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, CinchCast.com 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 21st through March 29th

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.

Great blogging on #localgovweb

Two great blog posts recently on the ever thorny issue of local government websites.

Firstly, Al Smith recounts his experience managing the refresh of Newcastle City Council‘s site. A remarkably honest and open appraisal of how it all went, and Al’s own role, it’s a great read and one for any local gov web manager to take a look at.

Secondly, Carl Haggerty – who is on blogging fire at the moment – has written a really thought provoking post on web strategy. He says:

What i think we need is a strategy for the web channel that actually talks about “Exploiting” the channel for business benefit and value creation and not a strategy that focuses on how we will build it, what technology we will use and what level of security we will apply. These are of course very important things but in my view should actually be contained within your organisations ICT Technical Strategies and not within the web strategy.

Great examples of blogging being used to share experience, knowledge and ideas. More of this, please.

Transformed by you

Optimus PrimeSimon Wakeman has blogged about the upcoming Transformed by You event in Medway, jointly organised by Medway Council and Kent County Council.

It’s a cross between LocalGovCamp and SIcamp, and looks like it will be a really cool day. Not least because of the involvement of Simon and also Kent’s Noel Hatch – two real innovators and thinker-doers in local government.

Uservoice forum has been set up to canvas ideas for how people’s local areas in Kent could be improved – perhaps by using the internet, perhaps not. You can then vote on the ideas you think will work best, and the top ones will be taken forward on the day, where they will be discussed and where real life geeks will put some prototypes together.

Simon writes:

Public sector organisations face growing pressures to deliver bigger and better services with far less money. Kent County Council and Medway Council recognise that by tapping into local creative thinkers they could go someway to resolve some of the issues that are emerging.

Digital technologies are effective at doing just this. More people are talking and sharing ideas online in ways that weren’t possible before. Technology also provides opportunities for individuals, businesses and other groups to create innovative models to meet these new demands.

You can sign up for a ticket for Transformed by You on the Eventbrite page. There is also a Ning site with some conversations and further information on it and the opportunity for some pre-event networking.

I’ll be there, and I think it’s going to be a very interesting and productive day.

LocalGovCamp London is on!

We’ll keep it *very* local so as to not get confused with UKGC10.

This will be an all-day event on (or around) 25 Feb in partnership with IDeA. Venue will be Central London. Exact date and location tbc.

Themes will be relevant to anyone working with local government in the social media/digital engagement space. We are aiming to create spaces for discussion and engagement, the sharing of experiences and creation of new ideas. Conversations are encouraged. We will have lots of parallel sessions and break-out spaces. In the tradition of localgovcamps, you set the agenda in the beginning of the morning and afternoon sessions.

Apart from local authorities, MPs, councillors, ICT and social media specialists, we are inviting arts centres and other local heroes to work with us on involving their existing communities in learning how to engage online.

So even if you’re not able to make it for the whole day, come for however long you can!

You can register for your ticket on the Eventbrite page.

City of Angeles moves to Google Apps

Interesting!

Google Apps will also help conserve resources in the city’s Information & Technology Agency (ITA), which is responsible for researching, testing & implementing new technologies in ways that make Los Angeles a better place to live, work and play. Because the email and other applications are hosted and maintained by Google, ITA employees who previously were responsible for maintaining our email system can be freed up to work on projects that are central to making the city run.

By ITA estimates, Google Apps will save the city of Los Angeles millions of dollars by allowing us to shift resources currently dedicated to email to other purposes. For example, moving to Google will free up nearly 100 servers that were used for our existing email system, which will lower our electricity bills by almost $750,000 over five years. In short, this decision helps us to get the most out of the city’s IT budget.

The decision to move to Google Apps was not taken lightly. The city issued a request for proposals and received 15 proposals, which were evaluated by city officials. The top four proposals were invited to give oral presentations, with CSC’s proposal for Google Apps receiving the highest marks. This decision was reviewed and discussed by the Los Angeles City Council which, after a healthy debate, voted unanimously to move forward with Google Apps.

Here’s a video for more:

The biggest mistake councils made with online engagement

It’s frequently costly. It almost always achieves little. It lets people tick the “use the internet to engage with the public” box without actually achieving much.

I am, of course, talking about webcasting council meetings. The idea has honourable roots. But the world has moved on.

Both print and broadcast media have steadily moved away from providing lengthy, verbatim reporting of what goes on in elected bodies. That’s despite such coverage being very cheap and easy to produce. Stick a journalist in front of the Parliamentary TV channel, give them a bookmark to Hansard and you’re away. Yet the volume of such coverage has fallen hugely in the last few years – because it’s not what the public wants.

We may wish the public thought otherwise, but when the public is so clearly turning its back on being interested in such verbatim coverage, it’s rather implausible to think that they would lap it up for their local council, if only it were available.

It is therefore no surprise that the audience figures for council webcasting are almost always low. It is a telling sign that it is extremely rare to find a council boasting about the size of its webcast audiences. To be fair, there are some niches and exceptions, but overall the picture is clear: webcast council meetings don’t get much of an audience.

That has been consistently the case, as the systematic evaluation of pilots back in 2005 as part of the Local e-Democracy National Project showed. None of the pilots got a large audience.

It is true that the number of members of the public turning up in person to council meetings is often so small that a tiny online audience can seem quite large by comparison. But it is not an audience that comes for free.

Webcasting costs. It costs money that could be spent elsewhere. Council webcasting is relatively cheap compared with big council IT projects, but it’s relatively expensive when compared to the costs of exploiting social media tools. For example, Croydon’s £33,000 budget for its 2006-7 webcasting pilot could have paid for a substantial social media campaign.

It isn’t just the immediate audience that is limited, so is the follow up audience because by locking up content in audio-visual format webcasting hides it from search engines. That is starting to change, with some speech to text conversion technology starting to creep in to search tools, but for the moment the money spent on webcasting usually could more effectively be spent on putting other content online in search engine friendly ways that serve the public.

A few less minimalistic pdf files of agendas and a few more pages rich with background information and links would go much further than many a webcast.

Webcasting does, perhaps, have one plus point. Councils often cover the basics when it comes to promoting webcasting: mention in the council newsletter, mention on the council website, mention in their email list. Added up this marketing still doesn’t provide a decent audience – which is a healthy reminder of how not only does the substance have to be attractive but also how hard you have to work to build up a decent website and email audience to which you can promote activities.

But overall, whilst piloting webcasting made sense, now we know the lesson: it rarely delivers.

Mark Pack is Associate Director, Digital at Mandate Communications (www.YourMandate.com). Previously he was Head of Innovations at the Liberal Democrats, heading up the team which arranged the first use of Google Video by a major UK political party, the first UK party leader on YouTube and the first UK election campaign to use Ustream. He blogs about politics, history and technology at www.MarkPack.org.uk. He’s on Twitter at @markpack.

Works starts on skills framework for web professionals

Vicky, from Boilerhouse and Socitm, pops by to tell us about the latest developments with the public sector web professionals network.

On 27 November, Socitm will be holding a workshop as the first stage in a project to define a professional skills framework for people who work on public sector websites.

This is part of it wider initiative to set up a web professionals group for this large and diverse group that includes:

  • programmers and coders
  • web developers (with technical skills)
  • web designers
  • content managers/editors
  • social networking experts
  • measurement/monitoring specialists
  • web marketers
  • web managers
  • customer service or IT heads with web responsibilities
  • e-communications professionals

The initiative kicked off earlier this year with a meeting called by Socitm and involving web managers and practitioners from local government across the UK, central government departments, the government supersites, and the third sector. Also present were representatives form some existing and past groups formed by webbies, including the Public Sector Web Professionals Group, SPIN and the Scottish Web Forum.

There was general agreement among those present that meeting web practitioners’ professional development needs would in future need more than informal groups, voluntary effort and free networking tools. It was also recognised that defining a skills framework for web practitioners and organising training, development and possibly accreditation around this framework would be a core activity for any professional group formed.

Following this meeting Socitm commissioned research to identify whether any other professional association or skills organisation was already doing or planning to do something similar. Discussions were held with a range of professional and skills organisations in ICT, interactive media, marketing, communications and publishing. We also talked with the CoI and the Government Communications Network about their plans in this area, and made useful contact with the Federal Web Managers Council in the USA. Contact was made with some web networks in the NHS to share and discuss idea, leading to some positive feedback about the potential for webbies in the health sector to join our activity.

At this point, the Socitm agreed in principle to set up a web professionals’ interest group for people involved in any aspect of web management and development. Individuals at any level of seniority or career stage, employed or freelancing in the public or third sectors, or in any organisation working with them would be open to join. The group would then run under the Socitm constitution, with the group electing a chair and officer and developing a programme of activity supported by Socitm’s paid staff. Members would be eligible for the normal benefits of Socitm membership as well as additional benefits exclusive to ‘web members’.

As well as agreeing to set up a group or community for web professionals, Socitm agreed to fund initial development on a skills framework. This is seen a central to the development of a sustainable future programme of activity that will attract web professionals to join and support the group. The workshop on 27 November marks the start of this activity

We are looking for people with experience of managing web teams in the public sector to get involved in this activity. There are a limited number of places available at the workshop, and a wider opportunity to participate in evaluating and offering feedback on the initial framework developed at the workshop.

If you would like to get involved, please complete the form to tell us a little more about your relevant skills and experience, and whether you are willing and able to attend the workshop on 27 November, which will run in London from 1000 – 1600. If by any chance you are unable to access this, email me at vicky.sargent@socitm.net.

We will be publishing the register of those interested in the community library.

Many thanks are due to Paul Canning for his work in getting this activity going, some of you will have been following his blogs on this topic in the CoP and elsewhere.