Back from Brussels conference

Expect a small flurry of blog posts now. I have just got back from David Osimo and Dominic Campbell‘s conference in Brussels, that – apart from being thought-provoking – gave me some much needed train/MAC time to knock some stuff off my ‘to do’ list (and add to my list of things to yell for help on through my blog).

Anyway, Brussels/EU/stuff…

I was there with James Darling to speak about what we did at Rewired State. What was great was that, quite by chance, we happened to be on a panel of people showcasing everything that they had done with data. It was billed as a web 2.0 conference, but as we all know this is far greater than meeting the general cry for a MyFace or Spacebook account. Here’s the list of people we were on a panel with:

  • Jack Thurston, founder, Farmsubsidy (EU) – looks a bit like fatboy slim, Jack is the champion of ‘getting stuff done’ in the EU, hoping to do a rewired state type event (making a big play for boy wonder‘s geekery skills – join the queue). He was disappointed that so much of the panel, and day, was showcasing UK talent and achievement, I concur and look forward to this being done with more of a European show-off
  • Adrian Moraru, IPPC: how MEPs vote: he had a great voting record hack to show, but as they had run out of funds, it is no longer available online to view. Shame, I hope they get their funds, and/or the geeks get their hands on the Opensource info and recreate it for us to enjoy. I am v interested in Adrian’s work and hope we have more Eastern block talent shared at future events
  • David Price, Debategraph: this kind of went over my head in the quick ten minute showcase; however, it is one that I will go and have a proper look at. I believe that somewhere in here is the answer to monitoring online consultation.

So then us. You see? All hacks.

This then lead into another panel, lunch, Ivo Gormley’s film: Us Now and an afternoon of meso and macro level approach to Public Services 2.0. I am pretty sure it will all be shown and available, keep watching FutureGov… it was very good and worth watching/following but I will not do a blow by blow here.

Conversation at lunch revolved around data provision and procurement of talent such as the geeks at Rewired State. For the former, I look squarely in the direction of Richard Stirling, Power of Information Taskforce. For the latter, I am slightly more out of my depth, however the Agile Procurement Manifesto, based on the Agile Manifesto, proposed by the agile procurement group (borne of UKGovBarCamp09) looks like it will begin to address this. (This is a bit of a teaser, the wiki will be up shortly and I will definitely show you where and when.)

Ivo Gormley’s film inspired the most thought for the day but I will do this in a separate post. All in all it was a good day, and I am excited about what is happening across Europe in this public service 2.0 space.

Do watch the recorded video from the day as and when you can, and definitely get to see Ivo’s film.

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.

The problem with social media – there’s no cash to be made… so what?!!

So much has come from the last GovBarCamp in the UK public sector, believe you me – blimey, even DJ Collins from Google came to the last Heads of ecomms meeting. However, if we are to do it again – we need to do it better. The reasons I heard for why some people did not turn up were:

  • I did not know about it
  • It was a weekend and I could not leave the family

The first problem is easily solved, let’s give it a longer lead and a greater audience. The second is also exciting, bring the family. As I have shown here, people were interested in what my daughter had to say. This may not be appropriate for all of our proteges, they may be too young, our partners not so keen, but this is not insurmountable.

The problem with social media is that there is no money to be made, so people tend to off-set the value of their time spent at events against time with family or friends. But this then counts out some realy cool people that we know about – and some that we might not.

I propose a reconvene of the last BarCamp, in say October/November – somewhere where children and partners can come too and join in. A festival – with toilets.

Hopefully I will generate a small group of willing people here to help me move this on from a musing to a happening – but I think it has legs.

Let’s not forget that the kids we have are the future users of anything we try to change, and our other halves have more than a vested interest in what we are doing.

If we cannot make cash, let’s create a movement for change.


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 🙂

Humility – I don’t really know… and yet more Twitter

The more observant of you will have noticed that I have taken off the strap-line – Queen of social media, and the page: What is Web 2.0? The reason for the former is that the strapline was given to me by my husband – who built this site for me – because I know more than he does on what is happening in this space, and – to him – I am the fount of all knowledge. (Easy to see why ;)). However, I am far from being the ‘queen of social media’… ’nuff said

I removed the What is Web 2.0? page because I actually don’t know. And so many other people are explaining it better than I can, but I won’t link to any of them, because, quite frankly, it is incubating and therefore there is no definitive answer. Best bet? Google the question and see what you get.

So… what do I have to say? Well, I can share learnings with you.

twitter: my bug-bear

Having created, deleted and re-created my twitter account; slated it here and talked incessantly about it with all who will listen… I have started to understand how it could be used/useful. If you bear with me, I will share with you some of the links that help me understand this media.

social media in government

I am involved in what is happening in the Foreign Office (yes, that includes twitter!) but also watching what is happening elsewhere. I will capture what I can for you – however, you might like to use Simon Dickson’s natty tool for what is happening in the blogosphere:


I will take you on this little journey with me, and try to gather together the stuff that makes sense – to me at least – for you to read. I do rely heavily on the bloggers and ‘real people’ who get this stuff, but I will resist listing them here as (again) the experts vary from week to week. (legal bit: I will not nick stuff, I will ensure that I give credit where it is due!)

Social media caution

In our GovBarCamp group on Google there has been some discussion about the latest e-petition – where one of our members was directed to a broken url

It highlights the need for these social and accessible tools to be managed and thought through in some way. However easy these apps are to use/create, thought has to be applied at some point, and must be applied if they are going to be used in a professional capacity. The dawn has come, IT can be cut out as a debilitator – now we need to deal with the human desire to reach out and communicate. This requires rigorous management (especially if publishing is devolved) and ruthless editing – in the true sense – are the words spelt properly? Are the urls correct? Proof reading 101 should once more become the quintessential skill of all social media operators.

Another thing to consider is the real life impact of your use of social media. There will be communities established wherever you choose to converse – they may be people you don’t know, or people you know very well. You need to find your niche and try not to be put off by perceived slights, or even real ones! The conversation has started and let it live – you do have to have a thick skin and please don’t be risk averse 🙂