The background to the social media guidelines?

I happened upon this remarkable post during this evening’s search to cure insomnia. I have not yet graduated through my blogging career to the point where I just need to point to stuff that fascinates me and that says enough; however, on this occasion… go read, it’s great:

BTW, do click on the Enterprise Octopus link: he/she has an interesting life.

There seems to be a huge resonance with the recently published social media guidelines for UK civil servants.

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 :))

‘Citizen empowerment agenda’: how potentially cool is this?

… if there is enough enthusiasm, of course. And that will only come if this is looked at as something that can be developed collaboratively and we can help shape how it might best work, well, actually, I mean: create some way of doing this that will be used.

It is here: (ooh Ed aside (O/T), tiny got clever, they have an upgraded version)

Hazel Blears gives an impassioned introduction which is vehement in its acknowledgement of how important it is to harness the willingness of people to ‘get involved’ in government (true democracy) – something I am sure she sees much of, the people who go to meet her are obviously there for a purpose. (This does not reflect the general apathy in society, but it is enough for now).

I am pretty sure that the children pictured in the document would not be so keen on voluntarily spending time giving their much sought after opinion on government policy, no matter how easy we make it. Nor should they really. In my opinion, children should be allowed to be children, and teenagers teenagers &c &c. Of course we can ask, and enable those who do want to get involved to do so, and I am more than sure that what they have to say will be brilliant. (Am I a bit wrong if I envisage the scenes from the Sound of Music when the odd-looking Nazi kids (totally the fault of the film not me!) get all caught up in politics and try to affect their non-engaging co-patriots who are busy snogging and singing? Hmm thought so!)

HOWEVER, I love this policy. (By the way it is all part of the Governance of Britain (GOB) thing, which sounds mind-numbingly boring, but actually it is pretty interesting (when you get past the name). Jeremy Gould was involved in its development.)

I love it because it sits so perfectly with all of the social media people I have met recently at the UKGovBarCamp who really do care about this stuff. I cannot believe how many people there are, groups (not necessarily lobby groups) just impassioned people who believe in getting involved, helping and actually getting excited about the opportunities offered to us in this digital age.

So, to save you scrolling through 49 pages of explanation, here is basically what the citizen empowerment agenda is:

  • I can’t precis Ms Blears’ intro, you need to read it then come back for the rest if you need 🙂
  • Bearing in mind that it is based on the GOB Green Paper, you need to know this bit of it: It aims to give citizens the means of participating in decision-making at every level; to clarify the role of Government, both at central and local level; to rebalance power between Parliament and government and give British people a stronger sense of what it means to be British (FWIW: I do not agree with the importance of the second point but hey ho)
  • This paper is an action plan covering three areas:
  1. Widening and deepening empowerment opportunities locally
  2. Supporting and enabling people to take up empowerment opportunities
  3. Strengthening local representative democracy
  • In Summer 2008 there will be a review of this action plan, with a further plan set out thereafter (I know, I KNOW… these things take time)

Hope you don’t mind but I am just going to pick out the actions from point two, as that is the most relevant to making this a success IMHO. (The action plan is a little bit of a muddle, in that actually by doing points four and ten, copied below, you should be able to achieve the rest… is this helping? Sorry)

4. Give citizens a greater role in planning
• Build an e-consultation hub: 2007 link every local authority and 2008 open the hub to the general public.

10. Continue to develop online tools to support empowerment and democracy
• We will continue to develop with Ministry of Justice and the Sustainable Development Commission.
• We will work across Government to encourage use of new forms of information and communication.

The paper goes into detail, but basically, this agenda enables you and I to get involved in policy-making that affects you and I – and Communities and Local Government (CLG) will be working to ensure that this happens.

I happen to know that the people involved in taking this forward in CLG rock. Amongst them sits one Sheenagh Reynolds who has been consistent in her professionalism and work ethic throughout the five years I have known her – what more could you want from a civil servant? (I emailed her at 7.30pm tonight and she replied – ’nuff said.) Please don’t go hounding her, she is a busy lady 🙂

To wrap, as I feel as if I am beginning to lecture: this policy is important, it is active and it is something that you should all be taking note of and discussing. Is there a formal way of engaging? Not yet, but why not have a look for yourselves and discuss it on your own blogs, at your dinner parties, in the playground, crack houses… whatever 😉 see what energy there is – if it is there, then when they take this to the next stage, you can play!

I am not sure that this post makes sense – apologies if I ramble, but the point is, know about it, understand it and when you can – get involved.

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.

What is happiness if it cannot be shared?

(I just wrote that title mis-spelling shared as shred :))

As you can probably tell if you have been reading my posts in order – hello Mum – I have been navel-gazing for a month, not working as I usually do with government departments, rather choosing to have a little look at it all. (I go back next week… phew :))

I tell you I feel as if I have been completing a degree in four weeks. So much I have missed, so much to learn… too much. This has led to my monastic casting off of digital noise, and pushed me into the ‘hippy’ version of the web.

I watched the film: Into the Wild last night and it was both beautiful and brain-shatteringly obvious (if a film can be such a thing). Based on the story of Christopher McCandless, it details the frantic journey of a young American bloke, desperate to leave behind the shackles of the societal expectations of their young in the 1990s.

What resonated with me, and why I am sharing this with you, is that actually shuffling off this mortal coil alone and scared is not cool at all, and is not what we are seeking.

I have been pretty much married to the digital journey since 1997/8, when I lived and worked online overnight whilst my young daughter slept. Since then it has been a subversive family for me: my interaction with it has been fairly promiscuous: sometimes I have allowed indulgence and absorbed myself in online communication, at other times I have rejected it utterly and played rounders – or whatever 🙂

Lately I seem to have been going through my online menopause (sorry cannot find a pretty metaphor) and have embraced the hippy web. All is free, we can indulge and enjoy whenever we wish – anything I need to know I can find, gratis! It has been good, but something is nagging… something is wrong.

I am exploring the outer-lands of the Internet, through blogs, YouTube etc and am discovering such beauty – equivalent to Chris going to Alaska, but with crumpets. It is feeding my soul but I have had to cut off so many people in order to achieve this nirvana that my discoveries are starting to pall.

I want to share what I find, but I cannot do so without interacting with everyone – and once I go down that route, I have no time to explore. The choice is impossible, and yes, work will remove the issue, but…

Oh Emma, not another Twitter rant

No… but a Twitter-induced rant.

I have been gearing up to taking on a serious amount of work this week – OK, seeing my mates, taking the odd telephone call and playing; all in the knowledge that my life was about to be taken over by work once again, come May.

Inevitably the conversations I have been having have been supremely brilliant at completely confusing me about what I really think or feel. I have my young, free, whipper-snapper friends snapping at the heels of VCs in San Francisco, chiding me with their success; jaded worker bees who, like me, have no such luxury as far as fabulous travel is concerned – but still have brains that jolt and purr with new ideas; newbies who are so brilliantly clever and so enthused with ideas and healthy livers…

I want to go back to work for a break!

Inevitably, Twitter has played a part in this mayhem of being work-free, and I have either indulged fully, gorging myself on talking about ME every few seconds (yes I do manage to bore myself as well!) to just popping in and out checking up on my colleagues there.

My last moan on Twitter was about community vs. commune.

What a commune brings to mind is a peaceful, hippy place, where everyone is there to do good and help each other – of course there is more, but frontal lobes people, frontal lobes – this is where Twitter and social meja come in.

Community is starting to feel a bit bingo-y, if you know what I mean. What is an online community? Who creates them? Organisations, based on the knowledge they have gleaned from your/our behaviour online.

I don’t want to be in a community, I want to be in a commune… but not on Twitter!