Damned if you do, damned if you don’t

14/10/2015

So you might as well tell people what you’ve done. You might even transfer some knowledge.

Preface: This post is buried deep within my Hub without tags, so if you’re reading it’s because I sent you the link. Chances are you know the context.

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“What, that Lowry guy? The guy who thinks he invented the internet?”

I looked at my friend in disbelief. He hadn’t said the above phrase, but he’d recently met someone who had. 

Someone I’d never met.

Damn, I thought. What else about me is swilling around the Brussels Bubble?

Because no, I don’t think I invented the Internet. But I think I do know from which dank swamp a comment like that comes from. 

In 2007, I left the European Commission after 6 years. By then I had been working online for 12 years and - as I hope the list below shows - had built a few noteworthy things.

I was somewhat surprised to find out that noone outside a rather restricted circle within the EC knew about them. A sufferer of facial blindness, I was uncomfortable with Brussels networking and thus disdained it, rather innocently assuming that innovations and best practices simply ‘travelled’ and became known by themselves, like in science.

I soon realised that I was absolutely, completely wrong, so I started talking about some of the things I had done. Sue me, I needed work. 

And started hearing comments like the one relayed by my friend, above. There’s only one conclusion to draw:

If you tell people what you’ve done you’re an arrogant asshole, and if you don’t you’re an unemployed asshole

I have a family to support so there’s no contest, but having to make this choice bothered me for years. But today, as a a 49th birthday present to myself, I’ve decided to no longer be bothered, so you’ll find some things I’ve done below. 

And if you think, as you read this list, that this makes me arrogant, consider:

  • If everyone could talk about their achievements freely, without embarrassment or backstabbing snipers, maybe we’d learn from each other better, best practices would travel faster, and we’d all reinvent the wheel a little less
  • Who profits from this imposed reticence? Why, those who have done nothing exceptional of courseSnark is, after all, so much easier. 

Some stuff I’ve done

So without further ado, here are some of the online projects I’ve managed:

  • 1995: first database-driven website by any public European organisation (EUREKA) 
  • 1997: first use of XML in the HTML production chain for the EU Institutions, increasing productivity by 530% (ESN)
  • 1998: first content management database for the EC (DG XII)
  • 1999: first web first, paper later communications platform for the EC (DG Research)
  • 2002: European Commission’s first Web2.0 online Community of Interest (ICT 2002)
  • 2003: European Commission’s first Thematic Portal, covering the work of 14 DGs via the EC’s first cross-silo (multi-DG) editorial network (DG INFSO/Sec-Gen)
  • 2003: first cross-silo content management system, the first online publishing tool developed by a ‘policy DG’ and (12 years later) ‘corporatised’ by DIGIT for use across the EC (DG INFSO)
  • 2003: first EC RSS feed and user-customisable XML feed (DG INFSO)
  • 2003: first EC user account (did we beat Google accounts by a year?) (DG INFSO)
  • 2005: mobile roaming site - first time website traffic data influenced EU policy (DG INFSO)
  • 2007: most successful EU policy blogging platform (BlogActiv)
  • 2008-2012:  took consultancy web department from smallest to biggest in company and won more business than business development department (GOPA-Cartermill)
  • 2009 & 2011: first two uses of semantic technologies in EU communications (DG DEV, DG CNECT)
  • 2010 & 2013: launched SmartCities Stakeholder Platform and EPALE, first two successful EC online Communities of Interest without associated funding programmes to motivate members (DG ENERGY, DG EAC)
  • 2012: launched the first site on ‘Multisite’, the EC’s pilot Drupal platform (DG CNECT)

So I’m not apologising. Deal with it.

(update, December 2019: a more up to date list can be found on my Hub's About Page)

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