Yammer gets a facelift

We’re big fans of Yammer at Learning Pool – it’s provided that virtual water-cooler that a distributed workforce really needs. That mixture of work related updates, general chit-chat and abuse that any office needs to function effectively.

If you aren’t aware of Yammer, it’s like Twitter but it is private to the employees of your organisation. It means you can discuss issues that you might not want aired in a public forum like Twitter, but in the similar short, informal way that status applications work.

Yammer has just had a bit of a facelift, and a new bit of functionality that looks really cool.


The cool feature is called Communities. Yammer now allows you to create a stream for people who aren’t necessarily part of your organisation to join. This is separate from your organisation’s stream, so you don’t need to worry about outsiders seeing your private conversations.

It appears that you can create as many of these communities as you like, and you can choose whether everyone from your organisation gets added automatically, or you can pick and choose people to join. Then it’s a case of inviting by email those people from other organisations that you want to be in on the action.

This will be a great tool for informally managing project communications between supplier and client, for example, especially when there are multiple partner organisations involved, and where there are several people from each organisation who needs to be kept up to date. I’ll be interested to see how Huddle reacts to this, and whether they will consider adding status update like features to their offering.

Blogging for nothing, and your clicks for free

I started writing a blog because I was hacked off with nobody listening to me at work when I tried to discuss with them the ideas I had for using the internet to make the work we did more interesting. I found that by writing stuff in public, online, people who were interested found it useful, and talked to me. Later on, people found it so useful they gave me work based on what I wrote here. It was a kind of freemium business model, though I never planned it that way.

After all, in the archives of this blog is an awful lot of information about how organisations can innovate around the way they use the internet, and what lessons they could learn from internet culture. If the people that wield budgets read it properly – and trusted their own staff a little more – they probably wouldn’t need to hire me, ever. But don’t tell anyone that.

Dennis Howlett writes a really interesting and informative blog called AccMan which “concentrates on innovation for professional accountants with a strong leaning towards the technologies that drive client value”. Don’t worry though, it’s a really interesting read. The other day, Dennis posted about a couple of related things: one, that he spent a lot of time providing free advice off the back of his blog posts via other channels like email; and secondly, that as a result of this, he would be making some of his blog content available only on a paid for basis.

It’s an interesting response to an issue that probably didn’t exist until recently. The question is, I guess, once you start giving stuff away for free, is it impossible to withdraw, even partially, from that position? And do people then expect you to provide everything for free? In other words, just because I provide advice, guidance and opinion for nothing here on DavePress, does that obligate me to answer people’s questions on email for free? I, like Dennis, find myself doing it all the time.

I guess this is an issue a lot of content businesses are wrestling with at the moment, newspapers especially.

Don’t worry, I can’t see myself charging for what I publish here anytime soon – I doubt there would be many takers. I’m happy using the blog to develop my ideas, and develop a bit of goodwill in the hope that can turn itself into paid work at some point in the future.

Bookmarks for February 20th through February 23rd

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.

Learning Pool in Devon

Exeter bus

Right folks, here’s what is happening on Thursday.

At 11am a networking meeting will kick off at Buckerell Lodge in Exeter. You’ll get to listen to me talk about my latest obsessions in social media and Mary will natter about Learning Pool developments. Don’t worry if you haven’t bagged a place yet – a couple of people have dropped out, so just get in touch if you fancy coming along – it’ll be ace.

After that, we will be having some lunch, to which everyone is invited. Everything should be finished up by 2ish.

See, local gov *can* do Facebook

One of the highlights of last Wednesday’s LGComms event was hearing about Coventry City Council‘s Facebook page.

Coventry on Facebook

If you click to see the larger image, you’ll notice that the page has 11,321 fans (as at the time of writing).


Remarkable stuff. As I wrote, quite a while ago now, it’s tricky to use Facebook when you are the sort of organisation nobody loves to love. Who wants to be a fan of their local authority? No-one I know.

How did Ally Hook and colleagues manage this feat? Pretty simple. It’s not the Council’s FB page…it’s the city’s. Tapping into civic pride is a great way of getting people to engage. Using your Facebook page to provide up to date information on weather related issues during snowpocalypse probably helps too.

In other words:

  • be relevant: don’t try and get people to want to join a weird club for the council, tap into what people want to belong to
  • be useful: use the space in a way that actually benefits people, rather than as just another comms channel

Facebook will continue to be incredibly useful for those wishing to engage with citizens. It’s where the people are, and the numbers keep growing. Just because it has been around for a while shouldn’t mean us social media geeks look down on it. Is it time you took another look at Facebook?

Movements this week

Another busy week this.

Tomorrow I am speaking at 4Children’s 18th Annual Policy Conference, on the subject of engaging young people with social media. I understand Tim Davies was unavailable 😉

On Thursday Mary and I will be traveling down to Devon to hang out in Exeter for a couple of days. The Thursday itself will feature a networking event and lunch sponsored by Learning Pool, where anyone with any connection to the public and third sectors can come and meet other interesting folk – as well as Carl Haggerty. There are still one or two spaces left, so let me know if you’d like to come along.

On Friday we will be attending the Likeminds conference, which is shaping up to be an excellent day – I’m really looking forward to it. The speaker lineup is fabulous.

JFDI vs Being Boring

Light blogging recently, I’ve been gadding about talking at a load of events – which is fun and rewarding in its own way, but doesn’t really help with getting any work done, nor with writing here.

Last Wednesday I was at the LGComms seminar on digital communications, and had the opening slot explaining why all this stuff matters. I was on slightly shaky ground as I don’t really know all that much about digital comms, just the social bit. I’ve no idea how to run a proper corporate website, for example. Anyway.

My slides were the usual concoction, and they’re on Slideshare if you want them. My general message was that while the internet is undoubtedly important for communications, it’s a mistake to put all of this stuff in a box marked comms and assume it doesn’t affect or benefit other parts of the organisation and the way they work.

One slide I included was pretty new, and it featured a pretty crappy graph I threw together in Powerpoint:

JFDI vs Being Boring

Click it for a bigger version. The point here is that by taking a JFDI approach – to any innovative behaviour, not just social media use – you get a lot done quickly. The trouble is that it isn’t terribly sustainable, because it is often the work of one or two enlightened individuals and it isn’t terribly well embedded in corporate process, systems or structures.

The alternative is to be boring, and go down the route of getting the strategy and procedure sorted early, and developing activity in line with that. This is a lot more sustainable, as everyone knows what they are doing and what they are responsible for. There is a problem though, and that is that being boring is slower than JFDIing – your innovators might get fed up and leave, and your organisation might be perceived as doing nothing, when in fact it’s just moving rather slowly.

My take is this: it isn’t an either/or choice – do both. Just get on with it, choosing some small projects to prototype and feed the findings from that activity into the longer term process and system building approach. Keep the innovators happy by giving them some space to experiment, whilst building the foundations that will help the rest of the organisation understand and feel comfortable with.

Don’t let strategy and process get in the way of doing good stuff. At the same time, don’t JFDI and find yourself exposed.


I had the pleasure of being asked to be a part of Gov 2.0 radio, a live phone-in podcast about government and the web based in the States. Due to timezone stuff it meant I had to stay up til 2am to take part, but it was well worth it.

Adriel Hampton wrote it up like this:

Collaboration, Innovation and Social Media in Government: Join a great discussion of the Open Government Directive and Twitter, collaboration and ideation in government, with guests Jenn Gustetic from Phase One Consulting Group, Dave Briggs of Learning Pool, and Swimfish CIO John F. Moore and hosts Adriel Hampton, Steve Lunceford and Steve Ressler. More background here.

You can listen to the recording below – I won’t tell you when I’m on because that would spoil the surprise. Besides, I wasn’t particularly coherent, so you’ll no doubt enjoy the other participant’s contributions much more.


I really enjoyed doing this, and I think there is something really valuable in audio work. As Roo Reynold’s excellent post proves, it doesn’t need to be hard to produce a decent podcast. I’m tempted to start doing some planning around something similar to Gov 2.0 radio for the UK – if you’d like to be involved, let me know.

Bookmarks for February 10th through February 20th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.