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.

Cabinet reshuffle – what I understand has happened (from my Twitter and Facebook!)

Simon Dickson‘s twitter feed has been invaluable today:

Simon Dickson's Twitter feed

Simon Dickson

The new department’s url has indeed been registered by the lovely Daniel De Cruz. But still nothing there yet.

The detail of the new Cabinet is on the Number Ten website.

A facebook update suggested that perhaps Tom Watson MP, our blogging e-Minister, was being re-shuffled. No official word yet, but Jeremy Gould managed to track down one blogging chap for The Telegraph who mentions him in the last paragraph. It says that he will be working on Government strategy. We don’t think this necessarily means that he is no longer the Minister of all things ‘e’, but who knows.

The new Minister for Technology, Telecoms and Broadcasting: Stephen Carter has an interesting history that seems quite apt in this day of financial chaos. Who knows how this will work out, but it will be worth watching. I wonder if the social tools he uses extend beyond golf now.

I don’t pretend to understand politics or politicians – but I am quite into my comms 😉 – so this appointment probably holds the most interest.

Social media tool-kit part 2 – nearly there, gang

This discussion is intended for those who are trying to encourage the use of direct engagement online as opposed to communicating online only through websites. Might bore anyone else 🙂

Chris, Digital Pioneer (who ARE you?!), posted a reference to me on his blog, mentioning some of the comments I have received after my previous post about a toolkit for social media engagement. It made me think that perhaps I should shove up some of these comments before I make this into a package that you can all use.

I believe that the solution is incredibly simple, ’twas ever thus, but you might find the following comments informative.

So here goes h/t digital pioneer.


Interesting discussions. I’d slightly refocus the Engage, Influence, Consult to ‘Engage’, ‘Inform’ and ‘Collaborate’ – as real influence in communities is arguably the result of informing and role-modeling once one has built up social capital – and that can’t be done at a quick hit. In the first instance, a newcomer into an online engagement space can at best expect to inform. The switch from consult to collaborate is a both a personal and political preference for deeper forms of engagement – and a recognition that the ‘we ask, we go away, make decisions, feedback later (if you’re lucky)’ model doesn’t fit with the online community space. So – what would be toolkit be trying to focus on. Perhaps some of:

Engage: Tools and techniques for listening – in some cases that might even some down to a ‘phrase book’ and a ‘rough guide’ to certain online spaces to help newcomers work out the flow of conversation and community.

Inform: Different ways of inputting and presenting ideas from the stream of twitter posts through to video, audio and shared slide-shows. Focusing on the method (video) then suggesting possible tools (YouTube, etc.) with notes about why each tool.

Guidance on participating (a la civil service code add-on or examples of the voice used by other organisations in different online engagement spaces) and guidance on how to fit online engagement into organisational decision making. Looking at the changes in offline process that are needed – both explicit changes that need management etc., and ’secret underground changes’ that a online engagement lone ranger can try out.


If its to help people in communities then its essential that its designed from the bottom up to Engage people with example situations and how they could and have been addressed through use of Social Media – Paul Caplan wrote something for us at the ICT Hub earlier this year – PDF is here This does just this through various social media tools by asking “Imagine”, “How you can”, “Whats good – whats bad”, “Tips” and a “Case Study”. These hooks get people interested – can’t stress enough … unless people see its for them they won’t engage.

Inform through single “easy to get” techniques – something like “My Guide” is a good example –

Ning, customised social networks:

Last time I spent any real time thinking about this (a long time ago so undoubtably overtaken by events) my headlines were observe, interact, initiate

PETER ASHE – from the NHS

Quite by co-incidence there’s a useful post just recently on RWW about the role of (and need for) ‘Community Managers’ to support the engagement between any organisation and its customers/stakeholders/etc.

Various caveats, but..
– It’s all a bit online-only-oriented, to be sure, but, surely some useful pickings, I hope.
– It says it’s for start-ups (and Whitehall Depts aren’t exactly new) but perhaps could be read in terms of ‘new to this approach’?
– Also the material’s not to be taken literally of course, but I thought I’d point you to it in case it helped people think about what they might need to do differently – it’s quite a switch mentally to move from “I’m here to ship product (a.k.a policy)” to “I’m here to garden(?)/shepherd(?) my community”.

Plenty of useful links in the material if it sparks any interest, for example to a role outline/job spec from Connie Bensen (noted CM). Again, perhaps one could mine various elements from this for different people, rather than we all think we just have to write a cheque for another specialist.

As an example of the (maybe implicit) application of a toolkit, not too far away (as an outsider, can I hope this is not at all too ‘inter-departmental’?… ;) perhaps Steph Gray’s own commentary on DIUS’ new ‘Science and Society’ consultation may provide some useful food-for-thought?