Published elsewhere: mobile stuff and intranets

Light posting in these parts recently. I’ve been somewhat distracted by the so-far unsuccessful job hunt.

I have had a couple of pieces published elsewhere though. Firstly, a post on Comms 2.0 about mobile:

The growth in popularity of messaging applications, such as Whatsapp, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, Kik and others have caused a few communicators to start thinking about what the impact of these new channels might have on the way we engage with our communities.

Second, an article for Alive with Ideas on rebuilding intranets so that they are actually useful:

[Intranets are] stuffed full of useless, out of date information, are hard to navigate, have appalling search engines, and most damningly of all, don’t really have a good reason to exist in the first place.

Could I make my blog my livelihood?

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Bit navel-gazey this post, but bear with me, and I would love your feedback.

So, as mentioned previously, I am looking for a job. The main reason for this is that I want to be able to focus on one thing, and not have the freelancer’s dilemma of always looking for the next thing while doing the current thing.

Trouble is, I have rather a niche set of skills that are pretty hard to fit into any job description that hasn’t been put together with me in mind – and not even I am so arrogant to think that anyone would want to do that.

(Of course, if you do want to do that, please get in touch.)

So, what are the options? One might be to try and build a business, based around a particular product or service. I’ve plenty of ideas for such things, lots of folk I could collaborate with, and am not writing this off at all.

If I am honest though, I think my real dream would be to be able to make a living through this site. Y’know, just like Gruber or Thompson or Kottke.

How might that be possible? Well, I’m in a good place tech-wise as this site is now hosted on the Rainmaker platform, a customised hosted version of WordPress which has a load of functionality built in, including a membership scheme that can be charged for, have members-only content, the ability to host podcasts, and to have a members forum.

I’m not currently using much of this but am in the process of moving all the various bits of content I do into the platform.

Currently, my content-creation schedule is haphazard, with me writing posts, recording podcasts and doing other bits and pieces when I can fit it around contract work and other consulting gigs. It all acts basically as a marketing thing, to try and convince people I know what I am talking about so they hire me for more contract and consulting work.

So, what might a business model for this blog look like?

The free stuff

Well, some stuff would still need to be free. Probably the type of blog posts I usually publish at the moment would remain free and accessible to anyone – but if the blog was my main focus, there would be more of them. I find it so hard to blog daily when I am also doing a full time job.

My podcast would also remain free and public for its current form, doing interviews with interesting folk in the digital world. Again though, with the site being my main focus, I could do them much more regularly, whether every month or even weekly.

I’d also like to do more with my bookmarks. Currently they are pinged to Twitter, and I include the best of them in my newsletter (when I remember to send it out). I would like to have a daily link roundup post though on the blog.

Finally, a free weekly email newsletter, done properly and regularly. Having the time to focus on this would make it much easier. I need to find a way to make it easy for people to get the blog content by email, and then also the added value of a newsletter. Maybe I could combine one weekly newsletter which featured some new content, plus links and summaries of all the blog posts that week, plus my bookmarks from that week.

Maybe people could also opt-in to a daily blog posts by email thing as well, if they are super keen.

So, for free: blog posts, podcasts, link roundups, general email newsletter – all doable because the site and the content around it is my primary focus.

I could make this more sustainable by looking for sponsorship for the free, public content, of course. I’d need to find a non-annoying way for that to work, but some people do very well out of it.

Paid for stuff

The sustainable way to make all this happen is to have regular subscription model, with members paying a small monthly fee to both support the free, public content, and to get access to other stuff.

For instance, Ben Thompson charges $10 per month to members, and they get an exclusive email most days with in depth analysis, as well as access to a forum to discuss issues related to Thompson’s writing, which Ben takes part in himself.

So what could I offer to members of this site?

One thing I would probably do would be a weekly longer, in depth piece of writing just for members. Picking a topic of real interest to my readers, and doing a proper piece of research and writing that goes beyond my usual well intentioned but half baked blogging.

I’d probably do an occasional solo podcast as well, discussing a recent news topic that’s worthy of a quick bit of audio. Likewise I would like to do more videos, such as the quick training ones I trialled towards the end of last year, which got some great feedback – those could be members-only.

Adding a discussion forum would be simple – it’s baked into Rainmaker as discussed earlier – and also I already have a community with a good membership and activity on it. Access to that forum is currently free, so I would need to figure out a way for that to continue for those people, otherwise it wouldn’t really be fair.

So, members who pay roughly a tenner a month get a longer, in depth article a week, access to extra podcasts and video training content and the ability to take part in a discussion forum, with other members and me. They also get the warm glow that they are supporting me to produce the freely available, public content too.

Does that sound reasonable? I have no idea, personally.

The other question is how to make it work. How many subscribers would I need?

A hundred subscribers – which, if I am honest, sounds like a lot – would give me an income of £1,000 per month, which is sadly nowhere near enough to keep the Briggs family in the manner to which they have become accustomed. Not least when you think that there are costs to be taken out of that figure.

If I did sponsorship of the free content, that might be able to pull in £250 a month at the most to begin with – again, not enough.

Of course, what I would need to do then is to make up the deficit by doing contracting and consulting – but perhaps a bit less of it, to enable me to meet my content creation schedule.

Hopefully over time I could build up the membership side of things, enabling me to spend more time writing and sharing great stuff with people, which is what I really love to do.

Any thoughts?

So, what do you think? Would you pay for a membership to my site in exchange for those rewards?

Or should I just accept that I can’t make a living by blogging, and get back to the job hunt?

Some personal hopes for 2015

2014-12-12

I don’t want to call them resolutions – doing so means failure if they don’t come off. However, there are a few things that I hope will happen in the next twelve months.

1. Focus more on writing (or, creating and communicating)

When it comes down to it, the thing I most love doing is writing. Not proposals, or reports, or meeting notes – but creative stuff, on this blog and my newsletter.

Actually, maybe it’s a bit more than just writing – it’s communicating ideas generally. Attention seeker that I am, I do love speaking at events, and I see that as being a similar activity.

You could also roll in stuff like my podcast, which I really enjoy doing and need to put back onto a more regular footing. It ought to be possible to get at least one a month done.

On the blog I have managed to have a good run over the holiday period, having the time to think about what to post and to actually write it up has been super valuable. I’d love to be able to carry on publishing a reasonably substantial piece every day, or perhaps at least three times a week.

I’d also like to figure out a why of publishing shorter bits, maybe quick posts that point to an interesting website or app, or a news story perhaps. Also, the bookmarking I do of interesting stuff elsewhere on the web could be made more of I think, but am not sure right now what that might look like.

Finally, the newsletter needs rebooting. I managed to get quite a few issues out last year but would really like to be able to stick to a weekly publishing schedule in 2015. Of all the things I write, the newsletter is probably the most rewarding, especially in terms of the feedback I have been getting.

2. Get a proper job

Yup, I think it’s time. It’s four years since I left my last permanent post, at Learning Pool, and the last proper public sector role I had was at the information authority back in 2008.

Freelancing is fantastic in many ways, and it does suit me to a certain extent. However, it’s also exhausting. Even when you have what feels like a long term contract, you can’t let the networking or business development side of thing drop for a moment, because in six month’s time, you’ll be needing something new to do and need to be on people’s radar.

I also want to be able to actually deliver something that has my name all over it. As a consultant, you’re only ever supporting others to achieve things. Having a real single focus is something that appeals to me right now – particularly if it is going to be something that has a real positive impact on people’s lives.

Finally, I think the time is right for my family for me to have something more stable and a little more consistent in terms of working hours and levels of stress. I’d like to be able to experience something approaching a normal life, even for just a short while, and I owe it to Catherine, Ben and Ruth to try my hardest to make that happen.

So what does this mythical job look like? Well, something fairly strategic, where I can bring my experience of working across a number of organisations to bear. It’s no coincidence that I have recently been blogging about the ‘shared CDO‘ idea and that sort of role is definitely one I would love to have a crack at.

3. Do some real L&D

Just before Christmas, I started doing a course on CodeAcademy – the basic one on Python programming. It was really helpful in terms of doing some learning for learning’s sake – after all, I’m not going to be getting any work as a developer any time soon.

I’d really like to be able to do some proper learning this year if I can. I’ve been looking through the Open University course catalogue – but to be honest I’m not sure if the more formal courses are really for me, and of course there’s the cost.

So maybe the thing to do is to stick with the informal stuff, do some courses on the various MOOC platforms that are out there and other training sites like Lynda, and basically build my own curriculum.

4. Make something happen around digital capability – particularly in local government

In the context of work, I’m passionate about two things mainly – the internet and learning and development. My work in 2014 at the Department of Health helped me to combine these things, and if I took a regret away from my time at Learning Pool it was that I didn’t do anything significant to boost digital skills in the workplace via their amazing community.

So, during 2015 I’d like to be able to work on something that can contribute to the digital capability agenda, particularly in local government where it’s probably most needed right now.

I have some ideas on where to start, and no doubt I will be sharing them in all their half baked glory here on the blog soon.

Some favourite things from 2014

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Here are a few of the things I’ve really enjoyed on the internet in the last 12 months. Some new, some not so new.

Hope you find something useful in them!

Mobile apps

  • Nuzzel – this does a great job of surfacing all the content that your connections are sharing on social media, with the most popular stuff at the top. Means you never miss a great article just because you weren’t looking at Twitter at the right time! Link.
  • Overcast – the best podcast listening app there is. Has taken over from Pocket Casts for me this year. Link.
  • Just Send – a really neat app that lets you send email without going near your inbox – quickly send mail without being sucked in! Link.

Podcasts

  • Clockwise – podcast network Relay.fm launched this year and it’s full of great shows. Clockwise though is my favourite mainly due to its brevity – 30 minutes, with four guests discussing four technology issues. Short and sweet. Link.
  • Roderick on the Line – more long and rambling than short and sweet, and one to lie back and wallow in. Merlin Man and John Roderick just talk stuff, and it is as entertaining as it is fascinating. Link.
  • Try Doorbell – Robert and Lloyd talk about technology and work, and trying to survive modern life. Link.

Blogs

  • Stratechery – so good I pay extra to get more of it. Ben Thompson’s writing and analysis is top quality and usually bang on the money as well. A must read. Link.
  • The Information – another subscription service, providing around an article a day, The Information has a great mix of breaking tech news and analysis, without deluging you in thousands of posts like some of the others do. Link.
  • Brain Pickings – A wonderful cornucopia of interesting stuff around art, literature and culture generally. A great place to go to get away from digital stuff every now and again. Link.

Newsletters

  • Benedict Evans – great analysis and links, every Sunday, covering the world of mobile mostly. Brilliant stuff! Link.
  • Michael Coté – somewhat irregular, but always a fascinating insight into the world of emerging big IT. Link.
  • Next Draft – ten interesting news stories every day. A great summary of what you might have missed, with a dash of humour. Link.

Services

  • ThinkUp – a lovely service that provides human scale social media analytics. None of the Klout-score style nonsense, ThinkUp is full of helpful tips and advice, and useful information. Link.
  • LinkedIn – a curious one this as LinkedIn has been around for a long while, and for much of that time has been pretty boring, annoying and pointless. This year though, I have started to find it super useful for getting in touch with people who just aren’t present in other online networks, and also for republishing my blog posts there. It brings a new audience for my writing and creates new potential connections. Link.
  • IFTTT – a neat bit of internet plumbing, IFTTT makes my life easier in so many ways. I just hope they sort out a good business model, as I don’t want them to run out of money and disappear! Link.
  • Pocket – this year I really started to use Pocket properly, thanks to a tip from Steve Bridger. It’s such a great way to catch up on articles that I spot during the day but don’t have time to read, and means my phone is always full of interesting content. Link.
  • Rainmaker – this is where my blog – the one you’re reading right now – is hosted. I’m barely scratching the surface of what the platform can do, but basically it is a supercharged version of WordPress. It has all that SEO stuff built in, and also has functionality for adding a membership scheme to your blog, and community forums as well. I’m hoping to be able to test some of this stuff out in the next year. Link.

A few changes in these parts

Since work is now WorkSmart and I am retiring Kind of Digital as a professional thing, I thought it was time to sort out my blog.

After all, kindofdigital.com was once davepress.net and before that many incarnations over the years – going back to September 2004. Nearly ten years!

Anyway, the result of this is that business blogging will take place over at WorkSmart and this blog will transition to being about me me me. Well, it will probably end up still covering government and digital like it always did – because basically that’s all I think about these days.

I’ve also rehosted the whole blog at wordpress.com – mostly just to reduce the numbers of things  I have to think about. I’ll be playing around with themes and layouts for a bit I think, til I find something I’m remotely happy with.

Enough navel-gazing… carry on!

A new (additional!) job

Just before Christmas, I received the very excellent news that I have been taken up on my offer to become a trustee of Community Lincs, a local community development charity here in Lincolnshire.

I’m delighted, because it’s going to give me a chance to do my bit supporting the great work the organisation does in supporting rural housing, community led planning, rural broadband and new schemes such as bulk oil buying.

In truth, there aren’t many areas of rural policy that Community Lincs aren’t involved in, and I see it as a real opportunity to find out more about the challenges people are facing locally, and what the solutions are and how they’re implemented. As well as that, it’s my chance to do some volunteering and getting involved in the community locally.

I’m also looking forward to helping the organisation get the most from technology, and providing services and help to community groups throughout the county make the most from digital too.

Fiona White, Chief Exec at Community Lincs is a really determined and enthusiastic and she really convinced me that the organisation is doing important work which could benefit from my input somewhere along the line. You can follow Fiona on Twitter here.

It’s my first board meeting in the afternoon this Monday (16th). Wish me luck!

What I’m doing next: launching Kind of Digital

It’s a new financial year, and that seems an appropriate time to share my plans for the future.

Following a really enjoyable couple of years at Learning Pool, we’re going to reshape my role as Community Evangelist to enable me to focus on some other stuff.

In particular, I’m launching a new business.

Kind of Digital is that business, where I’ll be putting into practice everything I have been writing about here for the last few years. In other words, answering the question “how can we use the internet to make government more interesting?”

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How will I be doing that? Through a mixture of training, strategic advice and development work.

The training I see as a real priority at the moment. In many ways the arguments for more engaging use of the web by public service organisations are accepted by most – but the skills to get the strategy right, and to deliver it effectively, are all too rare.

I’ve got a range of training programmes designed which include face to face training and online support – and if you’re interested for your organisation, whether for staff or politicians, please do get in touch.

On the strategy side, if you need help putting together your organisation’s approach to digital engagement or just need some ideas for a campaign, I’d love to help out.

Developing new tools and engaging sites is another area of work I’m keen to get stuck into – with work already started on a couple of interesting projects that I’ll be able to discuss shortly.

Projects

It’s not just client based work though, I’m also looking to get involved in delivering some cool projects, exploring innovation in public service delivery. Again, conversations are underway on a couple of things and I’ll talk more about those soon.

If you have anything in mind though, it would be great to collaborate!

It’s not just Dave

Last time I worked for myself, I was pretty much a freelancer – it was just me. This time though, inspired by the time I spent hanging out with Mary and Paul at Learning Pool, I’m wanting to build a scalable, sustainable business.

As we’re just starting out, I’m going to be doing a lot of the doing to begin with, but I’m hoping to add people to the team to deliver projects in the future. If you’re interested, particularly if you can work on an associate basis, do get in touch.

I’m delighted that I’m being joined at Kind of Digital by Catherine – otherwise known as @davebriggswife. To say that she is the brains of the operation whilst I am the mouth is an understatement. Catherine will be helping me out with all the stuff I’m terrible at – admin, the financial stuff, project management, making sure stuff gets done. I’m incredibly relieved that she’s on board!

Kind of Digital and Learning Pool

All this doesn’t mean I’m abandoning Learning Pool, just that I’m going to be doing (even) less work there in the future. It’s not the sort of team that is easy to leave – and nor would I want to. I’m dead chuffed to still be working on various projects with LP, and I’ll always be happy to promote their products to the people I meet.

In fact, there are already a bunch of projects where KoD and LP can collaborate to provide a really great, unique service to public sector organisations to help them innovate using technology.

I also know that Mary and Paul’s considerable business brains will be a great asset to me as I build up the company – their advice will be vital if I’m to make a success of this thing.

And finally…

Obviously, given the business I’m in, there’s plenty of social media action going on with Kind of Digital. You can connect to the company by subscribing to the blogRSS or email – or by following us on Twitter or Facebook. In fact, anyone that does so with either of those channels over the next two weeks will get entered into a draw to win some awesome KoD goodies, including t-shirts, pens, laptop stickers and other tat Catherine has ordered from the internet.

Am I bribing you to follow my company on social networks? You bet I am. In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a recession on…

Top posts in 2010

As is customary at this time of year, a list of the most popular posts I’ve published here is probably in order.

  1. Oh dear, Andrew Marr…
  2. Adventures in open source land
  3. Why chief executives should blog
  4. Where next for digital engagement?
  5. That was the ukgc10 that was
  6. Social media resources for Local Government
  7. Councillors! Here’s how not to do Twitter
  8. See, local gov *can* do Facebook
  9. Google jokes
  10. Google goes for Twitter

Not a particularly interesting list, if I’m honest. The list is by the number of hits the post got, and I suspect that skews things rather.

What is interesting is that by a mile, Twitter was the biggest source of traffic here over the year, more than six times the referrals than I got from the second largest, Google Reader.

Holiday

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I’m officially on holiday now, so don’t expect to see much here over the next 7 days. I was hoping to get some posts written up and scheduled to publish over the week I’m away, but in the end found better things to do.

We’re off to the Suffolk coast – the weather looks dreadful so I doubt we’ll be doing much sunbathing. Fingers’ crossed though that the Met Office have got it wrong!

If anything interesting happens while I’m away, be a dear and leave a link in the comments to this post so I don’t miss it. Ta!

See you on the other side…