#madhatter Workshops – 31st October 2014

Firstly, a big thank you to Rob, Robbie, Marcus, Rui, Phil, Bob and Ronnie for coming along on Friday – it was a great session (one of the best so far for me as I love to see new faces there!) and also, my apologies for missing the beginning. I hope you’ll all come back to the next session – which will be on 28th November.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the topics which were discussed (we were a bit naughty and put a few similar ones, plus several ‘BITCOIN!’ topics back into the hat – new ideas always welcome for submission, just let me know). Thanks to Robbie (and Rob’s laptop) for their notes on the first couple of topics.

1. Should Jersey and Guernsey have a joined fibre circuit?

Don’t they already? Should inter/cross island traffic go towards data traffic? Would this increase usage of data-heavy services? Also this would then cause issues with service providers?

2. Should the SoJ embrace open source and how do we persuede them?

Normal OS apps – firefox, chrome, etc Critical OS apps – infrastructure, etc Ethics on Gov spending – should you spend money on closed source or should be re-invested in ‘knowledge body’. Long term plans for Gov – should it be 100+ years or 3-5 years?

Is a community of a certain size of OS supporters needed to maintain said software. Is the cost of training is prohibitive or are you training your staff to understand how a piece of software works? You can’t do a kneejerk change, but parallel running could be an option. SoJ want to go browser based for future interfaces. Could SoJ encourage the vender to drift to open source or check every time that the licence comes up, is there anything any better? Should there be a mandate for SoJ produced software be OS?

3. Thin clients? How thin is too thin? Are zero-clients good?

Are they really that thin? Should we be talking about zero clients – which have nothing local – instead?

What about in the case of a network failure – if all you have is your remote session, you can’t work. Does this make a case for devices such as Chromebooks, which are still usable (to an extent) without a connection?

What are offices using – what is the breakdown between traditional ‘full’ machines and thin clients? Any preferences? Most using full machines. There can be issues with local resources e.g. driver installations on some thin clients.

Is this just part of a shift away from the conventional desktop (think ‘Desktop as a Service’) and/or a move towards ‘BYOD’ (or more correctly in this case, Bring your own Client). The move away from having a PC at home and one at work has already happened? Many of us use portable devices and have a monitor/keyboard at our places of work – we “plug in” wherever we are (which might simply mean WiFi). This is supported by cloud software such as Office 365, etc.

Isn’t it really about having a portable environment, rather than thin hardware?

4. “National Visibility” (which we chose to segue into citizenship)

Estonia’s e-citizenship program allows access to their online tools/framework and gives them a way to ‘grow’ without actually getting bigger or increasing the demand on physical services/infrastructure.

No Passport, but still a form of representation. It’s treating the government more directly as a service provider (which really they are). But is the angle purely to encourage entrepreneurs to start companies (and pay corporation tax) there?

It’s also a no (or low) cost way to bring in other ‘business’ such as encouraging health tourism and other areas of commerce. The opposite to the model conventionally used (e.g. Singapore) which is to “Build Up” in order to fit in more people.

“Ready Player One” is recommended reading – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ready-Player-One-Ernest-Cline/dp/0099560437/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1415082827&sr=8-1&keywords=ready+player+one

Is there a parallel to be drawn between virtual worlds, such as Second Life? Is there scope for e-citizenship of these “places”? Isn’t that already happening?

What happens when this applies to lots of countries – Government as a Service – will we end up shopping around for where we want to have our e-citizenship (or moving from one provider to another) – will we end up with a Compare the Market for eGov?

It’s already possible to be a “Global Citizen” – e.g. those living on “The World” cruise liner.

What could (or should) other jurisdictions do to prevent their citizens migrating to another provider (particularly their physical ones) – is this another layer of complexity on top of immigration?

5. Affordable Coders (local)

A few immediate concerns were raised (as this is always an understandably contentious topic) – is cheap best? Someone will always do it cheaper (search for that in Google Images!). It’s harder in general to find good/cheap developers anywhere, not just locally – most of the difference in rates is now down to factors such as exchange rates, as many of those located elsewhere are now upping rates as they are aware they can charge more than before and still be competitive.

This is an example of market globalisation in action. But the problem is the fixation on ‘lowest cost’. There is an onus on us as a community to promote the perception of value, rather than cost.

This ties in to the visibility and understanding of work – communication and management of expectations.

The real problem locally is (lack of) availability. Our market is also fragmented and hard to approach. Larger providers charge far more than smaller ones which can give some people a skewed view of the market as a whole.

The majority of local freelance resource is highly booked. Limitations on the availability of talent also impacts on contract lengths.

Remote working does not work (pun intended) in all situations. Some local companies, teams and resources are not really ‘local’.

“Affordability is in the eye of the Beholder!”

Jersey also has skewed prices because of the ability and will to pay locally – for example where parts of the market have traditionally supported the finance industry who may well pay more than other sectors.

There is a clear need for a skills based approach to connecting resources with consumers (rather than traditional and role based).

Ultimately, return on investment is key, not the price paid.

6. Software Licences & Community

As an aside, the eGov/Open Data licence has recently been updated in the UK. It was noted that the upcoming implementation of Freedom of Information is very different to Access to Data.

Open Access to ‘stuff’  – are we really thinking about it enough? E.g. collaborate.je is potentially curating some interesting content and a strong case can be made for that content to be explicitly placed under a community licence (note – I’m thinking about this now!). For #hackjsy, we encouraged participants to release code under an open licence.

Copyright/Intellectual Property/etc is a huge, contentious area.

Are there other business connotations and complications which can arise from the choice of licence and other licencing issues, e.g. is your insurance void if you are using unlicenced software?

7. Investment

We touched on Ivan Nikhoo’s recent talk – and concluded that there are also a lot of peculiarities specific to Jersey which can invalidate some conventional wisdom, e.g. immigration issues, Island mindset.

Is the real problem locally related to the maturity of our digital eco system?

The classic start-up model doesn’t really work here. Risk adversity makes it hard to acquire early funding and there aren’t really any incubators or accelerators to speak of.

It’s as if in order to secure initial funding you need a working product (or thereabouts) in the first place.

The market for funding in Europe is generally not good at the moment, but it’s better than local (next to none).

There is a lot of potential in Jersey for an incubator or an accelerator, or possibly both? Talent is portable. Jersey should be looking at similar models e.g. Cornwall.

Is the innovation fund playing the right part?

Join us next time! 28th November, 5:30pm, Digital Jersey Hub.

Don’t forget to sign up for this month’s workshops, here: http://lanyrd.com/2014/mad-hatter-workshops-november/ – see you there!

 

 

By Matt Chatterley

Matt is a Software Developer / Architect (and an aspiring Author and Speaker, too).

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