What a year!

There’s not long left of 2008 now. It’s been one of the most remarkable years of my life.

I started it living in Mawsley, near Kettering, which I and my family hated. We then moved to Broughton, also near Kettering, which was better. Now I’m typing this in the study in our house in Cottenham, near Cambridge. I’ve always wanted to return to living round here, yet never thought I would manage it. I love it here.

I started the year in a proper job, which I was starting to find limiting and restrictive. At that time, I didn’t know where else I could go. Over the year I got the confidence to realise that working for myself was what I needed to do. Thanks to the tremendous support I have received from several people – many of whom I have only really known since relatively recently – I’ve been able to find myself a bit of a niche and off the back of that, plenty of work.

So, (deep breath) massive thanks to Steve Dale, Jeremy Gould, David Wilcox, Simon Dickson, Steph Gray, Shane McCracken, Nick Booth, Dom Campbell, Lloyd Davis, Tim Davies, Emma Mulqueeny, Paul Johnston and many others… I literally couldn’t have done it without you.

A quick word about Jeremy – he posted today on his blog that he is leaving the civil service, to take some time off with his family and to return some time in 2009 in some capacity as a freelancer. His blog post hints at frustration in his day job and I think he must have felt pretty under appreciated there during the last months. I don’t think this does his department any credit at all and it is a pretty damning indictment that one of the most passionate and able people I have ever met was unable to find a role that suited him and his talents within the UK public sector. He’ll do very well out of the system, of that I have no doubt, but what a shame! If civil servants with a bit of vision and enthusiasm continue to be treated like this, there will be no good ones left. Simon has blogged his thoughts too.

Apart from my terrific friends, there is one other thing that has had a remarkable impact on my workloads, and that is this blog. During the whole of December 2007, DavePress got a measly 67 hits. December 2008 saw it receive 5,328 views. I think it is fair to say that every single bit of work I have picked up has started with a conversation beginning with, “Hi Dave, I’ve just been reading your blog and…”. Here’s some advice for anyone who might be thinking about going it alone at some point in 2009 – start blogging. It’s a remarkable way to build yourself a reputation from scratch.

I’m hoping that I stay busy in 2009, obviously, and that I start to develop a bit more of a business brain than I currently have. I want, as I think I mentioned in my ‘resolutions’ post, that I want to find the time to think a bit more about how all this digital participation stuff actually works, and what it really means for the government of this country. I’m not so sure than government is going to be ‘fixed’ any time soon, but the tinkering around the edges that’s starting to happen now can only help improve things a little bit for a lot of people.

Happy new year, everyone.

My hopes for 2009

I wouldn’t be so foolish as to try and make some prediction for 2009, as they would be bound to turn out to be hideously wrong within a very short space of time. However, I feel a little safer writing a bit about what I hope will happen in the world of govweb / digital participation:

1. We start to get the most out of communities

I want to see everyone making better use of their networks, and creating new, better ones where they are needed. This can be on or offline, or even better a blend of the two. I’d like to see some real appreciation of the role of the manager, or facilitator of communities and more done to bring together the people that get how it can be done. More talking and more sharing would be very nice!

2. Better risk awareness

Believe it or not, in a previous life I was once the risk management officer for a county council. I think a lot of the talk about risk when it comes to the social web is actually just an excuse not to do things that people might find a little bit frightening. This is most true when it comes to the blocking of social websites on office networks, but it can be applied to a number of areas, whether getting involved in online conversations or becoming properly collaborative organisations. The mature approach to risk is to assess them and manage them – but also to take them. Running away leaves you just as exposed as blundering blindly in.

3. Social reporting as learning

I’m still buzzing about the stuff I wrote about here, inspired by David Wilcox. Like many, I have caught the social reporting bug, and now the connection with networked learning has been made, it makes even more sense to me. I hope we see more and more events, workshops, training sessions and conferences incorporate the creation of online learning spaces to make the sharing of stories and knowledge so much easier.

4. Netbooks for all

I’m really excited by the sudden growth in popularity of these small but (usually) beautiful machines. I now have two: an Asus Eee and a Samsung NC10 – the latter more useful than the former thanks to its bigger screen and keyboard. The small price and size of these computers make them ideal for people who might not otherwise buy a PC, and the fact that they come wireless enabled means more people will be able to access the wonders of the web than would otherwise be possible – especially with all these deals around mobile broadband and the like.

5. Digital mentors for government

I like the idea of digital mentors, obviously, as my involvement with Digitalmentor.org and Voicebox has shown over the last few months. However, I keep going back in my mind to this comment from Tom Watson, which mentioned having folk fulfilling the role of digital mentor for government – in other words, providing the coaching and resources needed to let public servants decide for themselves the tools they want to use. I think a simple mixture of awareness-raising and some practical demonstrations, and perhaps an online peer support community, is all that would be needed to get this off the ground. Maybe something to discuss at January’s barcamp?

So that’s some of the things I am hoping for. What about you?