Monthly Archives: May 2008

Ads in Feeds? Please, no.

Feedburner

Hmmm. So FeedBurner is going to start allowing folk to embed Adsense in their RSS feeds. I don’t like ads on blogs much, I have to say, and getting content through RSS usually lets you avoid them. I really don’t like the idea of ads in my feeds.

There is one thing that is worse, though, and that’s partial RSS feeds (damn you, BBC!). Maybe with ads in feeds being more easily accessible – previously it’s only very well read bloggers that have ads on their feeds – we’ll start to see a two-tier system. Get the partial feed for free, or the full one with ads.

What an awful thought.

Anyway, DavePress is remaining ad-free, both on the site and in the feed. Just thought you might like to know.

Further ICELE debate

Steven Clift rightly points folk to the discussions going on at the UK & Ireland eDemocracy exchange about the demise of ICELE, in the comments to my previous post on the topic.

Here’s a sample of what folk are saying – the archive is public if you want to see more.

Ella Taylor-Smith:

I think there is room for an organisation to -like ICELE – to be a central contact/info point for e-democracy in the UK (I’ve widened it there from local). Where they’ve collected data and case studies on a specific topic (like e-petitions) I’ve found it useful.

Paul Canning:

This just highlights for me the absence of any national central point of reference for egov. It’s splintered all over the place, so no one actually working in the area has ‘heard of’ most of the worthy stuff…

It just pains me that the Australian state of Victoria and other governments like Hong Kong and New Zealand have managed ‘one stop shop’ portals to egov for practitioners but all Downing St has led with is endless, endless different initiatives with different websites whilst at the same time preaching to the rest of us about ‘just’ directgov and businesslink.

Andy Williamson:

Our role now as advocates for eDemocracy is not to reduce the pressure but to increase it and argue strongly for a centralised, properly resourced and commissioned eDemocracy agency.

Mick Pythian:

I think perhaps first of all we need to know what the great British public expect of e-Democracy or even Democracy and attempt to champion that…

Rather than assumptions, I’d like to see more evidence from this country (cultures and systems vary, along with connectivity). This includes more ‘measured’ pilots.

Now, if I were to try and draw folk together to provide a post-ICELE way forward, these are all people who I would insist have to be involved – people who have a genuine interest in making things better, who have a clear idea of what eDemocracy might mean. To this dream team, I’d add others, like Shane McCracken, Steve Dale, Ingrid Koehler, Steve Hilton and Dominic Campbell.

It would be fascinating to see what could be achieved just by bringing people together, dispensing with titles and the other paraphernalia of traditional government working groups, and non-organising our way into Getting Something Done.

An EU Political MySpace?

From EU Observer:

Plans are being developed to launch a social networking site for MEPs and MPs to boost contacts between politicians across Europe and promote a trans-European democracy.

Myparl.eu – officially to be launched in October – is a website currently under construction that aims to work along the same lines as the popular MySpace or Facebook social networking services, but in addition to linking social contacts is supposed to foster debate about legislative proposals coming both out of Brussels and from national parliaments.

Sounds exciting, eh? Here’s the real belter though:

The site is planned to be open to the public, who will be able to react to the issues with letters to the editor. However, only MPs and MEPs will be able to post comments.

One for the ‘really badly not getting it’ pile.

ICELE – now you don’t

Poor old ICELE. First of all, Professor Stephen Coleman questioned it’s utility on the Connecting Bristol blog:

I have been following e-democracy in the UK since its earliest manifestations in the work of UKCOD (UK Citizens e-Democracy), established in 1996. I was commissioned to be one of three evaluators for the Government’s national project for local e-democracy, out of which came the International Centre for Local e-Democracy (ICELE) This new body was well-funded, but seems to have produced conspicuously little. There might be others out there who can tell me that I’ve missed some wonderful outputs. If so, please do.

The discussion in the comments on that post soon spilled over into the UK & Ireland eDemocracy mailing list, which David Wilcox reported on, quoting Rita Wilson, ICELE’s director:

Having been on holiday for a few days I was surprised to come back to lots of speculation about ICELE. First of all I would like to say that I am more than happy to provide information regarding what ICELE has been achieving and there is nothing hidden about our activities. But we are doers not talkers, delivering a programme to make a difference in how local authorities use tools and technology to move from consultation to participation.

Now, it seems that the speculation was well placed. ICELE will soon be no more. In a message to various participants in the ICELE project, the Chairman of ICELE, Matthew Ellis wrote:

Although the termination date for ICELE was originally contracted as the end of March this year we agreed, at CLG [Department for Communities and Local Government]’s request, to maintain the Centres basic core operation for a further three months to discuss the way forward in promoting local eDemocracy. Unfortunately, although some talks have taken place, no decision or indication of CLG’s future plans in this important area of work have been forthcoming, or what form or structure ICELE could take. I am therefore in the process of implementing an exit strategy plan which will see ICELE cease operations of any kind with Lichfield DC as the accountable body after the end of June.

What was ICELE? Well, good question. In their own words:

ICELE is a sustainable [oh dear], UK-based centre with strong international backing from eDemocracy experts in the public, private and non-governmental sectors.

The Centre is designed to serve as a ‘virtual’ focal point for collaborative eDemocracy initiatives both in the UK and abroad. Within the UK, local authorities, community groups and citizens can use the Centre’s online resources to help run projects in their local area.

They were involved in a few projects, like the VOICE web publishing tool and the Blog in a Box blogging platform for Councillors. I don’t know much about VOICE – though what I’ve heard isn’t good – and Blog in a Box is frankly superfluous given the quality of free offerings like WordPress, as CivicSurf has proved.

So, ICELE, to be frank, was a bit rubbish. But what will take its place? I guess we will find out when the Department’s white paper on Empowerment is published. There has already been some activity around this, including the Community Power Packs developed with Involve‘s help, as well as Simon Berry’s job at CLG. Let’s hope the results will be good.

I think it is a bit of a shame that ICELE will be no more – or at least that there won’t be a body around which eDemocracy at a local level can gather. It might be argued that even with ICELE such a body didn’t exist. Maybe there’s another argument that in this networked, post-organisation world, we don’t actually need a body of this type at all any more at all.

There are a number of people who have a real, dedicated interest in local eDemocracy, as well as the opportunities that the social web offers to achieve real success in the area. The trouble is that local government is a remarkably fragmented sector and tying together all the various initiatives is a role that’s important but not happening right now. One of the best ways that local government is joining up at the moment is through the Communities of Practice, hosted by the Improvement and Development Agency, and set up by Steve Dale.

A quick search of the Communities platform for ‘edemocracy’ reveals nothing. Perhaps those with a genuine interest in making things better and sharing ideas might organise themselves through that platform? After all, there is already a huge user base on the platform.

Some MacBook Questions

Mac

I do love my Macbook, I have to say, and it gets an awful lot more use than my Vista laptop, which you can see just in shot, shut as usual. Mine is a 2.2 GHz model – the middle range one. I need to get some stuff sorted out for it, and could do with a bit of help.

  1. I want to upgrade my memory to the maximum 4gb. How come it costs £240 from Apple but only £63.44 from Crucial? I mean, I know Apple probably charge a premium but that’s a huge difference!
  2. Photo editing software. I currently have Pixelmator, but it does my head in a lot. Now I have a DSLR I reckon I need something a little better for photo editing. I was thinking Photoshop Elements?
  3. I have a little Sony Handycam that records straight to hard disk. It lacks an external mic capability, which is a pain, but it makes up for that in cuteness. Anyway, it being a Sony, I can’t currently edit the .mpgs that the Handycam exports on the Mac, they just don’t like each other. I found this solution on the web, suggesting using Quicktime Pro (which I don’t yet have) and something called ‘MPEG_Streamclip_1.8.dmg’ to sort this out. Assuming this means I can edit the video on the Mac, should I stick with iMovie or is it worth investing in something like Final Cut Express? Does Adobe Premiere exist on the Mac? I can’t see it anywhere.
  4. Storage. As well as the MacBook and the Vista laptop, I can possibly see myself investing in an iMac at some point in the future. I’d like to have one drive which they all share, or through which they all sync up with. Is this what a Time Capsule could do? For instance, I’d like all my photos to be in one place, rather than spread over 3 different machines, or at least have the same photos on every computer.
  5. 5. How do I hook my MacBook up to an external monitor? It doesn’t seem to have the right shaped hole anywhere on it.

If anyone can help me out on any of these things, I’d be most grateful!

Better browsers, please

There has been a conversation going on in the forums of the Public Sector Social Media Community of Practice for little while now about the browsers made available to public sector workers. Most folk seem to be running something like internet explorer 6, but there is evidence that much older technology is being used.

This must be holding people back both in terms of being able to make the most of web 2.0 technology as part of the way we work, as well as using social web tools to better engage and increase participation.

To try and garner some more views on this, I have set up a simple survey using Google Docs to try and assess where we are with things, and to see if it is worth setting up a little campaign to get Firefox onto public sector workstations. We can dream…

If you are a public servant, or spend a significant amount of time using public sector IT, do please complete the survey – it won’t take five minutes, I promise.

links for 2008-05-16

Google Reader

Google Reader

Am using Google Reader at the moment as the new version of NetNewsWire, which I foolishly downloaded, seems to have problems doing anything.

There’s a number of new features that I need to investigate that weren’t around when I last used the service, like notes on shared items and friends lists. I tend to share the stuff I think worthy of comment via del.icio.us, which posts directly to this blog once a day, but in case I start sharing bits, the URL is http://www.google.com/reader/shared/08096379081421145011. As soon as I have shared something, I will stick it up on my FriendFeed too.