Bookmarks for March 30th through April 5th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

  • The Collapse of Complex Business Models « Clay Shirky – Awesome stuff from Shirky.
  •   Reflecting on my MSc research by Michele Ide-Smith – "By researching the attitudes and perceptions of authorities and citizens I hope to gain a better understanding of perceived barriers, threats and opportunities of using social media for community engagement"
  • Cinch – "Cinch is a free and easy way to create and share audio, text and photo updates using your phone or computer. Cinch enables you to capture and report on your experiences in a way that simple text just can't do. Using a simple interface, you can make and broadcast your content creations through Facebook, Twitter, and more."
  • The State of the Internet Operating System – O’Reilly Radar – "Ask yourself for a moment, what is the operating system of a Google or Bing search? What is the operating system of a mobile phone call? What is the operating system of maps and directions on your phone? What is the operating system of a tweet?"
  • Penval’s Digital Inclusion Manifesto – Well done Paul Nash. This is what the digital inclusion debate needs – proper, thought through ideas. Genuinely constructive contributions. Not just people bleating about the problems.
  • tecosystems » Forking, The Future of Open Source, and Github – Is the future of open source going to be based on communities such as Apache and Eclipse or will it be based on companies that sell open source? Neither.
  • Dr Dennis Kimbro & his views on recruitment – Really interesting and thought provoking piece on talent management, and attitudes to it, in local government.
  • In quest of simplicty – "We expect IT to be complex and costly, but the lesson of the past 5 years in IT – where we’ve seen the consumerization of enterprise IT (“enterprise” is often a coy way of saying “this has to be complex and expensive – no questions!”) – is that IT can be both simple and cheap."
  • Law and social media – dull but important – "Social media throws up issues of privacy and identity which are far more complex when you have a complete record of someone’s time online and a also a need to balance the personal with the professional roles of an individual. "
  • Powerful petitions with real teeth set to bite – "Local people can now demand their councils take action on underperforming schools and hospitals, drink disorder, anti-social behaviour and other concerns under new rules giving real power to local petitions, announced Communities Secretary John Denham today."

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.

Bookmarks for March 16th through March 18th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.

Local e-petitions

Headstar reported the other day about the progress of the piece of legislation that will mandate local authorities to set up systems allowing residents to create e-petitions, and to respond to such petitions.

Under the ‘Local democracy, economic development and construction Bill’ (, councils will be obliged to provide an e-petition facility and publish schemes for both electronic and traditional petitions, to acknowledge any petition to its organiser, and to offer a response, all of which should be published online.

I’ve got quite a bit of interest in e-petitions, not least as a result of spending time helping moderate them for Number 10 during my time there. I’ve seen how these things can work, and how they can be frustrating.

Learning Pool have been keeping an eye on the development of the need for e-petitioning by councils, and already have an e-petitions platform in development which we will soon be looking to engage local authorities in testing. As always with Learning Pool’s stuff, it will be based on open source technology and will be easy to use and very cost effective. If you’re interested, please do get in touch.

In a related development, Andy Gibson is going to be working with Dominic and Fraser to develop a data standard for e-petitions.

From next year, it’s probable that all local councils will be required to provide electronic petitioning tools to their citizens, and we want to make sure they all do it the right way, and in a form that means they can all talk to each other.

I’ve put my name down to get involved, and will ensure that Learning Pool’s e-petitions system fits in with any agreed open standards.

ICELE eDemocracy Guides

Alastair Smith at Newcastle City Council today brought my attention to the fact that the ICELE eDemocracy guides were no longer available. Effectively, the link to the page where they were distributed via the Lulu website no longer works.

Luckily for Alastair, and perhaps others, I saved the downloadable PDFs of the guides a while ago, and so now am happy to make them available here on DavePress for folk that want them:

I think I have them all, although four doesn’t seem that many. If you have any others I have missed, do let me know.

ICELE Press Release

It’s a bit like picking a scab, this – kinda painful but at the same time irresistable. Anyway, seeing as this blog has become semi-official place for ICELE-related news, I thought it only reasonable to provide the latest in the saga – this time in the form of a  press release from ICELE:

Cllr Matthew Ellis, Chairman of the International Centre of Excellence for Local eDemocracy, said:”Whilst it has been made clear that Lichfield DC would not be seeking to take ICELE forwards in the future, we have been calling for a formal decision to be made by the Minister for some time. It takes considerable time and money to create a trusted and recognised brand, which ICELE has now become, not just in the UK, but in Europe. It would be unfortunate if the Centre was closed down before a useful and sustainable home for both its products and its brand can be secured.”

He continued: “The Centre now has partners across the UK and Europe, having been successful in securing, with others, future funding for specific areas of work. We believe it would be unfortunate if ICELE, as a focal point for sharing information and best practice, and some of the projects were simply abandoned. I’m hopeful that the talks we are now having with CLG will ensure that a thorough review is undertaken to find a sustainable future for areas of potentially ongoing work.”

Although ICELE will cease operations at the end of June, with the interim funding recently agreed with CLG it could provide resources for work to be undertaken to secure a future for VOICE and other aspects of the Centre’s work.

I’m not sure what to say, really, which makes a change. I am, however, started to put things in place for a community driven way forward on this stuff. If you’re interested, email me or leave a comment.

Drip, drip… more ICELE news

David Wilcox pointed me in the direction of the latest E-Government newsletter from Headstar, and their article about ICELE’s slow and rather painful death:

In the medium term, the government is considering an overhaul of e-democracy policy which could bring into being a new cross-government agency to replace ICELE and draw in elements of similar work currently scattered across the Cabinet Office, the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. Progress in that direction will be made following the publication by DLG this summer of a white paper on citizen empowerment…

CLG concern over ICELE’s operations is thought to centre on its spending on staff and management and a failure to achieve its initial broad objectives. However, Ellis told E-Government Bulletin that charges of overspending were “plainly not true”.

Interesting! But also rather messy and unpleasant…

I was giving a little thought the other night to th poor councillors who had started blogging using ICELE’s system, ‘Blog in a Box’, and who might now be a little concerned about where, if anywhere, their platform might be going now.

My advice to them would be to move to WordPress, either by using the free hosted option at or by hosting it themselves with their own install from If any of you come across this blog and need some help, let me know.

Further ICELE debate

Steven Clift rightly points folk to the discussions going on at the UK & Ireland eDemocracy exchange about the demise of ICELE, in the comments to my previous post on the topic.

Here’s a sample of what folk are saying – the archive is public if you want to see more.

Ella Taylor-Smith:

I think there is room for an organisation to -like ICELE – to be a central contact/info point for e-democracy in the UK (I’ve widened it there from local). Where they’ve collected data and case studies on a specific topic (like e-petitions) I’ve found it useful.

Paul Canning:

This just highlights for me the absence of any national central point of reference for egov. It’s splintered all over the place, so no one actually working in the area has ‘heard of’ most of the worthy stuff…

It just pains me that the Australian state of Victoria and other governments like Hong Kong and New Zealand have managed ‘one stop shop’ portals to egov for practitioners but all Downing St has led with is endless, endless different initiatives with different websites whilst at the same time preaching to the rest of us about ‘just’ directgov and businesslink.

Andy Williamson:

Our role now as advocates for eDemocracy is not to reduce the pressure but to increase it and argue strongly for a centralised, properly resourced and commissioned eDemocracy agency.

Mick Pythian:

I think perhaps first of all we need to know what the great British public expect of e-Democracy or even Democracy and attempt to champion that…

Rather than assumptions, I’d like to see more evidence from this country (cultures and systems vary, along with connectivity). This includes more ‘measured’ pilots.

Now, if I were to try and draw folk together to provide a post-ICELE way forward, these are all people who I would insist have to be involved – people who have a genuine interest in making things better, who have a clear idea of what eDemocracy might mean. To this dream team, I’d add others, like Shane McCracken, Steve Dale, Ingrid Koehler, Steve Hilton and Dominic Campbell.

It would be fascinating to see what could be achieved just by bringing people together, dispensing with titles and the other paraphernalia of traditional government working groups, and non-organising our way into Getting Something Done.

ICELE – now you don’t

Poor old ICELE. First of all, Professor Stephen Coleman questioned it’s utility on the Connecting Bristol blog:

I have been following e-democracy in the UK since its earliest manifestations in the work of UKCOD (UK Citizens e-Democracy), established in 1996. I was commissioned to be one of three evaluators for the Government’s national project for local e-democracy, out of which came the International Centre for Local e-Democracy (ICELE) This new body was well-funded, but seems to have produced conspicuously little. There might be others out there who can tell me that I’ve missed some wonderful outputs. If so, please do.

The discussion in the comments on that post soon spilled over into the UK & Ireland eDemocracy mailing list, which David Wilcox reported on, quoting Rita Wilson, ICELE’s director:

Having been on holiday for a few days I was surprised to come back to lots of speculation about ICELE. First of all I would like to say that I am more than happy to provide information regarding what ICELE has been achieving and there is nothing hidden about our activities. But we are doers not talkers, delivering a programme to make a difference in how local authorities use tools and technology to move from consultation to participation.

Now, it seems that the speculation was well placed. ICELE will soon be no more. In a message to various participants in the ICELE project, the Chairman of ICELE, Matthew Ellis wrote:

Although the termination date for ICELE was originally contracted as the end of March this year we agreed, at CLG [Department for Communities and Local Government]’s request, to maintain the Centres basic core operation for a further three months to discuss the way forward in promoting local eDemocracy. Unfortunately, although some talks have taken place, no decision or indication of CLG’s future plans in this important area of work have been forthcoming, or what form or structure ICELE could take. I am therefore in the process of implementing an exit strategy plan which will see ICELE cease operations of any kind with Lichfield DC as the accountable body after the end of June.

What was ICELE? Well, good question. In their own words:

ICELE is a sustainable [oh dear], UK-based centre with strong international backing from eDemocracy experts in the public, private and non-governmental sectors.

The Centre is designed to serve as a ‘virtual’ focal point for collaborative eDemocracy initiatives both in the UK and abroad. Within the UK, local authorities, community groups and citizens can use the Centre’s online resources to help run projects in their local area.

They were involved in a few projects, like the VOICE web publishing tool and the Blog in a Box blogging platform for Councillors. I don’t know much about VOICE – though what I’ve heard isn’t good – and Blog in a Box is frankly superfluous given the quality of free offerings like WordPress, as CivicSurf has proved.

So, ICELE, to be frank, was a bit rubbish. But what will take its place? I guess we will find out when the Department’s white paper on Empowerment is published. There has already been some activity around this, including the Community Power Packs developed with Involve‘s help, as well as Simon Berry’s job at CLG. Let’s hope the results will be good.

I think it is a bit of a shame that ICELE will be no more – or at least that there won’t be a body around which eDemocracy at a local level can gather. It might be argued that even with ICELE such a body didn’t exist. Maybe there’s another argument that in this networked, post-organisation world, we don’t actually need a body of this type at all any more at all.

There are a number of people who have a real, dedicated interest in local eDemocracy, as well as the opportunities that the social web offers to achieve real success in the area. The trouble is that local government is a remarkably fragmented sector and tying together all the various initiatives is a role that’s important but not happening right now. One of the best ways that local government is joining up at the moment is through the Communities of Practice, hosted by the Improvement and Development Agency, and set up by Steve Dale.

A quick search of the Communities platform for ‘edemocracy’ reveals nothing. Perhaps those with a genuine interest in making things better and sharing ideas might organise themselves through that platform? After all, there is already a huge user base on the platform.