Newspapers are dead long live journalism – or somesuch

Last night I watched a live stream thing on Frontline called: Media talk – Print online: making it pay. You can watch it here http://www.frontlineclub.com/club_videoevents.php?event=2387

It was good, so good that I have been thinking about it on and off ever since I watched it. The basis of the discussion was initially blogger vs desktop publishers. How the hell can we transfer the superb journalism supplied by print newspapers, to online? Alongside the question about whether blogging is a recognised form of journalism, and if so, how to make cash.

This was interesting, but what piqued my interest most was the argument about brand, and how valuable that can be. Paul (Guido) argued that although a print media brand: Telegraph etc might be strong, the value of Jeremy Clarkson, for example, is equal to if not more effective a ‘brand’ online. If people want fun news about cars, they will subscribe to JC (no pun intended), rather than any strongly branded offline publication about motoring, whether it is available online or not.

Made me think. I read the free newspapers (not represented at the talk, sadly) on the train, I read the online newspapers at work, and at the weekend I buy the Sunday papers to read all through the week. I subscribe to the blog feeds that interest me, and more recently those that interest you. This is enough, I make an active decision when buying the paper, signing to a blog feed or grabbing a Metro, but it has nothing at all to do with brand. At all.

So, this discussion was not so much about journalism, or print, or profitability, it was an exercise in ignoring the elephant in the room: the value of brand in this new great age.

Miliband and Hammersley… together at last

It has been an open secret that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has recently opened its arms and mind to Ben Hammersley – in my opinion, this is one of the single most important steps the department will take digitally, other than scoring Miliband as its Minister.

Something needed to happen to help government departments realise that online communication need not have a 1million pound plus IT tag attached to it. In the last four weeks, Paul Bute and Ben have managed to pull off Project Demophon (working title).

It is still in Beta therefore being tested – sorry for stating the bleeding obvious – taken to various board members and yet to see the light of the private office, but that is happening now, so forgive me for not actually sharing the url, it will come, be patient!

Here is what it does (copied from the Beta version Home page):

Demophon is the FCO’s online collaboration space. We use it to work on projects with partners outside government. It is based on a system called a wiki. A wiki is a website where the users can edit every page, and create new ones at will. At the top of every page is an “edit” link. Click on this, make your changes, and hit save. Your changes will be visible immediately.

If you are new to using Demophon then click on help. You can edit the help page too, so if you find a new thing to do, or a better way of putting it, please make changes. Feel free to play around in the Sandpit. Do not worry about making mistakes – every version of every page is automatically retained. You can roll-back changes with ease. Click on the History tab at the top of any page to see this. Confident wiki users might like to bookmark the cheatsheet.

Demophon is password protected for privacy, and all users are verified. Once verified, every user can see every page on Demophon. This is a good thing. It means that all information can be cross referenced, and we don’t need to reinvent stuff. Users are all those with an account and include colleagues in the FCO, partners across government, and partners outside government (including the media) who have been nominated by an FCO officer.

Only place UNCLASSIFIED material on Demophon – information that you are content to be in the public domain. If information is sensitive in any way (including ‘in confidence’ and ‘UBS’ material such as details of high profile visits or personal data such as telephone lists) it should not be placed on this space.

So far so good… but it gets better

Demophon provides the FCO’s first collaborative working space. It enables you to:

  • arrange meetings, visits and conferences: agree on location and dates and logistics, set the agenda, and write the reports collaboratively;
  • draft business plans collectively: if you hoard them on Word docs your stakeholders will complain they haven’t been adequately consulted;
  • share best practice: get your colleagues and partners to develop their own FAQs and link to best-of-breed examples;
  • produce real time project and political reporting: contribute to project updates and reports written by teams all over the world (including external partners);
  • manage crises: ensure all the information we need is in one place. Don’t put up with unconnected email strings;
  • keep up to date with contacts: update external (and internal) details as a team so that your QBP list is always up-to-date;
  • access your personalised feeds: keep up to date with what your contacts are doing via RSS without wasting time searching multiple websites;
  • (on non-Firecrest machines) use maps: ideal for managing fast moving crises/unfolding events.

It is not rocket science, but we all knew it was not hard – thanks Ben for making it happen H/T forever…

I know that it is frustrating hearing about something but not being able to go and play, but let’s give the guys a break, applaud the fact that this has been achieved and support its uptake across Whitehall and local government/third sector – (hurrah for them :))

Forget the posturing

After having rather huffily put down my pen after the UK Government web guidelines debacle, I checked my email.

Now it is no secret that I write the JusticeForTom site (it is not brilliant, but it will do). When I went to do the final email check before bed – I was a bit peeved about the guidance thing, and a bit scared that I may have upset some pretty important people (maybe) – I saw that I had a comment to approve in Tom’s blog.

Here is the comment (duly approved):

Hello Tom I’m Tony, I live in a remote rice farming community in Northeastern Thailand. My heart goes out to you and your family, I pray for you and send all the luck in the world. i too am a prisoner, I too am being made into a politically motivated example. I too have fed the poor and given my time by teaching in the local school, giving medicine and help to many poor and old people here in Thailand, but it mean nothing to a politically corrupt system as is Thailand’s. I am lucky not to be in prison, I’m a house prisoner, without my UK passport, but I face 15 years in the Bangkok Hilton. My crime was not paying the police for protection. They made up charges anyway, one was for not having a licence for a bird, a bird I saved from death. I hate to see free spirits like you being made into a political scape goat. I lived in Mombasa for a while, i’ve lived all over the world. They cannot take those memories from people like us. Close your eyes and fly out of there Tom.

Do you know my first thought? Is Thailand prisoner, can I trust them? What kind of bird? Human?

What a bad reflection on society and bias is that?

But how ace (H/T Ben Hammersley who think most things are ‘ace’) is that? Through this blog, one prisoner has reached out to another, neither of whom are convicted, both of whom could be you or I, talking to each other, through this WordPress blog.

I can say no more. Communication between experts, the experienced and the novices is already happening; if it can make this a better world to live in – hurrah.

geeKyoto – aftermath

Well, Saturday’s event was really quite stonking. I was not sure really what to expect, Mark and Ben had been a bit vague in their list of speakers, so I rocked up not knowing what the day held, apart from being surrounded by super-cool people.

What we did know was the theme: We broke the world, how can we fix it? A variety of speakers addressed this directly or indirectly, and over the past 24 hours of random reflection on the day, the answers seem to be (for me):

1. Rediscovering the simple joys of being with friends and of being in our natural environment. Adrian Hon & Naomi Alderman, talking up the Secular Sabbath (brilliant, brilliant idea – if a bit daunting), were the most compelling proponents of this. The basic objective being:

Turn off your mobile phone, stay away from the computer, ignore the TV, and settle back with a good book or a conversation with friends.

Those of you who know me, or have followed my recent de-cluttering exercise on this blog, will appreciate how much this idea intrigues me – but I need to work out how exactly I will do it and when – rubbish, hey?!

2. Determination and resolution to continue, even when it gets difficult: the keynote was Ben Saunders… a brilliant and eloquent speaker, inspirational and the rest, I am sure you can imagine. The challenge he set himself – to walk solo and unsupported to the North Pole – was really an exploration of his own ability: How far could he push himself? (And of course, the age-old knee-jerk reaction to being told that something is ‘impossible’).

Read his blog, it does a far better job than I ever could in explaining what he did and why, but his words were inspiring and he challenged us to test our own boundaries, take charge of the hours of life we had been given and to do something with them that pushed our comfort zone. I like that, I am not sure what it means for me – yet – but I will.

3. Collaboration – this is not news, but it seems to be gathering strength in practical ways: Open Source clearly being one, cross promotion of good ideas, events that are run specifically to encourage collaboration between all sectors. I cannot pick out a specific speaker to represent this, it was just a running theme.

4. Money – cool toys can be made, but they are expensive to make and therefore cost a lot to buy. Some people are already sharing some of their secret ingredients on Open Source, but others were not.

This created a bit of a stir, but quite frankly, it is all very well being noble and doing all of this great stuff to help improve the legacy of the world for our children, but you can’t do it for free. People need money to live, so that they can afford the time to spend designing, creating and selling all of this great stuff. You don’t have to be a martyr to the cause, if you have a great idea, do it, make money if you can, but find ways to give back/share as well, whether that be through Open Source, or reducing the carbon footprint in manufacture/delivery of said cool toy, having a pricing plan that brings down the cost over the years and enables everyone to benefit, regardless of financial status. Collaborate with other people in your field, or related to it.

Making money is fine, but best done with a fully operational social conscience.

I think that is it, well for me this is what I took from the day. As soon as Mark and Ben put up the video and other links from speakers I will ping back from here so that you can share the joy.

Come next year, you will like it.

geeKyoto

One evening at one of Steve Moore’s dos, I rather rashly agreed to speak for ten minutes at the geeKyoto event – having no idea what it was about, or indeed what I could bring to the party.

For those of you who are not aware of it, this is the point:

We broke the world. Now what?

Mark Simpkins and Ben Hammersley announce a one day conference in central London, with designers, technologists, artists, architects, policy-makers, explorers, economists and scientists, and clever people like you, to discuss the future and how we’ll live in it.

Mark and Ben duly listed me as a speaker (thanks boys) on the website (I begged to be taken off – duly removed, but now I want to go back on :)) – hey I am female!

Mitch Sava from Polywonk is also speaking, and I hope that we can collaborate as his area is policy – and we know each other a bit.

Ben wants something about the UKGovBarCamp, therefore I roped in Mr Gould, (sorry J), and sat down to think.

Bizarrely, musing here helps me shape my ideas, and any input from you would be greatly appreciated, either here or directly to my gmail account.

So… how to apply UKGovBarCamp and policy to fixing the world? (Social Media Superheroes)

What comes to mind, and excites me, is the collaboration between civil servants, consultants and policy people. This is where the energy lies in ‘getting stuff done’. For energy and determination is required, believe you me, to chip through the quagmire of bureaucracy that we work in, (I am sure this is not limited to the public sector).

The UKGovBarCamp successfully created a virtual world where collaboration has been enabled, and the ideas seeded and nurtured; however, there is a long way to go to affect that change in the reality of public sector life.

So, what I think I want to talk about is collaboration across diverse, and often adverse, sectors/talents. It is very much a case of the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak…

Hopefully, although the running script said that I will be speaking, it will actually be a co-voiced experience, with Jeremy, Mitch and myself.

Lord knows, but it will happen, and I would appreciate any thoughts… please 🙂