New website, with added blog

Hello!

If you can see this, it means that Kind of Digital’s new website is now live. We’ve given things a new look, and have organised the content a bit better, to give folk visiting the site some kind of idea about what we actually do.

A bigger change is that my blog, DavePress, is now incorporated into the main Kind of Digital site, and indeed DavePress now is no more. It’s a bit of a wrench, as I’ve been writing on that site since 2008, but the time has come where I needed to focus on the thing which is meant to be where I’m making some money.

In other words, I don’t think people generally associate the helpful things I post on my blog with Kind of Digital, the business through which I earn a living. Maybe I’m over thinking things, but at least having just one website to update will make my life easier.

Don’t worry if you are a DavePress subscriber though – we’ve moved you all over automagically. Likewise, all the links out there to posts in the DavePress archives will redirect to the appropriate posts here. It ought to be seamless. Still, if you spot anything janky, do let me know.

This move, enabling me to focus on this website alone, will also mean some more interesting things in terms of exploring good practice in digital engagement. So, expect more handy guides, video interviews with people doing awesome stuff, web chats and webinars. I’m looking forward to it, and hopefully you are too!

Boring system announcement

If you can see this, it means I have managed to successfully rehost DavePress!

Do me a favour and leave me a ‘hurrah!’ in the comments. It will a) make me feel better and b) help me to know everything is working ok.

Also, various bits might be broken. If you spot something, do let me know.

Thanks!

The DavePress survey

Hello everyone, welcome back after the easter break!

I’d be really interested to find out more about the people who read this blog, and what they make of it. So, I threw together this little survey. It’s done in Google Docs, and if you can’t access it for some reason but would like to complete it, just drop me an email and I’ll send you a version you should be able to use.

Thanks in advance!

Update: thanks to all who have taken the survey. I’ll publish the results soon.

Moving DavePress

construction

After many frustrations with the company hosting this blog, I’ve finally given in and will be moving it. Am hoping to have it all done today (Sunday), but we’ll see how it goes.

This might look janky for a bit. Thousands of pings might get resent. Loads of old posts might hit your RSS reader, or your inbox. For this I apologise in advance.

Update: the blog has transferred across perfectly to the new host, and I have even got it set up with a nice new theme. Trouble is, the current host, who also controls the domain, are being difficult about pointing it to the new box. How annoying.

Full time at the Pool

Learning Pool

2010 sees the start of a new adventure for me, as I leave the world of freelancing behind and start full time with Learning Pool – who I have been working for on a part time basis for the last six months of 2009.

I’m delighted for a number of reasons. One is the opportunity to help an established company move in new directions – more on that in a bit. Being part of something bigger is also going to really make a difference to the way I work – I’m going to have the backing of a big team of people: developers, designers, a customer support team, people who can actually manage projects properly. Anyone that knows me will appreciate what a positive thing this is!

The other key thing that Learning Pool offered me was a great working relationship with a huge number of local authorities in the UK who already have a Learning Pool product or service. My background and interest has always been more in local government and I am really excited to getting to grips with the issues facing the sector and coming up with some interesting solutions.

In terms of what it is that I am actually going to be doing, well, it’s going to pretty much be an extension of what I have been working on for the last 18 months; and indeed what I have been writing about for longer than that. Learning Pool has a great reputation at providing collaborative and social learning technology and I think there is more to be done to help councils, and other public sector organisations to become true learning organisations.

This means making use of technology like eLearning, but also the wider use of web 2.0 within the organisation – stuff like I mentioned here. There’s a lot in this, I think, mixing up culture change with innovation and knowledge management. I’m developing a model which tries to put it into some kind of context for public services, identifying:

  • Drivers: efficiency and improvement
  • Enablers: innovation and collaboration
  • Domains: culture and technology

The drivers explain what the high level thing is that needs to be achieved: in other words, doing better with less. The enablers are the things that will help this happen: a proper way of encouraging and managing innovation in the organisation, and to encourage and adopt more collaborative behaviour. The domains are where this stuff happens: getting tech that works is important, but more so is culture – both of these things must be right to ensure those enablers happen effectively.

So this isn’t (just) about tools. I’m as interested in how you can get organisations working collaboratively and innovatively as much as I am in deploying wikis or installing WordPress. In fact, I’m most interested in combining the two – here’s the tools, and here’s how to get people using them. Or, to try and put it yet another way: blogs and wikis and all that stuff is very nice, but what does it mean to a service manager?

Anyway, there is plenty more thinking to be done. I’ll still be blogging it all here at DavePress the blog, even if DavePress the business is no longer around. If you want to chat about any of this stuff and how I, and Learning Pool, can help – you know where I am.

How I write

I thought it might be useful to offer a sneaky-peak into my processes for writing this blog. After all, given that I am trying to encourage others to do the same, it’s probably only fair that I let people know how I do it.

Obviously, it’s worth pointing out here that this works for me, and it might not for you. Also, there are probably better ways of going about it. But since I started blogging back in 2004, I’ve got into the habit of working this way, and it seems to produce a fairly steady flow of content for me.

Standing on the shoulders…

For inspiration, I spend a bit of time in Google Reader, checking out what other people are saying, Likewise with Twitter, and Delicious. I’m not necessarily hunting for things to write about, but generally imbibing information and ideas and squaring them with whatever I’m thinking about at the time. Be catholic with your reading habits – don’t just limit yourself to reading blogs in and around your own sector, but find out what people are saying elsewhere. Consider how what they write about can be applied to your interests.

Type first, think later

I spend quite a bit of time writing posts that will never see the light of day. There’s no editing at the ideas stage. Sometimes I only have a sentence, or a whiff of a concept for a post, but I make sure it’s recorded somewhere. My preference is for these to be draft posts within WordPress, but sometimes that isn’t possible, so I’ll use another tool like Evernote, or even just a text editor. I’ll usually aim to get those posts into WordPress ASAP though.

The point is that I very, very rarely sit down and write a post from beginning to end, without having a good think about it first.

So, I usually have up to ten draft posts in WordPress at any one time. I spend quite a bit of time just staring at them, then I read other things, see related content online and how I can work that into the post. Sometimes this changes what the post is about, and the original theme is lost entirely, or reduced to a footnote. What often happens is that I’ll combine two or three of the posts I have in draft to try and produce something a bit more meaty.

Go ugly early

I’ll often hit publish on posts when I’m not entirely happy with them, when the thinking is half-baked or I have a sneaking suspicion I’ve got something totally wrong. I usually get corrected in the comments, or people add stuff to help me make what I’m saying make sense. I must admit, though, that it takes a bit more nerve that usual to do this as it risks exposing me as the fraud I really am.

Your tips

So that’s a quick run through of my writing process. What tips do you have for any budding bloggers?

DavePress in 2009

There have been about 60,000 visits to this blog in the last twelve months, and thanks to you all.

In December the site broke through the 1,000 subscribers barrier, which is very nice indeed. 50-odd of those subscribers choose to get updates from the site via email.

Big thanks to those that have contributed guest blog posts this year too. Hopefully there will be more in 2010 – if you fancy having a go, just drop me a line.

The most popular day was a Saturday, strangely enough, the 17th October. It looks like this was due to the myth of engaging with everyone post being stumbled.

Here’s a list of the top 10 posts on DavePress this year, with the number of views for each:

I suspect the reason for some of these posts’ success comes down to search engine traffic.

Guest post on DavePress

Things have been a little quiet on this blog of late – being on holiday didn’t help – but I guess I have just been rather busy doing stuff and haven’t had the chance to blog nearly as much as I would like.

So, I thought I would open the doors to the odd guest post from DavePress readers. I already have one ready to go later this week, but would like some more.

So, if you’d like to throw something together, along the lines of digital engagement and the public sector, do get in touch and we can see about getting it published. You’ll get the chance to be read by quite a few people in and around .gov.uk and beyond, so it might be a good opportunity to get some of your ideas in front of some new people.

I’ll give it a go for a few weeks – maybe one guest post a week? – and see if people find it useful.

DavePress redux

I’m currently having a good sort out of this blog – and will be relaunching it with quite a few changes in the near future.

I have found that running a self-hosted blog is a bit like running a PC, in that it gets clogged up with stuff that you install and then don’t use any more, you end up with files all over the place which aren’t very well managed, and then there is the look and feel of the thing, which I’ve never felt I have got just right.

You don’t need to worry about things going wobbly on the site though, as I am working on a local copy, running on my MacBook. This is through the joy of a brilliant little app called MAMP, which covers all the difficult stuff of getting Apache, PHP and MySQL running on the Mac.

With MAMP, all you have to do is download and install it, then start it up. It gives you instant and easy access to turning local servers on and off, creating and editing databases and all sorts. It really makes the whole process ridiculously easy.

For Windows users, there are equivalent apps like XAMPP, though not having used it I couldn’t vouch for how good it is!

So, for my local development of DavePress, I have locally installed a fresh WordPress 2.7.1, and then used the import function to pull in my posts and pages from the current version.

I did this rather than just import the whole database because there are tables in the current setup for plugins I no longer use, etc, and I want to keep things fresh where I can.

I’ve also installed the base theme I will be using, which will be Thesis, an extremely customisable theme which has had some great reviews from respected WordPress guys like Neville. I’ll be tweaking it to make it a bit more personal to me, and adding in plugins as I need them.

Another big job is to find all the images I have inserted into posts and make sure they are either a part of WordPress’ media manager or on Flickr. At the moment, files are all over the place: in different folders on the DavePress server, on Skitch, other image hosting services, on other websites where I have pinched them from… Having all photos on Flickr and other images inside my WordPress file structure will make managing my images and backing them up an awful lot easier.

Finally I want to take another look at the various static pages of content here – like About, Services, Resources etc – and give them a rewrite and make the whole site a bit more useful and professional.

This all means it may be a little while before I can relaunch this site, not least because it all has to be fitted round my proper work. Hopefully it will be worth it though!