“No ugly, old IT” jumped out at me when I first reviewed DataSF’s strategic plan, “Data in San Francisco: Meeting supply, spurring demand,” and it still sticks, mostly because someone inside government was so bold as to make this a priority and openly communicate it, and also because this should be a mantra for everyone building civic technology.
Whether the end-user is the resident, citizen or bureaucrat, let’s build more civic technology that, as Google Product Lead Sandra Nam says, is “something someone would want to do instead of just another stressful part of their day.” (HT Alex Schmoe)
Here’s the full DataSF mission, vision, approach:
- Say no to perfection. We don’t have enough time for perfect. Something is better than nothing and you can always improve it as you learn more.
- Fail early and often. Failing is ok – not learning from a failure is not ok. Small experiments, failed or successful inform our next steps.
- Plan for the future. Create infrastructure and systems for future growth – but solve immediate problems and pain points along the way
- Use long division. If a problem seems too big, break it into manageable bits. There’s always a hook or a starting point to move something forward.
- No ugly, old IT. We leverage existing, modern, and light-weight tools and we want our designs to be beautiful, inviting but also a little fun.
- Use storytelling and data. We must work to find the people in the data and tell their story. Data without people is just academic.
- Seek institutional homes. Distribute, share and foster excellence. While we may incubate programs, ideas or projects, we ultimately need to find a full-time home.
- Learn to infinity and listen with humility. Continuously learn from ourselves and others and build on existing frameworks. “Not invented here” attitudes are strictly prohibited.
- Start with problems, move to opportunities. We start with people’s needs and problems but also use the chance to show them some cool, new stuff for the future.
- If we don’t start now, we’ll never get there. We don’t want to look back in five years and think “if we had just…”. Every shady street started with a row of saplings.