Weeknote 20th March 2023 – Reviewing the year & a new office setup

Belatedly writing this weeknote. I set aside some time on Friday afternoons to reflect on the week and ‘put it to bed’ usually, but this week I was working on something around research ethics across GDS until late Friday so used up all of that energy.

I had started doing work on my end of year assessments and such the previous week, but I realised this week there was quite a lot more to do on it than I had realised, so that was really my main project for the week. As we have been on a ‘firebreak’ sprint on the GOV.UK Forms team I had some space to get into it and reflect on the last (almost a) year at GDS and look toward the directions for the next year.

It was very affirming to get some great feedback from my colleagues as part of the 360 review process. I’ve never worked anywhere that put as much effort into this as people do here. Twice a year people really take some time to give written feedback to the people they work with. Lots of nice takeaways, and it’s always nice to get acknowledgement of what you’ve been working on. The positive surprises are also interesting – I found there are some things I am doing without really thinking about them that people have valued. I also appreciated the more critical feedback, coming as it did with some very useful ideas for improving some of the work I do across the team. It’s also nice to take the time to write feedback for colleagues, although considering and communicating the constructive part is always the hardest to do – mainly because I work with people who already do such a great job.

I also took some time on the earlier mentioned work reviewing our approach to ethics across GDS, which a number of us in the user research community have been doing. We had a very interesting discussion about the crossover between ethics and legal requirements such as GDPR. There were some perspectives that we should treat these separately and as related but different things. I can see the merits of that but I think my position is I would rather consider them together. The legal side of data protection is really the bare minimum we need to do to conduct our research ethically, and we should be building ethics practice on top of this. Personally I find it useful to think of this as the first foundation of considering an ethical approach, and I would be thinking about data protection and compliance at the same time in a project as I would be considering and reviewing ethics rather than having separate processes for it. I’m interested to discuss this more with others though and see where we get to.

I also changed around my home office this week. I’ve been experiencing some neck pain on and off, and looking to improve my posture and ergonomics. After much procrastination I took the plunge on a standing desk. So far this has been working well, and I am enjoying switching things up. I was also using my laptop on a stand that allowed it to be used as a second screen below my desktop monitor. However, I was finding that too often I defaulted putting things on that screen, particularly during calls because of it housing the webcam. So I’ve changed things around to use my laptop in a stand that keeps it closed, therefore using the screen that is at the right height all the time. I picked up a webcam from eBay to mount on my screen so that I don’t have to touch the laptop at all. I also picked up an Apple Magic Mouse to replace the very cheap wired mouse I’ve been using for years. With the laptop out of the way the cables seemed really cluttered. I also hugely appreciate the 360 scrolling you can do on the Magic Mouse, which is brilliant for scrolling around timelines in audio and video software. I used to have Mighty Mouse with the ball in it which I loved, but those scroll balls were such a pain when they got dirty and worn. The new one is much better in that respect. So now I should be set up much more ergonomically and hopefully avoiding the neck pain…

The weekend was a trip to see some family, and now it’s back to work again on Monday. This week I’m rounding off all the reviewing from last week, then it’s back to the usual work. I’m playing back what we learned from our accessibility research a couple of weeks ago, and working with the team to figure out how this affects the next set of work on our product. I’ll also be planning our next couple of rounds of research…






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