Photo
The All About Me box is in the house: choose 3 objects that would give your peers an insight into what makes you tick. What would you put in? (Taken with Instagram)

The All About Me box is in the house: choose 3 objects that would give your peers an insight into what makes you tick. What would you put in? (Taken with Instagram)

Photo
'Nine Small Shallots'. Pipped to the silverware. (Taken with Instagram)

'Nine Small Shallots'. Pipped to the silverware. (Taken with Instagram)

Photo
Not a vending machine. Uh uh.
Spotted on a platform in Leicester station

Not a vending machine. Uh uh.

Spotted on a platform in Leicester station

Photo
So today’s the day. COI’s going for good.
I spent three and a half years there from 2003-2007. First, I was a buyer of research into government marketing campaigns, including TV ads on secondhand smoke and voter registration (and quite a bit of the customer insight into Directgov, in the early years). We had pride and professionalism, and tested whether government’s marketing spend was working.
Then, I was a junior management consultant/marketing strategist working with some phenomenal people, on a range of wild stuff, from the aborted Environment Direct web service (think: an encyclopaedia of the environmental footprint of all products… hence aborted) to a fascinating project profiling examples of ethnic minority outreach projects from Charlton FC to Leicestershire Fire Brigade. I learned how Investors in People assess organisations inside out, and helped write a whole new standard on Health & Wellbeing at work.
These days, I’m a digital guy of course. Perhaps the thing I’m most proud of is the work that a small team of us did to build a seriously good web application to benchmark the performance of government advertising campaigns, to help evaluate media planning and creative. The Tracking Research Database still looks respectable 8 years on, and contains what must have been one of the first REST-based APIs built in-house, designed to make the service more flexible and interoperable. The open data revolution came a bit late for us.
So while we rightly celebrate Charley Said and the Green Cross Code man, spare a thought for the other things the smart and creative folk of COI beavered away on over the years. And remember the salutory lessons of public sector survival: don’t get too big, keep demonstrating the value of what you do, and make the right friends.

So today’s the day. COI’s going for good.

I spent three and a half years there from 2003-2007. First, I was a buyer of research into government marketing campaigns, including TV ads on secondhand smoke and voter registration (and quite a bit of the customer insight into Directgov, in the early years). We had pride and professionalism, and tested whether government’s marketing spend was working.

Then, I was a junior management consultant/marketing strategist working with some phenomenal people, on a range of wild stuff, from the aborted Environment Direct web service (think: an encyclopaedia of the environmental footprint of all products… hence aborted) to a fascinating project profiling examples of ethnic minority outreach projects from Charlton FC to Leicestershire Fire Brigade. I learned how Investors in People assess organisations inside out, and helped write a whole new standard on Health & Wellbeing at work.

These days, I’m a digital guy of course. Perhaps the thing I’m most proud of is the work that a small team of us did to build a seriously good web application to benchmark the performance of government advertising campaigns, to help evaluate media planning and creative. The Tracking Research Database still looks respectable 8 years on, and contains what must have been one of the first REST-based APIs built in-house, designed to make the service more flexible and interoperable. The open data revolution came a bit late for us.

So while we rightly celebrate Charley Said and the Green Cross Code man, spare a thought for the other things the smart and creative folk of COI beavered away on over the years. And remember the salutory lessons of public sector survival: don’t get too big, keep demonstrating the value of what you do, and make the right friends.

Tags: coi
Photo
Text

Jury service

Old Bailey

A glooming peace this morning with it brings;
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head:
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;
Some shall be pardon’d, and some punished:
For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.

I spent last week at the Old Bailey on Jury Service. On balance, I’d say it was interesting, rather than enjoyable.

I served on one jury, in the case of The Crown v Watson, a man charged with two stranger rapes from years ago. DNA evidence linked him to the incidents. The defendant said they were consensual casual sex; the complainants, that they were violent assaults. So we heard from the women, the examining doctors, a friend, a mother, a police officer, and Mr Watson himself. We heard closing statements, and admissions, and the judge’s summing up. Then we deliberated.

The criminal justice system in general, and the Old Bailey in particular, are strange beasts. The curious terminology; the strict rules; artefacts from another age - swearing on holy books, wigs, robes. A court schedule that begins after 10am and finishes before 4pm. Lots of waiting in marble corridors as wigged advocates stride past with armfuls of ring binders.

Weirdest of all perhaps, being one of a group of twelve Londoners chosen for no special expertise but our representativeness. Listening to days of stories of injuries and suffering, but unable to talk about them to each other in the frequent breaks. No tweeting, no background research, no discussion with family. Social media utterly useless, except as a way each evening to take my mind off the unpleasant reality and anatomical detail we’d been presented with daily in court.

After five days of evidence, we considered our verdicts, and found the defendant guilty on both counts.

Released from jury service at the end of the trial, I felt I’d discharged an important civic duty - having heard more unpleasantness and worked harder than I’d expected to. Our last task as jurors: to wrestle with expenses forms, and say our goodbyes. 

But on the stairs leading out of the building, I passed a black woman, bent over on the green marble steps, wailing with deep, inconsolable sadness. Maybe a mother grieving a life taken, or one forfeited; her family standing around trying to comfort her. It might have been this real-life story of horror, from a case which concluded at the same time as ours.

It felt like a physical kick in the stomach.

It brought home to me that criminal justice of the kind heard at the Central Criminal Court rarely ends in smiles, or even satisfaction. Everyone is a loser from the stories of evil heard each day in those courtrooms.

In that context, the lumbering process, the clumsy and uncomfortable detail coaxed from hesitant witnesses, the wigged advocates playing to roles - if not their personal convictions - and the twelve strangers briefly given such power over an individual, begin to make some sense.

Photo: Loz Flowers

Photo
Leo Gray, Explorer (age 7 weeks).

Leo Gray, Explorer (age 7 weeks).

Photo
My personal website, c.1996/7. Note that I was already struggling to keep it up to date.

My personal website, c.1996/7. Note that I was already struggling to keep it up to date.

Tags: website
Photo
Three years of dad-hood have taught me not to claim this system is fool-proof, but I thought I’d share my dad travel kit for outings with a 12+ months boy. Learned through trial and error on draughty station platforms, stuffy car journeys and tricky supermarket trips:
1. Lightweight vehicle: small wheeled item, good entertainment while waiting in restaurants, for buses etc. Switch for a new one every now and again.
2. Takeaway box: empty plastic tupperware container to collect berries (or twigs, leaves other interesting but potentially fragile cargo).
3. Kitchen paper: wiping up whatever (noses, grazes, water, grimy hands).
4. Muslin: (optional for older kids) good for more industrial-strength wiping, including of wet playground equipment, also a veil from sun in pushchairs, soother for bumps and on hot days.
5. Internet device: actually I don’t take the iPad all that often, but on car trips, a 3G phone or dongle+laptop made the hours waiting for a sleeping toddler to wake up more productive.
6. Plastic bag: for shopping, non-fragile cargo, wet or grimy stuff, makeshift bin bag.
7. Water bottle: my toddler drank from a water bottle pretty much from 6-9 months I think. Useful for cleaning, and Dad can drink too.
8. Emergency food: Organix Soft Oaty Bars are a family favourite, mainly oats, raisins & fruit juice.
9. Dad food: (optional) in this case, biscuits with actual sugar in.
10. Tasteful, masculine man-bag: although, in earlier phases I just used the changing bag containing nappies + wipes too.
Not pictured:
- £1 coins: for use in trolleys with child seats.
- small denomination round coins: for use in those spiral donation boxes you see.
- Smartphone with camera, clock and maps application. Obviously.

Three years of dad-hood have taught me not to claim this system is fool-proof, but I thought I’d share my dad travel kit for outings with a 12+ months boy. Learned through trial and error on draughty station platforms, stuffy car journeys and tricky supermarket trips:

1. Lightweight vehicle: small wheeled item, good entertainment while waiting in restaurants, for buses etc. Switch for a new one every now and again.

2. Takeaway box: empty plastic tupperware container to collect berries (or twigs, leaves other interesting but potentially fragile cargo).

3. Kitchen paper: wiping up whatever (noses, grazes, water, grimy hands).

4. Muslin: (optional for older kids) good for more industrial-strength wiping, including of wet playground equipment, also a veil from sun in pushchairs, soother for bumps and on hot days.

5. Internet device: actually I don’t take the iPad all that often, but on car trips, a 3G phone or dongle+laptop made the hours waiting for a sleeping toddler to wake up more productive.

6. Plastic bag: for shopping, non-fragile cargo, wet or grimy stuff, makeshift bin bag.

7. Water bottle: my toddler drank from a water bottle pretty much from 6-9 months I think. Useful for cleaning, and Dad can drink too.

8. Emergency food: Organix Soft Oaty Bars are a family favourite, mainly oats, raisins & fruit juice.

9. Dad food: (optional) in this case, biscuits with actual sugar in.

10. Tasteful, masculine man-bag: although, in earlier phases I just used the changing bag containing nappies + wipes too.

Not pictured:

- £1 coins: for use in trolleys with child seats.

- small denomination round coins: for use in those spiral donation boxes you see.

- Smartphone with camera, clock and maps application. Obviously.

Photo
Signs there’s a toddler around #103: Snail Races

Signs there’s a toddler around #103: Snail Races

Tags: snail