NEW: the SensibleTech link library

Photo by Alfons Morales on Unsplash

Back in 2017, Paul Maltby co-curated a list of reading for policy wonks interested in finding out more about digital. There’s loads of great stuff in there which have stood the test of time.

I’ve always liked the idea of bringing together in one place all the great stuff that has been shared over the years in blog posts and articles, so people don’t need to answer these problems themselves, over and over again.

So, I’ve started my own library of evergreen, ever-helpful links. What’s more, in the interests of preservation, I’ve also stored my own PDF copy of each article, just in case they disappear from the web, for whatever reason.

Each link has a title and a description, tells you who wrote it, and provides a link to the orifginal, plus to the PDF copy in case you need it. I would always encourage folk to read the originals if you can, so you see them in context and so the author knows their stuff is being read.

Each link is also tagged, so you can easily find other links on related topics, or other content across the SensibleTech site that likewise is along similar lines.

For those that want to keep up to date with additions to the library, there is a trusty RSS feed. I might build out an email alert system at some point, if people would be interested in that.

I’ve also added a form so you can suggest links to be added – it would be so helpful if you do.

Hopefully this is a useful thing – do have a browse and let me know your thoughts!

Huge thanks to Steph Gray for his help making this work. I managed to do some clever stuff with custom post types and fields, but needed his magic to make it all look pretty and functional on the front end!

Government news via Twitter

I was musing the other day about a method of aggregating news about government in one place. Justin Kerr-Stevens – government communications consultant, barcamper and general good egg – has combined a job lot of gov news sources into a combined Twitter feed, handily called HMGOV.

I’d never considered using twitter to pull all this together. The great thing about it is that you don’t need to be a twitter user to read it, as each twitter account generates an RSS feed. Also, if people want it in their emai boxes, Justin could cobble something together in no time with FeedBurner, meaning that however people want their news delivered, he has it covered.

Great work. And in the wake of the Civil Serf affair, it’s good to see someone else working in government starting a blog. It isn’t all bad news, folks.

Rethinking government news

Where do government and other public sector folk get their news from?

  • Info4Local
  • eGov Monitor
  • GCN
  • Kable
  • Individual government department websites
  • Any others?

I wonder if there is a possibility for putting together a one-stop-shop for news, aggregating the popular sources in one place. I’d also like to see conversations added to the mix, so the news items could spawn discussion.

There are a few models one could use:

  1. Digg, with user submitted news and voting for popular stories. Will people bother though? Could you automatically feed stories in via RSS? Would similar stories be grouped together? This option will include comments on each item though.
  2. TechMeme, drawing together the stories along similar lines. Lack of commenting might be an issue, and it’s a very complicated thing to get right
  3. OnePolitics, aggregating a set list of sources. Simple enough to get up and running, but doesn’t seem to sort content by topic.

Would appreciate any thoughts on this: Where do you go now for your news? Is there a need for such a site? Which of the three models would be of most use to government folk?

Microsoft/Yahoo! Roundup

Here’s some of the stuff I’ve been reading around the web about the proposed Microsoft purchase of Yahoo! There’s some interesting commentary out there.

Jeff Jarvis at Guardian Unlimited:

This is just as well for Yahoo, which had no strategy, really. They’d gone as far as they could with the old-media model, as exploited by the last CEO, former movie-studio head Terry Semel. Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang started saying the right things about turning Yahoo into a platform, but it probably would have taken years to turn his culture around. They were too used to operating like a movie studio or publishing house.

Will this be big enough to beat Google? No, because big won’t win in the end. Open will.

The BBC:

If Yahoo agrees to the deal with Microsoft, it will be a shotgun marriage, but it will be Google holding the shotgun.

If Yahoo’s management says “yes, I do”, it will be an admission that its attempts to turn around the company have failed.

Yahoo shareholders, in turn, will not be able to believe their luck. Microsoft was probably the only company with pockets deep enough to bail them out.

For Microsoft, however, this is the deal that could break it.

Making the offer is an admission that Microsoft’s management has been scared by the success of Google.


what makes Yahoo/Microsoft interesting is the email audience. That’s another 300 million people to add to Hotmail’s audience of close to the same. Yahoo has a ton of interesting Web properties that are far more interesting than anything Microsoft has done lately. Groups. Finance. Upcoming. Etc.

This gets Microsoft back into the Web game in a big way and puts a defense around Microsoft’s Office cash-generating-machine. I bet that some of Yahoo’s smartest engineers get moved over to the Office team to help build an online Office that’ll keep Google’s docs and spreadsheets from getting major marketshare inroads.

It’s the fear that Google’s Docs and Spreadsheets might someday take marketshare away from Office that I think was driving this deal.


Yahoo! is great at content and online innovation, though. That’s what Microsoft needs right now. Google is posing a threat to Microsoft not just because it is winning in advertising, where Microsoft is a relative beginner, but because Google is shifting the software world to online.

Microsoft is serious about innovation, they just haven’t been doing much of it in house for awhile. The work and the Microsoft acquisitions in the health space indicate to me the company really is trying to do more than just catch up in search and advertising.

I think that this acquisition is going to mean a whole lot more energy put behind services like Flickr and and innovative content sites like Yahoo! Sports and Finance. All of that will be good for Microsoft and it will be good for those of us who find those sites and services inspiring.

Paul Kedrosky:

1. It will happen. Neither company can afford for it to not happen, and no-one will outbid Microsoft given its dire need. About the only way Yahoo could keep it from happening would be to cut a quick deal to outsource its search to Google, which would be smart, savvy, and MicroHoo-killing — and almost certainly won’t happen.
2. It won’t (really) matter. Some more scale in search will help Microsoft, no question, but the fundamental problem is that Microsoft is trapped between two worlds and has an absence of vision. That has been holding it back, not engineers and not ownership of Yahoo pageviews. Microsoft isn’t doomed — far from it — but buying a broken asset doesn’t turn it into a BrinPage-killer either.
3. It’s good for Google. Two elephants mating are always good for confusing customers and helping incumbents, not to mention improving margins. You will see Google gain surplus search and advertising share as this deal comes together.

John Battelle:

I’m still not sure this works. I don’t see how the two cultures merge. But perhaps that’s not the point. Perhaps at the end of the day, Yahoo becomes Microsoft’s long misbegotten media arm, and the folks in Redmond can finally stop worrying about what their focus is.


There’s a six-letter reason this deal was struck and it begins with G and ends with -oogle. The specter of the search giant’s dominance was raised at least four times on the conference call, both as the reason the two firms should combine as well as an assurance as to why Google couldn’t make its own bid for Yahoo.

“All of us see this industry growing through consolidation. Today the market is completely dominated by one player and by combining the asset of Microsoft and Yahoo…the industry will be better served by having more players in search and advertising,” said Kevin Johnson, president of the platforms & services division of Microsoft.


My first reaction: “That’s a lot to pay for flickr.”

Dave Winer:

Does Yahoo + Microsoft make sense?

Nahh. It’s like the dead leading the blind.

And there’s tonnes more. Just check out Techmeme.

Microsoft to buy Yahoo!?

Wow, major news breaking on the horizon. Microsoft have offered to buy Yahoo! for $44.6 billion.

Our lives, our businesses, and even our society have been progressively transformed by the Web, and Yahoo! has played a pioneering role by building compelling, high-scale services and infrastructure,” said Ray Ozzie, chief software architect at Microsoft. “The combination of these two great teams would enable us to jointly deliver a broad range of new experiences to our customers that neither of us would have achieved on our own.

So what is this? One last attempt to kill Google? Or two companies whose recent online strategies haven’t made an awful lot of sense joining up to make an even bigger mess of things?

Update: TechCrunch reports that it’s all about the ads.

Back again

Have been back online for a few weeks now, though much of my attention on local government and new media matter has been focussed on the IDeA Communities of Practice platform, run by Steve Dale. I’d recommend that anyone interested in this space heads over there and signs up.

LGKnowledge, the social bookmarking service, is currently being spammed into oblivion. I need to figure out a way to stop this happening. In the meantime, please don’t expect much from it.

Thanks to Daniel Champion for his recent email, correcting the URL I had down for Clackmannanshire Council. I’ve updated it. Remember – check if we have the right address for your authority by checking the list on the wiki here.

Quiet times ahead

After a pretty speedy burst of activity at the beginning, things are going to tail off for a little while here at LGNewMedia.

I’m moving house this weekend, to a brand new place which hasn’t even got the phone connected yet. And when that’s done, I can get the broadband sorted.

Given that LGNewMedia is a one-man-working-in-his-spare time kind of project, it means things will slow down to a halt over the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, why not enjoy a sneak peak at our latest service, the for Local Government service, LGKnowledge?

Hello world!

Well, this is the first post on the new LGNewMedia site. The site is in continual development to try and get everything tied in and a reasonably common theme across the board.

So, what’s LGNewMedia all about? Well, we aim to spread the word about new, or social, media and the benefits it can have for the local government sector in the UK. The site is made up of four main sections:

  • This blog, which aims to provide useful information and news about new media and local government
  • A forum, where like-minded folk can get together and chat
  • A wiki, where community projects can be organised
  • LGSearch, a local government focussed search engine

And these are the sorts of new media tools that local councils should be using to develop their internal and external communication strategies, as well as increasing the levels of collaboration and cooperation between officers.

Another key aim of this site is to promote the use of open source tools wherever possible. For example, this site runs on WordPress, phpBB and PMWiki – all of which are freely available open source packages. The total running costs of this site are probably in the region of £30 a year. The initial work of setting up the site took about 2 hours. The point is, there is no resource based argument against new media projects. They are cheap, and they are quick.

I’ll post more as the site develops. In the meantime, do have a poke around and if you would like to get involved, just let me know!


The current situation in the Middle East is unbelievably depressing. Stuff like this from Melanie Phillips hardly makes one more sympathetic to the Israelis.

News Round Up

Plenty going on this morning – Today kept my attention for the whole 2 hour journey…

Blair apology to Soham parents

Metropolitan Police chief Sir Ian Blair has apologised to the parents of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman for comments he made about the Soham murders.

Sir Ian Blair told the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) on Thursday that “almost nobody” could understand why it had become such a big story.

He called the media institutionally racist in its coverage of murders.

If Ian Blair hadn’t already convinced us all that he was a complete nitwit with his sophistry immediately after the Jean Charles de Menezes shooting, he certainly has now. To infer that race plays any part in the hysterical media coverage over the Soham murders is absurd: Blair admitted himself that the coverage of the Damilola Taylor murder was an exception to his theory. He asked why the “murders of white lawyer Tom ap Rhys Pryce and Asian builders’ merchant Balbir Matharu” didn’t received a similar level of publicity that the Soham ones did. The answer to this is so obvious I can’t be bothered to type this.

The shame is that Blair has a point, only he is too dim-witted to make it properly. The hysteria that engulfs the media after a tragedy like that which took place in Soham should be moderated in some way, but only because it is distastful, irrelevant and unhelpful. Not because it is in some way racially motivated, which it clearly isn’t.

Hughes to launch leadership bid

Simon Hughes is to formally launch his campaign for the Liberal Democrat leadership, a day after admitting he was “misleading” about his sexuality.

Good. To be honest, I don’t think he can, or should, be criticised for being ‘misleading’. I think many commentators have been too harsh on him, and treating the issue far too frivolously. I would imagine that coming out is not an easy thing to do, no matter what one’s personal beliefs on the matter, and, given that Hughes has had heterosexual relationships as well, there is clear evidence he had some sort of inner turmoil on the issue. That he feels the need to make statements about issues such as this shows that the sad state of affairs the media is still in in this country. Who cares, really?

The only way this could be of any significance would be if it somehow emerged that Hughes played a more active role in the shameful campaign for his election in the infamous Bermondsey by-election, the conduct of which he has apologised for.

Israel rules out talks with Hamas

Israeli interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ruled out any talks with “an armed terror organisation that calls for Israel’s destruction”.

International mediators have urged Hamas to renounce violence, as efforts begin to form a new government.

Near-complete results gave Hamas 76 of the 132 seats in parliament.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas – who also heads the ruling Fatah party – has said he remains committed to a peaceful settlement.

This seems a fairly reasonable line for Israel to take, all things considered. Hamas’ election raises so many interesting issues: the rise of Islamists and their popularity with the Middle Eastern public; the fact that they are the first terrorist organisation to jump straight into power by passing most of the democratic ‘pyramid’ (to use a kind of footballing analogy); their commitment to a referendum to introduce sharia law.

It’s pretty frightening though too. Let’s hope that Hamas can be pulled towards the centre ground as Ariel Sharon found himself.