Blogged elsewhere: Why tech SMEs are Crucial to Public Sector Digital Transformation

I was asked by my friends at AdviceCloud to write something for the TechUK blog about how small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) can support public sector organisations in their efforts to transform.

Technology is not the be-all and end-all of digital transformation. However, any organisation looking to disrupt itself in this way must have a sufficiently flexible technology stack to support the radical change that is needed – and tech SMEs are in the perfect place to deliver what digital transformation demands.

Read the whole thing on the TechUK website.

 

Problogging

I’m hugely envious of folks like Shawn Blanc and Ben Thompson. Their job is their blogs! How lucky is that?

This year I’ve really got into the content-producing swing of things – dunno if you’ve noticed. With this blog settled down and at home on WordPress.com, my newsletter working nicely thanks to Goodbits, the podcast rumbling along nicely on Libsyn and my Pinboard bookmarks providing even more stuff for people to look at if they need it, the tech and workflow is all slotting together very nicely.

It would be fantastic to be able to just focus on this content creation an curation work. It’s what I really love doing. Figuring a way to make it sustainable though is not easy.

Shawn and Ben both have membership schemes. Their core blogging is available for free, but extra bits – including content via email and podcasts – are members only. Members have to pay a certain amount to get access to it all.

This is a great way of doing things, but you need people willing to pay for your content.

Sponsorship is another way of doing things. John Gruber’s Daring Fireball does this, with the blog’s RSS feed being sponsored every week by a tech company wanting to reach his (many) readers. Gruber charges $9,500 per week for this sponsorship. Wowza!

The other option I guess is what I currently do, which is to use the content creation as a way of promoting my consulting work. The downside of this is that a) the blogging etc is a means rather than an end; and b) that I have to leave the house now and again.

Maybe I should just stop being lazy!

Better blogging: separate writing and publishing?

I wonder if one way of helping the process of blogging is to separate the tools you use for writing and for publishing.

Here’s what I mean – when I use WordPress’ editor to compose a post from scratch, I am using the same software to write my content and to publish it.

I have nothing against the WordPress editor, by the way – it’s excellent. But I find that when I use it, I feel under a bit more pressure to get what I am writing finished, so I can hit that big publish button and be done with it.

Using a separate tool to compose the post, then transfer it to WordPress for publication makes the writing process a bit of a calmer affair.

I can still edit my content in the WordPress editor where I spot mistakes, or to add images, links and that sort of thing. The bulk of composition however, takes place in a different editor.

At the moment I mostly use Byword on the Mac and iOS for writing posts, which are then copied to WordPress.

What do you think? Am I talking nonsense – or do you also find that separating writing and publishing is helpful?

Blogging – writing and reading

Inspired, as I often am, by Lloyd and his various experiments in reusing media, finding new ways to use old stuff, and continuing to prod at blogging as a medium.

Thanks to him, I’m drawn back to Tumblr. It strikes me that the follow and post model that Tumblr embodies harks back to the original blogging tools like Radio Userland that combine reading and posting, and facilitates the easy (b)logging of other people’s content.

It is a closed system of course, which is a bit of a bad thing, but tools like IFTTT can be used to ensure a local backup of content is stored somewhere. But it feels better than – say – Facebook, which really is another follow and post type system. As is Twitter, of course, albeit with greater limitations.

WordPress – at least in its .com incarnation – seems to be following Tumblr by enabling users to follow blogs within a dashboard. But with these platforms, you can only (I think) follow blogs within that platform. It would be nice to be able to pull content in from elsewhere too.

The separation between a reading application and a writing application – which happened when? 2003? – was an error, as it enabled platform players to provide that holistic experience, and there doesn’t seem to be an open equivalent, unless anyone else knows of one.

Blogging in Fargo

Fargo is one of my favourite web tools to have emerged recently. One thing I really love is the way that it keeps iterating and adding neat new features.

It’s now super easy to publish your own blog via Fargo. Here’s a video showing how.

Why start a blog?

There are a number of reasons why you might want to start blogging:

  • You have ideas you want to share
  • You have a story to tell
  • You have knowledge you want to demonstrate
  • You want to progress your career
  • You want the great work your organisation does to get recognition

All of these are great reasons. But basically it comes down to wanting to do whatever it is that you do better.

Because if you start a blog, after a little while, that will be the result – no matter what your original motivation.

One reason a great blogger will never give you is “because my boss told me to”. Good bloggers do it because they want to, because it works for them, and not because it serves their employer’s purposes.

Goodbye, We Love Local Government

We Love Local Government, an anonymously written group blog by a bunch of people working in the sector, has closed its doors. How sad!

It was a great resource, providing support, advice and amusement for all those working for councils during an incredibly difficult time.

Those behind it have decided to move onto other things, which is fine – they’ve done their bit!

Hopefully what they have done is to further advance the cause of blogging in the public sector in the UK. That simple act of publishing stories, ideas, experiences, views and opinions is still incredibly powerful, and yet one that still isn’t being effectively used at scale.

My hope is that some of those who followed We Love Local Government now start their own blogs, writing about what they do, why they do it and how it’s changing – developing the support network and adding to the conversation.

It’s my hope that they choose to do so publicly, under their own names too. I understand why WLLG was anonymous, but I passionately believe that being open about your identity as a blogger is best in the long term.

In the meantime, there are loads of people blogging about public service issues, and many of them are aggregated at Public Sector Blogs. Go take a look.

Every government project should be a Project WIP

I love Project WIP – Shropshire Council’s blog about their efforts to redesign their website.

It’s got a great tone and style, is useful and interactive and gives people a chance to know what is going on behind the scenes, and to get involved too.

It’s also really helpful – take their latest post about responsive design and DPI as an example.

Camden Council did something similar with their web rebuild too.

Why just website projects though? Why aren’t all government projects reported on in the open, via a blog?

It would increase transparency, allow for interested folk to contribute from the outside and open up the teams involved to all kinds of goodwill.

Government IT costs – the bloggers’ view

Once again, the quality commentary on the latest reports into government IT spending is coming from blogs.

Simon Dickson:

The real story, such as it is, is the Committee’s apparent recognition that the current process – reliant on a small number of large suppliers being given over-spec’ed, over-detailed, over-sized and over-priced projects – is the ‘root cause’ of the problem. And it’s quite nice to see them challenging the Cabinet Office, about whether its initiatives are tackling that root cause, or just the symptoms (paras 10-11).

Paul Clarke:

Can it really be that a single office computer can cost £3,500? Read that again. £3,500.

No. Of course not. And it almost certainly doesn’t.

Charges made for desktop computing in the public sector are invariably composed of an element for the hardware, plus a rather greater element to cover installation, support… in fact quite a bit more. IT managers (disclosure: I used to be one in the public sector) can play quite a few tunes on this figure; using it to cover centralised development work, packages of software and all manner of other “hidden” costs.

Dan Harrison:

According to the BBC’s article on the report issued by the public administration committee, departments sometimes pay up to £3,500 for a single desktop. What this figure includes, who knows? Undoubtedly there are some howlers out there—some costs that need to be called out and reigned in. Big time. But comparing desktop costs both within government and with those that you or I would pay on Amazon is bananas.