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?

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  1. Geek On, Brother! I was very glad to take part too.

    Another opportunity (at least for London people) to get out of the office (with even less structure than a barcamp) is our prototype Social Media Café – we have two coming up – Fridays 1st and 18th Feb – both in the morning upstairs in the Coach & Horses.

    Sign up list for this Friday is here:
    http://londonsocialmediacafe.pbwiki.com/Third+Prototyping+Meeting+080201

    More details on what we’re trying to do (ignore posts about Columbus) :
    http://wordpress.com/tag/social-media-cafe/

    All welcome. It would be great to have a public service presence.

  2. It was a magic day: just getting all those folk in one room – on a Saturday! – was genius. I look forward to the conversation, and the work, ahead.

  3. Well done Jeremy, it was a brilliant day. Here’s to the future and moving this on.

    Geeks rock, as I think I might have mentioned several times in the pub afterwards.

    E

    • annon
    • January 31st, 2008

    I couldn’t agree more that if we want to innovate then we have to behave more like innovators. But is getting out to open coffee meets, social media clubs, geek dinners really going to change to world or is this just so much naval gazing? In fact, if we want to innovate we have to get out there and do it, no matter what that takes. Directgov has had its fair share of critics over the fours years it has been in existence, but compare it to the rest of Whitehall and tell me where else exists an innovative shared share service, pulling together content for people so they truly don’t have to worry about doing the joining up themselves. And the innovate doesn’t have to be the ‘wow look at that’. Surely joining up an array of insurance database, and a government database where the information is entered by private sector companies (i.e. garages) to provide a service which means I don’t have to spend hours digging out my car insurance documents and MOT certificate so that I can spend 30 minutes or so queuing at my post office is innovative (and can you show me where the privtae setcor has achieved something like this? Surely being able to search join centre plus for a job using DTV is innovative. Surely being able to find my nearest pharmacy using my mobile phone is innovative. If not, then I would welcome your idea of innovative.

  4. Very sorry I couldn’t be with you. I’m trying to piece together what it was like, and keen to know what happens next.

  1. January 28th, 2008
  2. February 26th, 2008
    Trackback from : » News » Blogs
  3. November 23rd, 2008
  4. January 31st, 2014

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