#UKGC12 – beyond the bullet points


On Sunday i quickly posted some initial thoughts, albeit some very random about my experience at UKGC12…this post aims to go slightly deeper, beyond the bullet points.

– we have moved beyond an event just for geeks…I’m only a feel in relative terms…it doesn’t matter that policy folk, councillors or suits don’t attend…this is where the variety of localised events will offer and add value…another point to note is that govcamp was and should never be an event just for people on twitter…however if our not on twitter it is hard to get a ticket directly.

– i finally understand the underlying reason and motivation for the first ukgovcamp – having the opportunity to chat to Jeremy Gould was great, he was the behind the first govcamp event….the main reason was to simply connect people together…not people to decision makers…or central to local gov…this is where the constructive disruption came from…how does that sit with the new GDS, probably in my view no different to how govcamp has always been…whilst they focus on mainstreaming digital…govcamp will maintain its role on the edge providing valuable nudges and challenge…if I doesn’t we have all failed.

– Social change and supporting the development of social capital is still a primary motivator for me…technology is a distraction the majority of the time…a disproportionate amount of time is spent talking about technology first without stating the problems or outcomes people want to see. I read the some thought govcamp was about government and IT…my views has always been that govcamp is for people who simply want to push things forward and make progress.

– creating better democratic organisations which allow social capital to improve should be a focus and how internally we can empower people better to support those aims…we shouldn’t be talking about Facebook groups or social intranets in my opinion as these distract from the underlying problems and also provide too narrow a scope to think differently about how we approach these challenges…we need to start thinking and documenting the capabilities required to support more democratic and open organisations…we are assuming that simply creating a social intranet, an organisation will change…Social media inside an organisation is a facilitator…it is the presence of Injustice, inequality, repression and aspiration that stimulates progress – Social media or a social intranet does not magically force existing leadership to change or learn.

– content strategy is a game changer – changing the thinking built up over the las 10 years since the start of the egovernment agenda – this triggered the anti-user approach in developing websites in my humble opinion…it essentially turned sites that were aimed at users into mediocre corporately assimilated content waste lands…lacking in any meaning as to how to build and manager a community and help move aspects of communications and service interaction into more efficient channels…but that is the past…we can learn from it, but we must first recognise the mistakes we made…not everyone made them but most did…this is all just my opinion of course but localgov as a community needs to think about how it develops its online and digital offering better – perhaps in a similar reboot approach taken by the GDS…it does not matter what you call it…but it does need to think about some key principles, for example one might be.. getting content to people and not people to websites…this then provides the drivers for your content in social spaces as opposed to having a specific focus on social media….this does not mean you shouldn’t develop specific channel standards, in fact this reinforces the need for standards within channels…but based on managing your content flow in it and how you might monitor or measure it.

– all the conversations and activity around the networked society, participation and democracy are actually what we should all be focusing on…without effective participation, transparency and accountability, the Facebook groups, blogs, twitter accounts are all just window dressing and papering over the cracks…this is why I personally value the open data and linked data work

– without communities like ukgc and generally the social networks I’ve built… I’d feel very isolated as often my ideas come across as “wacky”, “off the wall”, “a bit out there” and with the peer review and challenge those ideas are challenged in an environment where I’m not expected to know it all…in the council you are paid to know this stuff, but without the connections I’d know very little and be less effective and more likely I’d probably not have a job. I am honoured to be able to participate in those communities and have made some really good friends.

– Reputations are not just built up online – you actually need to do something…I’m tackling that as it was noticeably lacking from the last 2 years of my working life – I developed a lot of theories and thoughts and have been lucky to have a few decent outputs – social media policy being the most popular on my blog here…but I personally need to achieve more…tackle the bigger issues, get involved on a different level and on a different scale…

– I was surprised that I didn’t hear people talking about the impact of localism and the theme most councils are looking at which is commissioning on how we tackle some of the big issues…this is another reason why i think common standards and frameworks are important…maybe this is still too early for people but recent experience of govcamps made me assume (wrongly) that it would be discussed. I should have suggested a session on simply hearing from others how the think it will change or not change things…

– Finally – tomorrow never comes, do something today…

Proving concepts with Open and Linked Data (and wordpress)


I love finding excellent examples of stuff, more so when you find them in your own council and especially when they actually prove some concepts to other people.

So I was very excited to hear and actually see what a colleague here at the council Mark Painter has been doing with WordPress and linked data.

Mark has been doing lots of work on understanding open and linked data and recently put together a proof of concept site for area profiles, which brings together mosaic data (as an xml file), neighbourhood statistics and IMD data from CLG support by swirll.

I love this proof of concept because we need to do more of this here in Devon and it also supports and proves the concept around my content strategy…one other reason I love this is because this was all done through good old WordPress :)

I must reiterate this is a proof of concept and may break at any time as mark continues to explore how to make this better…he has already started to look at how he incorporates the Crime Data into this as well…


WordPress just got even more funky


I was so pleased to read that WordPress have announced that you can now embed google docs and calendars into WordPress

This is such a good feature that I actually believe we will start to see lots more use of “on the edge” WordPress sites as well as more mainstream sites within the public sector and in particular making use of the great features found in google docs. There are many opportunities here that I’m actually quite excited :)

To demonstrate this great new feature I have embedded a google spreadsheet which was collating data from a form about the use of WordPress within the UK Public Sector.

Update: If you know of any more WordPress powered sites then please submit them using the form below

Support the Bid – Connecting Devon and Somerset


To all who live in Devon and or Somerset

Devon and Somerset Councils are appealing to you for your support of their bid to the government for superfast broadband for Devon and Somerset. Just because Devon is a largely rural county it doesn’t mean that it should be left behind in a digital age.

Do you get frustrated when you are online and your browser just grinds to a halt? When you can’t multi-task because your broadband connection is stopping you? When pages take an age to load? When your online TV streaming cuts out or it takes a week to download a film? Some people are even still on dial-up connections or most of us know someone who is!

Well now is the chance to put all these problems behind us and get superfast broadband! Devon County Council is submitting a bid for broadband funding to government on the 18th April and part of the success of that bid relies on demonstrating considerable demand for superfast broadband in Devon from both residents and businesses. All we need to do is a fill out a really short survey to register our support, it only takes a couple of minutes and will be well worth it in the long run.


Gaming to re-engage boys in learning – Ted Talk


As a Dad to two boys as well as a Parent Governor at my boys school and as a fan of Gaming to help change the world, this video was pretty much certain to be on my watch list.

I’ve been fascinated with the subject of gaming for a little while now and in particular around the subject of citizen participation. A previous post titled “World of Govcraft” and its follow-up “More World of Govcraft” were inspired by Joanne Jacobs and another Ted Talks video with Jane McGonigal.

It is a very interesting video and also touches on a subject which is close to my heart (male teachers as role models) if you are interested in Education and Learning then I recommend spending the 13 minutes it takes to watch it.

Ali Carr-Chellman pinpoints three reasons boys are tuning out of school in droves, and lays out her bold plan to re-engage them: bringing their culture into the classroom, with new rules that let boys be boys, and video games that teach as well as entertain.