Posts Tagged ‘ BarcampUKGovweb ’

BarcampUKGovweb links

If you are a government webbie, and you got the information sheet sent round about the upcoming barcamp, here is the collection of links the sheet refers to:

What is barcamp?

Why are we running a barcamp?

How does it work?

When and where?

Wow! Blogging platforms are so good, for everything…

[I was going to title this post ‘blogging platforms are for life, not just for blogging’ – but thought better of it 😦 ].

I’ve been playing with blogging platforms quite a lot recently, specifically WordPress. Its a great tool and as well as its most obvious application, it is flexible enough for a variety of uses. Don’t want to go into too much detail for obvious reasons, but these are some of the things I have been involved in (not all originating at my end, or for my work):

  • A simple campaign microsite, using tags and feeds to aggregate views on a range of related subjects
  • An organisational news and information site, designed to be managed by non-web and non-communications people – they can publish to the site via email
  • A staff engagement channel drawing in multimedia content
  • A small, closed consultation group
  • A market research focus group, led by a facilitator
  • A team blog, to share insights, links and clippings

Some of these projects will see the light of day shortly and I’ll let you know when they do.

I can in no way be described as a ‘techie’, and I have no web development skills to speak of. But I am able to build sites in WordPress with reasonable ease. What’s more, if can live with a little inflexibility, the hosted WordPress solution allows you to create a blog/site / tool at zero cost other than your time and skills. I’d definitely recommend you having a play with the functionality if you haven’t yet tried. Of course, if you want the result to be more professional then its certainly worth considering finding someone to help you..

Two other implementations of blogs worth noting as well. I’ve previously referenced the Darzi review blog built by Simon Dickson (using Typepad). Version two is now live, in WordPress. Take a look – it doesn’t look like a blog does it!? Just look at the design and functionality, thats the kind of sophistication you can achieve if you know what you are doing. But at the same time it retains the great features and functionality of a blogging platform: automatic syndication, tagging, archiving, easy integration with rich media sources (Flickr, YouTube etc).

Another one: Defra using a blogging platform (WordPress again) as a campaign diary to allow ministers to update stakeholders on preparations for, and progress on, the UN climate change conference – I’m guessing for all the reasons mentioned above. Deployed as a sub-domain off the corporate website

Although many of these examples are still testing the waters, they show a growing maturity in the use of these tools. They are quick and easy to set up, and sometimes put expensive ‘enterprise’ CMS applications to shame in their ease of use and functionality.  By the way, I’m no apologist for WordPress. I’m sure the others are just as good, its just I don’t know how to use them (yet). I’ll demonstrate just how bad my blog building skills are at the barcamp if nobody better comes forward (come on, I know you’re out there…).

Talking of the barcamp, hope to be able to announce the location in the next few days. Watch this space…

What can I do at the barcamp?

The initial reaction to my announcement of the government web barcamp has been great, and not so great – 56 people signed up to date, but I can only identify around a quarter of them as being government webbies 😦

Whilst its excellent that so many experts in our field have indicated support for the event, it won’t really work unless more people ‘on the inside’ contribute – it would be a real wasted opportunity if we all put the government web world to rights but the people that actually do this stuff aren’t there to influence it! In case anyone is unsure, the barcamp is being organised with the approval and support of the transformational government team. If you are interested in the future of government web, you should be there….

Several people have contacted me saying that they’d like to come, but they don’t know what to offer. A few that have signed up have realised in conversation that they misunderstood what they might be doing. So let me offer a few thoughts about how I think the event might work, and what you might be able to do.

  • I’m trying to finalise the location for the event, so that we can announce it shortly. If it takes place where I think it will happen, we will have multiple rooms (off the top of my head, around 9 + a breakout/coffee area) which means that multiple sessions can  take place simultaneously. So its unlikely that you will be ‘presenting’ to an assembled throng of people in a conference environment. More likely that you will be leading/facilitating a small group around a table
  • Sessions could last two minutes or two hours – depends what you want to share and how long it might take to share it
  • We’ll agree the running order on the day, and it will be changable, so that as much as possible everybody can take part in the bits that interest them. This might mean that we need to run some sessions more than once if they prove popular
  • Plenty of people seem to be offering to lead sessions on web strategy – its important for many government webbies that we gain some consensus about what organisational and government web strategy should look like, but thats not the only thing –
  • Some contributors have suggested to me that there’s an awful lot of piloting / proof of concept work going on across government with social media tools / collaborative workspaces / social networks etc
  • Equally its clear that there’s an awful lot of expertise between us about how to make use of those tools, and other specialisms like search engine optimisation, web metrics etc
  • It would be great if some of the people leading these pilots could share what they have done, learnt etc. This could include:
    • How you persuaded the powers that be of the value of doing what you did (or bypassed them… 😉     )
    • How long it took
    • The barriers to getting the project going
    • How you supported the business to implement a social media project – guidance, training etc
    • How they measure and evaluate the relative value of the pilots
  • Those with expertise in using social media tools could assist by:
    • demonstrating how to set up a blog on a hosted service, taking people through the process
    • show how to create a Flickr account, upload photos and embed them into a blog feed
    • similarly, create/edit video content, upload it to YouTube and embed into a blog
    • record, edit and create podcasts
    • etc etc

Feeding back experiences of doing this stuff, and demonstrating how to do it, are as much an important part of the barcamp as defining good practice in web strategy. My team is certainly experiencing an increase in demand for using these tools, and creating opportunities for online engagement internally and externally. Personally speaking, I want to learn from others who have got through the pain barrier that I am currently feeling as I try and work out how to do all this stuff.

I’m probably not best placed to do this, but I am happy to demonstrate how to set up a blog on WordPress if that is of interest to anybody. I’m not an expert, but having done it a few times I can point out some simple tips that have helped me.

If you’re still toying with the idea of coming in January, and you work in the government web world, please sign up. A few people have contacted me because they are not sure what they can contribute. There’s plenty of time to think about that, and hopefully we can start a dialogue on the associated Google Group about what others are doing – that might give you some inspiration.

If you’re reading this and you’ve already signed up, but haven’t subscribed to the Google Group, please do so – especially if you have offered to help organise the event. We need to start talking. I’ll try and contact everyone who has offered support in the next few days, but I don’t have everybody’s email address – so please drop me a line and sign up to the group.

If you’re still undecided, I recommend reading the background information about barcamps at and wikipedia, as well as searching for the phrase ‘barcamp’ on Flickr, YouTube and Google video. Together these should give you a good idea of the nature of the event. These are friendly, flexible, knowledge sharing events, not intimidating conferences.