Monthly Archives: November 2009

Bookmarks for November 27th through November 29th

Awesomeness off of the internet for November 27th to November 29th:

Bookmarks for November 24th through November 27th

Awesomeness off of the internet for November 24th to November 27th:

  • The dark side of the internet – "Fourteen years ago, a pasty Irish teenager with a flair for inventions arrived at Edinburgh University to study artificial intelligence and computer science. For his thesis project, Ian Clarke created "a Distributed, Decentralised Information Storage and Retrieval System", or, as a less precise person might put it, a revolutionary new way for people to use the internet without detection. By downloading Clarke's software, which he intended to distribute for free, anyone could chat online, or read or set up a website, or share files, with almost complete anonymity."
  • BBC News – Government e-petitions give power to the people – "Government plans to roll out e-petitions across the UK could offer people a real say in the democratic process, a conference has heard."
  • Culture in the New Order | Centre for Policy Development – "One of the key hurdles for the public sector and legislators in heralding in the changes that will make the promise of Government 2.0 successful will be culture change."
  • eGov AU: Could the government replace some advertising and communications contracts with crowdsourcing? – "However what I will ask is this – should the Australian government look beyond advertising and communications agencies for good communications ideas? Should we go directly to the communities impacted by our programs, invite them to provide ideas for communications campaigns and reward them appropriately?"
  • Quiet Riots – "Quiet Riots is a prototype service that allows individuals to join together in groups to make change happen for the issues they share. Users find their Quiet Riot, share their experience, and work together to get something done."
  • State of the eUnion: Government 2.0 and Onwards – "The book State of the eUnion: Government 2.0 and Onwards is by John Gøtze and Christian Bering Pedersen, and foreworded by Don Tapscott, the book is a cornucopia of ideas and experiences from thought-leaders on three continents."

Help my village!

Thanks to everone who helped out with this vote, hopefully we will have the results soon and that it will be positive news!

My village’s community centre has the chance tonight to win a £50,000 grant from the People’s Millions. There is going to be a piece on the local news on ITV tonight during the 6pm broadcast, and telephone votes will determined which project wins the money.

Cottenham Community Centre needs the money to help convert the old Methodist Chapel in the village into a thriving community hub, including a coffee shop and other resources to help bring the people of the village together.

If you get the chance, please call 0871 6268804 before midnight tonight to register your vote. More details are below:

CottenhamCommunityCentre

Bookmarks for November 20th through November 24th

Awesomeness off of the internet for November 20th to November 24th:

Putting together your toolkit

I love technology. Actually, no I don’t. I like the idea of technology, and the potential of it. Actual technology generally makes me swear. Anyway, where was I?

So you’ve decided that you need to do something exciting, using technology. Let’s focus on social stuff, as that’s really all I know about. Maybe you’ve put your strategies and policies together and are ready to actually get into some doing. There are a number of approaches you could take:

  • Do your best with what you have
  • Cobble together free stuff
  • Buy something to do it all for you
  • Build something yourself
  • Some kind of weird hybrid of all the above

What should drive your decision on which route to go down, and what tools you use should depend, of course, on what you need. That sounds obvious, but it’s surprising how few organisations really understand their needs, which are dependent on

  • What it is you want to do – in other words, activity
  • How you are organisationally set up to approach this

The first point is another classic bit of Briggs stating the bleeding obvious, but it is worth writing this down and being clear about it. What are we talking about here? Replacing meetings with something more useful? Getting greater benefits than you are currently getting from email discussions? Creating a new community of people who are going to help you do all kinds of cool things?

The second point might be worth delving into in a bit more detail.

Issues that should be considered when looking at how your organisation works needs to take into account factors such as:

  1. Skill levels in the organisation
  2. Desire to share, collaborate and work together amongst staff
  3. Security issues around access and data security
  4. Hardware people have available, including speed of access etc
  5. How much money you have to invest
  6. Whether you need to work with and involve other organisations

All of these things may have as big an impact on your eventual choices as the activities bit. If you decide you need an enterprise collaboration platform, and go and procure something really amazing, but nobody in your organisation knows what it is, how to use it, or what the point of it is, then you’ve got a car crash on your hands.

Likewise, if you decide the future is in the cloud, and set up a system to do just that – but only find out from the IT security guys that it’s not possible for the organisation to host its files on various different servers across the globe at the very last minute, again, you’re ending up with egg on your face.

So before deciding on what tools you want and how they are going to work, it’s a good idea to spend some time figuring out the capacity within your organisation to deal with the technology you want to throw at them first – these are just as important as functional requirements and all the other stuff.

Quite a bit of inspiration from this post came from bits of the book Digital Habitats by Etienne Wenger, Nancy White and John D Smith. Well worth a look.

Editing Wikipedia

I’ve been asked this question a few times recently, so thought it worth sharing my answer with everyone that reads this blog:

What’s the best way to approach editing Wikipedia articles about us?

There are a number of reasons why you might want to do this – the most obvious being that there are some factual inaccuracies that you want to correct – though sometimes there are other reasons too.

There have been several high profile incidents where Wikipedia has been edited – by either the individual who is the subject of the article or by an employee of an organisation with a page on the site – with various degrees of success or humiliation. Here’s my guide to getting more of the former and less of the latter.

My instinctive reaction is: don’t do it. Editing Wikipedia is a minefield and getting it right will take up an awful lot of time. Think about another way around it – could you publish a list of corrections on your own website, or on a blog? Perhaps encourage someone else who reads it to make the corrections, but leave Wikipedia itself well alone.

If you are determined to get involved, here’s what to do. Firstly, do not edit anonymously but create an account on the site. This is for the very good reason that your edits will not be anonymous anyway – your IP address will be recorded and if you are using a work computer, people will easily be able to find out where you are.

Instead, give yourself a username that’s understandable, not some random pseudonym. Then, open your personal user page and edit it to explain exactly who you are and who you work for. What you are aiming for is complete transparency – the last thing you want is people thinking that you are being sneaky.

Once that’s all done, it’s time to edit the entry itself. Or, rather, not – because my advice would be not to edit the text of the article itself first of all. Instead, I’d limit my edits to the article’s talk page initially. Explain in the page the inaccuracies, and perhaps link to the web page I mentioned earlier with a list of corrections. Then let the community do its work – some corrections will be made to the page – maybe all of them. What you are doing is giving the Wikipedians the facts, and allowing them to put their own house in order.

If that doesn’t happen, or if there is an urgent correction that needs making, then edit the text itself. Firstly, make the change, ensuring that you clearly link back to sources to back up your edits – and make sure you use the edit summary box to explain what you have done and why. Then, drop by the article’s talk page and again explain who you are, what change you made and why you did it.

Once all that is done, sign up to get email alerts when the page is changed so you can keep on top of what further edits people are making.

If you find that someone just goes in right away and reverts – that is, removes your edits and restores the page to how it looked before you started – do not get tempted into reverting their reversion! These tit-for-tat “edit wars” do nobody any good! Instead, try and engage with the person making the reversion, again through the article’s talk page, or on that user’s own page maybe. Most Wikipedipedians are friendly, conciliatory folk and you should be able to talk them into being more reasonable.

Of course, if that fails, there is always the Wikipedia arbitration process. Good luck with that.

For more on Wikipedia culture, I found Andrew Lih‘s book The Wikipedia Revolution pretty good. Lih is clearly a fan of Wikipedia, so it is hardly an unbiased account, but there is some really useful background in there.

Strategy stuff – a three pronged approach

Drawing together a few discussions I have been involved in recently about the different types of documents an organisation – such as a council – might need to put together to define its approach to engaging online, I thought it might be useful to set out how I think it could be done.

My initial inclination is always to dispense with strategy, to be honest, as process has a habit of stifling Good Stuff, and over strategising leads to attempts at control and general alienation. My second thought is that even if strategy is required, there shouldn’t be any need for anything specific for digital, as really it’s all the same – technology shouldn’t matter.

Realistically, though, at this stage organisations need to feel comfortable with what they are doing, and if that means having bits of paper explaining it all, then so be it. The important thing is to get those bits of paper right. I see a need for three types of document, each of which I will explain below:

1. Corporate strategy

A high level document explaining what the organisation wants to do, and why it wants to do it. Don’t make it tool focused, else it will go out of date very quickly. Keep it broad and general, as the specifics will be covered in the other documents. This should be the paper brought out to win arguments where necessary. Make sure people at the top of the organisation read it, and endorse it: it will be an enabler to get stuff done.

Issues it should cover:

  • How important does the organisation see the digital space?
  • What are the opportunities and risks, and how are they managed?
  • How online interaction fits in with other channels and processes
  • An overview of the approach: something like the classic listen, acknowledge, create, share
  • How are staff supported in their delivery of the strategy?

2. Staff guidelines

This is the bit which explains in clear terms what staff are enabled to do at work using the internet. There are plenty of good examples available on the web, from the Civil Service guidance, to the BBC, IBM and others. It performs an important role, and should be less about saying what people can’t do and more about encouraging and empowering staff to engage in online conversations.

This should set out how staff are encouraged to engage online, what they can do on their own, and what they might need to seek advice on. My general advice on this is:

  1. If the information or content is already published in some form or other, then it should be repeatable on blogs, in forum or whatever without the need to gain permission
  2. If something new is being generated, whether a viewpoint or a response to a question, say, then it’s best to get it checked out first
  3. If the staff member is at all uncertain, even in the instance of 1. above, get some advice

3. Individual project engagement plans

These form the nitty-gritty of the online engagement work, and there should be one for every digital project undertaken. While the other two documents I have written about are pretty high level – to ensure they remain relevant – with the plans, you can be pretty detailed and focus on activities. These plans should describe:

  • What the project is about, and how digital can support that
  • What the objectives of the digital work are
  • How those objectives will be measured – ie evaluation
  • What the roles are and who is responsible for them
  • How reporting will work
  • Which tools will be used and how
  • Some kind of timeline showing when activity will happen, for how long and how it will be shut down.

I reckon this three-pronged approach more or less covers the necessary bases. It would be interesting to hear how people are approaching this area, and how it differs to what I have written here.

OpenSpaceDevon

Carl Haggerty has launched a great initiative down in Devon:

Carl writes:

It would be great to get public sector professionals, voluntary organisations and business people involved in these areas all together and working through some of these issues and topics – Basically, i’d imagine the event to involve anyone who has an interest and passion to improve public services in general.

This is an interesting idea, and one I’m totally in agreement with. Take the format used by LocalGovCamp and other unconferences, but make it all about the geographical area. Bring together public, third and private sectors to thrash out new ways of doing things, and hopefully spark the enthusiasm needed for some of the organisational battles required to get stuff moving.

Just the sort of event I was thinking about when I wrote this post after the Lincoln LocalGovCamp.

So if you are in Devon, or just interested, pop along to the network Carl has created and join in the discussions!

Bookmarks for November 16th through November 18th

Awesomeness off of the internet for November 16th to November 18th:

  • Welcome to Southwark Circle – "Southwark Circle is a membership organisation that provides on-demand help with life's practical tasks through local, reliable Neighbourhood Helpers, and a social network for teaching, learning and sharing." via @dominiccampbell
  • Research report — Media Trust – "A major piece of research, commissioned by Media Trust, reveals there is an opportunity for Community Voices to add real value to current media activities within disadvantaged and isolated communities."
  • Why do people want microsites? at Helpful Technology – Excellent stuff from @lesteph
  • Social Innovation and the Knowledge Society – Now is the Time. – "The result is that the potential resource of innovative thought remains untapped and local authorities try to deliver what they can’t possibly deliver. What’s wrong with saying to people: this is how much money we have, this is what it will buy, what do you want to keep and what can you deliver yourselves? People have strong views about what they want for their community and if there are things they can do for themselves they will."
  • Jane’s E-Learning Pick of the Day: Top 100 Tools for Learning 2009: The Final List – "Here is the final list of the Top 100 Tools for Learning 2009, compiled from the contributions of 278 learning professionals – from education and workplace learning – worldwide." Via @donaldclark