The initial reaction to my announcement of the government web barcamp has been great, and not so great – 56 people signed up to date, but I can only identify around a quarter of them as being government webbies 😦
Whilst its excellent that so many experts in our field have indicated support for the event, it won’t really work unless more people ‘on the inside’ contribute – it would be a real wasted opportunity if we all put the government web world to rights but the people that actually do this stuff aren’t there to influence it! In case anyone is unsure, the barcamp is being organised with the approval and support of the transformational government team. If you are interested in the future of government web, you should be there….
Several people have contacted me saying that they’d like to come, but they don’t know what to offer. A few that have signed up have realised in conversation that they misunderstood what they might be doing. So let me offer a few thoughts about how I think the event might work, and what you might be able to do.
- I’m trying to finalise the location for the event, so that we can announce it shortly. If it takes place where I think it will happen, we will have multiple rooms (off the top of my head, around 9 + a breakout/coffee area) which means that multiple sessions can take place simultaneously. So its unlikely that you will be ‘presenting’ to an assembled throng of people in a conference environment. More likely that you will be leading/facilitating a small group around a table
- Sessions could last two minutes or two hours – depends what you want to share and how long it might take to share it
- We’ll agree the running order on the day, and it will be changable, so that as much as possible everybody can take part in the bits that interest them. This might mean that we need to run some sessions more than once if they prove popular
- Plenty of people seem to be offering to lead sessions on web strategy – its important for many government webbies that we gain some consensus about what organisational and government web strategy should look like, but thats not the only thing –
- Some contributors have suggested to me that there’s an awful lot of piloting / proof of concept work going on across government with social media tools / collaborative workspaces / social networks etc
- Equally its clear that there’s an awful lot of expertise between us about how to make use of those tools, and other specialisms like search engine optimisation, web metrics etc
- It would be great if some of the people leading these pilots could share what they have done, learnt etc. This could include:
- How you persuaded the powers that be of the value of doing what you did (or bypassed them… 😉 )
- How long it took
- The barriers to getting the project going
- How you supported the business to implement a social media project – guidance, training etc
- How they measure and evaluate the relative value of the pilots
- Those with expertise in using social media tools could assist by:
- demonstrating how to set up a blog on a hosted service, taking people through the process
- show how to create a Flickr account, upload photos and embed them into a blog feed
- similarly, create/edit video content, upload it to YouTube and embed into a blog
- record, edit and create podcasts
- etc etc
Feeding back experiences of doing this stuff, and demonstrating how to do it, are as much an important part of the barcamp as defining good practice in web strategy. My team is certainly experiencing an increase in demand for using these tools, and creating opportunities for online engagement internally and externally. Personally speaking, I want to learn from others who have got through the pain barrier that I am currently feeling as I try and work out how to do all this stuff.
I’m probably not best placed to do this, but I am happy to demonstrate how to set up a blog on WordPress if that is of interest to anybody. I’m not an expert, but having done it a few times I can point out some simple tips that have helped me.
If you’re still toying with the idea of coming in January, and you work in the government web world, please sign up. A few people have contacted me because they are not sure what they can contribute. There’s plenty of time to think about that, and hopefully we can start a dialogue on the associated Google Group about what others are doing – that might give you some inspiration.
If you’re reading this and you’ve already signed up, but haven’t subscribed to the Google Group, please do so – especially if you have offered to help organise the event. We need to start talking. I’ll try and contact everyone who has offered support in the next few days, but I don’t have everybody’s email address – so please drop me a line and sign up to the group.
If you’re still undecided, I recommend reading the background information about barcamps at barcamp.org and wikipedia, as well as searching for the phrase ‘barcamp’ on Flickr, YouTube and Google video. Together these should give you a good idea of the nature of the event. These are friendly, flexible, knowledge sharing events, not intimidating conferences.