Face your online fears

Silver Surfers' DaySilver Surfers’ Day is coming up on the 21st May. Organised by Digital Unite and supported by UK online centres, among others, it’s a national campaign to highlight the opportunities the internet offers people in later life.

As a part of this year’s event, UK online centres are running a special campaign for people to face their online fears, after research reveals that fear is a major blocker to older people making the most of the net.

They say:

If you know someone who is not online why not support the ‘Face your online fears’ campaign and help them to overcome their worries about using the internet. There are ‘Face your online fears’ events happening at 700 UK online centres across England or why not help them to get started at home with our free ‘Face your online fears’ game which will give them an understanding of how to use a keyboard and mouse, online security, and even online shopping. It’s really easy and they could even win a laptop. To find a centre running an event or play the game visit: www.ukonlinecentres.com/faceyouronlinefears

As well as the online game, accessible from anywhere, 700 uk online centres will be supporting Silver Surfers’ Day and Face Your Online Fears.

Pass it on.

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:


Teach us a Lesson

I’ve been working with BIS and Becta quite a bit recently on the Learning Revolution project, which is all about improving access to informal adult learning – that is, learning which doesn’t generally mean a qualification. So, stuff like book groups, choirs, yoga classes, basic computer skills. That sort of thing.

One part of this project was helping to manage the delivery of a DirectGov hosted website, ably put together by the Dextrous Web team, which provided an interactive calendar and map for the Festival of Learning throughout October. It’s a lovely looking site with a load of interesting features. We also have been running an online community, on good old Ning, for providers of this type of learning to get together and share knowledge and information.

But there remains a question over how a national, permanent directory of informal learning might work, and what it would look like. To try and find out, Becta have launched a competition, called Teach us a Lesson.

It’s based on Show us a Better Way, and allows ideas to be submitted from anybody. These will be vetted for filth and stupidity, before going live on the site, and other users will be able to comment and rate them.

As the ideas flow in, we’ll be organising an unconference in November, to get everyone together to connect and collaborative on ideas that fit well together. After that, the best projects will be judged, with a pot of £25,000 being split amongst up to five projects, so that prototypes can be delivered by March 2010 at the latest.

If you have any ideas on how such a directory might work – which could be anything from “I think it ought to be blue!” to “I know the SQL syntax we need to make this work” (I know, I know, I haven’t a clue what I’m talking about…) – then do submit them into the site and be a part of this exciting initiative.

Let’s predict the lottery!

I rather enjoyed the Derren Brown stuff this week around predicting the lottery numbers. It was enjoyable and entertaining, and anyone expecting anything approaching seriousness was always going to be disappointed.

But what of averaging out the views of the many to predict randomness?

I’ve set up Let’s predict the lottery! to do just that. Enter your favourite lottery number picks, and on Saturday 19th September, I’ll buy a ticket using the average numbers of all those who contribute.

We won’t win, of course. It’s a load of nonsense. But if, if, we do, I’ll think of something fun and good to do with the lolly. Which won’t involve keeping it myself.

I promise.

Mash the State

Mash the State is a campaign to “encourage UK government and public sector organisations to make their data available to the general public.”

The first part of the campaign is dedicated to getting local authorities in the UK using RSS to disseminate information from their websites. Currently only 66 of 434 local councils currently produce RSS.

Helpfully, a PDF one pager has been published to explain why this is a good idea. There is also a blog so you can keep up with developments.

Mash the State is the brainchild of Adrian Short, who has also founded a civic hacking club in Sutton, London; and developed a rather neat local news aggregator.

Help Al survive for charity

My good friend Al Kitching writes a damn fine film review blog. He’s also doing something silly for charity:

I’m being dropped into an “as yet undisclosed wilderness location” for five days of survival and adventure. The event will contain fundamental (with the emphasis on the mental) aspects of survival which “will challenge participants from dawn till dusk and beyond” (oh, good). I shall be expected to build a shelter, locate and prepare safe drinking water, light a fire without matches, forage for food, identify edible plants, navigate by sun and stars, use improvised first aid…OK, I’m talking myself out of it now…I’m assured that it’s a “fantastic mental and physical test” which will also give me a “huge sense of personal achievement”. Hmmm.

He is doing all this for the Anthony Nolan Trust, who provide lifesaving donors for patients in need of a bone marrow transplant.

It’s a great endeavour for a great cause. Please visit his JustGiving page and donate something. Also, please link to this, reblog it, tweet it, save it in Facebook…you know what to do.

The Conservatives’ ‘Honest Food’ campaign

Yesterday morning, the Conservative Party launched a new campaign for ‘honest food’ – which is all about labelling food with its country of origin. They do have a rather nice video:

I don’t usually drift into party political stuff on this blog, and I’m not really going to start now. For some reason though, this campaign caught my eye and I’m just going to look at the online elements of it and see how they might be improved.

The campaign has it’s own URL – www.honestfoodcampaign.com – which just diverts the user to a sub page of the main Conservative Party website. This is mistake number one for me, for a campaign to engage with a broader range of people, it needs to avoid heavy branding from a political party. By all means make it clear who is behind the campaign, but don’t alienate potential supporters by making it all about the party.

On the campaign site itself, there are four tabs of content, which cover:

  • Honest Food – an intro to the campaign. There is lots of information available, but it is all in downloadable PDFs. Mistake number two.
  • Supporters
  • – some quotes from celebrities. There’s no interaction at all. Mistake number three.

  • Our poll – some details of a survey completed on behalf of the Tories, with a download link to (guess what?) another PDF full of further information (not that I bothered to download it)
  • Get involved – it would appear that the only way to get involved is by emailing, or posting(!) misleading labels to the campaign organisers. These are then made available for people to view…in a downloadable PDF

At the bottom of each of these sections is a link to sign an online (Conservatives-hosted) petition.

That seems to be it.

Here’s what I would do to breath some life into this campaign:

  1. Create a microsite, with very modest branding to host some decent levels of instantly viewable content, and get rid of the PDFs
  2. Get more value from the celeb endorsements, perhaps by making them available for questions from the public through webchats or something similar, or even just by doing some video with them to make it more interesting
  3. Create a space for people to talk about this issue with each other – maybe just a Facebook group, something simple
  4. Make the process of providing photos of poor labelling more fun and social – make it an instantly updated online photo gallery. Accept photos from mobile phones and services like Flickr. Maybe even create an iPhone application to do it.

What I think this makes clear is that whilst people have been critical of Labour’s efforts online, the other parties by no means have it licked themselves. Also, for a campaign to be really successful I think you have to let people feel like they are a part of it, and make it their own. Throwing PDFs at them and getting them to sign a petition does doesn’t real cut it.

An open transition

Another Saturday evening post about how the internet can have a positive effect on the way democracy and government operates. This one is straight from the US.

An Open Transition is a site set up by a coalition of folk including Lawrence Lessig, Mozilla and the Participatory Culture Foundation. It states:

President-elect Obama has made a very clear commitment to changing the way government works with its citizens. To this end, we offer these three principles to guide the transition in its objective to build upon the very best of the Internet to produce the very best for government.

Those three principles are:

  1. No Legal Barrier to Sharing
  2. No Technological Barrier to Sharing
  3. Free Competition

There’s also a video explaining things a bit more:

It will be interesting to follow this one, and see what influence it might have.


Simon Berry’s ColaLife campaign is a truly wonderful thing, a real example of using the groundswell to develop an idea into a campaign and then, hopefully, into action.

I was always at a bit of a loss, wanting to help out more than just joining the Facebook group, but not knowing really what I could do. Other than build websites, of course…

So that’s what I did. ColaLife now has an external web presence, so people can find out about it without being a Facebooker. I made the site deliberately simple to navigate, hiding the blog bit away and relying on images to help get the message across. Another great example of WordPress as CMS…

We’ve imported all the posts from Simon’s personal blog onto the site, so it can become the central repository for all things ColaLife. In the meantime, do register your support by joining the FB group and the Google email group.