Archive for the ‘ priorities ’ Category

Time certainly flies when you’re having fun

It hadn’t really dawned on me before now but a year ago today I arrived in Ireland.

Fresh from tearful goodbyes at work, another successful government barcamp, and a fourteen hour journey through terrible snow storms to get here and be reunited with my family.

My initial plan was to take three months out from thinking about work to reconnect with what’s most important to me, and then start taking on projects. Well, so far I’ve managed to pretty much stretch that three months into a whole year and who knows how much longer I’ll be able to get away with it for?!

Its not all be play and fun (but a lot of it has been if I’m completely honest) and I’ve enjoyed dabbling in projects both here and back in the UK, some paid and some favors. I’ve built websites, helped organize grassroots digital engagement, helped to record a literary festival with some great bloggers, done digital strategy consultancy for a few different types of business, and am working at the moment on what could be a really huge, great project (but I can’t say too much about that just yet).

One thing though I have deliberately avoided getting involved with is central government projects. I really wanted to try and shake all of that out of my system. By the time I left, I had pretty much given all the energy I had to my work at the Ministry of Justice and needed to get some distance from it. At the same time that meant that a lot of the stuff I did, and the people I worked with, was (and is) close to my heart.

But of course the beauty of the connected world is that I have stayed in almost as close contact with many of my former colleagues and friends in Whitehall as I had when I worked there. I’ve also indulged in regular flying visits to London to catch up with people (and sneak up to the Apple Store for technolust injections).

Two weeks ago I was back for the third barcamp and a chance to hear from those still at the forefront of government online. Still loads of energy, enthusiasm and optimism. But also still lots of the same frustrations and blockages that got in the way of my job (and despite all the great strides forward that have occurred over the last year). Amazing how much, and how little, has changed.

Its a funny old thing and I find that, despite myself, I still care a lot about what happens in that world.

And I still have opinions.

And I realise that I can voice those opinions more freely now than before.

So, I might do that.

And I might start doing some more work back there (if anyone will still have me. And lets be honest, a few people were glad to see the back of me).

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….

About the future of Whitehall Webby

Ever since I started confiding in friends last year that I was considering leaving the civil service, one of the questions I have been asked is “What will happen to Whitehall Webby?”.

I confess I thought a fair bit about this. It was pointed out to me that I would no longer be in Whitehall after all, and as I have always found the blog tough to keep up to date with it did seem like it might be a good time to call it quits.

Then I hit an enforced layoff as I was put under pressure at work to not blog. I knew by then I was leaving (but they didn’t) so I thought the best course of action was to lie low until I departed. I also made it clear at the time I left that I intend to take a few months off before I decide what to do next.

But, despite all that, two things remain clear to me.

  1. After many years playing around working in this web world, I still love the possibilities and opportunities it presents. Pretty much every day brings something exciting.
  2. I really care about how the interweb can make government better. The last two or three years have been a real ball and some of the stuff that has begun to happen over the last twelve months or so has been awesome. But its just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to follow, I’m sure of it.

So, despite the fact that I’m not on the inside anymore on a day by day basis, government online is still the thing I feel most passionate about, professionally speaking.

Therefore I’ll continue to use this soapbox to throw out ideas, observe and comment on developments, and add my tuppence to the state of the industry. As well as all that I hope to continue to support, encourage and work amongst those doing a fantastic job pushing the online agenda forward in government.

But not just yet. Let me enjoy the holiday for a little while longer.

Thank you

I am truly humbled by all the good wishes sent to me here and elsewhere over the last few days.

It means a lot to me.

I’m going to miss working on the inside, its a great place to be with many great colleagues around.

It just didn’t work out for me in the way I had hoped, that doesn’t mean though that I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone seeking great challenges – I would. Working in a bureaucracy brings challenges sure but I have enjoyed operating around those constraints and trying to make things happen. I don’t buy the whole ‘government is a terrible dysfunctional place’ line, I loved it.

But in the last few years I have often found myself comparing working in Whitehall to national service, so I guess I have completed my tour.

I’m a glass half full kind of person, I’m not leaving in a fug of negativity. Rather I hope this helps me to be more useful. I’m not disappearing, just changing the uniform. Or as Monty Python might say, not dead just sleeping (for a while anyway).

Thanks again.

Leaving government to spend more time with my family

I’ve always liked that phrase. Brings to mind all those lovely post-scandal impromptu doorstep press conferences with Tory ministers in the early 90’s. Anyway, I digress….

I’m sure this won’t be a huge surprise to many but my time as a civil servant will shortly come to an end. I’ve been working in Whitehall for coming on seven years and feel that it is time for a change. I’m sad to be leaving but at the same time I’m glad to be going.

Sad because I really enjoy doing what I do and trying to help push forward the government online agenda. I think there is still masses to do and I like being part of that. Sad also because I have felt for a while that web stuff is still not being taken seriously enough. I’ve been scouting around for a new challenge in Whitehall for a long time now but the truth is that beyond building and managing corporate websites, those roles don’t exist. There’s been a lot of talk over the last four years of how more senior strategic web roles are inevitable, but in that time its been just talk. So there was no next move for me.

But glad because I’ve been apart from my family for a while (we’re moving to Ireland and they went over a while back for the start of the school year) and am looking forward to being with them again. But also glad because being independent will allow me to focus my energies on projects that I’m interested in, and bypass the daily grind of bureaucracy that tends to get in the way of the cool stuff.

Over the last year or so that has become more and more of a barrier to doing what I enjoy the most. The changing role of my employer inevitably brought higher pressures and expectations (and rightly so given its increased responsibilities) but with little additional resource to do it. I’ve also found my extra-curricular activities being scrutinised and discouraged in a way I hadn’t expected after it being benignly ignored for the first year or so (tip for any civil servant bloggers: you may get permission or have a tacit understanding from your manager that its okay to blog, but if the management structure above you changes, you probably ought to start all over again. Previous agreements don’t seem to carry much weight). Hence the even lighter that normal posting here over the last few months.

So, what next?

First I’m going to take a good chunk of time off to get to know the area we will be living in better, and to of course spend some quality time with my family. I could do with a break and frankly I don’t think its a bad thing that I get away from the scene of my crimes for a while.

Then I will be open to offers. I’m interested in

  • helping organisations to define their digital strategies and implementation options
  • using social media tools to observe, interact and initiate and make better policy / services
  • getting the best out of the web to assist government media communications (I’ll be writing more about this shortly)
  • identifying the value of integrating new cutting edge web2.0 tools in the workplace

I would describe myself as a digital pragmatist: good at defining online strategy but with a mind on what is practical and realistic (particularly in the current climate). I’m looking forward to putting my skills and perspectives into good use – possibly in the way that Nick Booth has recently described.

If you are interested in talking to me about opportunities, my contact details are on my LinkedIn profile. Not quite sure when exactly I’ll be off, but hoping that it won’t be beyond this.

Here’s to a happy 2009.

On the frequency of my postings

Maybe you’ve noticed that I seem to have been posting more often than my usual once a fortnight recently.

It’s taken me quite by surprise and I have no idea how it has happened (could be sunstroke?).

Anyway, apologies if this state of affairs has alarmed you and I assure you normal service will be resumed shortly (though I do seem to have a lot I want to write about at the moment. We’ll see…).

Digital communication isn’t about websites

Went to an interesting session today, where GCN and the Henley Centre were presenting their second report on media and communication trends. You may remember the first iteration of this research did the rounds around government about 18 months ago.

My recollection of the first report was that it was full of fascinating stuff but there was so much to take in it was almost impossible to know where to start. This time it was different – slicker, more digestible and seemingly more authoritative because it had the baseline from 18 months ago to compare against.

One clear message this time is the rise of social media and the implications of this for government. The audience, who were mainly heads of marketing or similar, were alert to this and there was some lively discussion afterwards about the implications of all this for them.

Some of the points made included: Continue reading