“A civic technologist’s practice guide” by Cyd Harrell

I recently had some post-deadline quiet time to catchup on some unread books.

In-person discussions with Cyd Harrell have always been insightful, so at a slim 167 pages, I thought this book would be a quick and informative read. After the first few pages, I had to stop, go grab a highlighter and start again with a fresh mug of coffee.

After every few pages of careful reading, I found myself needing to stop and mentally chew over what I just learned. Then eagerly dive back in again later that day to learn something else. I know it sounds odd to describe it as a real page-turner, but… it is!

The book is well structured, with great topics. The writing is incredibly clear and concise. The signal-to-noise ratio is fantastic. I’ve now read this book cover to cover. Twice. And jumped back/forth to re-read specific parts a few more times. Just about every page now has some highlighted text.

The book covers a wide range of topics including: logistics of migrating technically complex legacy systems, fostering allies, privilege and diversity, open data, mental self-care and burnout under prolonged stress. This is a powerful, powerful book. My only regret is that this didn’t exist before my first tour in government in US Digital Service in 2016.

If you are working in, or considering working in, large scale projects–in government or any other large mission-critical environment–you need to read this. And thank you, Cyd for writing this.

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