At a few weeks distance, and after several caffeine fuelled conversations, the real benefits of the recent barcamp are becoming clearer to me.
First, it was really great that such a wide group of people came together for the day. That in itself was a good thing. Somebody said to me that evening that it would have taken them a year to meet all the people that they had wanted to meet if the event hadn’t taken place. So now we all know each other just a little better and that is starting to generate value of its own.
Second, there were some great conversations on the day, and subsequently, about the potential for collaborating between us inside government, and those round and about. Some great ideas, small on their own but with the potential to deliver real improvements to the way government transacts online, have been mooted – like having a consistent approach to publishing information about consultations.
These two things in themselves are fantastic outcomes – relationship building and idea generation / sharing.
But its equally important that we can somehow sustain and ramp up the momentum created by all this. There is still a great deal to do.
We’ve already had one afternoon coffee meet up (last Thursday) which in itself was a great event. Around 20 people turned up just to chat, chew the cud, bounce ideas off each others etc. I think its worth continuing these opportunities to catch-up and create other kinds of fora. Equally there is a rich social network of different types of events in the wider internet community in London (sorry if this sounds a little London-centric but that’s where I’m based). Encouraging government web people to participate in those events would plug us in to what else is happening in our area of specialism. Nobody knows everything and in this game things change so quickly, so its important to meet other people with different experiences and perspectives.
But many (most?) people working inside government on online stuff didn’t know about the barcamp as much as we tried to get the word around. So we need to get the word around that these kind of networking / sharing opportunities exist and encourage them to come along.
But we’ve all got day jobs and bills to pay so lets be realistic about what we can create and, most importantly, sustain as a small but hopefully growing group of people that want to improve the way we do things.
With all that in mind, I reckon we should try to make the afternoon coffee meet-up a more regular occurrence (but we are talking about government online after all so perhaps it should be afternoon tea? 🙂 ) . We were lucky with the venue last time, CafeZest in House of Fraser along Victoria Street in that it was reasonably quiet and it has free wifi. So unless anyone can think of a better venue, how about every first and third Thursday of the month from 2 til 4?
Anyone can come – civil servants, contractors, consultants, freelancers etc. Basically if you’ve got an interest in improving government online then pop in. Think of it as a drop in centre, you don’t need to come along for the whole time, or indeed every time. But if you want to catch up or try and find someone to help you with a problem then pop in.
I’ll be there next Thursday 21st Feb, hope to meet you there. It would be useful (but not essential) if you are thinking of coming if you could add your name to the wiki page thats been set up, and let us know in advance if there is anything taxing you or that you want to share. That way somebody out there who can help you might make the effort to turn up too.