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.

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.

People like video

In an article on the BBC Technology News page, I read about how the British web-going public are really getting into online video:

British demand for online video sites has shot up over the past year, according to a new report.

Written by research firm Hitwise it found that UK internet traffic to video websites was up 40.7%.

YouTube is the most popular destination, followed by the BBC iPlayer and Google Video.

Which is rather interesting. I remember reading loads of blog posts – locations long forgotten, sadly – last year talking about how people couldn’t be bothered to sit and watch video, and that simple text based messages were the best way to engage an audience.

Using online video, however, is increasingly popular, and government is trying to make the most of this new channel. Downing Street has plenty of stuff going up on its YouTube channel, and DIUS’ channel has been around a while too, and was used to good effect recently as part of their Mature Students consultation.

For a list of all the (known) central government YouTubers, see Neil’s great list.

In fact, mentioning Neil at this point is rather pertinent, as his new department, BERR, have recently started a YouTube channel – BERRtube – featuring some really good content.

One such example is the collaboration between BERR and Yoosk, which saw Theo Paphitis questioning Lord Mandelson on issues raised by the public. Take this example, on the subject of bank bailouts:

What makes this video work well for me is that: it isn’t just a talking head, but an interaction between two people, both individuals are recognisable, it clearly isn’t a ‘normal’ government broadcast and it is nice and short.

Paul Canning has written a fair bit on online videos, especially their role in marketing and making them go ‘viral’. I’m not sure any of the government produced stuff is quite at the viral stage yet. But that is not to say that it isn’t of value, nor that by taking baby steps now, more exciting stuff won’t happen a little further down the line.

Cambridgeshire County Council uses YouTube to encourage new councillors

Cambridgeshire County Council have put up some videos on their YouTube channel from the leaders of the three main political groups on the Council.

The aim of the videos are to encourage people to put themselves forward to become councillors.

As the Council’s press release states:

The films represent a first for local democracy in Cambridgeshire, with the leaders broadcasting individual messages on the importance of people coming forward as councillors for the County Council elections, to be held on 4 June 2009.

The videos are classic talking head style, and as with all initial attempts at this stuff, they are a little stilted. But that’s fine, and hopefully these councillors, and others, will continue to use YouTube as a communications tool – after all, with more practice things will always improve.

There doesn’t seem to be a single place for people to go to find out about becoming a councillor anywhere on the web at the moment – there is information on individual council sites, of course, and CLG have some bits too. London Councils have a special site to encourage people to consider standing for election. However, the content is very static and not particularly engaging.

Having some video stuff from councillors explaining what they do and what is involved would be great, I think, along with links to councillor blogs and other information resources. Even better would be some sort of interaction between those who are considering being a councillor and those with experience to pass on. Something to humanise the whole thing a little.

Video hosting services

Whilst beavering away this week in Stockholm on Cisco08, I had a chance to play with a few different video hosting services, namely YouTube, Vimeo and Blip. Here’s what I found:


YouTube was the default choice for me going into the event, simply because it is a name that everyone recognises and most people are used to the format and the way it works. It’s also easy to upload quickly from a Flip using the built in software. There is also a huge community around it, with rating, favouriting and commenting on videos well established.

However, I found that the quality of picture and (especially) audio was poor on the uploaded videos on YouTube, and the service seemed pretty slow at getting the videos ready for publishing after they had been uploaded. Also, you are limited to less than 10 minutes of video in any one go, which is a pain for longer pieces, such as recorded sessions at events (though short interviews are no problem).

Another problem is that users can’t download the video from YouTube, so it is pretty restrictive.


Vimeo is much less well known outside the circle of social media fanboys and girls, which is a shame as it seems a much better service that is currently provided by YouTube.

The interface is really easy to use and it seems quicker at uploading video, and converting it for use online. One other small but neat feature is that it sends you an email when the video is ready: nice. The quality of the video picture and audio seems much higher than YouTube and the embeddable player is nice to use without some of YouTube rather intrusive buttons and links.

Vimeo also allows logged-in users to download the original video files.

The downside of Vimeo is that you are limited to 500mb of video uploads a week unless you upgrade to a Pro account.


Blip is aimed less at the occasional video poster and more at folk who want to regularly upload content as a ‘show’ – you aren’t forced to do this, but it is clearly the intention of the site that it’s there for the more dedicated creators of video content. For example, you can get a share of ad revenue from your videos if you like, and the embedded player is highly customisable too.

Blip doesn’t seem to have many restrictions in terms of what it allows you too upload, and also makes it possible to download the original video files. However, I don’t find the player quite as user-friendly as the Vimeo one, and all the options on publishing your video are quite confusing and distracting.


I am going to more or less ditch YouTube for the video I produce. The quality isn’t there in terms of the output and this outweighs the recognition factor for me. Vimeo is great for short videos and for anything below roughly ten minutes, that’s the service I will use. Blip is great quality, and fantastic for longer pieces, but the slightly less friendly user experience means my initial choice will always be Vimeo.

Which is your video host of choice?

CLG, Youth Advisors and YouTube

CLG have added a whole load of fresh material to their YouTube account, which includes clips from minister Hazel Blears’ trip around the subcontinent and some from the department’s youth engagement work.

One of my favourites is this, from the first meeting of the new Youth Advisors with Hazel Blears, featuring the impish Rory Birch:

ColaLife Campaign Video

Some news from the ColaLife campaign… as part of the submission to Google for the 10^100 competition, a 30 second video has been created. And it’s lovely:


Please visit the YouTube page and mark the video as a favourite, give it a 5 star rating and embed it in your own blogs and social networks. The more that people know about this remarkable initiative, the better.

WetPaint wikis in plain english

WetPaint is a hosted wiki service that I haven’t really used before – I tend to stick with WikiSpaces, though have used pbwiki a fair bit recently for the barcampukgovweb.

By the looks of this great video from the Common Craft guys, though, WetPaint seems to be pretty feature packed. Might have to give it a go.