ScotGovCamp 2011

New University of Aberdeen library building

New University of Aberdeen library in construction

Right boys and girls! I am awfully chuffed* to be able to confirm that ScotGovCamp 2011 will be held in the MacRobert Building at the University of Aberdeen on Saturday 24 September.

I’ll be posting more detail here shortly, and the first tranche of tickets should be available later in the week.

[I’ve also been chatting with the nice folks at IRISS about holding a mini GovCamp in Glasgow during Social Media Week, which is the previous week (17 – 23 September). This would probably be an evening event and we would be limited to about 30 people. Again, more to follow.]

* not least cos it means I can ogle the new library (which might be open by then!)


GraniteCamp anyone?

Right. First off, an apology. I’ve been promising to say something about ScotGovCamp 2011 (#SGC2) for ages. I have had good reason for holding back…honest.  But I still can’t talk about that. Sorry. I’m not trying to be ‘all mysterious’ – I really am unable to elaborate at the moment.

But…what I can say is (drum roll please) that SGC2 may well be taking place in Aberdeen on 24 September. Plans are at an early stage, so the date and the location may still change – but there are lots of good folk in and around the granite city keen to make it happen.

I can also say that we might try to add a hack day element to the event this time.

So, thank you for your patience folks. Hopefully I’ll have more details for you soon.

(And, obviously, do let me know if you think Aberdeen/24 September/hack day-ifying  is/are completely idiotic idea/s!!!)

Taking a break

This blog will be taking a short hiatus.

The  Scottish  Parliament  election takes  place  on  5  May. There are implications  for  the work of  the Scottish Government and it’s civil servants during the official ‘election period’ – which starts today. These  arise  from  the  special  character  of  Government  business  during  an  election campaign, and from the need to maintain the impartiality of the Civil Service and avoid criticism of inappropriate use of official resources. There’s more information on the Scottish Government website if you want the full ins and outs.

Although this is not in any way an official government blog…it’s main contributor (me!) is a civil servant and I’m not taking any chances!

Once we’re back – mid May-ish – it’ll be full steam ahead with planning ScotGovCamp 2, so get your thinking caps as I’ll be looking for ideas! And assistance…

In the meantime…you might want to go along to Social Innovation Camp Scotland, which takes place at the Informatics Forum on 17 – 19 June. Or if you’re a data geek, there’s a National Hack the Government Day event in Aberdeen on 26 March.

Public sector blogging in Scotland

[NB. Cross posted from my own blog at]

I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this you think that people blogging about their work is a GOOD THING. And possibly also that blogging AT WORK about more personal stuff is also a GOOD THING. If, however, you’re not convinced, have a read of this and this.  And if you’re still not convinced – why on earth are you reading this blog?!

I’ve been blogging about my work (with the occasional post about more personal stuff) for about four years now. I’m still not very good at it, but I think the fact that I’m doing it at all is a GOOD THING. For me, even if it’s not for anyone else. And for me other people blogging about their work in the public sector has been a VERY GOOD THING – I’ve learnt a hell of a lot from the blogs I read.

Because it’s a GOOD THING we need more folk doing it. There are some very good blogs with a public sector focus written in Scotland. Here are some that I’m aware of – in no particular order (and with apologies to any I’ve missed out):

But we can do better!  So I’ve being having a think about how we might get more public sector folk in Scotland blogging. (And I’m talking here about blogging outside the walled garden of the Communities of Practice space – lovely though that garden is.)

Blogger extraordinaire Mr Dave Briggs recently wrote a post about Public Sector Bloggers, which aggregates content from UK public sector blogs (very few are written this side of the border), and mentioned it’s growing unwieldiness (cos of the increase in blogs). Suggestions for the future development of the site include better categorisation and the addition of blogging guidance.

But…I’m wondering if a Public Sector Bloggers type resource specifically for Scotland/Scottish bloggers would be something worth developing?

What do you think?  Would existing Scottish public sector bloggers be keen to have their posts aggregated in this way?  Would it be a useful resource for encouraging people to blog?  Or could we just make more of the existing Public Sector Bloggers site?

I’d also be interested in suggestions for other ways to encourage more blogging in the public sector in Scotland.

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Rising to the Challenge: Protecting our Communities and Services (COSLA/IS Conference)

Apparently… out there in the real world…they’re still having conferences 1.0 style. Crazy, huh?!

Next week, Wednesday (9th) to Friday (11th) sees the 2011 COSLA and Improvement Service Annual Conference in Fairmont, St Andrews – the “keynote local government event in the Scottish calendar”. This year’s conference is entitled Rising to the Challenge: Protecting our Communities and Services.

ScotGovCamp sponsors Learning Pool will be exhibiting at the conference for the first time. Learning Pool are currently collaborating with the Improvement Service on a project to help Scottish councils use flexible and agile working. You can find out about the project (and Learning Pool’s other work in Scotland) from Dave Briggs, Mary McKenna and Paul McElvaney who will be on the Learning Pool stand (Dave will be there on the 9th and 10th, Paul and Mary will be in attendance on the 10th and 11th).

Further resources:

PS. If you’re attending and fancy covering the conference for this blog, please give me a bell! (no payment involved obviously, but just think of the fame…)

I want scotgovcamp2!

Crumbs, that’s a dangerous thing to write.  Tantamount to volunteering to help organise it, some mean person might say.  MEMO TO SELF: get excuses lined up – live in the ’deen (what daughter No. 2 calls the Silver City by the Sea) so too far from the centre of action, one-person band with enough to do earning a living let alone organising a national event, too old, not geeky enough…

Last year’s scotgovcamp (henceforth sgc1) was in July. July 2011 sounds like a good month for sgc2.

Interesting that last year’s event is only seven months ago.

But things move fast in the social media world.

So what’s happened in sgc-related issues since July that I’ve noticed?

Well, for starters

  • snow Mark I – no that’s not a new form of social media.  But #uksnow was a great Twitter app that gives a real-time map of snow conditions in the UK.  As I write it’s blank (er, ’cos there’s no snow) but good to see it’s attracted some advertising, proving it’s both a business opportunity and a great social service.  Was I the only person who sat mesmerised in December at the swirling snow storm outside and the evolving uksnow map inside?  What about #ukflood, #uksun or #ukNHSdentistswithvacancies?
  • snow Mark II – lots of councils (Scottish and English) woke up to Twitter as a way of keeping their residents bang up to date with local road conditions, gritting schedules, closed schools etc.  Some great practice sprung up apparently instantly
  • snow Mark III – one (very) large Scottish council fouled up by announcing at 8 a.m. that all its schools were going to be closed that day.  Proof that you can use all the Tweets, texts, web site updates and local radio stations you like but you still need a tad of common sense along with the technology
  • sgc1 attendee Nick Ananin asked a question a month ago on a LinkedIn forumA big question = Are there too many people in the world? Last time I checked his question had attracted over 800 serious comments and answers from contributors world-wide.  How else except through social media could you get such an informed, passionate, diverse and positive discussion in such a short time?
  • I stumbled across Groupon which presumably needs no introduction to social media buffs.  It brings me news every day of deals available in Scotland’s three largest cities.  Rather too many spa treatments, feet-nibbling fish and nail extensions for my needs but someone wants them and I’ve had a couple of nice meals at very reasonable costs through the site.  What about a voluntary/public sector version of Groupon?  It’d be good to get my head around that one at an sgc2
  • good to see the Local Government Improvement Service has got even more into social media (just search for the phrase on their web site).  Their estimable Mike McLean was prominent at sgc1
  • a meeting of the Scottish Knowledge Management Network was held the other week in my backyard (well, sort of – Westhill).  Damn, I missed it.  But at least (the power of social media again) I can check out the presentation given by sgc1’s organising genius Lesley Thomson.  sgc1 star Dave Briggs of Learning Pool was also there.  Where can I find his contribution?  He usually parks his stuff somewhere (quick visit to Slideshare due?)
  • Lesley also got to sgc1’s big brother ukgovcamp in January.  Another one I missed but proof that the social media unconference continues to flourish
  • finally, here’s the Big Society thundering down the track.  There MUST be some social media apps in there somewhere.  Am I the last one jump on board or is that another sgc2 topic?
  • oh, and finally finally, I tweeted from Madrid airport to vent my frustration at being stranded for three days by BA/Iberia when Heathrow was snowbound.  Even blogged about the lessons for the public sector (plug over).

There you are.  I’ve convinced myself.  I want scotgovcamp2!  Any takers?

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ScotGovCamp in 2011?

Happy new year folks! Believe it or not, it’s almost 6 months since ScotGovCamp.  A lot has happened in those 6 months – too much for me to keep up with. I had hoped to keep an eye on developments on the various strands of discussion that took place and post updates to this blog, but that may have been a bit ambitious.

So I’m wondering if any of our original bloggers (or others who attended) might be up for writing a bit of an update – whether it be developments in the area they led/attended a session on, or a more personal ‘how ScotGovCamp contributed to my professional development/changed my life’ kind of thing.  Any volunteers?  The more the merrier!  Be nice to know that we made a difference…

And then I guess we’ll need to start thinking about ScotGovCamp 2011. It should be easier to organise this time:

  • We know the format works
  • I know what to do. And, more importantly, what not to
  • Dave Briggs and Steph Gray have recently set up moreopen to help organise GovCamps (including help with raising sponsorship)

But… I’m going to be extremely busy in the day job (even busier than usual) over the next 3 months as we try to pack in as much as possible before the election period.  And I’ll be keeping a low profile once purdah kicks in. If there’s enough interest I’ll see what I can do between now and purdah, but if anyone else has a burning desire to do the organising I’d be happy to step back and let them get on with it!

PS. I’m off to UKGovCamp 2011 in the big smoke in a couple of weeks to see how the big boys do GovCamps. I haven’t given too much thought yet to what I might propose a session on, if you have any ideas, let me know. I’m not going to promise to live blog on the day, but I will try to post something as soon as possible after the event. Anyway, keep your eyes on the #ukgc11 hashtag in the meantime.

UK councils and Twitter

I don’t know how many ScotGovCamp attendees joined the online conference that was Local by Social on the Local Government Improvement and Development/Improvement Service Communities of Practice site.  I’d meant to ask in advance if any SGC vets were going to be there virtually.  It aimed to discuss:

  • using social media to improve engagement between councils and citizens
  • practitioners: creating and sharing knowledge online
  • exploring Open data for improvement and innovation.

There’s some good stuff there (lots of it) and it’s worth having a look even retrospectively.

Weirdly, it overlapped with some work I was doing to look at if and how councils in the four nations of the UK use Twitter.  Amongst other things I found:

  • a local government officer holder who has over 100,000 Twitter followers
  • of the largest councils in the UK which one doesn’t seem to have discovered Twitter at all
  • some great examples of effective Tweets, and some that definitely aren’t
  • how some councils need to change their culture if they’re going to use Twitter effectively
  • the actions I’d recommend all councils take on Twitter.

The only price for further enlightenment is a visit to my web site to see the headline results and obtain a copy of the report if you’d like one.  Some of it will be old news to the Twitterati in Edinburgh on 30 July.  But there are a few gems (‘tho i say it myself) and I was aiming it a wider audience that in many cases remains to be convinced of the merits of stuff most ScotGovCamp attendees live and breathe every day.

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Political Innovation – coming to Edinburgh on the 13th November

Politics. But not party politics.

Lesley Thomson has kindly allowed me to post here about a project I’m working on at the moment. I hope it’ll provide an interesting change for ScotGovCampers.

It’s happening at the School of Informatics on Saturday the 13th November, it’s an unconference [get your free tickets here] using a similar format to ScotGovCamp and it’s called Political Innovation.

Don’t let the P-word that put you off though. I understand that a lot of people who work in government covet their impartiality, and this is one of the issues we’re hoping to raise at different times of the day. How far are the kind of changes that you’re already coming across through ScotGovCamp going to impact upon politics (and vice-versa).

Take the question of hyperlocalism. It changes politics. But it also changes the way that governmental bodies inform us. The Birmingham News Room is a minor revolution in the way that government information is provided – but it also potentially changes the way politics is done.

We’ve already got loads of political bloggers, a few MPs and MSPs and a larger number of their assistants signed up. Anyone and everyone with an interest in how the shifting landscape of social media – how we relate to each other and organise our lives – will find something to interest them on the day.

We’re looking for contributors to raise issues including (but not exclusively)

  • Hyperlocalism
  • Petitioning and other forms of crowdsourced government interaction
  • Blogging – how it’s changing, new tools, managing commenting communities, how to avoid being sued
  • How bloggers relate to journalists (and vice versa) – and do bloggers matter?
  • Networked campaigning – how it’s done, and what it means for politicians, civil servants and the campaigners themselves
  • How to remove the barriers to social interaction online

… and anything else that comes up on the day. We’ve had a load of essays published on the Political Innovation site as a sample of the kind of thinking we’re hoping to shake out on the day and we’re hoping to see a few of the contributors there on the day to discus their ideas …  and yours.

ScotGovCamp – The Video

Update: Since writing that on my own blog at (you all read that, right?) I’ve finished a teaser of a sort, where everyone is saying their own word.  You can see the result at One Word.

Hefting around a video camera from time to time, in the course of making Intrepid or otherwise just being idle, means that I sometimes get asked to wave it around for altogether more noble purposes.  T’Other’alf, for inscrutable reasons, was organising an Unconference; which as far as I could gather was a Conference but without the Conference bits.  The closest I’d come to this was reading about the Fortean Times’ Unconvention, although the “Un” part of that seemed more to do with the subject matter – werewolves, flying saucers, conspiracy theories and so forth – than the actual structure of the event itself.  ScotGovCamp Blog

An Unconference, then was a conference without a fixed agenda.  Attendees would shout out topic suggestions at the beginning and then everyone would sit in on the topic and chip in or not depending on their disposition.  Oh, and it was also a GovCamp which is for people working in and around government; in this case government in Scotland.

And just like starting making Star Trek Fan Films back in 2003, I got involved because I had a video camera.

This was going to be different from amateur film-making, not in the least because I don’t get an opportunity for a second take.  Given that I wasn’t actually in control of anyone, I might not even get a first take.  And since the whole event was essentially an experiment to see how it went, I had little idea of what would be happening and where to position myself for capturing footage of the sort that I didn’t know what it would be.

ScotGovCamp specifically was about digital Scotland, and drew together a wide range of people from local government, commentators on social issues, self-proclaimed geeks, librarians and civil servants.  My impression was that the subject matter was nebulous, but that was perhaps just me who felt to be a bit of an outsider.  Shooting was straightforward to begin with, before anyone had really arrived.  A handful of people turned up and before the actual event kicked off proper, there was a lot of setting up to do.  This was the easiest to film as I only had to wander around and point the camera at anything which looked interesting, such as setting up a display stand or people wandering past the Eduardo Paolozzi art installation.  I had some fun filming transitions, panning from the roof down to the group standing round the registration table, filming the flashing lights on one of the walls or panning from the sculpture to people just arriving.  I had no idea if I’d use them, it was just in case.

It was obvious early on that there was no way I’d be able to capture everything which happened on the day, given that it lasted much of the day and was split into three discussion rooms named Hume, Brown and Ferguson after Edinburgh University Alumni – Lesley’s idea – and not after three varieties of quark particle  – strange, bottom and charmed – which I was pushing for.  But when everyone was still together in the atrium, I had a straightforward area of focus, Lesley and Dave Briggs giving the pep talk and assembling the agenda from the suggested topics.  It was immediately before this that something unexpected happened.

When I’m either directing or doing camera for amateur fiction, there is a script and what transpires is known and accounted for.  A live events means having to be responsive to things as they happen and when Dave asked everyone to introduce themselves and give a one-word response as to why they were here, something ever so slightly extraordinary happened.  I pointed the camera at whoever was talking, including myself after only three or four people (whilst failing to understand the concept of “one” word) but them I found myself following the “focus” as each individual in turn gave their name, and their one word.  Instantly it was one of those slick adverts, all soft-focus and warm fuzzies, selling you an emotion and a desire for something that you still don’t understand.  And I was in the centre of it.  This was how I imagine a religious cult would indoctrinate me.  (I’m good at making spurious connections.)

This remained a highlight, since it was obvious how to make a neat little video – only  a couple of minutes long – from that part of the day.  Actually putting it together of course is something I’ll still have to sit at the video editing suite (desk in corner of living room) to do.  Now a neat little video is something that is more problematic for something which represents the entirety of the day.  Not being able to film everything means that I need to convey the flavour of it and do so without dragging.  This is something that I’m still trying to figure out, since their wasn’t a grand overarching scheme to begin with.  In any case, once the preliminaries were over with, I wandered in and out of the various conversations which were taking place, trying to get as many angles as I could, concentrating on whoever was speaking at the time.  What became obvious was that it would be extremely difficult even to cover a single train of thought form the participants.  Self-organising seating favoured a circle which meant that often a dialogue was being held where I filmed one person but could only get the back of the head of the other.

Even putting finished video clips of a continuous minute or two minutes on the web would lack context enough to make sense of what was being said.  Halfway through the day I was mooting the possibility of getting someone to provide a voice over in conjunction with any conclusions.  In other words, I’d given myself a bunch of work by volunteering to film and would be giving myself even more work (another thing I excel at) the more I thought about it!  And just dumping the whole two and a quarter hours worth of footage to the web would not exactly make for riveting viewing!

So what I have ahead of me is an exercise in transitions, crossfades, categorisations, titles and wishing that the video would self-organise too.  But failing that, the classic fallback position is to stare at the clips until a moment of inspiration occurs, and hope that being on holiday doesn’t derail me too much!  But seriously, now it’s just a matter of piecing it together.

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