Bring out the Windsor and Newton, I need to paint…

Huge apologies to those waiting for me to write up the discussion on Thursday. It will come, next week, it will be useful and yes… you can play too.

In the meantime, the questions that I have been sent privately suggest that my presumed awareness of website rationalisation and transformational government might be a little skewed.

The official documentation can be found by Googling the two terms, and maybe downloading a couple of PDFs, but the following is an explanation *MY OWN PERSONAL VIEW ONLY* of why it is important background to how we consult policy development in the future, and hence: the changing face of e-democracy… and why it is a part of what I am trying to do.

(My qualification for writing about this comes from the period of time I worked with Alex Butler *formidably good* and Andrew Stott *formidably mathematical* communicating the practical requirements of the policy across Whitehall).

Essentially, transformational government contains a piece about the online world: given the handle of website rationalisation. Website rationalisation has sub-divided itself  into rationalisation and convergence.

Website rationalisation is simply: reducing the number of websites government uses to disseminate information.

Website convergence is (I am not going to say simply) migrating the content out there onto the three proposed ‘golden’ destinations:

  • Directgov: for citizen information
  • for business from SMEs to large corporates
  • Departmental sites: for stakeholder/’corporate’ information (central department sites only, non-departmental public bodies NDPBs are required to associate themselves with their ‘owners’)

There are more, NHS, Police etc but they are exceptions. Stick with the simple version…

In theory, this is a good thing: it simplifies how government delivers information, helps us members of this democracy find the information we need and it will eventually reduce cost.

All of this needs to be complete by end March 2011.

So for us, it’s good!

For departments it is more challenging as it does mean that every website needs to be audited, carved up and re-delivered through the three agreed channels.

I cannot hope to give the number of websites we are talking here, but there are many 🙂 please forgive my reticence to quote numbers, I know I will only be proved wrong!

Again, in theory, this is simple: audit the sites, audit the information, de-duplicate: re-deliver.

The challenge comes when policy units need to consult, to engage with us and find out what we think. Can using such a remote version of e-delivery work?

The challenge is already here. The people working in departments across Whitehall and the UK are now, have been and will be consulting on policies they are charged with developing over x number of years, and the Internet is a key tool for doing so. Take away the policy unit’s website and… how can this be done?

Well, the choice right now is the departmental website: until Directgov is able to offer consultation tools (not knocking DG, this is a biggy).

But… what if we were to look at this as white space? The information that we all need to know in any circumstance will, by 2011, be delivered through the three approved government arms. (Tempted to go Ganesha on the arms thing, but, let’s not.) Departments have time to streamline the corporate sites.

So is this an opportune moment to look at better ways of getting peoples’ opinion on policies in development?

My gut says yes. The temperature in the department I work for says yes. Hence all the fuss.

I will bring you details of the discussion last Thursday and will show you where you can play and what you can do if this matters to you.

Hoping that helped…


I seem to have written that as the subject line of a great many emails today! So why not a post?

On Thursday, 4th December 2008 – midday, I am hosting a meeting, wrong handle…, hosting a ‘thing’, about how departments will consult policy online and how we might help policy groups choose the most effective channels available (in light of transformational government) to engage/inform (gulp).

The background to why this event is happening is:

  • that online communication has moved on at a speed that organisations/public sector would struggle to keep up with
  • adoption of social media as a communication tool in the digital world has been aggressively successful
  • transformational government: website rationalisation

The problems we are looking to address are:

  • how can those involved in developing policy in this democracy ensure that they can engage effectively online with those people either affected by or interested in that policy
  • what are the most effective channels for digital engagement in the ‘website rationalised’ world

This started as a very small discussion amongst those I knew in the public and private sector who were great at this kind of thinking, an informal chat that would offer up some interesting grist for our overworked mill. I blagged favours and felt rather chuffed that I had so many great people agree to come.

It has grown into much more than that, as obviously there is much interest in this, and it is a huge opportunity not to be wasted: having so many stonkingly brilliant people together in the same room for two hours.

Why am I posting? Why do I want help? Well, I thought that those of you who read this blog are obviously also interested in this kind of stuff and thought that it would be a bit rude not to include you.

So, two things, send me, by email or post here:

1. Questions/thoughts that you think we need to address in such a meeting

2. Ideas/links to innovative ideas you have on consulting policy online

Special thanks to Sarah Goulbourne and Will Jones from Tom Watson‘s office for helping at the last minute with a suitable venue; Oli Barrett for an invaluable telephone conversation about tips on getting the most value out of this session; Steve Moore for offering his facilitation skills; Mitch Sava for agreeing to present and Tiffany St James for focusing my mind (as ever).

Hermione Way –

I have heard a lot about, the brainchild of the delicious Hermione Way of and featuring the very clever Michael Acton-Smith and beautifully coiffed Oli Barrett, amongst many others. However, as is often the case, by being around the people involved, reading the Tweets (shudder) and Facebook updates I felt as if I was fully informed without even watching the damn thing. (Silly me).

Then I watched it, what a crackingly brilliant piece of journalism. Please do go and watch it, I suspect Hermione will be the receiver of many gifts from now on as people enveigle their way onto the web’s most sexy and quirky channel for ‘the hottest entrepreneurs, start-ups, events and news straight from the London tech scene’.

Blogging sin update: cannot believe that I had no idea Josh March was also involved in and feel like a complete idiot for not knowing. Apols 😦

*sigh* so Wired says blogging is dead

If you have not read it yet, here is the offending article:

I say offending because actually the article seems dated in itself. So now apparently the clever people tweet and facebook their way in the world.

Facebook has been around for eons now in the ‘Web 2.0’ world, and it’s great – for some stuff. So has twitter – relatively (although I have a well-documented difficult relationship with twitter and how it integrates into my own space).

Blogging now is deemed too ‘2004’

Blogging won’t go away, in the same way that TV did not replace radio.

Blogging enables all of us to read the thoughts of those we may not be lucky enough to meet. And enables free sharing of ideas.

If egos and the need to be bleeding edge prevents people/you blogging their/your thoughts, then shame on them/you.

Please keep posting, blogging and sharing and try not to be too influenced by what is deemed *cool*


Friday funnies – probably more amusing if you know Oli Barrett

Woke up this morning to a sea of fog, cold and feeling end-of-weeky. On Fridays I try to catch up with Oli’s speed networking around the globe – in preparation for Global Entrepreneurship Week – on his blog he posts videos and musings from his recent capers and it is fascinating and usually inspiring to read.

With this in mind I rather blearily watched and read through a few of his latest posts, then he did this to me.

Really pant-wettingly briliant way to start a Friday – shocking Spanish with terrribly English pronunciation and occasionally… er terribly English English. Oli does find it equally amusing and explains how come he happened to be in this position here.

Enjoy, happy weekends, all.

I am going to this – Barcamp overspill or somesuch

After a hectic Summer of Barcamps, festivals, general jolly get-togethers for all people who either crush on geeks or love social media and want to learn more – I find myself rather reluctantly signing myself up for one last hurrah (for this year).

Why reluctant? Because it is a Saturday and I love my daughters and want to see them (and make sure they do their homework).

Why sign up? Because I need to know this stuff. Speaking to these people and being around those that are passionately involved in this stuff enables me to do my job better. Read this post from Tom Steinberg of My Society to explain why the people who go to these things to share their knowledge are so important to amateurs like me. (P.S. It is Tom’s birthday tomorrow, knowing Tom S. as vaguely as I do I am sure that he would be delighted by a deluge of well-wishers :))

So, I will be there (sorry Jess and Amy – I love you x)

Do please come and find me if you are there too.

Damn that blogger’s block – but here’s to the value of friends

I have been side-swiped by a debilitating, bibical-sized dollop of blogger’s block. By that I mean I am no longer inspired, or driven, to write something here that has any value for you. It is killing me, because I love writing, and I (sadly) somehow validate myself (think I have a brain) when I write something and you lot (a) read it (b) respond. Then I feel as if I have shared and perhaps helped/inspired/deluded/anything…

So I am stuck in this vacuum of consciousness, driving myself insane.

Being me, I keep nothing to myself and have bemoaned my state of mind with many a friend and colleague – those who blog and those who do not. Those who do not look slightly bemused and pat me on the back, or buy me a drink. Those who do, look at me in horror, and sympathise. (And then there is Tiff, who is always an inspiration and just makes me feel fabulous whatever I do… lovely lady that she is).

Most recently, today in fact, Beth Kanter – with whom I have been in an email discussion across the pond about bringing her brilliant mind here to help us in the public sector with effective online engagement using social media tools. She sent me the information on the Digital Media and Learning competition, for which I thanked her profusely as it meant I could write a post about something both useful and interesting to my fellow bloggers. (Of course I also moaned about my block).

Within minutes I received sympathy in buckets (email) and a link to her own post about this, with some brilliant and helpful links.

So, I am sharing that with you – and going for a run.

Oooh opportunity to dig your best bloggers

Announcing the Digital Media and Learning awards (see below for a definition of participatory learning). This is primarily a Stateside reward, however, they have opened up the Innovation award to an International audience. Here is the copy I received:

$2 Million Competition
Focus: Participatory Learning

Participatory learning is defined broadly: using new digital media for sharing ideas or planning, designing, implementing, or just discussing ideas and goals together.

Application Deadline: October 15, 2008

Full information at:

The second HASTAC/MacArthur Digital Media and Learning Competition is now open!

Awards will be made in two categories:

Innovation in Participatory Learning Awards support large-scale digital learning projects

This year we are piloting international eligibility for our Innovation Award and will be accepting submissions from primary applicants in Canada, People’s Republic of China, India, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands,Nigeria, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States; collaborators can befrom anywhere in the world.
Young Innovator Awards are targeted at U.S. applicants aged 18-25 year olds

(You can find out about last year’s winners at

Full information at:

Have a little think. I am pretty sure there are some bloggers out there you know who deserve to be recognised.

(I wish I had flipping well finished my toolkit! On which note, Steph Gray and I met and we are going to be working on a decision tree for deciding which tools would best service your online digital engagement needs. When we have done it, we will share, of course!)


Three most inspirational communicators

James Barbour, God bless the man, has tagged me to name my three most inspirational communicators – continuing the challenge laid down, very cleverly, by Andrew Wake of New Wave PR.

I hate things like this as it makes me very competitive, I want to name the cleverest ones, astound everyone with my brilliance and all that.

So, instead, I made a cup of tea and thought up the following:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Sadly he does not have a blog, and if he did it would be musical manuscript therefore might not pass the accessibility standards of today. However, he is the only musician I can think of who consistently changes my emotional state after listening to him – therefore inspirational.

The people who write the slogans at the Puccino’s coffee outlet

Cheer me up every morning, even though I know them all off by heart. Occasionally they attempt the odd motivational slogan,  but more often than not, they are just brilliantly witty and make me laugh (and we all need a bit of that in our lives).

My friend Tiffany St James

She still has no blog despite my many and varied attempts to get her to share herself. She has two businesses: Stimulation Ltd and Inspiring Eve. She is an astoundingly good professional communicator, as I am sure anyone who knows her will concur. She inspires all of her friends, me included, and is the only person I know who fits the bill of inspirational communication. She rocks 🙂

So that is that, am off on the school run and commute, will delay the publishing of this for a few hours to see if I chicken out and want to be clever 🙂

Right… who gets the joy of doing this next?

Jenny Brown (who I know will be really clever)

Laura Whitehead (who will be fascinating)

Mark O’Neil (who will make me laugh out loud at his choices) And no you cannot nominate Boing Boing 🙂

Social media toolkit: I have been complicating things far too much

Any of you following my blog posts recently will have seen my vague attempt to create a simple social media toolkit for people to use in order to join in the fun.

Whilst on holiday in Kenya, I spoke to lots of people about the stuff I do, particularly this:

Many of them considered themselves novices in all things web, and certainly thought that Web 2.0, or social media, was beyond them (except for Facebook, of course!). So, over many suppers with a variety of people I explained that it was not a thing, rather a more effective use of online communities – and your interaction with them. (I am a fascinating guest).

The theory behind your web presence is no different:

1. What are you wanting to do?

2. Who are you doing it for?

Now you need to find out where the communities are that exist online already. At this point I recommend you use a listening service such as Addictomatic. (In a previous post I have explained how to use this – although it is really simple so you don’t need to read the post unless you love my prose so much you can’t get enough – understandable of course :))

Once you have spent some time listening, finding the places where your target market are already conversing and collaborating, you can then begin to join in the discussion. This will enable you to really understand how you can effectively meet the needs of your audience and refine your own offering online accordingly.

At the same time as doing this, you are establishing a solid piece of online real estate – proving that you are not just shoving stuff out there. People will begin to recognise you if you join in the conversations online, (the simplest way of doing this is by commenting on blogs – yes it is that simple).

Finally, you need to start your own conversation.

An example

Let me run through the Soy Sambu conservancy online offering:

Kat Combes, the Director of the conservancy, had set up a website and was looking to start a blog to:

  • raise awareness of what the conservancy was doing
  • attract funds
  • share experience and learn from others

Kat is web savvy, however considered setting up and running a blog way beyond her abilities. In fact the more she googled, the more scared she became. I sat with her for about an hour and ran through Addictomatic and WordPress; showed her how I manage my own blogs and how simple it actually was – even for the technically impaired like myself. We then created the conservancy blog and I walked away. Kat has since then played extensively and here is the fruit of her labour:

Now, the blog will stay pretty much as it is, whilst Kat ‘listens’ using Addictomatic and a variety of key words. However, please do comment and send links to any other websites that you think would be good to look at, and keep an eye on how it grows from here (on the conservancy blog of course not here!).

Whilst talking about the conservancy site, Graham Vetch – the manager – spoke about how the conservation was not just about the land and animals, but also about the people living there. How part of the challenge was to take the indigenous people from poverty to self-sufficiency. He is frustrated as he has many plans and is not sure where to start. Now this is where I believe blogging really can come into its own. We discussed how Graham could just throw his hat on the ground, sit down and start blogging about his plans  taking us with him on his journey.

Now this will achieve two things:

  1. Share a journey that could help numerous communities and community managers
  2. Give Graham access to feedback on his plans – enabling him to find out where to start and learn from others’ experience

I am very excited about this and as soon as we have set it up – I will show you.

So, the tool-kit?

Addictomatic and WordPress are the tools I recommend for the moment. However, it is less about the tools and more about changing the way you think about your online presence – use the community, share your knowledge, take people on your journey with you rather than simply talking about it after it is done.