Monthly Archives: October 2010

Bookmarks for October 3rd through October 19th

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

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

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

Saving lots of lolly with Learning Pool

Quickly grabbing some connectivity at a friend’s house, so I thought I would share this post – originally published on the Learning Pool blog – outlining just how much money the public sector has saved by working with us to deliver their training and collaboration online.

Enjoy!


Two hundred local authorities in England and Wales have made substantial savings of £36million in their HR budgets over the last three years by using an open source platform to track and monitor delivery of their internal training programmes.

Councils have saved between £46,000 and £100,000 every year by using the Dynamic Learning Environment from Learning Pool. This service was launched in September 2007 and has been bought by small, medium and large public sector organisations. Developed on Moodle, the open source Learning Management System allows organisations to deliver and manage all kinds of learning resources and to track usage while demonstrating return on investment from training spend.

Mary McKenna, Learning Pool describes how using open source software helped:
“Open source software allowed us to create a managed learning platform that we launched on a disruptive pricing model. We set out to save councils money, and we did.”

Learners benefit from built in Web2.0 features such as wikispodcastsdiscussion forums and pollswhich can be switched on as required to provide a learning experience that goes beyond the classroom or, in the case of e-learning, the solitary computer.

The business case for open source

Stories of councils paying exorbitant fees for managing their learning prompted Learning Pool to develop this system for the public service.  Prior to 2007 councils were paying anything from £40,000 for a one year LMS contract without any support or maintenance, right up to £600,000 for the platform plus another £600,000 to implement, as experienced by a large county council in the North of England.  By comparison, the average cost of a Learning Pool DLE is £4,000 per year including set up, configuration and initial training.

Collaboratively created

Moodle was the obvious choice for the technology to underpin the DLE. Created by the open source community, this technology has quickly become the world’s favourite LMS and is deployed in thousands of organisations worldwide, including the Open University. On the first day of the launch over 50 Learning Pool customers signed up to be guinea pigs, thereby demonstrating the clear need for an affordable solution.

Their feedback, critique and requirements shaped the first launch of the platform and has continued to inform its development ever since.

Since those early days not only have no customers cancelled their contracts, over 150 more have signed up and we’ve continued to develop and enhance the platform with new updates to functionality and features, many suggested by customers themselves.

Learning Pool’s Paul McElvaney says:
“We consider ourselves to be an open source success story and we’re really proud of  what we’ve achieved. The DLE we have built gives our customers flexibility and functionality. It’s completely customisable and can be configured to meet the needs of each individual organisation in the public service.”

We work hard so you don’t have to

In today’s environment of efficiency and budget cuts a Learning Pool DLE gives time pressed HR and IT managers the ability to create management information reports to quantify progress against objectives and demonstrate ROI.

And, because the platform is hosted by Learning Pool, there are no tricky firewall or security issues to contend with and no need to worry about rolling out upgrades or software extensions – this is all taken care of centrally by Learning Pool. Feedback from Learning and Development managers who are using the system is positive.

“We’ve realised just how powerful and flexible the DLE can be, compared to our limited LMS experience of just administering learning accounts. The DLE, together with the new version of the authoring tool, will add another dimension to our e-Learning modules.”
Steve Day, Rotherham MBC

“My aim is to change the mindset of staff and managers. Those who think at all about [our DLE] probably think ‘What does it do?’I want to change that to ‘This is what I need to do in my service – how can I get [our DLE] to facilitate this?’ This would be a major step forward to using the DLE as an integral part of the business, something I believe has enormous potential.”
Simon Green, Blaenau Gwent CBC

About Learning Pool

Learning Pool is the only online learning community dedicated exclusively to the public sector. From councils to central government, we provide e-learning courses, a managed learning platform and community-led social learning solutions designed to help public sector organisational change, improve service delivery and build capacity – all with increasing efficiency.

With less than 50 employees Learning Pool is a small, agile and fast paced organisation that bears little resemblance to the Local Government Improvement and Development project where it began. Independent and grown up for four years, we kept the good stuff – the total focus on the public sector, the commitment to collaborative working, not reinventing the wheel and the name and improved the rest – not least our software and customer service.

For further information on Learning Pool’s Dynamic Learning Environment, including costs, please email hello@learningpool.com or call 0207 101 9383.

Local by Social: free online conference 3-9 November

I’m taking part in an online conference on the LGID Communities of Practice platform (registration required) that’s running between 3 and 9 November.

My bit will be on the 8th, between 1.30 and 3.30pm, and I will be talking about the movement of GovCamps across the UK, where practitioners, suppliers and interested others get together to chew the fat about improving public services.

Here’s the skinny from the Local by Social blog:

Local by Social online conference, 3 – 9 November FREE

Citizens and councils are getting online and discovering the power of the Internet to make it easier to access services, feed back for improvement, provide accountability and help people organise themselves for civic action.

The Local by Social online conference will bring together a range of practitioners, thought leaders and social entrepreneurs to look at three areas where the Internet is changing the way localities are governed and services are delivered.

Social media: citizens and councils
Social media: creating and sharing knowledge between practitioners
Open data for accountability and improvement.
This free conference will be hosted on Local Government Improvement and Development’s Communities of Practice platform.

What’s an online conference?

An online conference is just like a conference in the ‘real world’ except there are no long train journeys, no soggy sandwiches and no shame in getting up and walking out if the topic just isn’t your thing.

LG Improvement and Development has hosted many successful online conferences. You’ll hear from invited ‘speakers’ who will share materials through video, presentations or writing about their topic who will then be available to answer questions in the discussion forum. But this is also an opportunity to set your own agenda, start topics or carry on discussions.

How do I sign up?

This free online conference is already open to join. If you’re not already a member, register at http://www.communities.idea.gov.uk (it’s free). If you are, simply follow this link to sign up. We’ll alert you as activity kicks off and round up the hot topics, so you never miss a thing.

Confirmed speakers

  • Carrie Bishop and Dominic Campbell, FutureGov
  • Dave Briggs, Learning Pool
  • Emer Coleman, GLA/ London DataStore
  • Gary Colet, KIN
  • Hugh Flouch, Network Neighbourhoods
  • Steve Dale, Knowledge Hub
  • Paul Davidson, CIO Sedgemoor, LeGSB
  • Brendan Harris, Local Government Improvement and Development
  • Stuart Harrison, Lichfield District Council
  • Alison Hook, Coventry Council
  • Dan Slee, Walsall Council
  • Hollie Snelson, Kent
  • Julian Tait, Open Data Manchester/ Future Everything
  • Mike Thacker, Porism/ esd-toolkit
  • Richard Wallis, Talis
  • David Wilcox

Almost live transparency from Greater Manchester Police

GMP

A really interesting experiment is happening in Manchester today, thanks to the local police force.

Greater Manchester Police are, according to their website,

publishing details of every incident that it deals with on Twitter to allow the public to see what officers at one of the largest UK forces face on a daily basis.

This video explains more:

You can follow all the action on the GMP website, where they are aggregating together the outputs from three different Twitter streams, or just get the latest from @gmpolice.

As I said, interesting stuff, and a great use of the scale that social media tools like Twitter offer in terms of quickly publishing a lot of information. Imagine doing something like this through traditional web publishing tools!

It’s also a great example of a public service using transparency proactively and positively. It doesn’t always have to be bad news.

Big and small societies

Nick BoothI had the pleasure on this lunchtime of spending time with Nick Booth – the man (the legend?) behind Podnosh, and the phenomenon that are Social Media Surgeries. What I love about Nick is that he is a connector – he knows government, and he knows communities – and he introduces them to each other all the time, on the web or in real life.

Anyway, this isn’t a post (just) about inflating Nick’s ego. We spent an hour and a half discussing business, the state of local government, where our own relevance might lie in these austere times, and that sort of thing. We naturally ended up discussing the Big Society, what it might actually mean and how it might actually work.

We probably didn’t cover much ground that others haven’t, but it was a useful discussion. I think that what I took away from it most of all was the idea that the lack of money to fund civic activity should be seen as a feature, not a bug.

In other words, don’t complain about there being no money attached to the Big Society. Make the point of it doing stuff that doesn’t need a grant to work. If your idea can’t operate without funding, maybe this is the wrong time for that idea.

* * * * *

Last night, on Twitter, my attention was grabbed by another Birmingham resident, Andy Mabbett, who posted up a couple of tweets tagged with #smallsociety. His point was:

do one small thing each day, to make the world around you better…Imagine if we all picked up one piece of litter and put it in a bin; or reported one pothole or faulty street light.

I love this idea. It also ties in beautifully with one of my favourite phrases to describe the internet, David Weinberger‘s ‘small pieces, loosely joined’.

Perhaps the big society is just lots of small societies joined together. Maybe the internet could be the adhesive.

Photo credit: Pete Ashton.

Update!

I’ve been accused of “big society romanticism” by Patrick Butler in the Guardian. I refuse to accept such a charge lying down!

I’m not saying this funding-free environment is a good thing. But it is a thing, possibly the thing and all I was doing was to point out that maybe it’s a change in mindset that’s required to get through the next few years, and make the most of the fact that the big society agenda – whatever its faults – has some serious backing in government.

Do I see a funding-free utopia ahead, where the gaps in public services are filled by willing volunteers, suddenly happy to give up their time to do the stuff they have got used to government doing for so many years? Of course not.

But I also think that dismissing attempts to think positively about the position we are in as ‘romanticism’ isn’t going to get anyone anywhere.

101 cool tools: Addictomatic

Second in my series of posts highlighting 101 cool online tools is Addictomatic.

It’s a great little service for doing instant online monitoring. Just feed the homepage with a search term, and it will quickly come back to you with a bunch of results across the web – from video sites, blogs, Twitter, photos and others.

You can then pick and choose which of the services are most useful to you, and bookmark the resulting URL, which you can return to whenever you like for an update.

If you’re wanting to do some quick online research to see what people are saying about you, or the issues that matter to you, then Addictomatic is just what you need.

How I use online stuff

Carl has posted a couple of interesting bits about how he uses social websites, and how this is changing:

I don’t tend to think about what I use – probably because this stuff is now completely embedded into work… but a quick scan through makes me realise that I haven’t really started to properly use any new service for about three years!

No location based services at all! I’m on the cutting edge, me.

Blogging

I use WordPress here at DavePress, which has been around in one form or another for about 5 years. I mostly write posts in MarsEdit, but use the web interface for stuff like comment moderation, updating the software, etc.

Twitter

I started tweeting in February 2007 and haven’t stopped. I ping it with blog posts from here, links to stuff I see elsewhere, the occasional question and the odd bit of ephemera. I mostly use Tweetie on the desktop, and the official Twitter apps for Android and iOS.

Delicious

I don’t really use Delicious as a bookmarking tool – in the sense that they are sites I want to visit later. Instead, it’s part of my publishing workflow – so these are sites I think my readers and followers might be interested in.

I never visit the Delicious web page, and only interact with it through the Chrome browser plugin. I automatically ping the links I save to Twitter – again, through the browser plugin.

Google Reader

I probably spend more time on this site than any other, perhaps with the exception of email. It’s where all that stuff I find so you don’t have to comes from.

Facebook

Now and again I visit the site, usually to catch up with messages I have been notified about, and while I’m there I’ll catch up with what some folk have been up to. I ping Facebook with blog entries too, which I am sure my friends are delighted about.

But I barely use Facebook, even for non-geeky social stuff – perhaps I just don’t do non-geeky social stuff?

LinkedIn

I do visit LinkedIn on a daily or perhaps every-other-day basis, usually to approve connection requests and to respond to requests for recommendations (if you feel the need to write something nice about me, my profile is here). It certainly seems like LinkedIn is a thriving community of people who perhaps don’t use Twitter quite so much.

My Twitter postings update LinkedIn automatically, which is the limit of my activity there, really.

Slideshare

My job means I do a lot of talks at conferences, and I tend to upload them to Slideshare when they change significantly. This automatically pings Twitter to say I have uploaded them. I also occasionally mark someone else’s slides as a favourite, which also pings Twitter.

Evernote

The most recent addition to my armoury. I type almost everything up in Evernote – blog post ideas, meeting notes, random things that pop into my head. I also clip web pages I want to read later here.

Tumblr

I clip interesting YouTube videos to my Tumblr site, using a bookmarklet in my browser – I never visit the actual site. It pings Twitter with every new video.