The public sector learning conference

Learning Pool

Learning Pool‘s public sector learning conference takes place on 12th May – the day after my birthday, fact fans – and is already looking like it will be an utterly awesome event.

Find out more and book your place – if you do it by the end of this week, you’ll get a ticket for 20% cheaper than everyone else!

Whether you are attending or not, make sure you sign up for the conference network, where you can connect and share experience and knowledge with the finest minds in public sector learning and collaboration.

Event reporting toolkit

David has written about covering events again as part of his investigation of the role of the social reporter. He writes:

So on the one hand it is more difficult to charge for the logistics, and on the other hand it is less easy to keep the content within the event. You have to work harder to provide value. That can be done – but it means organisers will have to be skilled on two fronts. They’ll have to be really good at the physical organising and also the briefing of speakers, facilitation, documentation and other content – not always the case. And in future they’ll have to blend online and offline activities. When this is done well – as I think it was for 2gether08, and will be this year – then it’s worth the price.

I’m doing some work with David at the moment, plotting and planning how best to squeeze online coverage in; not to mention some other similar work which I’ll hopefully be blogging about soon.

The tools that are available to use are legion, and not a lot of them cost very much money. In this post, I’ll go over some of them and what their uses are. It would certainly be good to hear from others what they find useful.

1. WordPress

A self-hosted WordPress blog is probably the one constant for me. Better to be self hosted than on WordPress.com because you need the flexibility of being able to add your own plugins, or edit the theme, to match exactly what you want. I used WordPress in this way at Cisco08, IDeA Performance and the Social Media Exchange. You’ll notice that there isn’t much that’s bloggy about those sites – it’s key to draw content in from others.

Another advantage of using WordPress is that others can have blogging account and can give it a go – great if you want the delegates at the event to get involved.

2. Twitter

Twitter happens at conference now, whether those in charge approve or not. A fantastic way of arranging an instant back channel of discussion, it’s also fabulous to connect people in attendance with others. It’s important to get a common tag agreed in advance or as early in the event as possible to stop the conversation getting fragmented. Hashtags used to be important, but with the advent of Twitter Search, less so.

3. Ning

Each time I start to use Ning, I like it a little more. At events, Ning can be used to kick start some connections and conversations before they even start – a great way to begin an event by hitting the ground running. Ning is also brilliant at getting content online – people can blog, use forums, upload photos and videos (the latter two by mobile phone, too!) and import content from elsewhere.

A Ning site can therefore become a clearing house of content, from which you can pick and choose the best stuff to go on your main blog, for example.

4. Some kind of aggregator

It’s still nice to have a dashboard of what’s being said online. I’ve used Pageflakes a lot, others Netvibes; but both of those services have not been without their issues of late. For sheer laziness I would now recommend Addictomatic, which just automatically puts your dashboard together for you.

5. Streaming video

This isn’t something I tend to get involved with, but streaming video live from events is pretty cool, and can be made really easy using tools like Ustream and Mogulus. FutureGov used Ustream to great effect at their recent event including the use of live commenting on the action.

Don’t forget social reporters and/or delegates can use their phones with Qik or Bambuser to stream their own stuff live as well.

6. Other video and photos

Other video might be taken by recording vox-pops on a Flip, or using a service like the wonderful VideoBoo on a Macbook. The three services I tend to use are YouTube, Vimeo, and Blip.tv. YouTube has the bigger community and better recognition. Vimeo has the best quality pictures and the nicest interface. Blip is good for longer video. I don’t think any one service can really be described as better than the other right now.

Is there anywhere other than Flickr to put photos?!

7. Live blogging

To be honest, I tend to find that blogging using WordPress is fine, and just publishing the post at the end of a session works well. I’ve never used anything like Coveritlive – can anyone comment on its effectiveness?

8. Huddle

Just to get everything organised in the first place, Huddle is invaluable. I’ve never been a big Basecamp fan, largely because of its awkward interface and odd use of language, but Huddle is pretty much perfect for me.

What have I missed? It would be good to hear from others what they like to use.

ReadWriteGov

There are plenty of events you can go to to find out about the social web, and how it can help public sector organisations, but they can be rather expensive, and pretty formal too. Another issue is that they are invariably in London, or one of the other major cities. What about those people who are a bit unsure about this stuff, and who don’t feel they can justify a £450 for a conference, or who don’t want to spend two days out of the office just to attend a one day event?

ReadWriteGov is an attempt to get around this issue by organising informal, half-day long events around the country at a very affordable price. The first event is being held at Peterborough City Council, where I have been helped out by Fran Paterson in organising things. I met Fran through the Social Media Community of Practice, which shows the value of this kind of networking. It’s happening on the 29th October between 1.30 and 4.30pm and is open to anyone who is interested, though I would seriously encourage people from local government to attend, along with folk from other parts of government and the public sector. You can sign up for the event at the Eventbrite page – it’s £25 for public sector folk and £50 for others.

It’s going to be a fun afternoon – I’ve lined up pals such as Dom Campbell and Steph Gray to come and talk about the exciting stuff they are doing with Barnet Council and DIUS, respectively. In addition to these luminaries, I’ll be running a social media game style workshop, which will hopefully help attendees identify how they can use social media in their organisations.

Of course, this is just the first of what will hopefully be many such events, which could be held all over the country. So if anyone is reading who fancies hosting a ReadWriteGov event, please do drop me a line.

One last note about the Peterborough event. Because Fran is heavily involved with the British Computer Society, especially the women‘s wing of the organisation, we are holding another event in the evening, again at the City Council, for BCS members and other interested people, such as the local college, to raise awareness of the tools that are out there and how they might be used. Booking for this event, which will run between 6 and 9pm, will, I believe, be through the BCS website in due course.

Social Media Big Day Out

I’m the (or rather now, ‘a’, but more on that later) facilitator at an online community of practice for social media and online collaboration using the Communities of Practice platform put together by Steve Dale at the Improvement and Development Agency. It’s ostensibly for local government, but I like to operate a big tent, and so anyone with a public sector interest can come along.

Yesterday we ran our first face-to-face meeting ludicrously entitled the ‘Big Day Out’. Given that it was held where I work, at the LSC National Office in Coventry, it wasn’t much of a day out for me, but hey! who cares. I took a few photos, some of which are below, the rest here.

The day ran pretty well, starting with a short and probably quite boring introduction from me:

We then moved onto more interesting stuff, notably chats from Hadley Beeman and Shane McCracken on what they have been up to recently.

(That’s Hadley, by the way. Not Shane.)

Later on we played a little game, a cut-down version of David Wilcox‘s Social Media Game – although as Tim Davies pointed out mine is best overall because the cards are laminated. Two teams set each other scenarios which they had to solve using different social media and web 2.0 tools.

I think it was a useful exercise as everyone got to learn something about a web service they didn’t know existed before.

Next up was Steve Dale, chatting to us about the latest developments tech-wise on the CoP platform. There’s going to be some really interesting new features added, which will at the very least make facilitating the communities an awful lot easier.

Finally we had a little chat about the future of the Community, what we could do to improve participation and what we got out of it all. Michael Norton of the IDeA had a wicked-cool idea about setting group social media challenges, making us go out and try new stuff, and reporting back on our findings. One is already under way on YouTube. Nice one!

Throughout the day, the ever resourceful Carl Letman was doing a great job of videoing some of the action, and soon I should be able to post some highlights up here. If you need any video work doing, whether on or offline, Carl really is your man.

I also requested a bit of help of the facilitation side, and thankfully I got a great response from Michael, Hadley, Steve and Carl. So hopefully we should be able to keep the Community active and ensure that everyone gets the support they need.

What was also nice was that everyone said they would like to do it again. Hopefully if the word gets out that it was a fun day, then more folk might be encouraged to come along. Noel Hatch of Kent County Council has already offered to host, and suggested we could run it virtually in parallel using Second Life. He’s mad. Let’s do it.