OpenSpaceDevon – managing expectations

A previous post of mine suggested that we should pull together an Open Source unconference for public sector folk in Devon. There is now a Ning community for people to come together and share ideas for content and sessions etc.

However i am aware that sometimes someone has to take the lead in coordinating and organising, so i’m going to share my thoughts as to the date, format of the day and the kind of outcomes/outputs i’d like to see.


I have thought quite  a bit about whether or not to propose a weekday or a weekend (Saturday). So in the absence of any real rationale i’d like to suggest Friday 23rd April 2010. Should anyone have any major objections to this date then please log them via the comment section on this post.


FREE, well that is the intention, i am hoping to secure enough support from people/organisations to ensure that this event is Free. It may however be limited to a specific number of people so stay connected for further updates.  Sponsorship etc will be considered.


No venue proposed as of yet, but i am going to seek the help of others in identifying and organising this part. Kind offers of support have already come from Public Sector Forums.


I’m not trying to specify the exact outcomes but i would like to try to at least focus the event slightly. In a way i have already done this by proposing that this is about improving public sector services in Devon and not wider. So for example i think we should consider how public services can be improved using and embracing information and technology in its widest sense.

However i’m keen for event not to be taken over by uber geeks and technical folk (perhaps like myself). We have to strike a balance to encourage and tempt business folk and policy people to engage and participate in the event also. We also need to ensure that we get a cross sector representation. So it will be important to acknowledge that we need to involve the following sectors in improving and delivering public services in Devon.

  • Local Government (Parish, Town, District, County)
  • Public Sector (Health, Police, Fire, etc)
  • Voluntary Sector
  • Business Community

In some way i would like think that after the event, people who came along saw the event and get together as catalyst for developing ideas, submitting bids for funding, opportunities for service improvement, greater collaboration and conversation between the sectors.


I’d like to get a balance between the open space barcamp style and a unconference which provides stimulus via short proposals or presentations etc.  This kind of thing has happened in barcamps but i’d like to restrict the presentational aspect to at least 50% of the session time to ensure that discussion, networking and ideas are supported.

It will also be important to ensure that each session has a cross-section of people engaged. (I know this is a wish list)

I know that all of the above is a tall ask, but if we (together) achieve half of the above i believe it will be a success. In fact if we actually get the event off the ground i think it will be a success. I look forward to working with you all on making this happen.

So i am now going to have a break over the Xmas and new year period but will start progressing the above during January and up to the 23rd April.

If you wish to get involved as before, either comment on this post, or join the Ning Community.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

What is the purpose of a local authority website then….

I have been reading with much interest a number of posts on Public Sector Forums and a particular post on Paul Canning’s Blog relating to the role and purpose of council websites.   It appears that we seem to have lost our way, perhaps trying to please everyone, other than our main audience – The council tax paying public.

Paul suggests:

The 10 point plan’

1. Findability
2. Disengagement from the wider web and those damned walled gardens
3. Engaging the industry
4. Marketing
5. Widgetising services
6. Engaging the local
7. Cheaper usability methods
8. Content
9. Fixations on ‘engagement’
10. Utilising reputation

I think this is the most interesting question raised for sometime, as it have been an underlying theme in the debate with Socitm about its “Better Connected” report which for the last 10 years as passed judgement and “rated” local authority websites. Now i’m NOT saying this has been a waste of time because it hasn’t, but i think we need to refocus and decide what the benchmark actually is, and be consistent with it.  Having a year on year “subjective” evaluation about what makes a perfect council website and what is good and bad about particular sites is losing value in my humble opinion.

We need to agree perhaps using the Socitm, Public Sector Forums and Public Sector Web Management Group, what a model council website looks and feels like to a citizen.  This is not an easy task and it maybe an impossible question to answer, but could be worthwhile on a year by year basis, setting a benchmark. This would be even better if this was based on what real people thought of council websites and not what the government thinks we should do with council websites.

What i believe this would give myself as a web manager is where people have differed and what they have done differently and more importantly how?  It would also highlight who has pushed the boundaries and who has tried new and exciting things. This would be a report which i feel would have value to me as a web manager and to my organisation in terms of how we compare?

But one last thing, a report of this type can never and should never substitute what actual and real people say about our site via formal feedback methods.