Archive for the ‘ interesting things ’ Category

Playing around with Posterous – and finding that it might just work for me

If you haven’t checked out Posterous yet, you should. Inspired by Steve Rubel’s move to this service, I’ve been playing around with it and loving the functionality. In essence its a very simple blogging platform that allows you to post via email, beautifully presents your media content and allows you to syndicate it easily to your other online presences.
I’ve always been a casual blogger (though 150 posts in two years isn’t too shabby, especially as I haven’t really spent much time writing here for the last six months) and before Whitehall Webby I had a few different blogging sites set up that allowed me space to blog about non-government stuff.
Now that I am no longer a civil servant, I’ve been rethinking how I might use this site. I’ve been working on a refresh of the design that is almost complete (guess what webbies. Its the content thats not quiet finished – sound familiar?).
There are a lot of things I want to highlight that aren’t about my work, but Whitehall Webby has always been a space for me to talk about work stuff and I’m not sure that I want to expand that focus just yet (though of course, I’m not working at the moment). Whilst Posterous is incredibly flexible, it doesn’t quite give me enough in terms of customisation that would persuade me to move my main domain there.
But I still want to capture stuff, comment on things, or highlight items of interest to me. So I’m going to give Posterous a go for that kind of content.
I’m cross-posting this but I’m not planning to regularly re-post stuff on Whitehall Webby from my Posterous site.
Whitehall Webby is/ will remain my work thoughts / portfolio / site for the time being. Jezzag.com (an old nickname if you want to know) is for the other stuff. You can subscribe to a feed there too if you are so inclined but if you are in any way connected to me online you probably don’t need to.
S’all for now….

Back to blogging

Well kinda, sorta, not quite yet…..

Its been almost four months since I left Whitehall – at the same time its both flown by and feels like a lifetime ago. Now I’m pretty settled I’m starting to think about gov things again and taking keener notice of what’s going on (and there’s been quite a bit…..). But that can wait for just a little longer.

In the meantime, there’s a fantastic literary festival taking place just down the road from me next week and a couple of intrepid irish bloggers are doing their best to provide online coverage for the events. It seemed churlish of me not to offer to give them a hand given how much free time I have at the moment.

Listowel Writers Week is in its 39th year and has an amazing line up of authors and workshops.Ā  I can’t believe that such a brilliant cast list is assembling a couple of miles from me, and I can’t wait to help Paul and Patrick capture some of the flavour of the festival. Its quite a while since I’ve done anything resembling social reporting and I’m quite excited about it.

As well as the fringe blog, we’ll be using the usual array of tools and channels to push out the content far and wide across the web. Now all I have to do is try and locate my Flip camera which has mysteriously disappeared somewhere into the depths of my house šŸ˜¦

Its a bit short notice but if you’re reading this and want to come along, drop me a line and I’ll do my best to help you out.

Us Now – go see

I was lucky enough to snag a ticket to go and see Us Now at the RSA on Wednesday night.

Us Now, by Ivo Gormley, is a film about the power of online collaboration and communities – and what that might mean for future government. Its very powerful, highlighting some excellent case studies and interviewing a range of experts (its worth seeing for Ed Miliband’s appearance alone I think).

Others have already written better reviews than I could so all I will say is – its fantastic, go and see it.

There’s another preview viewing next Wednesday evening in London and there are still (free) tickets available. If you’re around, I highly recommend going along. This is one hour of your life you won’t regret giving up.

Ticket details here.

Free legal web project barcamp

I seem to be permanently in a state of writing about things a week or so after they have happened at the moment and trying to play catchup.

This is a case in point. A week last Saturday (18th October) I went along to the Free Legal Web barcamp. The event was set up (and part sponsored) by Nick Holmes to bring together those intersested in creating an online service that pulls together legal texts (primary, secondary, rules. procedures, judgements etc) and commentary.

Its a brilliant idea. A small, but perfectly formed, group of 24 met at the RSA. It was a room of real enthusiasts – lawyers, hackers, civil servants – all more or less geeks with an interest in improving the availability and quality of legal information online.

I went along because my employer publishes a fair amount of information online that might be of interest to this project. But to be honest, much of what was discussed was over my head so I didn’t stay until the end.

However, it looks to me like the beginnings of an excellent and worthy project. With enough goodwill generated on the day to agree to meet again in mid-January.

You can find out more about the barcamp on the project blog, the email list, and the wiki if you want to follow its development or be part of it.

Another phrase that sends shivers down my spine in the office

It was remiss of me not to point to Tom Steinberg’s excellent piece on ‘one pagers’.

Barely a day goes by when i am not asked to produce one of these (often by someone who has already requested, and received, a paper on the same subject previously…).

Whilst I enjoy the discipline of containing an idea or proposition to one side of paper, the request to ‘do me a one pager’ invariably makes me feel quite ill – I generally feel like replying with a two worder.

On my (relative) silence, some good events, and upcoming speaking gigs

For regular readers I’m sorry that its been a bit quiet around here lately – especially as I embarked on a series of six posts about models of social media adoption but have only managed to write four of them so far (I promise I will do my best to get the final two completed in the next few days). Work colleagues (and my mother) would tell you this is nothing new.

There are several reasons why its all gone a bit tumbleweed:

  • My summer holiday – last year I also found it hard to get back into the groove of writing when I returned from my break (despite – this year as well as last – resolving to write prolifically whilst away).
  • Returning to a groaning intray – been trying to get a number of projects off the ground, and been thrown several new pieces of work – they all get in the way of thinking / posting time.
  • Another recent short weekend break – disrupted my attempts to get ‘back in the groove’.
  • Most importantly, suffering from social media overload – nothing I have read recently has inspired me or drawn me to do anything. In fact, there seems to have been an awful lot of social media navel gazing going on at the moment. Its not like I have nothing to say, but when all I hear is noise, I don’t really want to add to it (this despite the fact that there are plenty of things I want to write about. But if I’m not inspired, it doesn’t feel right to be broadcasting my thoughts either).

So, let’s hope I snap out of it soon. Not for your sake (necessarily) but for mine. If this all sounds a bit sorrowful, hey – it’s my party!

Anyway, whilst I remember there are three events taking place shortly that you should think about participating in (if you don’t know about them already).

Two are taking place this Saturday (27th September), both in London. First up is the UK Youth online, run by Tim Davies. Its being held at DIUS in Victoria Street. Second is Barcamp London 5 overspill, organised by Harry Metcalfe (a brilliant idea, might I add). Both of these events look like they are going to be cracking. I was hoping to go to both (don’t ask) but sadly family obligations have got in the way so I may only be able to pop in for a short time, if at all. But I recommend them both to you.

A little further away (both in time and in distance from London) is Scot Web 2, being held in Edinburgh on 30th October. Organised by the ever resourceful Alex Stobart from the Scottish Executive/Government. It’s a barcamp style type event focusing on social media in the public sector. I’m trying to work out how to get there myself.

Also, I’ve reluctantly (because I don’t really enjoy it) agreed to speak at a few upcoming events. If you’re planning to attend any of these, please do say hello and either settle my nerves before the event, or tell me I was fabulous afterwards (I hate to hear the truth..). These include:

  • Mashup* event – Government 2.0 on 7th October – not really sure what I am doing here as it looks quite ‘techie’ but I guess I will find out shortly.
  • Public Sector online on 21st October at Inmarsat – talking about ‘web2.0 and beyond’ with other speakers (so hoping this will be some kind of panel thing).
  • Online Information on 2nd December at Olympia, London. I’ll be participating in a panel discussion here about ‘web2.0 after the buzz’.

There, so i finally wrote something…. šŸ™‚

Five words I hate at work

Facilitate

Stakeholders (grrrrr)

Engagement

Optimise

Transitioned

(disclaimer: I use these words often in the workplace, because sometimes jargon seems to suggest credibility…)

While we’re at it, haven’t got a lot of time for ‘vision’ at the moment (cue inevitable Mark O’Neill punchline…)

view from my window

view from my window

Originally uploaded by Jeremy Gould.

We’ve been moving offices over the weekend and today I was in with some colleagues checking our kit all worked before the others come in tomorrow.

We’ve moved from Victoria Street to the old Home Office building in Petty France (two minutes away) but a quantum leap in terms of space, facilities and location.

We’re right next to St James Park and this view shows you are general location in relation to Whitehall – not too shabby I’m sure you’ll agree.

The only problem is that it’s at least two minutes more walk to Teacamp šŸ˜¦

There are a few more photos of the place in my flickr stream if you are interested.

Two tools I really like

Don’t normally do tech tips or gear I generally like here, goodness knows there are enough places on the web to find that kind of stuff. But I’ve recently come across two online resources that I think are absolutely fantastic so I’ll share them here for anyone who is interested.

First up is up is Addictomatic (hat tip to Oli Barrett via David Wilcox). A fantastic tool that pulls content from across the web based on a keyword or phrase.

I’ve been doing a lot of work recently with departmental colleagues to set up dashboards to allow them to view content based on their professional interests. Addictomatic works like that, though of course its limited by only being able to return information based on one keyword / phrase at a time and filtering is not available (as far as I can see). Nevertheless its a great way to get a snapshot on a particular issue (or person) very quickly.

I heartily recommend it, if only to demonstrate the potential value of making better use of RSS readers and web aggregators like Pageflakes or Netvibes.

Second is the AgencyTool web design dashboard. Can’t remember where I first saw this but its an absolute goldmine of information and advice about all aspects of web tech, design, build and marketing.

I’ve spent a fair few hours wading through the resources. Some are better than others but I bet you find something there that will be of use to you in your work.

Interesting2008: fascinating and inspiring

When Russell Davies first floated the idea last year of holding an event full of interesting speakers, I was hooked. Unfortunately I couldn’t go due to holidays so when Interesting 2008 was announced, I was determined to go (I don’t know Russell, but am in awe of his energy and his imagination. “How to be interesting” really inspired me when I was in a creative rut”).

Yesterday was the big day and I went along to learn some ‘interesting’ stuff. I wasn’t disappointed, in fact it was great. I’m not going to give a comprehensive review here of all the speakers (others have already begun doing that) just a few things that stuck in my mind (The Guardian will be uploading videos of all the speakers in the next few days. They’re well worth watching if you couldn’t make it).

  • There’s enough Lego bricks in the world that each person could have 62 bricks. Why isn’t Lego made out of wood rather than nasty chemicals? (a great example of pace and brevity from Roo)
  • Horses have a blind spot in front of their noses.
  • We need more creative generalists rather than specialists (moot point for me, plenty of generalists in the civil service, creativity is often at a premium).
  • The ecological footprint of the world would need to expand by two and a half times if we all lived in Salisbury (which has the third best carbon footprint in the UK) – and children need to explore more.
  • The history of popular music and graphic design is interlinked and both inspire each other (phew, this one was a riot).
  • Exploration is not finished, its online.
  • Patagonian mirrors – an amazing method of long distance communication (now sadly long gone).
  • The best time to slaughter calves for ethical veal – “when they stop looking cute”.
  • The cure for insomnia – trash crime fiction (must try this). Can I add, I find a sound asleep pillow to assist in this regard :-).
  • Churchill’s leadership style – improvisation and dare (I’ll go along with that).
  • Funny words are more likely to contain a K than an L in them.
  • Old computers make great musical instruments
  • Turntables make amazing zoetropes

All in all an amazing day. Not perfect by an means. The start (a communal rendition of “The Final Countdown“- you had to be there to appreciate how absolutely effective this was) had everyone pumped up, the meditation after lunch almost sent me to sleep and left me drowsy for the early afternoon set of speakers (though the two pints I had around the corner probably didn’t help). Running longer sessions straight after lunch didn’t help either and didn’t feel as punchy as the morning.

But these are minor quibbles. My real takeaways were:

  • You can learn an awful lot from seemingly random subjects to apply to your own work and life, provided they are interesting. Personal passion from the speakers went a long way in this regard.
  • Not really knowing what’s happening next, and a healthy dose of chaos, makes a conference many times more exciting than the usual corporate dross.

I’d love to see something runalong these lines inside Whitehall to inspire and educate decision makers about the opportunities of online / digital / web and creativity. Who knows, it may happen…

Two more quick things: Lloyd really does have the most amazing voice, and hello to Arthur.