#DPSX Jan 2016 meet up – Drupal Distribution for local government

Our January meet up was in the making since the #DPSX BoF at DrupalCon Barcelona in September 2015, the sign up for the 13th Jan event was great but logistical challenges mid December left quite a few folks confused. In retrospect the meet up needs a permanent abode, if you’d like to host the next meet up please get in touch.

Despite that the turn out was good, we had 11 from a possible 29 and one late arrival found the venue doors locked! apologies Chris, have expressed much annoyance with the venue management. Continue reading

DPSX – lessons from Australia for a local government distribution in the UK

Drupal Public Sector

As a tax payer I want companies who provide frontline public services to make the data they gather in the provision of such services available through Open APIs to other actors in the ecosystem, so that such actors can utilise that data to provide new and innovative services to the public.

News from Australia shared with the DPSX BoF at DrupalCon Barcelona back in September was both good and bad, whilst the Australian government is spearheading adoption with the GovCMS distribution, efforts are we were told loosing steam as the distribution in its current form is quite restrictive requiring significant customisation by individual departments adopting it. The question is why fork it? why not modularise it? To get some answers that may help us in the UK I reached out to my Acquia colleagues in Australia to shed some light on the matter and this is what they had to say:

govCMS is growing and maturing at a good rate after a slow start. The fundamentals have been adjusted to allow for greater openness and govCMS_logo (3)_1 community interaction with the distro via github. The Australian Government is delivering on their aim to work with the community. We are expecting to see further iterations of the govCMS product over the next 12 months that will improve the ‘out of the box’ experience and allow clients to get sites up and running quickly/cheaply. Expect to see improvements that either reduce the need for customisation and make custom work easier.

The restrictions you mention are by design – they largely relate to the modules available to developers. By providing best of breed modules, the distro can avoid bloat/cost. The other effect is to focus expertise on those modules so they become easier to implement via experience and documentation that are relevant to this client space. That said, the process of requesting changes has also moved to github in the last few months and is less a ‘black box’ than it was initially.

As to why govCMS was forked – this largely related to the need Australian Government had to work with a stable platform where they could apply their own governance controls. This will probably mean a distro that evolves at a slow and steady pace, with a focus on security and compatibility. Australian Government is also sensitive to appearance that they are endorsing one vendor over another, or becoming subject to vendor lock in, taking ownership of the distro removes this issue and makes further broad investment by a range of departments more likely.” Gavin Tapp | Program Director | Acquia

There are valuable lessons for local councils in the UK seeking to create a local government distribution, which ought to make for engaging conversations at the 13th January 2016 meetup of the DPSX in London. If you’d like to a part of the conversations please register for the free event here:

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DPSX @ DrupalCon Barcelona

As a digital activist I want a forum that brings together individuals from private, public and the third sectors, to share ideas, address issues of waste, service improvements, development and innovation in the delivery of front line public services so that we can collectively work towards the betterment of public services.

Between the day job, give back and the fam little time remains for anything else, none other the DPSX initiative (now in its 4th year) has suffered because of it. After an epic turnout at Prague, completely forgetting to schedule it’s BoF in Amsterdam, I got in early on making it happen at DrupalCon Barcelona and it paid off, perhaps a gap year had built up an appetite for it.

DPSX-BoF-Dcon-Barcelona-02 Anyhow the attendance was epic; we had four continents represented and discussions focused on issues faced by industry and the public sector in sourcing, adoption and innovation of open source content management systems. A huge thank you to the attendees:  Alex BlandfordChris SkeneKristoffer SoderlundJohasn Du BoisChris Hartigan,  Andrew HoppinSuchi GargHolger KreisTom Dean.

The news from Australia was both good and bad, whilst the Australian government is spearheading adoption with the GovCMS distribution, efforts are we were told loosing steam as the distribution in its current form is quite restrictive requiring significant customisation by individual departments adopting it. The question is why fork it? why not modularise it? having said that I am too far removed from the ground to comment on it, as such have reached out to my colleagues and the community in Australia to shed some light on the matter and shall keep update this post as and when I hear back from down under.

The news from home (UK) was a mixed bag too, whilst G-cloud is working for central government the word is it isn’t working so well for the local government (councils) and is being exploited by big corps for labour arbitrage. There were names mentioned (the usual suspects), large central gov contractors who outsource their wins to the smaller co’s in the eco-system which goes against premise for G-cloud to be set up in the first place.

Though there is truth in the big corps abusing G-cloud via labour arbitrage the SMEs have to share some of the blame too, there is a dearth of experienced Drupal resources and should the SMEs choose to they can set their own terms and put a dent in the exploitation we were so passionately informed of. Yes yes I hear you, they are not exactly a digital OPEC but then they are not powerless either.

The message here has to be ‘do more for all concerned’; GDS should do more to ensure local government (councils) have the train, skill sets and tools necessary to make the most of G-Cloud. Local government ought to conduct regular retrospectives on their success and failures using G-cloud or other means of sourcing and course correct their approach so that they can up-skill their procurement departments, cut unnecessary red tape and do more to encourage bidding and procurement from local SMEs.

As for curbing the big corps abusing their position and exploiting SMEs, GDS could improve monitoring down stream resourcing to ensure its not a marked up pass-through.

As for the challenges of contribs back to the community, central governments ought to make it mandatory for government departments to contribute back to the community (with exceptions for good reasons of course). To this end one single legislative change can transform the ecosystem from the ground up. A law for corps who provide frontline Public services, who as a service provider must make the data available for free (or a capped transaction fee) via standardised APIs to all actors in the ecosystem following the Open API principles. However it is clear that corporate service providers will need to be pushed towards Open Data principles and in making our data more widely available to prospective service providers to encourage innovation in the ecosystem.

As a tax payer I want companies who provide frontline public services to make the data they gather in the provision of such services available through Open APIs to other actors in the ecosystem, so that such actors can utilise that data to provide new and innovative services to the public. Last but not the least and a regular topic of discussion at DPSX meetups is cross border service development and waste, as expected it was raised at the DCon Barca BoF too. The issues remain the same as they did a few years ago, as do the candidates options to addressing the challenges, some of them have been touched upon above, other’s I think we’ll keep for future meetups, which brings me to my new year’s resolution! more and regular DPSX meetups and that is going to be possible since a few folks from the community have agreed to get involved and share the load as and when need be, for that I’d like to thank Farez Rahman and Mark Taylor, thank you gentlemen.

DPSX-Register-now-EventBrite-2015 So the next meet up is scheduled for 13th January 2016 at Google Campus in London from 18:00 to 19:30, we don’t have any speakers as yet but that will change closer to the time, shall be reaching out to them lovely folks at GDS and DHUK and shall keep you posted of their likely attendance. In the mean time if Drupal and OS in the Public Sector is of interest to you please sign up for the meetup here and see you in the new year!

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Seekh Kebab Crawl

Karachi-Seekh-Kebab-Bandu-Khan-062015-04 This is blowing off steam Karachi style, feel a little burnt out by the day… close it by sampling one of the top five comfort foods on offer! seekh kebabs!
 
So this evening undeniably the two picky connoisseurs of seekh kebab took to a few of Karachi East’s well known Kebab eateries, namely; Ansari Kebab House, Bandu Khan, Jehangir Meerat and Ghaffars’s Kebab house. Introducing our seekh kebab Connoisseurs; Ishtiaq-Ur-Rehman and yours truly of course.
 
It was a time boxed Kebab crawl, and got short further by what we found at a couple of the more spoken of kebab houses. Our seekh kebab rating scale:
  1. Texture: how well the mince and spices are grounded and the moistness of the minced meat.
  2. Spices: balance of spices
  3. Lightness: lightness of the kebab (a subjective measure of the amount of ghee mixed in in to the mince and spices)
  4. Service.

Karachi East Seekh Kebab Crawl Results

Bandu Khan in Sindhi Muslim
We were greeted by Gul an old timer at Bandu Khan’s a charming character, the right karma to kick off a kebab crawl! Bandu Khan serve their seekh kebabs in a pyrex dish keeping the kebabs hot for longer! and it works! +1. The balance of spices was perfect, just the right amount of ghee and of course the texture was spot on.
Abdul Ghaffar Kebab House in Bahadurabad
We were shuttled to the cashier the moment the waiters found out our order was small, the cashier informed us that Ghaffar’s don’t sell Seekh Kebab! but having made our way to this much talked about kebab house we decided to review their Chicken seekh kebabs, these were stodgy and bland waste of an otherwise pretty good chicken!
Zameer Ansari Kebab Centre in Bahadurabad
Zameer Ansari had to be the most awkward visit of the evening, much to our annoyance we found out this Kebab Centre does not sell seekh kebabs, not even chicken ones! as a self proclaimed kebab centre this is an epic fail! though they did score on service, they were damn apologetic about not serving Seekh kebabs!
Jehangir Meerat Kebab House on Tipu Sultan Road
As far as spices go Meerat’s is on the hotter side, though the texture was perfect Meerat lost out on their kebab’s not being as light as they can be, a bit too much ghee mixed into the mince for our liking. However Meerat did kill it on service! we got served the last plate of khiri kebabs without having ordered it – the chaps there know Ishtiak’s favourite kebab from their eatery! 

 

The Verdict!
As hard as it is to accept the favourite dig ranks a close second… it is true! Meerat sits close to but not at the top! I may have to revise an earlier post!Bandu Khan’s was by far the best seekh kebab on offer between the eateries we visited.
 
Until the next crawl.

 

enjoy the kebabs and feel free to post your recommendations for us to try out in the comments.

 

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Gifts from Arabia – facts and biases

1280_Chess_World My recent post following yet another massacre of unarmed civilians belonging to a minority in Pakistan has drawn fire from a few folks in Middle Earth. 
Folks, our facts are informed by articles, based on research we rely on others to conduct because we do not have the time, resources or expertise to do so our selves, i.e. news papers and journals.
Though all news, views and editorials are biased the ones cited by me are likely to be less so than others (my main source is the Guardian not a Murdoch publication!), should you not agree with it then feel free to google and arrive at your own conclusion; my recommendation though is that you add the following publications to your list of must reads sources of news and views (links below are contextual to this post):
Let’s look at the facts, in a world of proxies the most well funded and dangerous ones emanate from Pakistan, brainwashed fodder from marginalised and uneducated communities that is used to oppress and slaughter minorities at home (destabilising the Pakistani state and making it possible for the patrons to nurture more of the same) and abroad to extend foreign policy matters that patron state(s) can not be seen to be involved in directly, essentially nurturing others to do their dirty work. Those of you who accuse me of bias, I ask you to follow a thread…ask a simple question; who is the single largest contributor/funder of schools (Madrassas) of hate and training camps for monsters in Pakistan? Don’t take my word for it, google it and draw your own conclusions.
 
No state is free of sin in the region or beyond, that is the nature of state craft; in context to this and the previous post; be it Saudi or Iran, whilst this exchange on g+ may read as a Brit and a Saudi having it off it is far from that.
 
The despots, tyrants, mullahs,  democratically elected self serving puppets and armed forces lead by generals of fortune have for too long kept the 99% divided, have pitched communities against communities, race against race so that they can maintain the status quo and continue their plunder, continue to take what rightfully belongs to the many and divvy it up amongst themselves and their cronies.
 
They play their games at the expense of the commoners – the 99%, the play is simple in Middle Earth, from Levant to Khorasan divide, rule and plunder; its about access to markets; routes for oil and gas pipelines; empire building. The choice however is ours, let them continue, side with them, be a silent witness or stand up and demand things change. It is in fact a moral duty to help the blinkered see how they are being used and abused, what it means to be a community and how theirs is being dismembered beyond recognition and driven into an abyss of sectarianism and hatred from which there will be no roads out for generations to come.
 
My rants will cause no harm and your defence of highly questionable policies of your government no benefit, what is needed is an awakening, one that can not be bought off by one of bonuses nor quashed by force. 
My own government is not free of blame either for those despots and tyrants are an extension of our self serving energy security policies too, the difference is, in my country (Great Britain) I can call a spade a spade without fear of consequences nor do I need to be seen to be defending the indefensible, whilst in Middle Earth the many can not critique without dire consequences. What comes of protestors in the Middle Earth from the Levant to Khorasan is well documented.
 
Make no mistake neither Iran nor Saudia will benefit from the fire that they are equally responsible for having started across the region nor will Turkey or others for fanning the flames, despite their delusions of grandeur they themselves are mere pawns in a greater game that has been at play in that region for 200+ years.
 
I have no solutions or silver bullets to share but I will keep calling a spade a spade be it a Saudi, Iranian or the self serving misguided adventures of my own government, and where it leads to oppression, persecution and genocide my voice will be louder still.

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