Which web development tools are commodities?

We’re really bad at thinking about innovation. To improve my own sense, I’ve been gradually absorbing Simon Wardley’s Value Chain Mapping since first seeing him talk about it a few years ago. The picture to the right is an example of one of his maps. Each blob is a technology need. As you go from […]

Promising to make software safer

1. Virtual bugs I first really knew that all software was fundamentally insecure back in 2001. I was working for an artificial life games company. We made virtual pets – amazing ones with a simulated brain, biochemistry and genetics. I’d just built a new networked version called Creatures Docking Station. It let the cute, furry, […]

Long, cold cyberwar

Let’s keep this post simple. We’re near the start of a long cold, cyber war. Many things make this clear – from Stuxnet to Snowden, from the Sony hacks to Chinese DNS poisoning. This is a hard time to be in information technology. Just in raw, technical security terms this is tough – rebuilding every […]

I blinked and missed 6 exciting things in the last 20 years of space

I blinked. A long, slow, twenty year blink. And meanwhile, space exploration went… Phoooom! From a distance it looks bad. We haven’t sent humans to the moon for over forty years. There’s no grand, visible, memorable showpiece – apart from space shuttles exploding and being decomissioned. And yet, when I recently got interested again, I […]

An email to Nicholas

Dear Nicholas, Thank you for your previous two letters. I’m sorry I was so slow getting back to you after the first one, that you had to write another. I didn’t know Canon meant essentially the same things as Round. I’m sure I must have been told, but I never got what it meant or cared. I only […]

Properly funding Democracy Club

Politics is broken. At the last election, a few people made an amazing organisation to try and fix it. Democracy Club is a non-party-political group of volunteers. At the next election, we want to hold candidates to account, and stimulate public engagement. We do this by emailing people small, easily achievable tasks. These small tasks will add up to hugely useful […]

Irony of extensions that remove junk slowing Chrome down

I thought I was ruthless at not installing browser extensions. It’s part of the process of getting old, customising things less and less. Despite that, I’ve accumulated seven extensions. (The most unusual and interesting one lurking in there is Churnalism, which tries to tell you whose press release each newspaper story is copied and pasted […]

Skills you need to get product/market fit, all in a line

When delivering a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty, you need a range of skills. To help understand what skills are needed in a startup team, I’ve found it useful to think of people’s skills as being spread out along this line. Consider people you know, and place them on the line. e.g. A UX […]

How we used email as a customer support system at mySociety

You’ve seen it. The red eyes… An ennui for life… The drained sadness of someone who has been lost for weeks in a customer support ticket tracking system. At mySociety (the awesome Internet democracy charity I was on the founding team of) we tried using Request Tracker for a while, and quickly fled. We could flee, because we […]