Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

Bookmarks for May 14th through June 2nd

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

  • TWiki – the Open Source Enterprise Wiki – "A flexible, powerful, and easy to use enterprise wiki, enterprise collaboration platform, and web application platform."
  • How digital engagement can save councils money – A great paper from Anthony at the Democratic Society. Read this!
  • Living in a world of the merely improbable – Great post, covering why organisations need to figure out their approach to digital and how it can help them get through the cuts.
  • Tim Berners-Lee and Nigel Shadbolt speak out on web institute axing | Technology | – "Web inventor says that open government data will become increasingly important – but that 'immediate decisions had to be made' on spending."
  • Instant messaging: This conversation is terminated – Interesting article on the decrease in use of IM – it's Facebook's fault, it would appear.
  • And The Long Sought Replacement For Email Is . . . | Forrester Blogs – "Enterprise 2.0 enthusiasts (count me in) have argued for several years that Email’s manifest deficiencies could and would be overcome with open, social, and dynamic 2.0-based communication and collaboration tools. However, there’s also long been the recognition that Email – or rather, Email users – would not go down without a fight."
  • The Coalition: what now for digital? at Helpful Technology – "In terms of public sector IT at least, it looks broadly as through the principles and plans outlined by the Conservatives over the last six months are being brought into effect, with added emphasis on civil liberties."
  • Designing the Big (Civil) Society – it’s DIY time – "But in my experience, whether it’s a group of activists, social entrepreneurs or local government officers, you can’t assume people will easily start co-designing new stuff together – particularly if that involves adding technology. People need to get to know and trust each other, tell stories about what’s worked and what hasn’t, filter inspirational ideas against local realities, think about who does what, where the money comes from, and so on. That’s particularly difficult when you are doing that with less funds then before – as will certainly be the case."
  • The Future of Open Data Looks Like…Github? – "the future to me in this area seems clear: we’re going to see transformation of datasets incorporated into the marketplaces. As the demand for public data increases, the market will demand higher quality, easier to work with data."
  • Government needs a SkunkWorks – "What's stopping us spooling up a Skunkworks? Nothing but the momentum which continues to carry us down the old path. It's inertia, but, as I said, we're at the dawn of something new. Personally, I'm confident that all manner of things which would have been difficult before will now become possible."

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.

Interesting things in Peterborough

Peterborough Cathedral

1. IBM, Opportunity Peterborough and Peterborough City Council are working together on a project which aims to transform Peterborough into the leading sustainable city in the UK.

From the IBM website:

The collaboration has outlined plans to launch a Sustainable City Visualisation project, which will initially focus on building a new online platform to monitor and analyze data on Peterborough’s energy, water, transport and waste systems. This data will be used to produce a real-time, integrated view of the city’s environmental performance. Residents and city officials will be able to log on to the web portal and easily access the necessary information to make more informed decisions about resource usage. For example, the city will be able to make suggestions to improve home water and energy usage, while being able to work more effectively with the utilities to plan the long term energy and water infrastructure that is needed for a sustainable future.

Interesting stuff, and something I’ll keep an eye on. GreenMonk is a great source of analysis on sustainability and IT, and here is a link to all their posts which feature IBM, who seem to be doing quite  bit in this space at the moment. It’s vital for local government to be seen to be leading on this agenda too, so it’s an interesting collaboration.

Hat tip to James Governor for mentioning this story on Twitter, where I picked it up.

2. The RSA are working with the Council in Peterborough to run the Citizen Power project. From the project’s Ning-based site:

Working in collaboration with Peterborough City Council and the Arts Council East, the Citizen Power project will span two years and be made up of a number of programmes based around the arts and social change, an area-based learning curriculum, a sustainable citizenship campaign, user-centred drug services and the use of online social media. Together, these different programmes of work will aim to address Peterborough’s challenges as well as work towards achieving the city’s potential.

I see David Wilcox is being his usual challenging self on the site, which is good, and I have joined to see where I might help (I’m a fellow of the RSA myself). Must say, the fact that the launch event for this local community based project in Peterborough took place in John Adam Street isn’t particularly inspiring. It will be interesting to see how this one pans out.

Good to see interesting things happening in Peterbough – it’s just down the road, and was the nearest big place to where I grew up.

Flickr credit: basegreen

Us Now

Quite a few folk have been lucky enough to see Us Now, a film made by Banyak Films in association with the RSA. Ivo Gormley directs.

Here is how the film is described on its website:

Us Now is a documentary film project about the power of mass
collaboration, government and the Internet.

Us Now tells the stories of online networks that are challenging the
existing notion of hierarchy. For the first time, it brings together
the fore-most thinkers in the field of participative governance to
describe the future of government.

A great part of the project is that so much material has been made available online. You can see loads of stuff on the Clips page of the Us Now website. I’ve embedded the trailer below, for now.

Any readers of this blog will know that I am passionate about the ways in which advances in web technology can improve the way our democracy and government works. High profile projects like this – trying to draw the thinking together in ways that will get the attention of those not yet involved in the conversation – can only help improve things. Great work.

In a comment on Jeremy’s blog, Ivo mentions the possibility of using the film as the basis of a session at the forthcoming UK government barcamp, next month. What a fantastic idea – sign me up!

Opening the RSA

David Wilcox has blogged again about the efforts at the RSA to reform itself to meet the needs of fellows in the networked society. It would appear that the more forward thinking fellows are a little disappointed at the pace of change in the organisation.

[A] blog would provide a place for staff and enthusiasts, like those gathered last night, to carry on some creative exchanges and maybe highlight projects if they weren’t getting the attention leaders felt they needed. I can understand anxieties of RSA staff who, with a few exceptions, are not bloggers. They may be worried everyone will want a say, they’ll be swamped, conversations will be critical … and so on. If it were done jointly with Fellows, I don’t think that would be the case. It would be a low-risk test of the aspiration for the larger network site to be self-governing (scaling to that is a big issue, but building a core of champions is a good start whichever way you go).

A year ago, when Matthew Taylor first started to talk about renewing the RSA, a group of fellows started collaborating under the banner of OpenRSA, and it seems that the group is cranking up again.

Much effort has been expended on the RSA Networks platform, originally prototyped rather nicely in Drupal, and now being reworked to fit in with the wider RSA web offerings. The thing is though, everything that is needed techwise is already in place, set up using free tools by the OpenRSA mob. They have:

…and therefore basically everything you need to get the online discussion going. All using free tools, that people already know how to use and can access easily.

The harder bit will be getting the offline networking going, but as David points out in his post, Lloyd Davis has already showed the way this can be done in a way that is light on organisation with the Tuttle club, which has rapidly grown from an idea, to a meeting in a church hall, to a regular event above a pub and now at the ICA.

As I wrote in a comment on David’s blog, the danger for traditional organisations is that if they don’t start doing this stuff, someone else will – and those that don’t might get left behind. To its credit, the RSA is trying. But it is an august, 250 year old institution, with a turning circle that is considerably wider than is needed to loosen the grip on control and accept the messiness that is the inevitable consequence of opening up a bit.

This is an issue all membership organisations are going to have to deal with in the near future, which is why it is great news that The Membership Project might be getting a second wind very soon.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the OpenRSA splinter cell evolves, and how it fits in with the attempts by the RSA to reform itself. Hopefully the two will complement each other, and provide an example for other organisations to follow.