What is the Knowledge Hub?

The Knowledge Hub is an ambitious project by Local Government Improvement and Development (what was the IDeA) to provide two main things: a new platform for the Communities of Practice to replace the rather clunky current one; and to provide a service for data sharing and hosting – a little like data.gov.uk but for local stuff.

Steve Dale, the architect of the incredibly successful Communities of Practice, is the guy behind the Knowledge Hub, ably assisted by luminaries of local gov 2.0 like Ingrid Koehler. It should be great.

I’ve embedded a video below which explains the Knowledge Hub in a practical sort of way.

The procurement process for the technology bit of the Knowledge Hub was recently completed and at a meeting of the steering group on Tuesday (27th July) we’ll get to find out who the winner is and what the finished thing might look like. My understanding is that the Knowledge Hub will then launch in the new year.

Learning Pool were delighted to be asked to produce the animation for the video above, and we think it has come out pretty well. If you think you have a use for something similar, do get in touch!

Bookmarks for April 11th through April 16th

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

  • A New Approach to Printing – “a service that enables any application (web, desktop, or mobile) on any device to print to any printer.”
  • Governments and Citizens: You Don’t Own Your Tweets – This is a really interesting piece on ownership of online content.
  • Beauty is the new must-have feature – “I’m predicting that we’ll start to have a non-functional requirement around making beautiful experiences when we build systems, and that we’ll be rubbish at it when it happens.”
  • Follow Finder by Google – “Follow Finder analyzes public social graph information (following and follower lists) on Twitter to find people you might want to follow.”
  • Enterprise 2.0 and improved business performance – “Despite growing evidence, which I’ve presented here and elsewhere, there still remains for many people a real question about the overall ability of social software to improve how organizations get things done.”
  • calibre – E-book management – Really handy (for a Kindle owner, anyway) open source, cross platform ebook conversion tool.
  • Why does government struggle with innovation? – “If innovation is becoming a core attribute required by government organisations, merely to keep up with the rate of change in society and the development of new ways to deliver services and fulfil public needs, perhaps we need to rewrite some of the rulebook, sacrificing part of our desire for stability in return for greater change.”
  • The Biggest Obstacle to Innovation – “There are many candidates for the biggest obstacle to innovation. You could try lack of management support, no employee initiative, not enough good ideas, too many good ideas but no follow-through just for starters. My nominee for The Biggest Obstacle to Innovation is: Inertia”
  • Lichfield District Council – Open Election Data Project Case Study – “An early adopter Lichfield District Council has been actively sharing a range of local data for some time. In March 2010 the Council was the first authority to make its local election results openly available as part of the Open Election Data Project.”
  • Google Docs Gets More Realtime; Adds Google Drawings To The Mix – Me likey!
  • YouTube – SearchStories’s Channel – Make your own Google search story video – like in the Superbowl ad. Cute.

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 18th through March 20th

[Something is going wrong with this again. For some reason this hadn’t been posted before now.]

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.

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.

Why chief executives should blog

I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of Cambridgeshire County Council, recently.

Since taking up his post, Mark has written a prolific internal blog about his work at the Council to inform and engage with his colleagues at all levels of the organisation.

This is exactly the sort of thing I have been talking about for the last couple of months – that really effective use of social media behind the firewall should be a priority for local councils. Mark’s experiences should hopefully encourage more of this activity across local government.

Many thanks to Michele Ide-Smith for arranging this interview.

I’m keen to do more videos like this – if you or someone you know would make a good subject, do get in touch!

Kodak Zi8 review

I recently got a Kodak Zi8 video camera. It’s like a beefed up Flip and I think it should be considered the default choice for social reporters everywhere.

I did this video review of it, which turned out even ropier than I thought it would. Still, I’m learning.

Ironically, the review was recorded using a Flip. Maybe that’s my excuse?

Nick Booth has just published a nice post, where he recommends the Flip over the Kodak for ease of use.

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.

Videopress

Videopress

Video hosting is always a bit of a bother, as no one service does it all, as far as I am aware.

I did a fair bit of social reporting last week, and am already running into difficulties in finding a hosting solution that can cope with the size of the files I am wanting to upload; and which is accessible within the organisations that need to see them.

It turns out that my usual favourite choice, Vimeo, is blocked in a hell of a lot of places.

Well, VideoPress looks like it might be worth looking into. It’s been created by Automattic, the guys behind WordPress and various other cool things. It’s a video upload and hosting service that uses WordPress.com as its back end, as far as I can tell. But you can embed your videos wherever you like.

Here’s a video explaining more.