Weeknotes – series 03 episode 01

St Peter's Square in Manchester, you can see old buildings, people walking and trams
View from Swirrl's shared office in St Peter's Square

Some short-but-sweet weeknotes about my first ever week at Swirrl.

Last week was my first week at Swirrl. I've joined them as an interaction designer. They're based in Manchester, but I'll be working remotely from home in Swansea (most of the time).

I was convinced to join Swirrl thanks to their digital-first hiring campaign (read: two really well written blog posts about who they were looking for and what it's like to work for them). I also identify with their mission of publishing open, linked data to help public sector organisations provide better services and make better decisions.

Last Monday I travelled up to Manchester for a few days to meet the team and start to learn about what they do and how they do it. I spent time chatting to Bill, Ric, Jamie and others. Their office is located in a very nice co-working space called WeWork (in St Peter's Square).

I also enjoyed wandering around Manchester, highlights include V-Rev a really good vegan junk food place in Manchester's Northern Quarter. When I get some time I'll head back there to check out some of the stationery shops I spotted nearby.

Helpfully, Swirrl use all the same admin and communication tools that I'm used to including Google Docs, Slack, FreeAgent and Github. I think this is stuff is really important, especially if you have a distributed team that are based in different locations (and timezones). I'm looking forward to seeing what else they do to help remote teams work together

One thing I've noticed is that a lot of conversations happen in Slack, even small updates like "going for lunch" are announced there. This helps everyone to stay up to date and feel included. I'll have to practice this habit to make sure I don't forget.

As for work stuff, I got introductions to some of the core concepts of Swirrl's work, like Linked Data and RDF.

They also have a pattern library that is built with Gatbsy so I had a play around with that. Gatsby's tutorial is well written for someone like me who is not fully confident with using things like command line interfaces. I think the plan is to integrate it with Storybook too, so will aim to play around with that at some point.

I think my role is set to include a mix of hands-on interaction design work, as well as working with clients to help them discover user needs and visualise user journeys. A familier problem I'm hearing is that the interfaces required to use data are often very complex and probably expect users to be more data and digitally literate than they really are. Looking forward to getting stuck in and sounds like my first project will be working with Defra (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) via the Environment Agency