Thoughts from barcampukgovweb

This is probably going to be the first post of many as I try and get my head around the barcamp, what it all meant, and what happens now. The latter is the most important, I feel.

The day went well, everyone got along famously and it was brilliant – and worth the train fare – just to meet some really cool people for the first time, like Jeremy Gould, Lloyd Davies, David Wilcox, Jenny Brown, Tim Davies, and (finally!) Simon Dickson – who is, as I expected, a real livewire and a truly top guy. I also got to catch up with Steve Dale – always a joy – and Nick Booth, who is planning the next meeting of the Birmingham Social Media Club, as I think it is now going to be called. What was interesting was that this group of folk got on very well, and a germ of an idea was floating about with regard to meeting up more regularly, working more collaboratively to try and push forward our shared agenda, which is to get the public sector using the web properly.

One thing I am pleased with is the Pageflakes page I put together, which seems to have done a good job of pulling together the outputs from the day – photos on flickr (this one is of Steve Dale talking CoPs), for example, and blog posts are popping up in the Google Blog Search and Technorati feeds. Cool. Perhaps this is the future of distributed online communities: use the tools you are comfortable with and build the community through common tags and RSS feeds. Why should I have to write a blog post about the barcamp, for example, on any platform other than my own blog? I don’t want or need another account, or site to maintain – just let me use the one I already have in a social way.

Two questions popped into my head during the day though. Neither were answered – which is perhaps not surprising and not necessarily a bad thing – but nor were they asked, which might be a bigger issue. Firstly: what’s the big idea? Where are we going with this? What do we want out of it? Secondly: what are we actually going to do?

There is talk of a new ‘Digital People’ project, involving those inside gov as well as those outside who have services and skills to offer, which may help to take the agenda forward. It should certainly cement the relationships which have begun to be built at the barcamp. But what’s the endgame here? What’s the point? Consultation is certainly a possibility, and perhaps political engagement too. But we need a clear idea of what we want to achieve before we can even begin to think about how that might happen.

Here are some posts I have spotted so far following the event: Tim Davies, Feargal Hogan… more to be added as they emerge.

9 thoughts on “Thoughts from barcampukgovweb”

  1. Hi Dave,

    Sorry not to catch up more on the day. Just a quick note on the “big idea”. Don’t worry about looking for it. Chances are it doesn’t exist. It will be lots of small things done better than they were 5 years ago. The main point was we all have a shared agenda of getting the public sector to use the internet better.

    I do agree with though that a common theme for me was that jsut as the conversation got round to solutions as opposed to describing the challenge, someone would come in the room and say lunch/coffee/next session was served.

    However, this BarCamp was more about connecting and solidifying that shared agenda than actually solving problems. At least it was for me and I think BarCamp rule #237 states anybody can take their own meaning out of the event.

  2. Great to meet, and I’ll blog tomorrow … meanwhile video of Jeremy here.
    One idea from a session I was at – Government departments invite consultants and other “outsiders” to come in and share share ideas without pitching. Seems good to me – if we are doing it on blogs anyway, more fun to do it f2f. I would suggest video conferencing, but it probably wouldn’t get through the firewalls!
    Thanks for Pageflakes – as you say, let’s see what we can join up. That could be small but useful idea.

  3. @ Shane – you are right, maybe I am expecting too much too soon πŸ˜‰

    @ David – great stuff on getting the video online so fast. Hopefully it will be appearing via the YouTube feed on Pageflakes soon!

  4. I appreciate the fact that there seemed to be a lack of ‘defining objectives and outcomes’ on the day – but, to be honest, for all gov webbies this will be a welcome relief and enable a more productive conversation. I quite like this… but I can see the frustration. In reality we are all stumbing blindly forward and one benefit of keeping an open discussion is perhaps finding the answer to your questions. So… perhaps the answers to your questions are the end-game, and what we actually need to work towards… as you say, much more thoughtage to be done

  5. Em, it was a fabulous day and a remarkable achievement to get all these people in the one place – on a Saturday for heaven’s sake! – and to get them talking. I’m hoping that from this acorn grows a mighty oak of online engagement and collaboration. There are people itching to start work, so let’s keep the conversation going, and keep the momentum up so that they have something to do sooner rather than later!

  6. Hey Dave. It was great to meet you on Saturday.

    I walked away reminded of the one big idea that we’re still grapling with:


    It strikes me we’re working out what to do about where ‘the state’ should be using technology to increase the practice of effective democracy – at the same time that technology, globalisation and new social movements are redefining democracy in a fascinating and dynamic way.

    In a sense the very foundations we’re standing upon are being changed by the actions we’re taking as we build on them…

    Or something like that…

    Ok – it’s a messy massive web of ‘big idea’… but I think they should provide the gravity we should aim to orbit aorund…

  7. Agree entirely on the ‘distributed conversation’ thing – RSS gives us everything we need to make it work, too. I’ve tried to pitch this to a couple of big clients, thus far without success, but I’ve got plans… πŸ™‚

  8. @Tim – that’s a biggy, but a goody! I think consultation and participation are going to be key themes moving forward…but how?!

    @Simon – What we need is a white label version of pageflakes. The other missing thing is a decent way of monitoring blogs – Technorati and Google Blog Search are ok, but a better way would be for people to submit their blog feeds to be added to the index. Don’t think it can be done in Pageflakes, or any of the others though…

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