If you’ve got Airplane mode, why not Holiday mode!

I recently returned from a holiday in Cornwall where for the most part I had a forced exclusion from the internet due to staying in a beautiful location a few miles from anywhere.

What this got me thinking about was the individual choice about being disconnected from the internet and that it wasn’t my decision to be disconnected but simply a by-product of where I was staying.

Thinking about the future as I often do and the fact that ubiquitous access to the internet will be a reality then how do you or how will someone manage that disconnection as I believe it is healthy to disconnect occasionally just like it is healthy to take a holiday from work.

One of the features on my iPhone is Airplane Mode and this basically disconnects the phone from any connectivity but still allows you to use the device to perhaps, do some offline stuff, write documents, watch some videos, play music or even play some games whatever you choose to do but you are not connected to the internet even though if you switched airplane mode off you would be connected again.

So why not develop a few other modes and give the user greater control and personalisation of the device they are using.

The obvious one is Holiday mode.

I’d imagine it working something like this:

I switch on Holiday mode for the first time and it presents a number of options – for other iPhone users I’m thinking it’s a hybrid solution between settings and notification centre – where the user decides the how each application interacts, sends and receives data.

So for example I can keep google maps running, web browser and perhaps sending and receiving calls and text messages to a selected group of people (based on how I’ve classified them – personal, professional, business, etc)

This would also allow me to make an on the spot request to applications if I wanted to share something interesting such as photo or status update but instead of having the application working all the time, I simply make a call to that app within holiday mode to share the photo or update.

In fact it doesn’t have to be called Holiday mode, it could simply be a personalised version of the phone and how you interact with it – this could also be used in the context of where devices are shared so you could create a mode which was “family” and this would allow your family members to use the device without accessing specific – it goes beyond “profiles” in my view and really creates a personalised version of the device to suit your needs in any given situation. 

Personally I would really like to see greater personalisation in devices that allow me and give me the choice to disconnect when it suits me and not having to reply on connectivity black spots which will reduce and disappear in time.


It’s crude but still very interesting

I was asked a very interesting question earlier today – A colleague asked me how many twitter accounts there are in Devon? To which my reply was (slightly paraphrased):

“Hmmmm, I’m not sure to be honest…however we could provide a crude figure for the number of facebook users or potential reach using the advertising feature….we could then,  again this is crude but use the worldwide ratio of twitter to facebook users and apply that to our figures and this would give us a best guess figure, at least it is sort of logical…”

“That sounds like it could be a useful starting point, let me know what you find out.”

So I did exactly what i suggested and the result of which I include below…It is crude I know but very interesting, even if we take a very conservative position on the figures they are actually still very significant.


More than 800 million users worldwide – more than 350 million active users currently access Facebook through their mobile devices.

Facebook Estimated reach in Devon – 488,820 people

  • Who live within 40 kilometres/25 Miles of Exeter, Barnstaple, Tiverton, Sidmouth, Tavistock, Bideford, Newton Abbot, Ivybridge, Dawlish, Teignmouth, Okehampton, Dartmouth, Kingsbridge, Salcombe, Exmouth, Lynton, Lynmouth, Bovey Tracey, Ashburton, Braunton, Cullompton, Honiton, Ilfracombe, Ottery Saint Mary or Totnes
  • Figures are based on users who are aged 13 or over.
  • The towns listed are those which I used and found and which i think represent a good coverage of Devon in terms of the 25 mile radius…


More than 380 Million users worldwide – Ratio of twitter to facebook therefore is  just under 50%.

If  we apply the crude formula to the facebook figures for Devon then we would expect to see approximately 240,000 twitter users.

For context  – the population of Devon is just under 750,000 – using the County Council boundary – therefore excluding Plymouth and Torbay…although it is likely that some Plymouth and Torbay users will be included due to the geography. It shows that a significant proportion – around 65% of residents are allegedly on Facebook…and approximately 30%-35% are allegedly on Twitter.

I’ll say it again, it’s crude but it is very interesting…


Moving away from web strategies and it’s about time

In my role one of the outputs that I was expected to create was a revised Web Strategy, which at first I was more than happy to do, I wrote the previous one so it wasn’t really an issue to simply refresh it in line with current priorities and national drivers.

However once I got going I started to notice a difference in the conversations I was having with people and more importantly the conversations with people about “the web”.

The big shifts were primarily about what people think “the web” actually is?

Some people naturally thought it was a single website and in particular the councils website, others were clearly thinking more about “the web” as a platform for service delivery and transformation and others were thinking it was an online repository for information about the council and a few other definitions as well which in their own way were right.  It is in fact all of those things and of course more…but this was certainly not the view when I wrote the last strategy.

I’m fortunate that a number of the areas above have their own strategies and are embedding “the web” directly into those strategies, so it makes it easier to simply work out what aspects we actually haven’t got a plan or strategy for. For example we have an ICT Strategy, Access Strategy, Information Strategy and we are currently producing a new Communications Strategy.

In my previous role I lead on a piece of work which was essentially an ICT focused Web Strategy, the main objectives of it are to refresh the web architecture to make it fit for purpose and also reduce costs through the provision of common solutions. This is (in my humble opinion) a web strategy as it focuses on the web as a platform from which other things can be developed and provided, after all that is what the web is – a platform.

With the other strategies all pretty much extending the remit and scope of the previous web strategy – either a spark of genius on my part to lay foundations, or it failed to meet anyone’s objectives ! – I along with a few others asked ourselves what are we trying to produce and should we produce anything at all.

This was when I remembered a conversation with Sarah Lay from Derbyshire County Council who produced a Content Strategy as part of her studies – so I contacted Sarah and whilst she was unable to share her work at this point in time she was able to provide some pointers and her justification for producing a content strategy.

This conversation and an afternoon searching the web reading articles, blog posts, research and anything related to content strategy I decided that we were missing the most important strategy  – a Content Strategy < obvious now but we simply hadn’t considered it.

The realisation hit me like a flashback as I went through the approach, expected outputs and benefits at a high level and sure enough, the reason for our current failures in our web technology and platform, our content, online services and even our online democracy offering all came down to the lack of a content strategy.

We haven’t been asking what we want our content to do, we have been asking what we want our website to do and this is the reason we haven’t fully embraced Social Media as well as why some people don’t see the value…when you come at it from a content perspective you can see a variety of benefits and added value with content.

Now I’m still working on the details but broadly a Content Strategy will help the council in the following ways:

  • Specifying the key themes and messages in line with the Communications Strategy.
  • Providing a clear purpose for all content.
  • Conducting a content gap analysis and specifying the structure of content.
  • Ensuring the councils content is accessible, reusable, shared, open* and linked*.
  • Ensuring that appropriate metadata frameworks, retention, review and content life cycles and related content attributes are in place and content is properly managed.
  • Measuring and evaluating the success of our content.
But I guess one of the key objectives and outcomes is that we hope to have increased engagement with our content regardless of where someone interacts or consumes it.
It also helps focus our thinking on what we require of technology as we need to ensure that the technology supports the objectives of the content and not a website.
This is a fundamental shift in thinking as a previous key objective was to grow the number of visitors of the council website from, for example 3.5 million visitors a year to 6 million visitors over 3 years. But what is the point in that measure if your population is only 700,000 and no one is actually engaging with content?  So it is about asking the right questions and we will continue to measure visitors but it won’t be a key part of evaluation.
Anyway getting to the point where we actually have a strategy isn’t going to be straight forward as in conversation with Sarah she reinforced the need to adopt an evidence and research based approach, which I entirely support and was surprised that as a sector we haven’t pushed this harder…in fact “we” tend to use external reports such as Better Connected as our only research base…I have my views on Better Connected and whilst I think bits of it add value, unfortunately it is not greater than the sum of its parts when you read the whole thing!
We need to do some work before we can get a comprehensive Content strategy, but we are certainly in a better place now as we know the direction of travel and we know the stages we need to go through.
The first stage being an Audit and Analysis of our content, some of this is already underway but we now have a greater focus and because we are framing this within a content strategy we are now asking ourselves whether the existing methods of measuring success of a website apply across to measuring the success of content….the issue is that the majority of measures don’t exactly match so we need to rethink our approach to evaluation.
It is a journey and one we should have taken years ago, but I’m just pleased we are actually now taking it. I’ll share more over the coming weeks as things start to take shape and my thinking clears…

So that was #localgovcamp – now what?

There is apparently some small amount of evidence to show that I was in fact at LocalGovCamp on Saturday 🙂

I paid for the accommodation and train fare out of my own money, not because the council didn’t want to pay, but because I actually wanted to pay for it myself (maybe some people think this is sad)

It did re-energise me (although friday evening took some of my *spark*), it inspired me, not just by the conversations, but by the determination and passion people show, the fact that people give up their personal time to come together for a greater good and really are prepared to challenge your current thinking, there really is something special in that…

I also have to accept that if it weren’t for the friends and colleagues I’ve made on social networks and through events like LocalGovCamp and UKGovCamp, my life would be very different, I’m not sure what job I’d be in, or work I’d be doing, things have changed for me quite a bit over the last few years (for the better, I must add) and I’ll say this has a direct correlation to my involvement and participation with these networks and events. So before I carry on, I have to say Thank You to everyone who has attended a UKGovCamp, LocalGovCamp and to everyone who has challenged me via my blog, twitter and the Communities of Practice platform.

I didn’t tweet much into the stream on saturday and I personally don’t feel I contributed much in terms of discussion throughout the day but on the train home (this was one of the most peaceful moments of my weekend), I sat back at thought about what I need to do to transition from “all talk” into “practical action”. I created a mindmap with over 15 project ideas based on what I heard in sessions as well as stuff I picked up in general conversation, so something obviously went in…I also tweeted a few thoughts which I’d like to expand further on.

  • Thoughts on #localgovcamp – remains one of the few events that actually stimulates and inspires me, plus the people are bloody fantastic
  • Thoughts on #localgovcamp need to create a govcamp culture internally to stimulate innovation and change and involvement of wider audience
  • Thoughts on #localgovcamp – we are now shifting focus to behaviour change and away from the shiny tools – place for both of course 😉

I really want to start mainstreaming the outputs, conversations and the inspiration that all of this can provide to as many people as possible, this applies internally and externally across my region (Devon and the South West). One response to this is to push forward a South West LocalGovCamp Event for the Autumn. If you are interested then let me know.

However even though I value attending these events, even though I know the people who turn up will be bloody fantastic and even though I always come away with some plans – I believe that only a very small group of people would *ever* attend this kind of event…but more than happy to be proved wrong of course.

I had various conversations on Saturday with people about how we can get other people access to these kinds of conversations. It doesn’t have to be a localgovcamp event as such. Personally I think something more aligned to the CityCampBrighton Event (3 days) would attract more people from across the public sector here, but these are naturally focused on a geographic area. So would not be easy for something like Devon as a whole…However I think there is a middle ground…

I read with interest a post by Catherine Howe (@curiousc) this morning, where she talks about a similar challenge that is emerging within LocalGovCamp, she states:

  • We need to be mindful that we need to make these events work for both the first timers and for the people who have attended many.  I don’t think this is difficult – but perhaps a bit more prep / continuity from those of us that attend frequently would give us the sense of building something bigger rather than having the same, albeit valuable, conversations again and again
  • There is something to be said for reaffirming your energy and engaging with other innovators -but we also need to take responsibility for building the evidence base for our beliefs collectively if we are going to be anything other than positively disruptive outsiders
I don’t think it is a coincidence that Catherine attended the City Camp Brighton event and has expressed these points of view.
I’ve posted recently about one of the challenges I think as a collective group of people we have a duty to resolve and that is ensuring that people who are new to the conversation can enter at an appropriate level and those who need to be challenged more can do so.
I’d love to be able to be part of a South West Event which was held of two days. Day 1 being for inspiration and understanding and day 2 being about workshops and creating things.  I’m not an events person so would welcome any hints and tips on how this might be achievable and be offered for “free” to participants…So I guess sponsors would be required, welcome and encouraged 🙂
In terms of internal response, I want to reinvigorate, refocus and rename the Social Media Forum we had set up here. I’m now in a better position to do some good stuff with this internally, so watch this space on that over the coming weeks.
With regard to behaviour change, I’m really keen to involve our workforce development colleagues on how we can use the existing corporate training and development programmes to instil a new “thinking” around Digital. However we need to do this with regard to a Blended approach as per Tim Davies blog.
I plan to blog more on each of the project ideas in the coming weeks and months.
So again “THANK YOU” fellow localgovcampers, you are all amazing and quite frankly awesome.

I think we are missing the point

I have written quite a few posts recently about not focusing on the technology or the tools when speaking about social media and that is what I believe (I could be wrong), but we really have to take people on a journey in order that they can see the real impact of all of this stuff and that is the “behaviour change” and “expectation” this all creates in individuals (staff and citizens), mostly everyone recognises this but we rarely focus on this when speaking to folk.

Ok so twitter, Facebook, WordPress, Flickr, YouTube and many others are all the tools that people use to share stuff with friends, family and pretty much anyone interested in their stuff.  But the key point to focus on is the behaviour change all these tools are driving and the expectations they are creating in everyone we meet.

I’ve been to two events in the last week where this issue has popped up – last week I attended the Guardian ICT Leadership Forum in London and yesterday I attended a lecture at the Met Office (for Met Office staff primarily) by @AnnHolman on the impacts of social technology on business.

The thing that kept coming up was that people get fixated on the current tools and make comments like “I’m not in Facebook, or on twitter so I can’t see the value” or “surely Facebook and twitter will go away of be bought by someone and we’ll need to get on the next big thing”.  The answer to both of these comments is “your missing the point”….

The point is (for me anyway) and I made this at the Leadership forum as well as the Met Office meeting (although Ann had already said exactly the same thing at the beginning of her talk – it is about behaviour) is that these tools are not the things we should be primarily concerned about, it is the impact on people and the expectations and behaviour changes they foster in people…

  • the fact that friends and family can instantly communicate via any device to each other from anywhere in the world.
  • the fact that I can share precious moments with people via video or photo as soon as something happens or even broadcast it live over the internet
  • the fact that i can learn new topics and subjects and watch videos on how to play the guitar or learn how to use a software package by simply searching google
  • the fact that i can access a huge amount of information about what my friends like and what they are doing, thinking, watching, listening to, who they are with all from my mobile phone
  • the fact that email seems like it takes too long to get a response and I might as well instant message someone instead
  • the fact that i can touch a screen and it responds instantly to my gestures and I can explore information in new ways
  • the fact that when i work on something i expect friends and people I’ve never met to help and assist me with my tasks.
I’ve not mentioned any particular tool here, but I could…but what value would that add to the conversation?
These are simply some of the basic changes people expect to see, I’ve not mentioned or referred to location based services, mapping, workflow, task management, i could go on and when you take these expectations into a local government context you can see the challenge we are facing. Challenges we *must* overcome or we will become irrelevant to pretty much everyone.  The issue is we expect these kinds of solutions in an organisational experience.
The challenge/question for ICT leaders and managers is can consumer grade products provide 80% of the functionality to reduce costs across the sector…or do we spend lots of cash on enterprise grade products that can’t change as quickly and force uniformity on everyone – the web allows individuality?
The impact of social media isn’t whether or not you have a twitter account, Facebook profile, YouTube channel, Flickr stream – It is whether your organisation wants to be relevant and able to communicate with people how they communicate with each other.
This all means we need to rethink everything about our organisations and keep the stuff that is relevant and change the rest that isn’t…for some (if not most) that will mean everything.  We do need to face some potential obstacles though and we can not ignore them.
  • Security – we need to think about security in a pragmatic way that allows us to stay in touch and relevant whilst maintaining our legal duty.
  • Risk – we need to think about our approach to risk, we need to manage and mitigate, not avoid.
  • Thinking – we need to change our thinking, we *must* focus on opportunities presented to us by new thinking
  • People – we need to accept that all of this is about people and changing people’s behaviours.
  • Culture – we need to challenge existing cultures by empowering people to adopt new thinking, to take risks.
But saying all of this, sometimes it helps to start with twitter and work out very quickly to the wider issues, but we need to make sure we don’t stay focused on the tool, it is the behaviour change we need to champion.