Young Rewired State 2014

So this year Young Rewired State (YRS) is six years old, believe it or not! We are still wholly focused on those young people aged 18 and under driven to teach themselves how to code, introducing them to open data and a community of their peers.

Of course the campaigning we at YRS and Rewired State have championed and supported to encourage more people to learn programming has meant that there are many more opportunities for learning now. Kudos to all the many organisations such as Code Club, Apps for Good, Decoded, TeenTech and Coder Dojo (to name the ones we know well and love).

This means that the YRS community has grown at an incredible rate over recent years, as it helps other young people learn from and teach each other. They hone their skills through building apps, websites and games, writing algorithms and parsing data – more often than not, solving real problems and challenges they experience.

This year we are doing three big things…

ONE: YRS/Google assemblies

We have a great community of hundreds of young people, most of whom do not go to the same school. They come alive when they talk about their skills and the community – and so we have teamed with Google to offer every person in YRS a sponsored assembly.

The YRSer will be helped by a dedicated YRS mentor to prepare an assembly, using slide decks, videos and YRS and Google schwag.

The point of these assemblies is for the young people already in the YRS community to tell their peers about what they have done, what they can do, and the support from Google shows how important their talents are to a multi-National brand every child will know (and probably want to work for because of the beanbags, slides and The Internship movie). It also challenges the familiar media view of nerdy, often male, programmers.

The videos I have used in this post are the videos we have made specifically for this project

Two: The Festival of Code will be International & the finale weekend will be held in Plymouth University

Every year we run the Festival of Code in multiple centres across the UK. This year we are including the centres outside the UK. This means that the festival now includes all the young people who have taken part in a Young Rewired State: Everywhere (YRS{e}) weekend around the world, and the community reaches across borders and Nations. This is the point of YRS – to create a networked community of young people worldwide who have grown up with open data and peer-to-peer learning.

Plymouth University have been incredibly generous in their offer to sponsor part of the cost and host the Festival, and house the YRSers over the weekend, meeting their challenging Wifi and power needs – and enabling us to continue to run the Festival now that many hundreds, tipping over a thousand young people, take part. Thank you so much!

(Travel to Plymouth will be arranged!! Planes, trains and automobiles will be activated – maybe holding the finale in Plymouth will encourage the YRSers to invent the flying car we were all assured in the 70s was going to be the vehicle we would be using in the 21st century).

Register as a centre, mentor or young person for the Festival of Code here: https://youngrewiredstate.org/ (it costs nothing to register or attend, it is funded through sponsorship. Feel free to apply to be a sponsor: emma at rewiredstate .org)

Three: YRS Hyperlocal and Rewired State/ly

We also announced that YRS Hyperlocal will happen in centres across the UK post the Festival, where the YRSers will be able to work, in the Festival centres that choose to opt in, with each other and mentors to take their Festival prototypes to product. At which point we will hand them over into the safe hands of partners we trust (morals/ethics).

We also announced Rewired Stately: a free Rewired State event that is happening in the last quarter of 2014 for programmers aged 50 or over, whether these be newly minted programmers or life-long, at which we will introduce them to open data and the rest of the RS/YRS community.

For more information on either of these programmes, email hello@rewiredstate.org

Please note: we do not teach kids to code… we bring together those who can code, from rudimentary knowledge to poly-codal, and take them forward to the next challenge – solving the real world problems 

Round the world with Young Rewired State {Everywhere}

Last year and earlier this year I blogged about wanting to run Young Rewired State around the world. This was in response to so many people from other countries getting in touch and saying how much they needed something similar to happen where they lived. To recap, for those who don’t know, this is what Young Rewired State is all about:

YRS is an independent global network of kids aged 18 and under who have taught themselves to program computers. We introduce these children to like-minded peers at events around the world where they use freely available open data to make websites, apps and algorithms to solve real world challenges

As you can see we have already included the fact that it is about a global community, and this is down to the success we have had in this year of experimentation beyond the shores of the UK.

We have been blown away by the joy and excitement experienced by the young people who have come to the events we have run, and the remarkable similarities between what these children create, learn and value from becoming a part of this community, and taking part in these events.

Here are a couple of videos from the events we ran in New York City and in Berlin earlier this year:

And if you cannot speak German, then switch on captions to watch this one:

You can read the round-up from both events here and here, and in November we are running an event with GitHub in San Francisco, details here

YRS{E} in 2014

We have learned a *lot* during the process of planning, partnering and running these events around the world, and have now come up with a scalable plan for 2014, again we will see if it works before rolling it out beyond 2014; but here is how we see it working…

There will be two options for running a YRS event where you live:

Option 1

If you are an organisation that is used to running hack-style events, then we would provide you with a pack detailing how to run a YRS event, create a registration page and microsite on our website for registering the young people and mentors and an MOU on how the event should be run, our values and our brand guidelines.

We will alert the worldwide young coding community when and where the event is taking place, and provide social media cover during the weekend.

This would not have a cost associated with it, but you would need to raise local sponsorship to cover event costs like venue, food, AV/wifi, publicity and prizes.

There will be options to get more from us, like weekly skype calls and community reach to young programmers, but these would incur a small charge in order to cover the central staff costs and time.

Option 2

We would work with partners in-country to assist with full delivery of the event, and would fly out a team for the week to actually run it. This would be a far more hands-on partnership for us with the regional teams and would suit those organisations who want to host a local Young Rewired State event, but are not used to running hack events.

This would carry a fixed cost of £20,000 for the work the dedicated central team will do, and include all costs including flights, accommodation, food etc. In addition to this fee, you would still need to raise local sponsorship to cover event costs like venue, food, AV/wifi, publicity and prizes.

America and Europe

As we have successfully run these events this year in America and Europe, we are also looking at raising central funding in the form of Grants, partnerships and central sponsorship that may well enable us to cover some of the costs ourselves; and so the above two options would become cheaper or even free, over time and in certain regions.

The Festival of Code

At each event we have run, the young people all expressed a desire, no an absolute need, to take part in the annual Festival of Code, run every year in the first full week of August. We are currently looking at the logistics of doing this, so watch this space – we will have worked it out by the time we are in San Francisco, and I will of course blog about it!

I shall leave the last words with Nadine (a YRSer from New York) and Ashley (a mentor from Code for America)

Want to run Young Rewired State where you are?

Contact hello@youngrewiredstate.org and speak to either myself, Kait or Ruth about what happens next…

Assange, Swartz, Manning, Snowden: you get it, right?

A fundamental part of being a human nowadays is that if you don’t really understand something, you are pretty certain that someone somewhere is an expert at it; and if it is a matter of global political discourse that many people know about it, and not only *it*, but all the tiny *its* that are a part of the big *it*, that obviously some University or other is studying, or has studied the facts for years and the next generations are far better equipped to deal with the complicated future. (I think I might just have stumbled on the formula for Radio 4).

We take heart from the academic inquisitiveness, so we don’t all need to know the nuts and bolts of what is causing us to have a slightly uncomfortable feeling – because the current and next generations are getting ever more clever and brilliant. Phew…

Assange

What: Wikileaks

Common understanding: publishing lots of things through a site called Wikileaks

Scary: because there is no control over what is being published

Phew: he is being held in a room in an Embassy in London and (weirdly) the government people went and oversaw (not sure if that is English) the destruction of the Guardian hard drives containing the information, which should be OK

Swartz

What: Committed suicide after being arrested for illegally downloading academic journals

Common understanding: young geek allegedly caught stealing/illegally downloading academic journals with a mind to publish them for free. His suicide was a nasty shock and no one can ever know why, but the court case and litigators were mighty, so that was probably tough for a young person

Scary: someone actually died

Phew: freely publishing academic journals, whilst wrong, does not sound like it threatens our security – this was just a single, and very sad, case

Manning

What: leaked restricted documents

Common understanding: a US soldier released classified documents to Wikileaks

Scary: who knows what is in these documents

Phew: she (Manning has since changed sex, but this is unrelated) has been caught and punished

Snowden

What: leaked details of mass surveillance

Common understanding: US and UK government agencies can read our private email and messages

Scary: not sure we want government agencies of any country reading our emails

Phew: maybe they will intercept the terrorist emails and not illicit sexting, and someone will work out whether this is right or wrong – meanwhile Snowden has not been arrested yet so it is not something to be too worried about… but we had better be a bit more careful about the illicit stuff and what we say in emails “haha @jamesbond *just joshing* (please disregard this message)…”

Obtuse

I am being deliberately obtuse here to illustrate a point. If you are not news or politically minded, I could point to the completely baffling business models of modern day organisations: twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat – where is the revenue model? Someone obviously knows something, I mean of course there is an ad revenue in services such as Google, but *ha* I will not be caught out by those suggested ads so that won’t last. And I must protect everything I put on Facebook because Mark Z is going to sell my data to someone, which might mean I put my family at risk, so I had better just be very careful what I put on FB, and occasionally lie to wrong-foot those would-be thieves/burglars/bad people. (Also what I write in my emails in case the FBI is monitoring me).

Thank goodness, we cry, that we are from the last century and can reminisce fondly on our first experiences with computing. These digital kids, we can’t even begin to understand their world…

“… why I even have to get my son/daughter to help me dm someone on twitter… ha! Vine? I like mine bottled not digital… kids nowadays, they are the digerati!…”

But yet

  • in schools we do not teach children the basics of programming, the language of the digital world – this is changing next year in the UK with the introduction of coding in primary and secondary education so in 15/20 years time we will have lots of people grounded in the digital basics in the workforce
  • we stopped teaching programming in schools over 20 years ago therefore there is a huge generational gap in the mass market of people who actually have a grasp on the digital revolution
  • very few people worldwide actually understand and drive the digital direction, because it all happened so fast and generation upon generation assumed the education system was keeping up
  • there are more and more demands on a rapidly dwindling and ageing digital workforce by analogue institutions, trying to ram digital renaissance into creaking infrastructures
  • *those in charge* of the next generations, including us parents, make it our life’s work – no it is our duty – to limit, deny and restrict access to the digital world, that superhighway of paedophiles and porn because someone else will be educating them in all the stuff they actually need to know in this digital future, the educational and politically important stuff that someone else knows all about… right?
  • our kids spend their lives online, they need to get offline and play, take an interest in the real world (that world that drives stories such as Assange, Swartz, Manning and Snowden)

I hate to scare you, but the reality is that our children need to be online, our duty is to give them digital freedom to explore and learn. The rules are not yet made for digital citizenship, our children need to define, shape and abide by them. Not just in keeping safe. Not just in understanding whether Assange, Swartz, Manning, Snowden are right or wrong. Or whether a business based on reach of message to mass communities is a viable model. Or what open data really means.

The current drive to teach our kids to code is being built on a sand-bound argument of economy, but I challenge this. We need to actively find ways to educate our children and ourselves in the basics of the Internet, of information, of data, of sharing, of algorithms – computational thinking.

Because, if we don’t, an ever decreasing number of us will actually really understand, and an ever decreasing number of us will shape the future. And history has shown time and time again that this way madness lies.

Young Rewired State in New York

In July this year (2013) we brought Young Rewired State to Queens in NYC, to the Museum of the Moving Image. Have a look at what was built and the Eventifier synopsis of the event over on the Young Rewired State website.

But I wanted to just write a blog post about the more human elements of the hack.

The idea of taking Young Rewired State abroad came from being asked so many times to do so – I wrote a couple of blog posts about how we hoped to do this and now we have done it.

Did it work? YES!!

Did we find 50 coding kids in New York? YES!! More than 50 in fact but it still took a good 10 weeks to find them one by one, it was not easy

Did they understand Open Data and manage to build stuff with it? YES!!

What was more remarkable was that this event was *exactly like the first YRS event we ran in 2009*. Even the stuff they made. Even the kids lying about their age to get in! I love that… meet Ian McJohn age 12 (or 14 depends… watch right to the end) and one hell of a brilliant coder, articulate and destined for big things I say:

We were very blessed in New York with the very best mentors from Code for America and beyond to partners from Mozilla Hive and the local open data coding communities. We even had the lovely Robbie Clutton, one time colleague from the Guardian and YRS mentor from years gone by, now being fabulous in NYC. In this video, Ashley Williams talks about her own experience growing up as a developer and how important it is that things for communities like ours to exist for young coders. Ashley is ace and is coming to be a superstar judge at next week’s Festival of Code (we are very lucky), here she is:

One element of the YRSNYC event was that the UK kids were able to remotely mentor through the hashtag on twitter and the IRC room we had set up. Twitter was definitely not the US kids medium of choice, they all looked slightly horrified/disdainful that we suggested using it! But some were reluctantly persuaded… Facebook is definitely their preferred social channel, but ultimately the simplicity and dev-friendliness of IRC wins out every time. We will continue this joining up of the communities as we roll out YRS Everywhere across Europe and America.

The hacks that the kids produced are listed here and as you can see are hugely varied and inspired, and next year we are coming back to NYC to bring this community back together again in several areas across the city, once again connecting the local kids with their local city data and each other. Anyway, here is Zachary, one of the members of the Best in Show winning team (who will also be coming to YRS Festival of Code 2013 as a part of his prize):

And finally, how can I not mention the girls – we had a 50/50 split throughout the weekend, which was absolutely amazing, and we had not even tried – so thank goodness for that. I shall leave the last word to Nadine (I dare you not to smile with her)

Onwards now to the Festival of Code next week and then YRS Berlin in September…

We were only able to make YRSNYC happen due to sponsorship from SAP, Twilio and the New York City Trust, and partnership from the Museum of the Moving Image and Mozilla Hive. What we do is not for profit but does cost something. If you would like to sponsor our YRS Everywhere Mission please get in touch with me for details of impact and reach.

{young} Rewiring the States – starting in New York

Rewired State has been hosting Young Rewired State (YRS) for five years, finding and fostering children aged 18 or under driven to teach themselves how to code. YRS introduces these youth to open government data and to one another to create a worldwide community of young civic-minded people who are able to problem-solve and build digital things.

We are running a very exciting event in New York City this Summer: YRS NYC 29-30 June 2013 when we will invite 50 of NYC’s top young coders to work with a wide-range of professional programmers to build new digital prototypes and projects.

The teens will all take on open government data to create apps, algorithms, digital prototypes, widgets and websites that are relevant to themselves and their peers, and that address real NYC issues.

The weekend-long design challenge will take place at Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria—a pretty amazing space for young NYC hackers to come and build stuff and meet each other.

IMG_4487Rewired State alongside Mozilla Hive NYC and the Museum itself will host this weekend of exploration and hacking where our aim is to build a local community grounded in the power of programming in networks. It is the first of the International outposts of Young Rewired State that started in the UK in 2009 with 50 local coding kids and now represents 1000 young coders across the UK and celebrates its 5th annual Festival of Code this August in Birmingham, England.

Here’s how you can get involved:

1. Alert any teens (ages 14-18) you know  in New York (or who can commute to Queens for the weekend) and invite them to sign up on this page https://youngrewiredstate.org/yrs-everywhere/yrs-new-york-city

2. If you have experience or worked with open data and are a programmer or designer, sign up to mentor here https://youngrewiredstate.org/yrs-everywhere/yrs-new-york-city

3. Come and support these young NYC coders and see what they come up with: email us info@youngrewiredstate.org to attend the show and tell on the afternoon of Sunday 30th June 2013

4. If you are representing government or a civic organization and have data or challenges to contribute, contact kait@rewiredstate.org to discuss

We know from experience that finding the founding 50 is a hard, hard thing to do. So the very best thing you can do is to work as a worldwide hive mind to identify the young people who would most benefit from this event and the lasting community it creates.

Museum of the Moving Image photos

Funding for this project was provided by The Hive Digital Media Learning Fund in The New York Community Trust. We have a small amount left to raise to cover travelling costs for the young people, so if you would like to sponsor the event you can contact me through this site http://mulqueeny.wordpress.com/contact-me/

Young Rewired State – an update

For any of you who are unaware of Young Rewired State, here is a video from this year’s Festival of Code

To date we have made it our focus to find and foster every child in the UK driven to teach themselves how to code; to support them through community and peer-to-peer learning, and introduce them to open data, primarily open government data. If you would like to read up more on what we do and why, here is a White Paper written by Dominic Falcao, a student at York University.

So we have come far in the last four years and as we enter our fifth year we really are going hyperlocal and global – as I mentioned in a previous post.

Since that post I have had some very great discussions with developer communities in several regions outside the UK, including Berlin, Amsterdam, New York, Kenya and San Francisco – and the narrative has become more clear, why this is so important and how this very well could be the beginning of a game-changing, independent, worldwide community.

Let me explain…

The idea is to start as we did in 2009 in the UK with one weekend in a number of International regions. Find 50 local children, aged 18 or under, driven to teach themselves how to code, and introduce them to open government data in a traditional hack-style event. During these weekends these young programmers will be mentored by their local coding community, as they are in the UK, but as well, they are remotely supported by the worldwide members and mentors for YRS, through twitter hashtags and IRC channels.

If history can repeat itself over the following five years, each of these first 50 will continue to be mentored and add to their number, growing to 500 in five years, maybe more – and then becoming hyperlocal.

The dream is for a child in Berlin to find it completely usual to be supporting a child in New York, for example, with a local civic problem, or just in their learning. For them to grow up expecting and understanding open data and open borders. And almost more importantly to be forever a part of a worldwide community of like-minded people – never again coding alone.

The beauty of this network is that it is so local, we are working with established developer networks and organisations in all of the countries, and as these children become 19 they *typically* fold back into Young Rewired State as mentors. This is important as it creates a support network for teachers and educators worldwide that is so needed.

We work also in partnership with those organisations teaching young people to code, giving them somewhere to continue the learning through collaborative, peer-to-peer education that can scale according to talent and desire.

YRS Scotland

This weekend sees the very first of these hyperlocal events in the UK, with a group of young programmers in Scotland starting their YRS journey. You can follow the action and add your mentor support by following the hashtag: YRSSCO2012 on twitter.

I really do believe these children can actually change the world, and I am grateful to the huge community who have supported us in the UK and overseas to get to now.

We are run as a not-for-profit social enterprise. Here is how you can get involved

Parly Hack 2012

On the 24th and 25th November 2012 we are running a hack weekend for Parliament http://rewiredstate.org/hacks/parliament-2012. This is our second “Parly hack” and we have over 100 of the UK’s top developers (including 20% aged 18 or under from Young Rewired State) joining us.

Hack events in the UK have always played a vital role in helping government be open and transparent about what it is doing, and it is essential that this extends to what Parliament is doing too. Many people roll Government and Parliament up into one big ball of responsibility, and whilst it is right that this is so, there are also fundamental differences between the two bodies. Parliament has a video that explains this very clearly (ignore the target age group)

How Parliament works

For those not familiar with the hack day format, it is an event usually held over two days, where developers, designers and experts work with digital information to create prototype web or mobile apps, infographics, websites or widgets with a view to making that information more understandable by everyone. They are important because the people involved are working with facts, statistics and published information – there is no opportunity for spin or mis-direction. In these days of mistrust of anyone in power, these events and communities underpin democracy and have a big role to play in rebuilding trust between citizens of a country and its elected populus.

If you watched the video you will understand the major differences between Government and Parliament, if you didn’t the highlights are thus:

  • Government is made up of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet and is responsible for running public sector departments – choosing how to raise and spend money from the taxpayer
  • Parliament is made up of the House of Lords, The House of Commons and the Monarch – so Government is a part of Parliament
  • Crucially, Parliament is the highest legislative authority of the land, making and revising most the laws in the UK
  • Parliament also scrutinises Government and its actions

Consider your Member of Parliament (MP), they can raise questions on your behalf and get answers, they can also ask difficult questions of Government Ministers in their capacity as an MP. As can the House of Lords.

So if the communities of people who attend open data hack events only focused on the Government in the UK, they risk only getting half the answer, and providing easy access to information that is only made available through Government – and miss the information that Parliament holds on any given topic. Needless to say, scrutiny of those in Parliament is as important as that levelled at Number Ten and the Cabinet.

This year Parliament has been enthusiastic about joining in on this hack day, to the point that not only are they ensuring we have access to as much information as they can release, they are also opening access to the Annunciator data.

The annunciator service gives information about parliamentary proceedings, including live feeds from the Commons and Lords Chambers and Westminster Hall, on television screens throughout the parliamentary estate.

We have been keen on getting this for a while, simply because we can not only help open up Parliamentary procedure more easily with this access, but we can also create assets for MPs and Parliamentarians, to make their lives more easy too. Making pages such as this more alive http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/business/divisions/

And so we begin our plans for Parly hack 2012, hand in hand with Parliament and the developer community; with a view to continuing the trend for transparency – and making information relevant and understandable for everyone. At the same time we are supporting the (continuously cut) public sector employees who struggle to have the time and resources to do it on their own, however committed they are to openness.

If you would like to attend the Show and Tell to see what is made at Parly hack, sign up here http://rewiredstate.org/hacks/rsparly-2012-show-and-tell

Parliament Hack is taking place as a part of Parliament Week.

“… consider it a Braxton Hick…”

I find myself tweeting the evening after a hack weekend we have just run for the Department of Education in the UK under the self-explanatory hashtag #pupildata. I tweeted this to a teacher disappointed on a Sunday evening that he could not interact with the data used to produce these prototypes. Who said teachers were in it for the great hours and holidays?

Braxton Hicks for those who are not aware is a false feeling of labour that women feel late in pregnancy, sometimes implying impending delivery, sometimes not!

His frustration is shared by the developers who did manage to attend the event, a hack weekend thwarted by so many foreseen and unforeseen challenges – who KNEW that the fact that the Wimbledon final would be on the Sunday afternoon and coincide with Show and Tell would actually be a serious issue for the UK devs and public servants? This plus the:

  • Grand Prix
  • Gay Pride
  • Bar Camp
  • Mozilla event
  • Google event
  • Nike 10k

All in London, all this weekend. Challenging…

This weekend’s hack was on the National Pupil Database, a dataset that does divide opinion but is important whichever side of the fence you choose to set your hat. It is important to every child, parent, teacher and futurologist. So we tried to bring a good representation of those groups to the room but by far the group most represented were the under 18s, the very pupils whose data this was. Agreed this is probably skewed by the fact that I asked YRSers to come along, but welcome to the future, in my opinion people expect to be able to access their data and to do what they want with it – no matter their capabilities.

It is sensitive, but we only worked on anonymised data – and the restrictions on its use were such that the trusted people in the room working on it were also there as protectors of the data. No one, believe me, no one wanted to be able to identify students through the data. And they tried, they tried just to see if they could – I can understand that.

Most notably the under 18s went straight for the: “Can I find me” hacks. One thought he had managed to identify himself because he had achieved an A* in an uncommon subject and could search his own school results and filter by A* “uncommon subject” and try to remember the rest of his GCSE results. He thinks he found himself in the database but he is not 100% sure.

Was he bothered? No, but he wanted more data, because if he  (and let’s remember FF ten years and this will be the norm) could find out the information about himself, he could compare himself to others.

Well, through collected results he could.

His first question was: how can I find other data to quantify some of these numbers? I was not in the country at this time, my stats are borked… ’twas ever thus with education assessment, no? But open data brings us true opportunity to break this open.

On the subject of identity, one 18 year old was keen to point out that if they removed the school identifiers, this would disable individual identification – is this perhaps the answer?

But the story is not in what was discovered in the data at this hack day, the story is simply that the old alchemy works – still. Allow data, information, truth if you like, to be the central theme. Breathe some life and time into it with people who are artists, information artists (bit wanky but you know what I mean), to try to draw stories from the data and see what can help inform or cause.

Add pizza and Haribo and a time limited period.

That’s a usual hack day formula and this was running steadily, if a little faster than most, down that route. But this time we chose to remove the competitive element that usually defines a hack day, you can’t compete over pupil data discovery – bit sick – so we in RWS bought a load of MiFis and Geek Manifestos for everyone taking part. Making it a non-competitive show and tell helped us focus on what this is really about: what’s the story here?

The story was very clear. This data is interesting. Who knows what tales it tells, if any. As Zoe so rightly showed through the medium of sheep, collecting data is pointless just in and of itself, it only becomes useful when you explore it – obviously, right?

Closed and restricted access offers a very tantalising glimpse into its riches. Nothing to do with identity. No hunting grounds to be found in this anonymised data.

Restricted access was a bit of a beast but not insurmountable. In fact, honest appraisal at the end of 36 hours of programming meant that the department was shown a magnifying glass reflection of the state of its collated information. The geeks had begun to make sense of it, in an attempt to create prototypes and visualisations and were in no way deterred, in fact so much so that they were already working hard to make it better and easier for parents/teachers/other kids to understand and that in itself is a win.

Did the Department for Education get a shiny app happy hack day? No

Why not? Access to the data was very restricted

Was this right? Yes

Should further work be done and the data open? Yes

Here is our Easter Egg:

The Sec of State for Education: Michael (divides opinion) Gove, came to the hack day show and tell. He was given an opportunity to get out of it, when we realised that the hack day was not going to result in happy, shiny, popcorn prototypes we sought direction on how we play this. Do you really want to leave the sofa and the tennis to see that we couldn’t do much? We will do a video and show you on Thursday, sorry… we tried :/ etc etc

I have to tell you, my face could not have been more gobsmacked when we were told that regardless of the out we had given him, legitimately: Wimbledon final, Nike 10k, Grand Prix, data is a bit crap the outputs are not so shiny and you might be a bit bored by geek speak… he had decided to come. I have a sneaking suspicion that even the civil servants were surprised by this – he was on his way…

Normally this would be a big thing, well… a thing anyway. But on a Sunday afternoon when everyone has had about 2.5 hours of sleep, everything has conspired against any hope of shinyness, the only way is to crack on, basically and make good with what we have.

The best I could make with the people I had at the Hub Westminster this afternoon was to have a chat. How often do you get a Sunday afternoon with Cabinet Office civil servants, departmental civil servants, Special Advisers, Press Officers, Geeks (under 18), Geeks (over 18), parents, open data enthusiasts, people who just thing it is interesting and the Secretary of State for Education… there are under 25 people in the room… a great leveller.

We needed a chat, not a scripted chat, just – a chat.

Respect was the name of the event

Respect for the data and respect for each other. And so we all welcomed the SoS for Education with respect, although I think a few kids ran (literally) when they saw him, not through celebrity awe, rather a clock that started ticking the minute he walked in, they knew presentations were on and like anyone who gives a shit, performance time is mighty and preparation really important.

And without wanting to seem really wanky, I think he met us on that common ground. He was not watching the tennis, he was here even though we had given him a really easy “out”, and lets face it, he is a politician, he knows this is not going to be an automatic breeze, there is a very real risk that he could be on the spot this afternoon.

He pitched in, chatted to everyone, did not stand on ceremony (those not in the civil service will think this normal, it’s not  – especially on a Sunday afternoon). <- I have worked with many Ministers, this is very unusual.

Whilst Murray fought on the Wimbledon courts, a far more dull, tedious and tiny conversation was taking place. But it affects every pupil in this country, and I think that it is for this reason, probs for his son who was chillaxing in front of the match in PostCodesomething, that Michael Gove rocked up. Not only did he rock up, but he stayed, he talked and he listened. Properly.

Look, this is as astounding to me as it is you, OK? I do not agree with _some/many/most/no idea of the stats_  no *some* of his policies, but the man is a good Minister and a good person because he did not do the usual Ministerial thing of sweeping in and out of an event with no interest or engagement.

You can be a good person as well as have some dodge policies, right?

In a democracy being fully briefed is half the battle, having receptive politicians: the other half (I too am surprised at my typing tonight)

Is democracy not about having people represent us and helping those representatives understand our point?

Well… I think/hope, we will see <- you see how shattered and fragile my illusions are, but you know what, I have no reputation to salvage, nor brand to represent and so I am probably the most obvious yet unlikely candidate to voice what we were all saying after he left (two fricking hours, not sure I ever got that with any other Minister!):

Michael Gove is a good man – in a democracy you need that – someone who will take time out to go to an event with no press whatsoever to see what is happening within his department and with information he ultimately controls, on a Sunday afternoon, when he could have sacked it all off.

I am speechless.

Edit 11th July 2012 Here is the official video, see for yourselves

You are not a bell-end

In a world where I could blog daily about dull annoying things, here is a good one:

1. Went to Cannes during film festival (by accident)

2. Saw some amazing stuff

3. Resisted buying a Marilyn Monroe Festival de Cannes poster

4. Decided life would never be the same without 2012 Festival de Cannes Poster on wall at home

5. Found/bought poster

6. Lost poster/left poster at airport security

7. Got mate’s husband (BA pilot) to arrange extravagant plot to release poster from Nice airport security, utilising email written in French and drafted by mate from Uni (now headmistress of an International school in Belgium)

8. Mission failed

9. Found contact deets and emailed amazing restaurant opposite poster shop in Cannes – I ate there twice, of course they remember me

10. Traded a new Cannes 2012 poster for a review of my supper and a promise to eat there forever more (when in Cannes – go here Le Chaperon Rouge 17 rue Saint Antoine)

11. Poster turned up today

Lesson:

  • be open
  • never give up

More anon

Trust – some thoughts

Yesterday I posted a tweet that said this:

Trust is an under-rated value metric that defines so much of what we do, I think. Trust in your own decisions, plus other peeps/orgs

This was after being at a point in my life and with the organisations I am trying to scale at the moment, and how my lack of trust in myself was driving some of the decisions that I later regretted because I should have trusted my own abilities.

Followed by a small crisis of self where I questioned whether I just had trust issues, and so I did a little drawing of those I would trust with my life, my children, my house, my business, my decision-making process and for advice. I found that actually I had a very broad base of people who I trusted without question – and actually I naturally chose to trust people initially, only withdrawing faith when burned.

I am relieved about this, and it was an interesting thing to consider when I thought about organisations and institutions and how they design services – and how they design services in the main with a lack of trust – but that things were changing and so on. Open data, open organisations, all the things I like to think about, indeed live.  It was an interesting thought process anyway – feel free to ponder on!

Today

So today broke with a letter from Hackney Council with a parking violation fine, with photos, from my old car that I had presumed was safely in locked storage in Ripley, Surrey, indeed I had declared it SORN last April. This triggered a series of events that progressively eroded my newly found trust in trust and still lingers on as I write, with a continuing saga of ever-more ridiculous and illogical happenings.

Stop reading here if you just want to navel-gaze trust – from here on is a little bit of a venting post…

What happened before today:

1. I had a car that I was choosing not to drive any more as it had had a tiny crash :), it was super-expensive to run yet was not worth losing my no-claims bonus for and so I wanted to keep it, but not do anything with it for a little while as it was a classic, not worth much but a classic all the same

2. I went to the garage I had traditionally bought all my cars from and explained I wanted a small, practical car and was no longer going to be driving the *dinged* beast (they sold me the beast in the first instance)

3. They asked if I wanted to leave it in their lock-up, said the lock-up was huge and they didn’t mind but it would be officially off-road until I decided what to do with it – I trusted them and believed that they meant the words they spoke

4. I bought another car from them, gave them the keys to the beast and went on my merry way – I trusted them and showed my ongoing trust by buying another car from them

5. Several months later, I decided I would go get the beast and do something with it, now I had some time

6. The garage told me that I was not allowed to have the beast back, that they had taken it upon themselves and had fixed it and were hoping to sell it for £1995

7. They said that I could have the beast back if I paid them £860 for the work they had chosen to do, or I could sell it to them for £300

8. I called the police

9. The police said it was a civil matter until and unless the garage actually sold the car they could do nothing. They recorded the details and gave me a reference number, but said I should keep them posted and alert the DVLA

10. I explained to the garage that I was not paying the ransom, that I had reported this to the police and I expressly was not allowing them to sell the car for any amount, let alone £1995

11. They then said that they would sell it to recoup their costs in fixing the car – a job I had not commissioned, they had not asked permission to do. I said they were not allowed to sell it, they said they would scrap it then and so on and so forth (with swears) Imagine if that happened to you when you popped your car in to get the starter motor fixed, or sommat. When you go to collect it they tell you that they have popped a new engine in (without asking) and it would cost you xxx to get the car back, they sell your car and… or if it was your house, and a roofer came and fixed your roof without asking then sold your house to pay his bill – you see where I am going…

—–  a brief pause in the story, I chose to not continue the row, it was a stalemate, the police couldn’t help, I was not keen on fisticuffs at dawn with a used car salesman so I decided just to leave it all until it was thrust in front of me again, as I knew it would be ——-

And so here we are today. This car that they said that they would scrap, that I still own, was photographed in Hackney at 08:08 on the 27th January 2012. I had declared it SORN, as far as I knew it was in a lock up being held ransom when all that had happened was they had offered to keep it in their lock up, with no time period or charges.

I called them, no response, and then called the police and then this happened:

1. The police said that it was horrific but that it was a civil matter and until they sold the car, no criminal offence had taken place, but a civil one had and told me to contact the CAB

2. The garage *texted*(!) to say that they had sold the car

3. I called the police and said that they had now claimed to have sold the car so it was now a criminal offense right?

4. They said it was still a civil matter and could I call the CAB and DVLA

5. I called DVLA who said that someone had taxed the car but that it was still legally in my name

6. The CAB said that it was a criminal matter but referred me to Consumer Direct to see what advice they had

7. Consumer Direct said that it was theft, therefore a criminal matter and I had to go back to the police but that they would report the garage to Trading Standards, but were keen to emphasise that they wanted me to keep them in the loop

8. Meanwhile the garage was now sending me text messages saying that they were transferring a debt to the bailiffs for the cost of them fixing my car (without my permission) and storage of the car(!) ending with a final text that told me to f*** off and they would see me in court

9. I called the police again and they are having a little think and said they would call me back

So now, my trust is eroded. I have no faith that anything will happen by anyone. The car people who had my regular business over more than three cars and the justice system, which seems to be so lily-livered that they cannot see this series of events for what they are because, presumably, they do not trust that what I say is true – even though I have raised the same story officially over many months and have a car that is legally mine, being sold (maybe, who knows) or at least driven without my permission.

If you apply this abuse of trust to any situation, any property and see the chain of events, then it is clear that this car is stolen. It was held to ransom and now stolen. But no one can work from a basis of trust with me, that what I say is true.

And my own trust in people has caused this whole situation to occur. Had I been less trusting and insisted on written agreement that they were taking my car for an unlimited period for no money, signed and so forth I may have a better hope of proving all this. But even then, this can all be faked can’t it? I imagine I would still be in a terrible situation.

Meh – that’s off my chest, but yes – trust, for me it is going to be an issue for a while. And if I end up in court over this as the defendant, which you can completely understand may well happen, then bring me twiglets in jail.

*update to post* 06/02/12

The Police have been in touch over the weekend, which was very diligent of them. They have spoken to the person in question at the garage and say that he is basically claiming that he sold it because I had left it there so long and that he had repeatedly asked me to take it away. Half true, he had said that I could have my car back if I either sold it to him for £300 or paid for the work £860 he decided to have done to it in order to sell it. He had not been in touch with me at all in between the break down of those discussions and me being sent that photo of the car violating a parking order, during which time he decided to sell the car.

So, basically: I had not paid his ransom, so he sold my car – blaming me for leaving it there, but he would not allow me to take it away! Crazy

Luckily I had kept all text discussions with him and have turned these over to the police so that they can see for themselves. They have said that these messages do back up my side of the story but there is still no way to prove intent. So the police can do nothing. They say that he has clearly broken civil law and that I should instruct a solicitor and take him to court.

Kidnapping a car must be illegal.

Anyhow, another point. I have been inundated with appalling stories of other people, many far more vulnerable than me, being taken advantage of in similar fashion and I know that I am moaning about a very small thing that I could have ended by just paying the guy some money. Some of the horror stories I have read and heard are so sad and make me very angry, but makes it all the more essential that I try to stand up against this. But anyway 1. I did not have the money to pay him. 2. It was a principle.

The question now is do I name him?

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