Mike Bland

Accidental Press Blitz

I seemed to pop up all over the place this week: at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; in online government press; and at Christopher Newport University.

- Newport News
Tags: 18F, CNU, Federal government, Google, Testing Grouplet

On Monday, July 6, I delivered my Large Scale Development Culture Change: Google and the US Government talk for the fourth time, this time for my friends at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It was well-attended, and I stayed behind to connect with a few Instigators after the talk, including my pal Marc Esher. I expect good things to come of these connections in the not-too-distant future.

On Tuesday, July 7, my colleague Kate Garklavs posted an 18F blog post announcing the 18F Content Guide. The beautiful thing is, this was offered as part of the 18F Guides initiative I helped launch, upon the 18F Pages platform that Noah Kunin and I set up not long ago—and I had no idea it was coming! What’s more, Kate even quoted me in the blog post. This isn’t just flattering, it’s a concrete example validating my approach to the “Practice Director” role: helping create the space for efforts like this to emerge, whereby we openly share and develop knowledge in collaboration with teammates and external partners.

Then an interesting thing happened: the Content Guide announcement began to generate a bit of buzz within online government press circles. The Federal Times covered it the same day, and even followed the link to my 18F Guides post that Kate quoted and pulled a different quote from me. The Washington Post covered it on Thursday, July 9 (no quotes, alas); and on Friday, July 10, Davis Shaver posted an article on Fusion about our documentation culture, featuring quotes from myself and colleagues Emileigh Barnes and Ori Hoffer. Emileigh posits that all this press attention stems from the fact that journalists are writers, after all, and are naturally excited by the prospect of a content guide for the government.

Finally, I spent part of Friday, July 10 at my alma mater, Christopher Newport University, being interviewed for an upcoming issue of the alumni magazine, stemming from my keynote presentation at the 2015 Paideia conference, entitled Solving the Total Problem of Software Quality and Government Services. (That talk is based on “Large Scale Development Culture Change”, but focuses more on the research-like aspects of the culture change process.) I think it went pretty well, despite my initial shock and horror over being photographed and filmed. We covered the gamut of my life, pretty much, from my humble origins through the literature, theatre, music, and computer science departments at CNU; to the start of my career at Northrop Grumman and my extremely unusual path to and through Google; to my return to Berklee College of Music and the “call to duty” to drop out and join 18F. At the end, we tried to tie all this back to my experiences at CNU. We’ll see how it turns out.

As much as I love to present and teach and talk and share—and the attention—I tend to be suspicious of press coverage in general, especially coverage of 18F and the U.S. Digital Service, since so often it seems the press is looking for heroes to build up, and eventually tear down, for the sake of readership and revenue. That said, I do relish the opportunities to share the story of the real work that has to be done to produce lasting cultural change.