Archive for January, 2008

Things I learnt at the barcamp

So, after lots of planning and stress, the Govweb barcamp took place last Saturday. Just over 80 people – a mix of civil servants, contractors, consultants, freelancers, hackers and critics – gathered at Google’s offices in London to talk government online.

BarcampUKGovweb logo

Big thanks are due to Google for hosting us and snacking us up to the gills, ICELE for providing the lunch, Cable and Wireless for the polo shirts, Hudson for buying the after-event drinks, Emma Mulqueeny for the badges and bags, and all the helpers on the day who made sure the event ran smoothly.

It was a great experience for me: catching up with good contacts, finally putting some names to faces, tech demonstrations, interesting conversations, and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream sandwiches courtesy of the Google fridge.

Dave Briggs has very helpfully set up a Pageflakes page to aggregate content about the event from a variety of sources including photos, videos, blog posts, forum discussions and tweets. This will no doubt develop over the coming days.

Now its all over, its difficult to know what to take away from it and what will/could happen next. So here are some initial observations:

  • There was a great deal of goodwill and willingness in the place to work together to improve government’s online stuff. Opportunities to connect, like this event, build relationships and break down mutual mistrust.
  • There are so many simple and good ideas floating around to improve online communication, tools and transactions. Cool stuff – and we need to find better ways to know about them and make them happen.
  • We need to find ways to make partnership between those inside and those around government easier – and promote it as as an alternative method to trying to do everything ourselves. We don’t know all the answers individually, but as a collective we can get closer to the ideal solutions.
  • If we in government want to innovate more, we should also behave more like innovators. The format and style of the barcamp was great and encouraged collaboration and thinking differently. There are other types of gathering and ideas generation techniques that should consider trying – like mini-barcamps, open coffee meets, social media clubs, geek dinners etc. Anything that gets us all out of the day to day work environment is a good thing (probably).
  • Ther is no shame in being called a geek. Im a geek and proud of it. I like the company of other geeks. There I said it.

Question is, how do now we sustain the momentum generated on the day?

Just over a week to the barcamp…

…and things are beginning to hot up, which is one of the reasons why this blog has been so quiet over the last week or so.

A group of volunteers are frantically trying to tie up all the arrangements – including trying to find a benevolent sponsor to pay for the lunch on the day. If you have a particularly friendly and generous corporate IT provider who’d like to support the event, please do let me know quickly.

Over the last week or so debate has been building up on the Google group about the format of the day and kinds of things people want to lead sessions on, or hear about. If you’re planning on coming to the barcamp and you’ve not visited the group, please join in the conversations and help to influence the day.

Most important: only those who signed up on the barcamp wiki page before we closed registrations are currently down to attend. If you only joined the Facebook group or the Google group then I’m sorry, at the moment you’re not on the list. You can apply to join the reserve list but I cannot at this stage guarantee you’ll get a place

If you ARE on the wiki list, then you need to check the page. A special email account has been set up that you need to send a message to. In return, we’ll check your name against our list and send you a ticket that will get you through the door at Google on the day. If you are on the wiki but you don’t email us by close of play next Wednesday (23rd) then we will give your place to someone on the reserve list. We’ve been forced to do this because we don’t have everyone’s email addresses.

That pretty wraps up this message. Hoping to post over the next few days one of the other reasons why I haven’t been updating this blog much over the last few weeks….

Gov Barcamp is coming together at last

BarcampUKGovweb logo

After much running around, fingers crossed, and baited breath, the barcamp is finally starting to look like a proper event. I’ve had quite a few messages recently asking for updates on the organisational details for barcamp, I’m sorry I’ve not been able to confirm things before now.

So, let me tell you that:

  1. The event is going to run on one day only – Saturday 26th January from about 9.15am until 5pm (and maybe afterwards for a drink or two)
  2. Google has kindly agreed to host the event (small company, you may have heard of them… 🙂 ). This is particularly excellent news given many public sector organisations’ involvement with them to improve searchability of their content, use of YouTube to publish video etc. Its a great fit.
  3. To help the many barcamp virgins across government (me included), and based on the areas of interest indicated plus subsequent conversations I and others have had leading up to the event, we are suggesting a structure for the day based on five rough ‘streams’ of interest. These are:
  • Creating web strategy – government-wide, organisational, channel/initative etc – a vision for future government web
  • New platforms and technologies – e.g. use of data, semantic web etc
  • New channels – how to use blogging platforms, YouTube etc, case studies of usage across government
  • Using social media tools in your organisation – practical stuff around requirements, guidelines, engagement, governance, getting approval
  • Government vs the private sector – lessons we can share, approaches to collaboration, what is good and bad about our sector etc

These streams are not meant to be prescriptive but designed to give a framework around which you can decide where and how you can contribute to the days’ success.

There are currently around 75-80 participants signed up to the event. With 25 slots in the day, it means that at least three individuals can be involved in the running of each session. Hopefully this reduces the pressure on some of the participants to contribute and will encourage collaboration amongst everyone attending.

If you are planning to attend, and you haven’t yet joined the Google group (thanks Dave) set up for the event, I encourage you to do so now.  What you need to do now over the next week is indicate what you plan to contribute to the day and identify others via the Google group who you could share a session with.

The nature of the discussion forum means that we can all peer review each other’s ideas and between all of us we should be able to collaboratively create and shape a schedule for the whole event fairly easily.

The number of people who have already indicated they wish to participate is now quite large (but what a cast!) and we may have to limit entry to the event to those  who are actively contributing to the day. So please begin the conversation as soon as possible.

As we get closer to the day, please update the schedule on the barcamp wiki page with your proposed session(s). Ideally we’d like to get that all finalised before Friday 18th January.

If you are a government webby, and still haven’t decided whether to come, hopefully the details above are enough to convince you. I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to have a good mix of those working inside the government web sector, as well as all the great people around and outside our work.

Back with lots to do

Step your mind

Back in the office tomorrow. Much to be getting on with, including updates on the Barcamp – location should be confirmed this week. Meanwhile, saw this sign on holiday. Made me laugh and speculate if I could write a whole self-help book based on the title?