The state of the UK gov blogosphere

(This is one of those posts I really seriously considered not posting, because I’m not sure whether I am talking bollocks here or not. Please leave comments, letting me know one way or the other.)

Here’s an assumption of mine which is pretty important to this post: that people blogging is important, and a Good Thing. There are a number of reasons I think this way – mainly that blogging is a great way to develop and share ideas, to create a movement, to develop a reputation. A healthy and active blogging community in a sector means that it’s a sector where there is a lot of creativity. It means that sector is an interesting place to be.

I don’t think the public sector blogging space in this country is anywhere near as developed as it should be. There are too few voices, and often one gets the impression that these bloggers struggle somewhat under the pressure that is created by the fact that too few others are joining in. This isn’t anyone’s fault, of course, and there are a number of reason why blogging amongst public servants hasn’t particularly taken off:

  • Lack of time
  • Lack of backing from up high
  • Lack of stuff to write about

…and no doubt plenty of others.

Let’s look at who there is at the moment, blogging regularly about government in a useful way:

There may be a couple of others that I have missed. There’s also a bunch of people outside government – but with, let’s say, an interest – who blog, like Simon, Dom, Nick, William, Jeremy, Shane, and me to name a few.

Public sector blogs does a nice job of aggregating this activity.

Obviously people write blogs about what they want to write about, and no one should be mandated to blog, or to write about certain topics. But I’ve been really getting into some of the tech analyst blogs recently, many of which focus on issues that are of great relevance to people working in public service: how to we go about getting adoption of ‘2.0’ ways of working within large, enterprise scale, organisations?

Check out some of these examples:

I love these blogs – full of insight, research, evidence, opinion, news, challenge and views. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a community of bloggers doing just this sort of thing for UK government?

I think we need a strong, vibrant blogging community in and around government providing some real analysis of what is happening, and some real thought-leadership in terms of what should be happening.

This should be tied to a conversation that I have been hinting at recently around not talking about social media as an end in itself so much as how we get news ways of working adopted in government, tied into technology enabled change around software as a service, cloud computing, collaborative technology and so on. Who’s blogging about what the vendors are offering government and whether it’s any good or not?

Are we that far away from this now? Does anyone actually need it? Am I way off the mark here?

I’m planning on convening a ‘State of the UK gov blogosphere’ session at the UKGovCamp in January where we can talk about some of this, and maybe do some planning around how we can get more blogging going in a more sustainable way within and around public services.

Barcamp on Ning

The upcoming Barcamp for UK government webby stuff now has a social network, thanks to Ning!

In many ways, this is a copycat …err… following good practice attempt after the excellent network set up by Tim Davies for the UK Youth Online event back in September. Having a more social environment for people to talk to each other before, during and after the event might help foster connections made and help get things done.

Of course, it isn’t to everyone’s taste and those that prefer email can stick with the Google Group and dedicated wiki-ers can use GovHack or the event wiki if they choose to.

I’m overcoming some of the issues I have had with Ning – a lot of the designs are now cleaner than earlier efforts, they are making a good fist (sorry) at getting rid of the ‘adult’ networks, and it’s easy to pull in content from elsewhere. Also, the simple act of paying a bit to get rid of the ads improves things.

So do swing by http://www.ukgovweb.org/ even if you can’t make it on the day to be a part of the conversations around this great event!

The UKGovWeb Twitterverse

The real value of Twitter is in the network, and if you are just starting out with it, and don’t have many people to follow, or much of a following yourself, it can seem a bit quiet, depressing and pointless. As you build up your network, though, suddenly things change and it becomes a vital communication tool.

So, if you are a public sector worker wanting to make the most of this great network, you might need a bit of help tracking down some people to start following and interacting with. Here’s that help! I’ve tried to break the various groups up into categories, to help you find who you want.

If I have missed anyone out or put them in the wrong place, please let me know in the comments! There’s gotta be more tweeting politicians, surely?

Central Government Official Feeds

Civil Servants

Local Authority Official Feeds

Local Authority Web Teams

Local Authority Officers

Other Public Sector Bodies & Officers

Politicians

Freelancers, Consultants etc

ReadWriteGov is this Wednesday!

This Wednesday sees the first of hopefully many ReadWriteGov events taking place at Peterborough City Council.

It’s going to be a great day, with some excellent speakers, all of whom are working within the public sector trying to get things done. They are:

  • Dominic Campbell who will be speaking about the work Barnet Council are doing to better connect with their citizens
  • Steph Gray from DIUS who will be talking about making social media projects happen in government
  • Hadley Beeman from the London Deanery who will be discussing her project to get social networking and collaboration happening in the health sector

If you would like to come, there are still one or two places available – find out more here. Tickets are jolly cheap for this sort of thing, at just £25 for public sector folk.

Even if you can’t make it though, you can still receive some ReadWriteGov love. For instance, you can visit the blog, where after the event we will be posting content from the day, including presentations from speakers, audio, photos and maybe some video too.

We also now have a Twitter account, through which you can hear about what is happening and pass comments or ask questions during the day. Unlike a lot of events that offer this kind of thing, I really will be tracking what people are saying and making sure the less offensive questions get asked!

Just follow @readwritegov to join in!

Teacamping this Thursday

Teacamps are the bi-weekly get togethers of people interested in government and the web, which emerged from January’s Barcamp.

I don’t get along nearly as often as I would like – something that will hopefully change now I have a bit more control over my time – but I will be heading down to the House of Fraser cafe on Victoria Street this Thursday. Hope to see plenty of folk there!

Personal Democracy Forum

Interesting article on TechCrunch about the Personal Democracy Forum taking place in New York next week:

It’s also time for more industry leaders to push politicians to take a more forward-thinking approach to how government distributes public information. We hear a lot these days about how the internet is affecting the election, which PdF will cover from every conceivable angle, but in some ways it’s far more important to look at how we can start rethinking how government works, and how it can more effectively connect with American citizens to help solve problems. PdF is expanding to two days this year to devote a whole day to this issue, and my guess is that come 2009, we’re going to have an administration (either Obama or McCain) that is more open to trying to use the tools of the social web-blogs, wikis, crowd sourcing, etc-to open up governance.

More evidence of the increasing overlap between the tech communities and the eGovernment/eDemocracy crowds – something that has recently been discussed on the UKGovWeb list as we plan another Barcamp-style event.