FOUR REASONS: Why I’m not in the CIPR

4331186333_866e0e44d7_b

There are four reasons why I’m not in the CIPR which is progress, I suppose, as there used to be five.

Of course, the optimist in me calls this a 20 per cent improvement year-on-year.

But the realist in me still thinks there’s an 80 per cent reason for me not to join. Just yet. Although there’s much I greatly admire.

The CIPR – the Chartered Institute for Public Relations – is an organisation based in London and represents PR people from across the broad sweep of the industry from the newest student to the most experienced agency chief. It costs £260 to join as a member with £50 of that being a joining fee.

They do good things

It’s also an organisation I do have time for. Their excellent CIPR conversation aggregates blogs from people across the industry and pulls them into one place. They’ll also be tweeted. Disclaimer: my blog gets syndicated there from time to time and Andrew Ross does a fine job in pulling all of this together. I learn things there.

I’m also quietly rooting for Stephen Waddington to become president in the current elections. Why? Because he’s from Northumberland. But mainly because he understands digital communications and sees its growing place of importance. Besides, he tweets pictures of lambs on his farm.

It was a Twitter exchange with Stephen and then with CIPR member Stuart Bruce a couple of days ago that prompted me to think just why I wasn’t a member. So, here are the reasons:

Four reasons why I’m not a member

1. I’m local government. I spend a lot of time in the trenches with my sleeves rolled up doing day-to-day comms that doesn’t easily fit into extensive comms plans. There’s definitely the ability to draw-up one page of A4 as a comms plan in 20 minutes that is a skill that draws on local knowledge.

It also means that having a budget to carry out strategy is largely a thing of the past.

8186649265_7dcd664b15_b2. I’m West Midlands. There’s no question that if I was in London with the events on offer this would be a different proposition. But a trip to the capital makes even a free event cost £50 and the activities in the middle of the country are scarce.

3. I’m public sector. With budgets cut it means that paying £200 to attend a day of conference isn’t ever going to happen anytime in the next 20 years.

4. There’s too many PR people. Stick with me on this. When we were getting our head around social media in 2008 case studies were rare and the CIPR seemed to be living in the past. A group unhealthily centred on print and talking a 20th century language of channels and key messages. The ideas that formed the bedrock of our use of social came from coders, bloggers, police officers and geeks who were busy inventing new envelopes to push to care too much about comms plans. They inspired us at events like localgovcamp and every day still do. As social tools become easier to access the role of comms is changing. It’s often those at the frontline who are doing amazing work and it’s the role of comms to inspire, train and give the green light.

I’m sure there are some hugely talented PR people who are re-writing the rule book. But there are many more rule books being invented on the web by others outside the traditional comms job description. These are the geeks that are inheriting the world that are taking code, messing about with and building things.

The fifth?

There was of course a fifth which isn’t always the case these days. The CIPR is not just understanding digital but doing some great pioneering work with it too.

No comms organisation can exist in 2013 without both eyes firmly on 2023 and not with it’s heart hankering for 1983.

Creative commons credits

Telephones black http://www.flickr.com/photos/nicholasjon/4331186333/sizes/l/

Telephone red http://www.flickr.com/photos/twosevenoneonenineeightthreesevenatenzerosix/8186649265/sizes/l/

 

 

 


JUST RELAX: 7 ways to approach new social media platforms

So, what’s going to be the new Facebook?

So, what’s our strategy for using the new Facebook?

Actually, do you know what? Just do yourself one great big favour. Just relax. Because no-one knows. Not even Mark Zuckerburg.

There’s big predictions for the rise and rise of social media. Emarketer, for example, predicts 1.43 billion will be using social media in 2012.

There’s also no doubt that in 10 years time the landscape will have shifted. Once AOL was an internet giant. Remember how Friends Reunited was going to be the future of the internet?

But please don’t run screaming from the room. That would just be silly.

The lessons you’ve learned on the social web are portable and will stand you in good stead.

A few weeks back there was an excellent session for local government people at localgovcamp in Birmingham that looked at new social media platforms.

As a comms person who is doing more and more digital it was fascinating.

Rather than being just a check-list of which ones we should be using – and Pinterest, Google+ and Instagram were mentioned – the best discussion was around a broad approach rather than being platform specific.

As someone who managed to dodge the Google Wave boat that rather appeals to me. Google Wave, by the way, was an ill-fated Google product that arrived in a blaze of hype then died.

 6 ideas on approaching new platforms

1. Should I horizon scan? There’s no harm at all in being on the look out and have an ear to the ground. But life is too short.

2. Should I use it as me first? Use a new platform as yourself first. Kick the tyres. See how it flies. Make a few mistakes in your own name. Then think about it for the organisation.

3. Are there numbers? Ask yourself if there’s a sizable community that use it. And is that community people you’d like to connect with?

4. Will this platform do something for you or your team? Shane Dillon, who I rate enormously, pointed out that sometimes a platform isn’t about the big numbers. It’s about that little thing a platform can do. The free video conferencing on Google+ alone can make it an attractive proposition ahead of huge numbers.

5. Is there best practice? Have a look to see how others are using it. Be an ideas magpie.

6. Then launch quietly. Don’t enter into a platform in a blaze of publicity. Let it grow naturally. If it’s a success you’ll make your own waves.

7. Just relax.

That’s it really.

Creative commons credits

Deckchairs http://www.flickr.com/photos/danieldslee/6064681224/

Ice cream hut http://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/5812007896/sizes/l/


GOAL! 29 good things and a poor football anecdote from #localgovcamp 2012

There’s this sinking feeling you get as a football supporter when you look down the team sheet for the first game of the season and see a lot of the old faces missing.

There’s no-one you know in the back four and your midfield playmaker is missing. You know it could go one of two ways.

So it was for the fourth year of localgovcamp in Birmingham with a lot of the old timers missing and new people coming through.

What is localgovcamp? It’s an event for local government people who give up their time to kick around ideas on doing things better. There’s no agenda. It’s decided on the day and anyone can put up their hand to suggest a session. As a comms person I go to get ideas and inspiration.

So in football terms how was it?

Very well, actually. Very, very well. It was another convincing victory and the newer faces really stepped up to the plate. Team manager Dave Briggs could go home happy he’d recorded another triumph and the digital trophy cabinet that has been well stocked since the event first started has been added to.

A good unconference can be powerful. Ideas can flow, connections can be made and your opinion counts for just as much as the chief exec who had come along to see what the fuss was about.

Why do I go to these as a senior press & publicity officer? For the inspiration, excitement, beer, curry, discussion, connection and learning.

In previous years I’ve waited for a week or so before blogging. Now after an event I try and chuck some thoughts up.

those 29 things…

1. localgovcamp doesn’t need a big number of veterans to make it work.

2. There is absolutely a need for it in the calender.

3. It inspires people. It makes them think in different ways. That’s powerful.

4. It can remind you why you work in local government. Despite everything.

5. The new people came to the fore. In one session, on local government blogging, I was really happy to sit back and see some cracking feedback from people who hadn’t been to one of these things before. That’s brilliant.

6. Blogging is a good idea. But telling your boss, pinging them what you write and making sure you’re not an idiot are good things to do.

7. Kabul is a place we can learn from. I just don’t care how many people I tell how great a project and a model for story telling kabulacityatwork.tv is. Start at ‘Who Is The Taxi Driver?’ if you haven’t come across it before.

8. Comms people are coming in good numbers. That’s brilliant to see.

9. There seemed to be fewer open data sessions. With fewer of the open data community there.

10. Si Whitehouse reminded comms people that open data can tell stories too. Good work, Si.

11. There appeared to be less about the shinyness of tech platforms and more about getting things done.

12. Mess about with new platforms as an individual. Evaluate. Then see if they’ll work for you in local government.

13. Lloyd Davis will write a book or thing that I’ll re-re-read in years to come to remind me what it was like to be around when the social web was relatively new. I’m sure of it. And it’ll stand the test of time. I can’t wait for this to happen.

14. Some people are unduly precious about the word ‘geek.’ To me it’s a word that celebrates someone who knows their stuff backwards and gets excited about the detail of it. There were a lot of such geeks here.

15. It’s not the social media platforms your organisation adopts, it’s the culture that matters (thank you @simon_penny)

16. The Anchor in Digbeth, Birmingham is just a brilliant pub.

17. Press officers must realise that they need to do more than just write press releases to survive. More are realising this.

18. I wish I could have had a proper chat with many people. Like Peter Olding, Nat Luckham, the bloke who does @actonscottmuse, Kate Bentham, Paul Webster and bunch of others. Including Simon Penny.

19. Post-it notes don’t stick to whiteboards without bluetack. Definite learning point.

20. localgovcamp is actually a place to make connections and ideas. It’s not about the suits who do or don’t go. I see that now. It’s not even about the ideas you’ll put into place on Monday morning (and there’ll be some.) It’s about coming across ideas that’ll hove into view in your day job two, six, 12 and 18 months down the line. Then knowing who to talk to about them because you heard / met / saw / followed them on Twitter at localgovcamp.

21. Digital press offices are a good idea.

22. I missed speaking to the old timers who didn’t make localgovcamp. But when I see them next I’ll tell them they missed out on some terrific first timers.

23. How do you handle augmented reality as a comms officer is a question that’s around the corner.

24. There is a splintering of unconferences to focus on more niche things. That’s fine.

25. Some of the best ideas I’ve had as a comms person have originated in conversations with coders, bloggers, policy people, engineers and others.

26. It must be great to have free time. The free time that Gareth Young and Glen Ocsko have now they’ve retired from We Love Local Gov. Yes, I’m jealous.

27. The West Midlands is a brilliant, brilliant, brilliant place to be working in digital.

28. It would be great to find a way to get first timers pitching session ideas. Maybe postcards into a cardboard box is the way forward? Yes, I know it’s not web 2.0. That’s the whole point.

29. Some of the possibility and excitement we glimpsed at localgovcamp in 2009 is coming true. Best bit? We’ve only just started.

Creative commons credits

Shoot! Hartlepool Museum http://www.flickr.com/photos/hartlepool_museum/6925401413/sizes/l/

Gareth and Glen Peter McClymont  http://www.flickr.com/photos/iamadonut/7575785604/sizes/l/in/set-72157630588436326/

Pitching Peter McClymont http://www.flickr.com/photos/iamadonut/7575811056/sizes/l/


HELLO CAMPERS: Three years on from the first localgovcamp… so whats changed?

So, It’s localgovcamp this week. Yippee.

On Saturday, 120 people from local government will head to Birmingham to share ideas, scheme and try and make the world a better place.

It’s an unconference which means the agenda gets decided on the day by those who go. Andy Mabbett’s guide for newbies is here

Seeing as it’s been three years since the very first one organised by Dave Briggs and people from Birmingham City Council I thought it high time to look back at how things have actually changed.

Back in 2009 at Fazeley Studios in Birmingham, there was a feeling of excited idealism. Tom Watson MP stood in the queue for coffee talking to a press officer while a web manager from Yorkshire was busy talking to a blogger from Brum.

This new thing called Twitter was connecting people in a way few people understood but all who were in on it were excited by.

It was brilliant. Sarah Lay, who I rate, wrote this piece in 209 that hasn’t dimmed with time.

So what’s changed?

Me. It made me think differently. It made me see new ideas and the confidence to try some of them out. My job title says press officer. I actually do far more than that.

Knowing bright people. It’s not always what you do first thing Monday morning that made localgovcamp. It’s making connections – so when you need WordPress skills further down the line you turn to Philip John. For open data Si Whitehouse. Localgovcamp 2009 created a network that has built and thrived and rebnews itself each year. That’s an amazing achievement.

Some bright people aren’t here anymore. Jack Pickard, who I met briefly at localgovcamp, died a short time after. He was someone I rated from a distance. I’ve never unfollowed him.

Some bright people have fallen by the wayside. Not everyone with talent is valued by an organisation. Some bright minds from 2009 haven’t been given the space to shine. They’re shining some of them at other things instead. Some have dazzled then faded.

It’s an ideas factory. Some ideas first come across in 2009 took three years to be relevant enough to put into practice. But that’s okay.

Unconferences work. One question asked in the run-up to the 2012 event was if people are fed-up with them. For me, you only have to look at mailcamp, museumcamp, librarycamp, hyperwm and others to realise that’s not the case. They’re getting more niche and more specific.

The web is making job titles irrelevant. At a barcamp you are a sticky badge who stands or falls on your willingness to share – and most importantly listen. That’s rather good.

Suits are starting to come. In small numbers. For the first time a chief executive is on the 2012 guest list. That’s a good thing.

Unconferences can have the same faces. That’s fine because people connect and re-connect. But there’s a danger of staleness if there’s not new faces. Seeing a new idea from a new person fills me with impish glee.

Others have picked up the baton. Those that came in 2009 have been organising their own things like a glorious domino effect. It led to events in York and London that led to events in Walsall and Warwick. And elsewhere.

Meeting people broadens horizons. The answers for being a better communications officer, I’ve found, can be found by talking to coders, to bloggers, to residents, to officers, to elected members and to people who do other things.

We are winning. The basic idea of localgovcamp 2009 that the social web could make peoples lives a little better remains the same. You doubt it? Look back at where you were three years ago and think how far you’ve come.

Links

The 2009 localgovcamp attendee list

The 2011 localgovcamp attendee list

The 2011 localgovcamp posterous of blog links

The 2012 localgovcamp page

Creative commons credits

Fazeley Studios in 2009 http://www.flickr.com/photos/arunmarsh/3656735854/sizes/l/

Sticker http://www.flickr.com/photos/1gl/5845598435/sizes/l/in/set-72157626866274047/

Laptop chairs table http://www.flickr.com/photos/arunmarsh/3655949531/sizes/l/in/set-72157620328138849/


CLICK INSPIRE: 20 golden links from 2011

If links are the web’s currency of inspiration then some shine as bright as a gold coin on a summer’s day.

Vivid and memorable as wild flowers they can sow seeds that bloom into bright ideas.

Some challenge while some crysyallise half thoughts.

They can be blog writing, tweets, news stories or images.

Over the past 12-months I’ve read thousands. Mainly in spare moments. As December trudged towards Christmas in downtime I’ve reflected on those that have shaped my outlook.

I’ve not gone online to remind myself but instead racked my brains for writing that has stayed with me.

There are scores of good writing. Many of them can be found on the pages of the blogroll on the right of this webpage.

A couple of them are mine. Mitigation for this is that they capture collaborative working.

Using Twitter to Stop Riots. As rioting spread and London police hip shootingly spoke of switching off the internet Wolverhampton shone. Superintendent Mark Payne used Twitter to shoot down rumours circulating online and off. Blogs such as WV11.co.uk and Tettenhall.co.uk plugged into this to retweet and shout via Facebook. Public I did a useful study.

The Icelandic Facebook page. With the country in financial tatters the Icelandic government started a root and branch review. The constitution which dates from 1944 was being re-drafted. Rather than whack up a 500 page pdf they broke down proposals into bite sized chunks and crowdsourced it. More than 2,500 Icelanders took part. In a country of 250,000 that’s astounding. You can read how here.

Twelve commandments for council news. Adrian Short isn’t a comms person. But his insight into how news online should be presented really needs reading by comms people.

Changing how council news is done. In a second post Adrian points out the folly of presenting press releases verbatim on a different medium. It needs reading if you care about local government and what it does. Read it here.

Birmingham City Council Civic dashboard. Critics say open data stands more effective in theory than in practice. This website starts to answer that and stands as a landmark.

Trust me I’m a follower. Scotland has some amazing people in the public sector. Carolyn Mitchell’s piece on the changing landscape is essential. As a former print journalist she has an eye for a line. That a senior police officer spoke of how he trusts his officers with a baton so why wouldn’t he trust them with a Twitter account is one of them.

Stop being irrelevant. Explains why I think comms people need to see their changing landscape and evolve to stay relevant. It drove my thinking throughout the year.

Localgovcamp. The event in Birmingham in June brought together creative thinking, ideas and inspiration. The posterous here captures blogs that emerged from it.

Brewcamp. I’m proud to be involved in this. It’s a platform for like minded people to come together, share ideas and drink tea. You can read it here.

@walsallwildlife on Twitter. That a countryside officer can attract 800 followers by tweeting about her day job of bats, ponds and newts astounds me. It shows what can happen when bright people share the sweets.

Joplin Facebook. Thousands of homes were destroyed and hundreds killed when a tornado levelled the town. It was residents who self-organised with sites like these. This shows the power of community sites.

Queensland Police Facebook. Thousands of homes were destroyed and hundreds killed when flooding struck. 200,000 signed up. This shows the power of official sites when given a flow of regular information.

Look how not on fire this is. When the shadow of rioting overshadowed Walsall in the summer rumour the town police station was burning was dismissed in real time by a police officer with a phone camera and a dry wit. PC Rich Stanley’s image had more than 2,000 hits.

The Walsall Flickr group. There are more than 9,000 images here from 130 members.  This shows the power of community sites and the good things that can be achieved when local government can work with them as equals as we did on this town centre empty shop scheme.

The Dominic Campbell youtube. I love the idea of ‘militant optimists’ pressing for change in unlikely corners of local government. It strikes a chord. This is a good 15 minutes to invest.

Twicket. Because John Popham and others live streaming a village cricket match is a good idea and shows good tech is less about the tech and more about fun and community. The big picture stuff sorts itself out. Read it here.

The end of crisis communications. Jim Garrow is a US emergency planner. It’s called emergency management over there. He writes with foresight. Not least this piece on why real time social media is replacing the set piece emergency planning approach. I’m proud he talks about one of my projects but this wider piece crystalises why real time events work.

Comms2point0. I’ll blog about this more at a later date. But this is a place where comms people can share best practice and best ideas. It’s largely Darren Caveney’s idea. It’s brilliant and so is the photographic style guide.

Digital advent calender Number 1. Many say  the media is dying. David Higgerson, of Trinity Mirror, proves that there is a home for good journalism on the web. His collection of writing is a directory of excellent tools of gems.

Digital advent calender number 2. Steph Gray steers Helpful Technology and helps people understand that technology is an opportunity not a minefield. He is that rare thing. A geek who can communicate with non-geek by speaking human. His advent calender will be pulled out and consulted far into 2012 like a Playfair Cricket annual is to a summer game enthusiast sat on the boundary at Worcester.

Creative commons credits

Yellow flowers http://www.flickr.com/photos/doug88888/2808827891/sizes/o/in/photostream/

Iceland http://www.flickr.com/photos/stignygaard/3830938078/sizes/l/in/photostream/

Police officers http://www.flickr.com/photos/glamlife/4098397848/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Stickers http://www.flickr.com/photos/theclosedcircle/3624357645/sizes/l/in/photostream/

Localgovcampers http://www.flickr.com/photos/arunmarsh/3656742460/in/set-72157620328138849


BETA BLOCKER: Is comms at risk of being the new IT?

The only difference between a stumbling block, a barrier and a stepping stone is the way you use them, apparently.

There were a lot of stumbling blocks talked about at localgovcamp in Birmingham.  Many such obstacles were were from corporate comms. They were the corporate branded elephant in the room.

Heard the one about the comms team’s response to snow? Instand updates via facebook or Twitter? Nope. Book a half page advert in the local paper?

Oh, how we laughed. As a comms person myself it was more a case of nervous laughter.

I believe strongly that there’s an argument for having a light touch on the tiller from enabling comms people.

When you put online and offline channels together they can be incredibly powerful. You’re delivering a similar message on the platform people want using the language of the platform.

But then again, if you’re reading this on Facebook or Twitter you already know this even if you haven’t admitted it out loud.

So, what’s localgovcamp?

It’s an event that saw more than 100 people giving up their free time on a Saturday to help make their corner of local government bloom a little more. It’s Glastonbury for local government geeks. There was web people, open data people, comms people, hyperlocal bloggers and even an engineer.

Attending the first event at Fazeley Studios two years ago changed the way I think about my job. I’ve heard the same said from others too. It’s been brilliant seeing the light bulbs going on above people attending their first ever localgovcamp.

Two years ago one of the main frustrations was some IT people who were keeping the social web in lockdown. Many, but not all, think progress ended with the Commodore 64. Of course, it goes without saying that the IT people I work with are all hugely helpful and forward thinking.

That battle to use social media seems to have be getting won. Slowly in places but the it’s irreverable. The battle now is with unenlightened comms people and it’s a subject I keep returning to.

For people in a PR job it’s about waking up. For those not in PR it’s about helping wake them up. And yourself and colleagues while you’re at it.

So, because I can’t write a blog post without a heap of links, here’s a heap of links to help those who don’t get it wake up…

A heap of links…

Whats the role for local government comms and social media?

I’d suggest anyone reads this excellent blog post by Ingrid Koehler of FutureGov which she wrote when she was still with LGiD http://ingridkoehler.com/2011/01/what-role-for-localgov-comms-and-social-media/

How does the social web work in practice?

Social by Social is a NESTA-produced landmark text that shows how the web can be used for a social impact both by government and individuals. http://www.socialbysocial.com/

How does the social web work in practice?

When a tornado struck Joplin killing 154 people the state support networks were overwhelmed. A website http://joplintornado.info was launched as a place to log missing people and phone numbers. It evolved into a place for info and help. More than 48,000 people ‘liked’ the Joplin Tornado Info page set up as a http://www.facebook.com/joplintornadoinfo?ref=ts

How can the public sector use social media in an emergency?

In Queensland when floods struck Facebook became the prop people turned to. The talented Ben Proctor has blogged on how they responded here. http://www.benproctor.co.uk/2011/02/five-things-we-can-already-learn-from-queensland-police-use-of-social-media/ You can see the Queensland Police page here: http://www.facebook.com/QueenslandPolice?ref=ts

Can local government do Facebook outside of a crisis?

Stirling Council has more than 3,000 ‘likes’ http://www.facebook.com/stirlingcouncil?ref=ts&sk=info Coventry chose a nice picture of their city rather than a logo and have 18,000 signed-up http://www.facebook.com/coventrycc?ref=ts You can search the book data base via the Manchester Library and Information Service http://www.facebook.com/manchesterlibraries?ref=ts

Can local government use Twitter?

An organisation that has the right tone http://twitter.com/MonmouthshireCC. A venue with an engaging manner http://twitter.com/OrkneyLibrary and an officer who puts a human face on the service http://twitter.com/walsallwildlife

Can local government use YouTube?

Stirling Council used a short video as part of their bag it and bin it campaign http://youtu.be/bMoMNK3tX6A But it doesn’t have to be broadcast quality. An apprentice gritter driver made this short film of how he helps treat the roads http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TClrk-VDthM

Thanks to Ben Proctor for the crisis comms links, Corrine Douglas for Stirling Council YouTube.

Thanks Si Whitehouse, Dave Briggs and others for organising localgovcamp.

The original post: http://wp.me/pBLBH-sc

Creative Commons credits

Barrier: http://www.flickr.com/photos/selva/424304/sizes/l/in/photostream/

Localgovcamp room: http://www.flickr.com/photos/1gl/5845534577/sizes/l/in/photostream/

Stickers:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/1gl/5846133704/sizes/z/in/set-72157626866274047/


SOCIAL FIGURES: A cunning way to find cool Facebook stats

An amazing statistic like a battering ram breaks down doors.

Here’s a good one.

For every one person who buys a copy of the Express & Star in the West Midlands borough of Walsall there are 10 on Facebook.

That’s print outnumbered by digital by a rate of 10 to one.

It’s the single most powerful argument to use social media in local government you can ever have. Why? Because it shows it’s mainstream. In fact, so mainstream it dwarfs what used to be the colossus of the printed Press.

It’s a cunning wheeze I first came across at the landmark LocalGovCamp in Birmingham in summer 2009.

Paul Cole, a talented man from Derby, spoke about how he did it. People never fail to be impressed by the idea.

You create a Facebook advert — but before you hand over cash you are given the chance to narrow down who you want to advertise to.

It’s at this point that you can get the juicy stats.

Here’s how to come up with one than your community:

1. Log on to Facebook.

2. Click the link that says ‘create an advert.’

3. Fill in the advert. Just type ‘hghghg’ if you like.

4.Upload an image. Any will do. This gets you to the place where you can access figures.

5. Look at the figure in the far right of the screen. That’s the figure of people registered on Facebook for the UK.

6. Add your town or city.

7. Select the radius you want to search from from the centre of your area with 16 km the shortest distance.

8. Click search and you have a figure for your own community.

9. Add an age demographic if you like.

10. Add an interest – like football, knitting or fishing – and search on that term too.

Enjoy!

Creative Commons

Measuring http://www.flickr.com/photos/darrenhester/3989949630/sizes/l/in/photostream/


CAKE TAPE: What cake and mixtapes can offer local government

'Mmmmmm, cake.'

Birthdays are natures way of telling you to eat more cake.

Marvellous, but what exactly does a slice of carrot cake have to say about local government?

Actually, quite a lot. So do mixtapes as a session heard at the excellent Localgovcamp Yorkshire and Humberside revealed.

Why? Two things. First, because it’s all about messing about on a project in your own time so you can learn by your mistakes.

Second, it’s about doing something in a fun, interesting, creative way.

Why Cake? As a wheeze I built a cake blog based on a rash of pictures of cake tweeted by friends from Twitter. It taught me how to crowdsource, how to use WordPress and where a decent piece of carrot cake can be found in the charming Shropshire village of Ludlow (At the Green Cafe since you were wondering. The review is here.) Stuart Harrison (@pezholio on Twitter) then raised the bar with a beer blog.

The excellent Sarah Lay picked up the baton and created a cake map. She got to know about Googlemaps as a result.

Mixtapes? Same principle. A tweet by Sarah sparked a series of blogs, a Flickr group and a Tumblr site. Why? Because mixtapes even in a digital world spark happy memories of taping the top 40 and crafting a tape to say ‘thank you!’ or even ‘actually, I quite fancy you.’

There was even a mixtape built by song contributions at the barcamp built with the help of Janet Davis (@janetedavis).

So what do cakes and tapes teach? In short, go away and experiment in your own time. You can learn. You can do fun things. Then you can transfer some of those ideas to your day job.

Amongst web developers, there is a useful saying: ‘fail forward.’ If you are going to fail, make sure you learn something about it so you can take things just that bit further next time. Messing about on a scheme allows you to do just that, risk free.

Links: Nice ideas that have emerged by messing around…


BOSTIN SOCIAL: Is it time for a #hyperlocalgovcamp?

As brilliant ideas go the ‘unconference’ is as good as tea and a slice of cake on a summers day.

Get like-minded people in one place and then decide what you are going to talk about on the day. You’d be amazed at the hot house ideas that emerge.

Believe it or not the first event described by such a term was the XML Developers Conference of 1998 in Montreal in Canada.

How does an unconference – or Barcamp – work? Basically, four or five rooms are used with different subjects being discussed in each in hour long slots. Feel like saying something? Just chip in. It’s as simple as that.

They work brilliantly in and around government where there is a willingness to share ideas without being hampered by private sector hang up about competition and bottom lines.

They work well in the hyperlocal community too – Talk About Local have run excellent events – and they’ve even gravitated into the travel industry.

Some of the most exciting thinking I’ve come across has been at unconferences. It’s not exaggeration to say Localgovcamp Birmingham in 2009 utterly revolutionised the way I think and approach my job.

Elsewhere, UKgovcamp in January saw around 120 people with five rooms and eight slots. That’s 32,000 possible combinations. In other words, a lot of knowledge and conversations. Coming back from one such event in London as the train was passing through the Oxfordshire countryside one clear thought struck me.

Isn’t it about time we made the brilliance of the unconference fit into the day job?

Invariably, those who go are innovators. This is great. In local government, there is a need for these key events every few months if for nothing else than the sanity of those who blaze a trail sometimes with little support. But how do you get the message through to the 9 to 5-ers and policy makers who would also really benefit?

It’s an idea I’ve kicked around idly with a few people. Myself and Si Whitehouse mulled this over at the London Localgovcamp. I like the phrase ‘Locallocalgovcamp’ he came up with. It has the spirit of localgovcamp but it’s a lite version.

What it may be is this: A space where ideas could be kicked around in the informal, unconference style.

But crucially, there maybe an item or a hook pre-advertised that may encourage slightly less adept to come along. Besides,  it’s easier to convince your boss to let you go to an event if you know you’ll get something out of it. The pitch of ‘Cheerio boss, I’m off now to drink coffee with geeks and I may just learn something’ is not as compelling as ‘Cheerio, boss, I’m going to this event to learn x and if y and z too.’

The idea of the local meet-up  itself is not especially something new.

London digital people in government do something called ‘Tea Camp’. A 4-6pm slot in a department store cafe. Tea. Cake. Conversation. All seems dashed civilised idea. Besides, there’s a critical mass all working in a small area.

Perhaps it’s time for a regional version of this. The West Midlands where I live and work sees an inspiringly vibrant digital community. There is also seven councils within a 30 mile radius.

So what would an as-part-of-the-day-job West Midlands bostin social event look like? 

Two hours? Two rooms? Two sessions? Or is that too short?

Pork scratchings?

What do you think?

Creative commons photo credit: Barcamp: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid laughingsquid.com.


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