172: Digital Government Services and Drupal – meet Ian Read

I met Ian Read, Front End Development Team Leader at TSO/Williams Lea Public Sector at Drupal Camp Brighton, where I found out that he has recently been involved in a subject close to my heart: Drupal and government. He was part of the team that designed and built the attractive, responsive, and very functional London Borough of Croydon's new council website. In our conversation, we touch on the value that the Drupal community provides to everyone involved; Drupal and innovation in government digital services; the thought process, needs, design and more that went into the new Croydon Council Drupal website; and more!

Best quote of the day

When I said how much I am moved by the fact that I see many examples of, "This very abstract set of code on the screen letting us change the real world," Ian got to the heart of the matter: "That's what becomes obvious with all of the work we do. A lot of it you think you wouldn't have been able to do that without open source. It's people giving back; it does make the world a better place."

Note on audio and video quality: Today, 2015.Feb.04, marks the first time I have completed a podcast episode's audio and video with a new set of capture and processing tools. While I am happy with the process in many ways, the result you see and/or hear (inconsistent audio volume and low-res video) is not up to the quality you might be used to in my productions. Though I believe I have discovered the problem and have found a solution (insert boring details about codecs here, if you care about that kind of thing), I wanted to get this episode out today rather than putting it off. I hope to replace the audio and video files for this episode in the next day or so, at which point I shall also remove this notice! - jam.

Meet the community, take it back to work with you!

Ian's impression of Drupal Camp Brighton on day 3 was exactly what I'd hope to hear if I were a camp organizer. It makes me feel like all the stuff we say in the Drupal community about sharing isn't just hot air and niceties. Even though he says that he "looks at Drupal.org at least once an hour ... you know it's the best source of information," the in person exchange of ideas at the Drupal Camp trumped that. "It was really good. It was much better than reading any blog post. Going to see someone talk about it and show 'This is what we did; this is how we did it.' And they'll be more candid, 'We tried this approach, it didn't work,' and that kind of approach you don't get from reading web pages. It's absolutely priceless. It's like consultancy, basically. It's open source consultancy. It's really great to learn from others' experience."

Based on what he had heard and learned at the event, Ian told me, "We've got some configuration changes," on his work web properties, "that we're going to do tomorrow," – a direct result of having attended Drupal Camp Brighton. Ian's team was also going to implement automatic user tagging in forum responses based on another session he saw in Brighton. If there was any doubt about the value of these events to employers, customers, or businesses, I'd say trot out this story! Ian explains, "To have it at that level out-of-the-box was a really nice touch. There's a piece of work we're doing that we needed a forum on. You see all that stuff and you think that solves what we were trying to do! And we can just use that!" As Ian says himself: "You wouldn't have been able to do that without open source."

Guest dossier & Links

Interview video!