, and those choices constrain (and are constrained by) choices about the means to use. It’s a lovely example of a very simple picture being a distillation of a very rich thought.
Hosni Mubarak – My Part In His Downfall
Social media gives voice to aggressive extremists, provides powerful tools for like-minded people to find each other and reinforce the thinking of the group, and allows lies and disinformation to be propagated at speed. Social media companies come under pressure to do something about all that and aren’t widely regarded as being sufficiently focused on their intent or sufficiently successful in their achievement.
This is an insider’s view of why that is harder than it looks and especially hard to scale, setting out clearly and logically how this can work and why it can’t. It’s very much worth reading for the clarity with which it does that. But it also aims to demonstrate support for the assertion that those working on this within the social media platforms are “good people making hard decisions as best they can.” The question for the rest of us is whether their doing the best they can is good enough – and the reassurance that Facebook knows best is perhaps not quite as reassuring as its supporters might hope.