Already a significant proportion of #ukgc11 participants have blogged, tweeted or otherwise shared their experiences. I’ve skimmed through a lot of blog posts about sessions I missed as well as those I attended. There’s even extensive video including shots of me butting in so rudely in Andrew Beeken’s video tutorial. Sorry, Andrew!
So excuse me if some what’s here is repetition, but I want to get down thoughts to share with colleagues back at work. I’m also trying to draw out some personal actions.
Flickr and other neat tools
Dan Slee from Walsall BC has blogged and spoken extensively about using Flickr in local government. He teamed up in session 1 with Andy Mabbett who talked about Wikipedia and OpenStreetMap and how public sector organisations can tap into these enthusiast run projects. Together this was a session about how government, not exclusively local government, can utilise social media to engage with local or other groups.
Walsall BC has tapped into the local Flickr group where people post a range of photos relevant to the locality. Dan explained that many localities will already have groups established though there are plenty of councils that have established their own.
The Walsall group meets regularly and the council has engaged with it, invited members to the Town Hall on Saturday mornings for discussion and photo shoots. Walsall has since last summer used group photos on its website. Using local, Creative Commons licensed material can potentially save thousands in photographer fees.
Andy said that councils can also use Flickr as a photo store allowing others to consume. He said that councils should make use of Creative Commons licenses so that others are free to use, subject to attribution (depending on the licence selected). This also allows use on Wikipedia.
On the flip side, Wikipedia Commons is a good source for free to use photos on council websites etc. (We’re doing this to a limited extent with Wikipedia and Flickr where we can’t source our own content.)
Councils need to know about Wikipedia both as a consumer/reuser and to protect reputation. Wikipedia has rules about the subject of an article editing that article. If it’s purely factual, edits can be made. Andy explained that the best course of action is to use an account that identifies the editor as a representative of the council and to use the article discussion facility. As with other socmed tools then, engage online. I guess you can always take the discussion offline if necessary.
The OpenStreetMap project is probably less known than Flickr and Wikipedia. The project’s aim is for individuals to “map” the globe. Andy explained that the project is about collecting data; the mapping is an incidental by-product.
We can assist by opening up datasets.
- Flickr is an excellent resource for sharing, storing and engaging; use groups to tap into local networks
- don’t forget that Wikipedia authors will have something to say about you; monitor, discuss if there are factual or reputation issues; reuse material where appropriate
- share data with OpenStreetMap and let the volunteers do the mashing
Cheap and effective video production
Next up was Andrew Beeken, City of Lincoln‘s ever active and innovative webteam. Andrew had been asked to give a presentation on cheap and cheerful video production for councils (applicable to other bodies too, I should think).
Andrew showed a couple of examples that he had put together for the council. He took the view that video was particularly useful for “how to’s” for new services as well as the obvious openings and news items. Lincoln use the content on the web and on video screens in council reception areas.
We had a good discussion about the benefits and downsides of cheap options and how to overcome some of the cultural obstacles that many have and will face. Video is not core, but with good planning and a small investment, Andrew showed how he’s delivering great value.
- and plan again
In the margins of the day, I had conversations mostly about open data, WordPress, Digital TV and the under performance of proprietorial systems. It’s both encouraging and depressing to hear that we’re sharing many of the same problems, in Whitehall, town hall, unitary, district and met councils. But, the #ukgc11 team is working hard to innovate and change.
3 Simons and WordPress
After lunch, I went to the 3 Simons presentation about how WordPress has developed from a blogging platform to a true CMS.
The new Defra site is a thing of beauty. We got some insight how WordPress is being used. To the viewer it looks and feels like a coherent site. But, it is effective a multi-user, with ownership of the various sections. So it’s a proper permissions based CMS.
Defra took a brave leap in launching this project. The site replaces a legacy site built with 1995 technology. What WordPress and the team at Puffbox have created may not be groundbreaking in technological terms, but as a proof of concept for the next generation of government websites is a revolution. As revolutionary as anything else is the use outside hosting.
- open source can work, but it’s not free
- if you’re going to re-launch, re-invent
Sex, drugs and social data (I think that was the title)
It wouldn’t have been 2011 without a session on open data. I missed out the sessions covering some of the more nuts and bolts stuff. Instead, I went to Hadley Beeman‘s session on making data social.
At the outset, I have to say that the session assumed that we’ve already got all this data out there. Of course, there are still plenty of public bodies which haven’t even thought about their data publication strategy save for meeting the government edicts on expenditure publication.
Hadley was concerned though with how data will be consumed. What are we expecting people to do with it? There’s bunch of numbers that will frighten away your average punter.
Hadley wanted the data to tell a story. There were plenty of views around the room on how we might do this – from using visualisations to getting data embedded into the school curriculum to freeing it up to a Wiki.
- everyone needs an open data strategy (what, why, how, who and when)
- what stories can data tell?
To round off the day, Ingrid Koehler led a session on blogging for the community. For me, this was the best session of the day. Some of the public sector’s most conspicuous bloggers were present, which led to a great discussion.
David Allen Green, one of the non-government participants, summed up some of the essential elements of successful blogging:
- use short paragraphs
I think there was a recognition around the room that blogging is a great tool within the public sector as it helps share best practice and ideas. (I’d have liked a little more discussion about using blogging as an outward conversational tool, but I sensed the session wasn’t going to go that way.)
Communities of Practice came up in discussion as it has the facility (poorly used) to host blogs. There was some thought that those slightly nervous about publication should try it out in this closed loop.
Towards the end, Louise Kidney spoke about the #lgovsm Twitter discussion group and ways to capture the thoughts that come out of the Friday slots. From all accounts, it’s already a phenomenon and well worth following.
Ingrid has summarised the conclusions neatly on her blog.
- (see Ingrid’s blog)
- otherwise, I will blog (and cross post on CoP)
- I’ve got an action at work!
That’s enough content (ed.)
I’ve now spent about 48 hours reflecting on Saturday. It’s time to go back to work. It might be difficult now that some of that energy has dissipated. But, there’s some actions to follow that I hope will keep the day reasonable fresh and relevant:
- share the experience with colleagues (share posts, links)
- make incremental changes
- encourage others to take part in future unconferences
- discuss using the unconference model internally
- reflect in a few weeks and reset personal goals
To the best of my knowledge, there were no political or elected participants at Saturday’s event (I might be wrong). I know this is an inward discussion to many extents (though we had non-gov types from suppliers to consultants and at least one lawyer), but I do think we need to expose some of the great things being discussed to our political masters.