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.


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).


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.

Preparing to mourn Whitehall Webby

With a shuddering breath I can see the end of January on the horizon, and for me this means one thing: goodbye Whitehall Webby.

Jeremy Gould, for those of you who may not know, was the first blogging civil servant with any traction and he has pioneered much of the change in the public sector’s attitude towards social media and communication. He ran the first UKGovBarCamp last year, and is going out on a last hurrah with this year’s one.

He is leaving his job as a civil servant at the end of the week and moving to Ireland to spend more time with his family, here’s what he says:

First I’m going to take a good chunk of time off to get to know the area we will be living in better, and to of course spend some quality time with my family. I could do with a break and frankly I don’t think its a bad thing that I get away from the scene of my crimes for a while.

I knew that this was on the cards for a while now, but the end of January came a bit too quickly for me!

I have known him for many years, as a friend and colleague – and he has been a source of support, inspiration, and perhaps occasionally a little irritation: but this is only healthy!

Perhaps it is only now that I realise he is really going, do I see how much I am going to miss him, his blog and his never defeated efforts to bring together the digital community in the public sector – as well as drawing in those from the private sector who deserved to be recognised as brilliant.

I don’t want this to read as an obituary, so I won’t bang on. But Salut, Jeremy, thanks for everything you have done and I hope that you will still continue to fight the good fight with us from Ireland.


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*


Thursdays ROCK – but this Thursday was the best this year

If I was to pick a day out of this year that summed up me and what makes me happy – today would be it. Here’s what I did:

3.15am Shriek at daughter and daughter’s friends for still being awake and over-excited after watching High School Musical 3 (OK bad start)

6.15am Wake up and lie in bed considering how to get out of all today had in store – FAIL

8.30am Meet Michelle Acton-Bond for breakfast to talk about her work for Channel Four’s Battlefront on cyber-bullying. We talked about this, as well as personal stuff, mutual friends and general how-dos. As ever, it was delightful and a wonderful way to start any day: inspired.

9.30am Hit desk and email – happen to have a discussion with someone who has a desk close to mine who can help Michelle get to the relevant people in government who have cyber-bullying as part of their policy areas

*between* organise lunch for next week with two people I adore, and who happen to be available on the same day as each other, and me… bonus

11am Meet with someone with whom I have a difficult professional relationship to explain how I felt and how we might move forward. SUCCESS: WITHOUT SWEARING

Show off to boss

12pm Meet a bloke who’s company is potentially doing some critical web audit work for us: fully believe, after meeting, that the company can deliver

1pm Complete to do list: extraordinary achievement – done by plugging self into two computers and ipod

2pm Meet UKBA, UK Visas and Directgov to discuss the way forward for delivering online content for the overseas audience: potentially a very controversial meeting, but turned out fine

*between* secure the time of an editor I have been chasing for a while to work with us on the IPS content for Directgov (thanks Fran and Christi)

4.30pm Meet Ministry of Justice, Atul Sharda, to make sure that the two depts (HO and MOJ) are working in alignment for website rationalisation and general loveliness – we are! (Can this get any better?)

5.45pm Get to One Alfred Place early for Oli Barrett‘s networking event, meet Alice Sherwood from the KitCat Club – bore her silly with public sector news… pitch for place at the KitCat table (WIN)

6pm network network: how I missed this. Great people, sometimes inspiring, sometimes boring – but nothing is boring when you realise that Tom Steinberg from My Society has not met Robert Loch.

It is like bubble wrap, you think you have popped all the all there is to pop… then you find a couple more.

Ad Nauseum Post Script: yes I did do more than this today to earn my crust, but have chosen not to bore you with it…

Further blogging sin- updating after I have posted BUT – I do not include my family in my BEST THURSDAY EVER post… that is mine but it did end with reading Maximum Ride to my daughter before she slept

Sarah Lacy

One of my favourite reads this year, and one that I have bought time and time again as gifts for people is: Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good: The Rebirth of Silicon Valley and Rise of Web 2.0. It is fair to say that I am a big Sarah Lacy fan.

To my delight, Paul Walsh has announced a talk entitled:  Secrets from Silicon Valley: Sarah Lacy on the Rise of Web 2.0. Paul says:

There is nobody better placed to speak on this subject than Sarah Lacy. Over the last 5 years she has had unrivaled access to the founders of the companies that have shaped the Web 2.0 scene.

Now, for one afternoon only, she is London to share what she knows. Robert Loch and I are hosting a fireside chat with Sarah – an event not to be missed.

Friday, November 07, 2008, Soho, London

  • 4.00pm Registration
  • 4.30pm Fireside chat and audience Q&A with Sarah Lacy
  • 5.30pm Networking and drinks
  • 6.30pm Close

I have my ticket go get yours – I promise you it will be worth it – I cannot wait.

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!)