Thursday, June 25, 2009

A time for change...

My last day with the Department of Conservation is tomorrow so I'm busy wrapping things up here. I was asked to detail any strategic ideas or vision for the organization and that really got me thinking.

My good friend Kirk Keller, that I've worked with for almost a decade now, had this to say recently with regard to outside contracting: we shouldn't "outsource vision." I think he's right and I'd personally go so far as to say that you really can't outsource vision...not if you intend for it to be successful. This really drove some thoughts home and how I couldn't really leave my vision with the department.

Vision, for me at least, is something from the heart, tempered by the mind; it's a passion of the soul. If it it's not those things to you, then you probably haven't truly found it yet. ;) Most of my vision over the years has come to pass in some shape or another, sometimes not in the same way or capacity that I've had in mind - generally not in the same timetable as I would have hoped. But our online ship has generally been on a successful course of forward progress and continual improvement. As for future vision that I have, the only thing I could really recommend to current staff would be to stay involved with the the Digital Media Developer group, because I'll still be there as chairman.

I plan on taking my personal vision over to the Missouri Office of Administration and to the 14 consolidated state agencies there. To the governor's and first lady's sites and to the entire state of Missouri via the state home page and subsequent web presence. Whomever is left here, and whomever is hired to replace me as well as other outgoing staff, really need to find their own vision and direction for the department. In my mind that's the only way it will flourish and be genuine. Then it will be personal and meaningful for this organization, because it's important to the hands that are making it reality.

I wish all the best for the Department of Conservation and look forward to the new opportunities that I'll have working with the rest of the state.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Lies and untruth

Okay, not directly, but I mentioned that I wouldn't be posting to this site until it was moved to my new domain. So I suppose I was merely misguided. Regardless, here I am with a pretty minor update....

I just thought I should make a post regarding perception. It's interesting to me how I see myself versus anyone else that I know. For instance, I've never considered myself to be "government," but I'm sure that everyone else would sit in the polar opposite category. What I mean is, any time that I refer to government I always use it in the third person: "The Department should do this..." "Government needs to do that..." "People in .gov need to consider the following..." Every single time. I've never once used the terms, "we," "us," "our," when referring to our department as a whole. I just don't like considering myself to be part of the system.

I don't know if this revelation changes anything, more than likely not.

I doubt that most people I know will ever consider me as not being "the government," until I actually leave for other employ. And I doubt that I'll ever change my thinking regarding government: What I love is the awesome opportunities for change; what I absolutely abhor and can not stand is the utter and complete unwillingness to embrace that change.

I think in the end that I'm happier keeping myself outside and above the system, if nowhere else but in my mind. ;)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Shift + move

I did mention that I would be posting some thoughts on the industry's movement towards specialization rather than wearing many hats. What I hadn't planned on, at the time, was my primary domain coming up for renewal. Bad timing on my part. That's my bad and I am working on those posts so bear with me.

With that said, over the next couple of weeks I will be moving this blog to a hosted Word Press solution...which I'd originally had slated for May. Delays make baby Jesus cry, or so I've been told. I do have my new domain up and running (yay for Media Temple's wicked sick hosting!) Most of the domain kinks have been worked out and I am just trying to find a sliver of time to dedicate to Word Press theming of my fresh installation, along with the melding of my old personal site and this blog content. Basically just comes down to me not being as familiar with Word Press as I probably should be.

I'm going to be working on posts over there so this will probably be the last post to this location and future updates will happen at my new home. I'll be sure to work out the redirects from this space to my new domain so stay tuned!.. all...two...of you. :P

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

...Oh how I love thee

The one thing I love about working in government is there is so much opportunity for progressive change.

What I hate about working in government is so much astounding and dramatic resistance to said change.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Finding a path

Two months? Has it really been that long since I've posted? I suppose time flies when you're having fun but wow...

Well I'm happy to say that despite the "iron curtain of creativity" that I've been subjected to at the state, I've been slowly digging myself out of my design uncertainty. I've begun drawing again which has helped immeasurably, we're getting closer to launching ver. 3 of the site in Drupal, and I've recently initiated what I hope will be new collaboration amongst the designers at MDC.

One of my big questions with regard to web development now ends up being: specialization or broad range of experience. It seems as if there are two paths in web design currently, that of a very niche specialization in a particular technology or wearing many hats and being able to diversify and draw from several fields. I'm fortunate in that I could function in either role but the question is which direction will be the ultimate winner? And is the other destined to become part of internet history? I suppose there are still people out there with the "webmaster" title, but that doesn't seem to be as popular as it once was.

I'm going to try and break up the next couple of posts disussing what I belive to be happening in web development. Hopefully there can be a bit of discussion from the couple of people following my blog because I'd love to know what others think about careers in our industry are where they're headed. ;)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

In the wilderness

So there were a couple of raging debates over at 37signals recently, first about skipping Photoshop for design comps then expecting web designers to know not only user-centric design, but also CSS/XHTML. Those conversations, posts plus commentary, have brought me to a really interesting dilemma .

Are my designs hindered by the fact that I'm always thinking of how they'll be implemented online (even though I have a fair working knowledge of CSS intricacies)?

I recently applied for a position in California because I always think it's a great idea to keep one's resume and personal site/portfolio up-to-date and interviewing skills are good to keep fresh. But it occurred to me that my designs might not be diverse or compelling enough for the company. With my current full-time work, the site designs I create will always be in a bit of a box to fit that constituency. That's just the nature of the beast doing commercial work I think.

It doesn't really push me to expand my artistic abilities or expression, however. So I'm left pondering, what do other artists do? I've always looked at the term design "inspiration" being more in the camp of influence: I see something in a magazine and I want to create a similar effect in say Photoshop or Illustrator, but that doesn't speak to what the subject matter should be. Where does that direction come from?

I just wish I had a bit wider readership so I could toss these questions out to see what the broader consensus is. ;)

Monday, June 9, 2008

The state of the e-state?

So recently, there was a paper published by the Princeton's Information Technology Policy Center (will appear in the Yale Journal of Law and Technology, Fall 2008), basically stating that government should abandon costly individual sites in favor of raw, public information in structured, XML feeds, such as RSS. This idea has brought about a good amount of discussion among state web developers that I've had conversations with and I heartily approve of the idea in theory.

The basis of any site or service that government offers should have a foundation based on well-formed, XML data that is valid and properly structured. That data should be made available to the public, as well as used for internal and publicly available applications and agency sites. Kirk Keller talks about this over on Common, along with some of the advantages that are gained from such an approach.

But what about programs that the private sector might deem unimportant and chooses to not promote?

For instance, within the Missouri Department of Conservation there is a program promoting the importance of the various ecosystems and diverse habitat across the state. This project considers both the importance of the wildlife, as well as the habitats that such wildlife lives in. Excellent goals regardless of whether you're engaged in consumptive or non-consumptive activities.

What if the Department of Conservation simply made available the information regarding the habitats in the state, the various "Opportunity Areas" that the public can get involved with, as well as the wildlife that these areas affect? All of these various pieces of information are great in and of themselves. The problem is, there is no guarantee that a public interest will magically spring up and tie these elements together from their disparate systems.

I don't believe that we can just turn off public facing web sites for .gov, but I do think we should expect more from our e-government efforts in the form of valid, well-formed XML data that's publicly available. What do you think? Should we simply expect government to be the providers of raw information or should they also be expected to provide an accessible and usable, forward-facing sites to the public?