Archive for December, 2007

Governance of Britain site launches

If you read Simon’s blog, you’ll know that we launched our newest project yesterday – a campaign site to support the Governance of Britain.

This is a wide ranging programme of activity, events and consultations designed to re-establish the relationship between the State and citizens: it covers everything from when the Union flag should fly above government buildings through whether we should vote at weekends to who should decide when the country goes to war.

The site was created in WordPress to take advantage of the functionality that the platform offers out of the box – such as strong syndication options, and the ease in which it can be maintained and updated. It has four main functions:

  • aggregate news, speeches, publications etc published elsewhere on the government web estate (the programme has over 60 work strands so quite a few departments have an interest in this), what I’ve been describing as ‘signpost, don’t host’ (sure I’m not the first to come up with that…)
  • Provide notifications of future events, and publish content from previous events – we’re hoping to use video, stills, audio and written feedback here
  • A led discussion space covering a variety of subjects related to the programme (this isn’t live yet, but will be visible in the new year when other elements of the programme begin)
  • Acknowledge, highlight and signpost articles, conversations etc elsewhere on the web around the programme’s themes.

The last one is the most interesting part of the site for me. We really hope that this recognition of conversations will in turn encourage and stimulate debate around the various themes. Because its using Delicious to deliver the content, it means that users can easily contribute content to the debate and can also view the full feed (we’ll only publish a representative sample of the many feeds and news alerts we have set up due to time and space considerations).

I’m really pleased with the site – it looks (as) good (as it could given the design constraints), it was devised and built at breakneck speed,  and it works.

There are still a few tweaks we want to make to the site, and hopefully it will develop functionality as the progamme itself develops. Let me know if you have any comments on the site, either below or by email if you’re shy.

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BarcampUKGovweb links

If you are a government webbie, and you got the information sheet sent round about the upcoming barcamp, here is the collection of links the sheet refers to:

What is barcamp?

Why are we running a barcamp?

How does it work?

When and where?

Wow! Blogging platforms are so good, for everything…

[I was going to title this post ‘blogging platforms are for life, not just for blogging’ – but thought better of it 😦 ].

I’ve been playing with blogging platforms quite a lot recently, specifically WordPress. Its a great tool and as well as its most obvious application, it is flexible enough for a variety of uses. Don’t want to go into too much detail for obvious reasons, but these are some of the things I have been involved in (not all originating at my end, or for my work):

  • A simple campaign microsite, using tags and feeds to aggregate views on a range of related subjects
  • An organisational news and information site, designed to be managed by non-web and non-communications people – they can publish to the site via email
  • A staff engagement channel drawing in multimedia content
  • A small, closed consultation group
  • A market research focus group, led by a facilitator
  • A team blog, to share insights, links and clippings

Some of these projects will see the light of day shortly and I’ll let you know when they do.

I can in no way be described as a ‘techie’, and I have no web development skills to speak of. But I am able to build sites in WordPress with reasonable ease. What’s more, if can live with a little inflexibility, the hosted WordPress solution allows you to create a blog/site / tool at zero cost other than your time and skills. I’d definitely recommend you having a play with the functionality if you haven’t yet tried. Of course, if you want the result to be more professional then its certainly worth considering finding someone to help you..

Two other implementations of blogs worth noting as well. I’ve previously referenced the Darzi review blog built by Simon Dickson (using Typepad). Version two is now live, in WordPress. Take a look – it doesn’t look like a blog does it!? Just look at the design and functionality, thats the kind of sophistication you can achieve if you know what you are doing. But at the same time it retains the great features and functionality of a blogging platform: automatic syndication, tagging, archiving, easy integration with rich media sources (Flickr, YouTube etc).

Another one: Defra using a blogging platform (WordPress again) as a campaign diary to allow ministers to update stakeholders on preparations for, and progress on, the UN climate change conference – I’m guessing for all the reasons mentioned above. Deployed as a sub-domain off the corporate website

Although many of these examples are still testing the waters, they show a growing maturity in the use of these tools. They are quick and easy to set up, and sometimes put expensive ‘enterprise’ CMS applications to shame in their ease of use and functionality.  By the way, I’m no apologist for WordPress. I’m sure the others are just as good, its just I don’t know how to use them (yet). I’ll demonstrate just how bad my blog building skills are at the barcamp if nobody better comes forward (come on, I know you’re out there…).

Talking of the barcamp, hope to be able to announce the location in the next few days. Watch this space…