Rewired State: play wherever you are

Most of you who read my blog already know about Rewired State, if not it is on the 7th March 2009, is for those of you who can code and do clever things with APIs/scraped data and is going to be a great deal of fun. Quick run down of the day is 10 to 6 ish: coding/creation, 6-8.30: show off/beer/pizza (so if you can’t code you can come and look at the end).

Having said that we are over-subscribed x3 but have not yet closed the books, because… even if you cannot make it to the actual event, you can still play. There is no reason why not. All of the data is being uploaded to here, it is publicly available (now) and there are APIs/other data feeds/scraped stuff/everything 🙂 being added from now until the 7th March (and hopefully thereafter for wherever this goes after the day itself).

The point about the day is that everyone will be together, doing stuff at the same time, either in the same room or hooked up by some clever *thing* that James Darling will sort, we have an outpost in Brighton and hopefully it will just be a massive, hopefully not just UK-based, hack day. At the end of that day people will be able to share what they have done, I understand that this will be not just those in situ, but everyone taking part. Have a hack party, do whatever you like, join in…

Invites to the London *do* will go out in the next week, those who don’t get in to that will be given options for joining in regardless.

So:

1. If you want to play on the day: register – by the 7th March we will have worked out how to share everything.

2. If you want to just do stuff and not make a fuss about it, go ahead, but please do let us know here: info@rewiredstate.org. It’s just good to know, perhaps best to be specific about whether you want it shared or not.

3. Please do spread the word across your geek/public sector communities and use the 7th as a big push to free data and use it wisely.

Keen to make clear that although James, Richard and I are mentioned as the organisers (and Stefan is not mentioned at all on the site although he is definitely as much a part of it as any of us three, he just *missed* the bits where we were writing blogs and setting up sites :)) – it is not really ours, obviously. We just wanted to spend a bit of voluntary time making it happen. Let’s see where this goes…

twitter update – (warning: this post makes no sense unless you understand @hubmum)

Well now, ever since Jonathan Ross (@wossy) and Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) ‘broke’ the twitter thing on @wossy’s comeback show, twitter seems to have gone bonkers.

I have had a difficult relationship with it – detailed on this blog here and here and I banged on for a bit in various related posts not worth bringing up again. I could wang on about the context of this post, but am going to limit it to 140 chars, my twitter journey:

@hubmum curiosity, disdain, exasperation, overuse, grumpy, laughing, work value, inspiration, grudging admiration, acceptance, value

Over the weekend the Power of Information report was launched on twitter for review, I know that it was ‘set live’ elsewhere but it set twitter alight, not least for @tom_watson‘s incessant tweeting (and direct messaging) about it. (Not so much fun, as it really meant homework for the geeky kids, but still… it was a good place to show it off and get the attention of those who cared).

Then there was the out-pouring of information about the UKGovBarCamp09, stories breaking, blog posts being slutted, a wealth of information. By Sunday I had trimmed my list of people I followed (including losing @wossy I am afraid) to the people of value to me at work, and also those who just keep me sane.

Last night it became about snow… we get terribly excited about snow, and quite right too, (my flickr stream of the chronically brilliant snow we enjoyed today: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mulquem/sets/72157613229704253/). Then @paul_clarke asked his followers to fill in a twitter formula for reporting snow, mark out of ten (I don’t know if he did this alone): hash tag uksnow first part of your postcode followed by a mark out of ten, so for me (if my tweets weren’t protected): @hubmum #uksnow GU1 5/10. @benmarsh picked this up and created a mashup of the snow reports from the UK.

Today it was snow, yes, plus school and trains… for me. I knew that my daughters’ school would use the clarion call text system to let us know about whether there was any respite today from the excitement: there wasn’t, but I also needed to know if I was able to get in to work: I couldn’t. I did however abuse @directgov by twitter for not giving me more travel information – seeing as all of the travel sites crashed – and received direct messages assuring me that they were working on it: v gd use of twitter; might not give me the information I needed, but I knew that someone was at the other end of my frustration and was doing something about it.

@tom_watson then challenged @directgov to carry information about schools that were open or shut, starting a maelstrom of advice and an acceptance of the challenge from @directgov. Let’s see what happens now…

My list of ‘friends who keep me sane’, (including weirdly @paulcarr who is definitely not sane), kept me amused with their increasingly ridiculous twitpic attempts to outdo eachother in the alternative snowman competition that developed during the day.

Because many people were similarly trapped at home, the conversations happening on twitter about stuff that interested me, by the people I respect enabled me to work, to completely understand what is happening in this space, tweets and RTs were coming in by the minute, I felt that I was fully conversant in what is happening right now.

Although this was happening on twitter, I was also able to take my children out every few hours, answer emails (deal with the backlog) and complete my meetings by teleconference… then catch up again.

During one such outing to the slopes of Guildford I missed the exciting news that techcrunch (@mbites) had written about @directgov, this was then picked up by @washington_post.

Yet, I feel as if I am becoming a bit spoiled. For example, my sister told me (on facebook) that getting through the day at home demanded Jeremy Kyle on repeat; so I had him on in the background, but he was doing a ‘lie detector’ session rather than the more compelling ‘DNA test’. The indulged ‘me’ wanted to tweet the programme organisers to say that I was more in the mood for ‘DNA testing’, please, to keep me going through the day. Hmm even I can see that this demand was not going to be met… so I feel a bit guilty about @directgov tbh…

… anyhoo

I am exhausted by writing this post… the point is, twitter is good, it is useful, but watch who you follow and be aware who is following you. Protect your updates until you know how you are going to use it, and NEVER synch it with facebook unless you are: 1. so au fait with this stuff that you only update occasionally to the same audience or 2. use both socially/professionally (same diff).

You would not believe the stuff I have left out, but really, I like you, so I will not RT and overload your brains: make your own minds up.

PS Best twitpic of the day: @littlelaura is best http://twitpic.com/1avrm un-be-lievable…

PPS Best in ‘balanced use of twitter’: @paul_clarke

PPPS No post is complete without a mention of @olibarrett who launched his Make Your Mark with a Tenner ’09 campaign.

PPPPS http://www.twittermoms.com/ = new netmums

PPPPPS I protect my updates, so people have to ask to follow me, in the same way that Facebook offers the same privacy option – sorry

Love

@hubmum

Does this mean we have now clarified the formula for change?

Willingness of public sector + free public data + revised procurement rules + brilliant talent + global sharing = 21st century way of being a part of our community and engaging with our government?

Willingness of public sector

Well, we have just had the brilliant ’09 UKGovBarCamp (I was not there but all of my mates and colleagues were, so I received updates constantly and have seen some of the outcomes). There was the announcement of the Directgov innovations site, pledged support for the Rewired State: National Hack the Government Day and announcement of another event in April around public engagement online, (by the fabulous Mitch Sava from Polywonk).

None of this is done without integral support and co-operation from the public sector, with civil servants and Ministers engaging at every level: essential to make any of this have any point. So I can safely say that this is not just a nod in the right direction: this is a movement.

Free public data

No I don’t mean details about you and I, I mean stats and the like. Facts and figures that are available as APIs and then we can all make our own minds up. Many people have been campaigning to free our data for years, most publicly The Guardian (for some reason I cannot make this link, just Google ‘free our data’). Now a report is due out, here in Beta for your comment for two weeks. Here are the pages most interesting to the data bit: geospatial data and general data.

I have had many conversations recently about data, and how it will ultimately be the tripping point for everything that we all want to happen. The fear seems to really be that nothing will happen because the risk that by freeing the data and people mashing it up will embarrass some and highlight what is happening in certain areas: for us I guess this really means what might it do to the value of our houses? Well… I have no argument for that, except that if that is what is really happening, then we need to know about it and we need to do something about it: government and community alike to change those figures.

Recommendation 9 and recommendation 13 are the ones to watch for this one.

Revised procurement rules

*sigh* anyone who has seen me so far this year will no doubt have been met by my current rage-inducing rant: procurement/HR/head count – driving me nuts. We need to get some stuff done quickly, with the right people at very little, sometimes no, cost. But we can’t – because of procurement. I know that this was discussed at UKGovBarCamp, and boy wonder has set up a google group to start a conversation about this: but nothing else has happened: this MUST be dealt with, and is missed entirely in the Power of Information report.

Growl

Brilliant talent

I don’t need to say anything about this, there are so many superbly talented people, engaging for free and giving as much as they can to help push this on. These people are essential to making this formula work, but stymied by the procurement issue, often, or a perceived ignorance on the part of the public sector to listen to them. This is changing, but needs some proper attention.

H/T to Tom Watson MP for going out of his way to recognise and support this community.

Global sharing

I am delighted to see that over the past year there has been much International engagement and sharing of ideas, concurrent events and the like. Not enough. But this is where the work of futuregov and their competition is so vital. The Obama messiah-like effect has opened up the global awareness of what it means to have transparent governance, from online to the story of Michelle Obama encouraging people to ask anything they liked about her and her husband, their finances, beliefs – everything (never before seen true transparency).

Although I am not so interested in the political opportunities here, but the lessons we can learn – as we are all breaking new ground. The standards have been set high: once again quoting Obama’s inaugural speech:

The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Now a commitment to do everything in the light of day is something that all of our politicians say, but I believe that Obama means it: and the people he has appointed to work with him seem to show that he means it. (Macon Phillips and Katie Jacobs Stanton for example).

Conclusion

I *believe* that this is the formula needed, I cannot think of anything else really. I know that Mitch is running his event on online public consultation which will be great – but I think in order to dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s we need to do one on procurement rules: this would not be unconference style: this would need to be much more formal. But actually the trend seems to be moving in that direction, the freedom of the barcamp, through the practicality of the Hack Day, through Mitch’s semi-formal event to one aching with bureaucracy (procurement rules) – we need them all to make change happen.

Rewired State – how to play if you can’t code

Should you want to come to Rewired State, National Hack the Government Day but cannot code or be geeky enough to ‘do stuff’ during the day, here’s how you can come along and find out what happened and join in.

We are keeping it deeply geeky from 10am until 6pm. At 6 o’clock we will throw open the doors until 8.30pm and you can come and see what has been done on the day, meet the geeks (if they choose to stay :)) have a drink and generally prowl about.

We are trying to limit this to government bods, as we are limited on space and keen to keep this focused and not a general love-in, so go to the website, select ‘government person’ from the drop down menu and fill in your deets. We will then let you know sometime really soon whether you have a place and all of that.

We will be having a jamboree afterwards at a pub tba, so if you don’t get in to the show and tell, you can STILL come along and chat to everyone.

PS If you have met me and said that you want to come and I have said that I will sort it, I haven’t, this is me sorting it, we need to keep a v close tab on numbers and registrations, so DO sign up through the site or you won’t get in. (Although we are quite reasonable of course).