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An open standards community for government

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Photo of Daniel Appelquist
Image credit: Paul Downey

Meet Dan Appelquist. Dan’s just joined GDS to head up our work to build a community of practice around the use of (and contribution to) open standards in software projects across government. Here’s why that matters.

What standards give us

Standards are really important. Not just for helping us work out what a digital service needs to do, but also at a practical, nuts-and-bolts, how-we-run-the-show level.

From a technical perspective, anyone who is building a system that needs to interoperate with another system should care about standards. Standards make interoperability possible and consistent.

Consequently, and more practically, that means we can build faster too, because we can grab “off-the-shelf” open source libraries and frameworks that already meet those standards, and already have communities of practice around them.

Another consequence is that we can hire good people, because we know that if they’re familiar with the standards, they know the stuff we need them to know.

We just mentioned “communities of practice”. They’re groups of people who do related work. And all of them can do better work if they share the knowledge and experience that’s in their heads. That’s what a community is all about: people, not processes. Sharing what’s in your brain with your colleagues and peers.

What we’re missing, right now, is the community of practice Dan is here to build: a community for the people who are working on government software projects, and need to understand the open standards we’re all working to (even as those standards evolve, iterate and change).

We’re building on the fantastic work done over the past few years by the team who established the Open Standards Principles and Open Standards Board. We couldn’t do this without having those in place. As we move forward with our plans for transforming digital services, there’s more we can do to engage and build on that foundation.

What you need to know about Dan

If you’re interested in standards, the open web, open source or open data, you’ve probably already heard of Dan. We’re incredibly excited that he’s joined the team.

Dan is a former dot-com CTO, dot-com refugee and U.S. expat who’s been living in London since 1999. He’s been active in the World Wide Web Consortium as a working group chair and as a member and co-chair of the Technical Architecture Group, a special group in W3C tasked with stewardship of web architecture.

Since 2014, he’s been participating in the UK Government’s Open Standards Board (which he’ll continue to do). He’s a passionate supporter of open technology standards. He tweets at @torgo.

So we’re really excited we’ve got someone as qualified as Dan in this role.

What we’re going to do next

So far, with input from Dan, this is what our plans for the community look like. We’re planning to:

  • run a series of workshops next year, bringing together developers and technical designers who work with standards. We’re particularly interested early on in standards for APIs but that’s not exclusive.
  • think about setting up a technical standards group made up of people working within government that can meet regularly and resolve standards-related issues
  • work out how we can contribute to and influence standards to make sure they meet our needs and follow our principles

We’re going to be using an open GitHub repository to organise this work, so that as much of it as possible is done in public. Many of the standards projects we’re going to be referencing are also on GitHub, so it makes sense for us to have a home here.

We’ve also set up a channel (#tech-standards) on the UK Government Digital Slack team, which you can join if you have a government email address.

That’s the plan so far. Keep an eye out for further updates from Dan on this blog.

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If this sounds like a good place to work, take a look at Working for GDS - we're usually in search of talented people to come and join the team.

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  1. Comment by Davie Hay posted on

    is there also a #data-standards community too?

    • Replies to Davie Hay>

      Comment by James Stewart posted on

      At this point in the work, we're not drawing a distinction between data and other elements of interoperability.