Hello everyone! Hard to believe that it’s mid-January, and really, hard to believe that it’s 2021 already.
You’re getting this because you signed up in the little newsletter subscription box on sboots.ca. Possibly last week or quite possibly a year ago! Welcome to the blog-newsletter! The blogoletter! The newsoblogger. We’ll, uh, workshop that later.
I’ll send these out every couple of months, recapping the latest posts on the blog with a bit of colour commentary. Which is what the posts are too, really. Colour commentary on the colour commentary, you’re welcome everyone. I’ll end off with a suggestion for other newsletters you could read
instead of in addition to this one.
Since this is the first newsletter out the door, here’s a quick recap of some of the most popular posts from last year. As always, really grateful that anyone would read these, and to each of you for signing up for the newsletter. Stay healthy and have a great week ahead!
“Fake COTS” and the one-day rule
I’m riding on the coattails here of folks at other digital services teams that have been calling “commercial, off-the-shelf” software in government settings fake for years. Somewhat unexpectedly this post is now the top search result for “Fake COTS” which means either that this has struck a nerve with folks (possibly employees of COTS vendors, who can say) or that clickbait-y titles work!
Blockers versus enablers
The goal of this post was to point out that blocking vs. enabling isn’t a characteristic of people, it’s a characteristic of behaviours. And, that being a blocker isn’t about the intention or tone, it’s about the time or cumulative quantity of steps that review, approval, or gatekeeping roles introduce. A good reminder if you’re in a position with those kinds of roles to think about the broader ecosystem of steps that something might need to get through, gauntlet-style, before it ships.
Why are there so few senior developers in government?
All of the reasons here will be immediately familiar to developers already working in government. They don’t usually show up in public conversations on government IT, so this post was a gentle attempt at shining a light on structural problems with recruiting and retaining tech talent.
Corporate networks are not the future
It’s a worldwide pandemic and we’ve all shifted to working from home. If you’re a, uh, certain infrastructure department you might be continuing to invest heavily in on-premise networking and server infrastructure. This post might be a subtweet of that. It ends with a keynote video from Marianne Bellotti which is worth watching even if you don’t read the rest of the post.
Data residency is security theatre
There are a lot of myths in Canadian government IT, and this is one of the biggest ones. I wrote this so that, anytime someone says “we can’t use this, it isn’t hosted in Canada!” I can send them a link instead of writing another long email. I like writing long emails, though.
One of the earliest posts on the blog, and one that I end up linking to from other posts fairly often. There’s two things I’m trying to achieve in public service work – one is, getting better tools into the hands of public servants, and the other is, making it easier for public servants to actually get stuff out the door to people. This post is about that second category.
“Working in the open” firsts for COVID Alert
I don’t frequently write about my own team’s work on the blog, partly since CDS has an official blog where I write occasionally and where colleagues are publishing brilliant stuff all the time. But I was really proud of the work we did on COVID Alert, and wanted to highlight some of the more “niche” government-wide firsts it accomplished. Things like, a vulnerability disclosure policy and a fully-public privacy assessment – not necessarily things that will make the news, but things that I hope will become government-wide norms over time.
If you’re not already subscribed to it – Lucas Cherkewski’s “Hit and Miss” (sent out every Sunday) was one of my main inspirations for starting a blog. Everyday updates from what Lucas is reading, thinking, or working on – would definitely recommend it.