I love Hack Days.
I love them because of the anticipation, the spontaneity, the community and the creativity. They generate energy – if for a short time – around the issues they are organised to expose, and for a brief moment overcome the inertia that most people come to dread within large organisations – like Government.
I say ‘expose’ because in my experience of Hack Days often people come to ‘show off’ their skills, ‘show’ the organisations or sectors whom they are targeting ‘how to do things better’, and ‘show’ each other what they are capable of.
None of which is bad. But all of which worries me slightly.
Today I attended the FutureGov meets Measurement Camp session held at Edelman in Victoria. It was a mix of some of the usual (and always pleasant to see) faces and a lot of faces I didn’t recognise – always a bonus! And Edelman provided a pleasant space and plenty of tea and coffee to keep us going.
The first 2/3 of the afternoon was a mix of talks given by Dominic Campbell of FutureGov, Will McInnis of Nixon McInnes, Steph Gray of BIS and Ingrid Koelher of IDeA. There were also the obligatory sponsorship presentations by Lithium showing off their Social CRM suite and Brandwatch who gave an interesting intro to their Council Monitor beta. Certainly I could see the nodding heads of interest from several Local Authorities who were present.
I’ve obviously waited a couple of weeks to write this. I suppose I didn’t want it to feel like a recap of the event by writing it within a day or so, or something that followed on the heels of a torrent of blog posts over the following week – some of which I’ve read, and some I haven’t.
I enjoy going to the Government barcamps. They give me a chance to see friends I worked with in Government, put a face – and voice – to twitter folks I follow and have the odd disagreement over blog posts we’ve all written.
As I wandered around attending sessions and talking to people – and before the day had even ended – I found myself wondering the same thing I did at last years Unconference (and the many other Government unconferences and events I’ve attended since) – what happens next?
Today the UK Government officially launches its effort to open up UK data. This is a project that I am proud to have even a small part in developing. In certain circles there is a real fervour around the release of data, this being the essential ingredient missing to give citizens the power to manage their own destiny.
If what I’ve been hearing is right, it sometimes seems there is a real belief that Citizens – not Government – will be developing ‘Services’ based on the data that is released. Who are these Citizens?
For years I have made the argument for the guy on the street. Let’s call him (as I so often do) Joe Bloggs. He works hard, spends time with his family and mates. In fact he represents a significantly large portion of the population. Is the supposition that he is going to suddenly take an interest in the release of Government data, teach himself how to code and do SPARQL queries, and develop his own ‘Services’?
On Thursday, 7 January we experienced a bit of both. Ostensibly, most of us in London turned up for the official launch of the latest in Open Government efforts, the launch of the Greater London Authority Data Store – an effort not unlike DataSF, the Guardian Open Tech Platform or the UK Government Open Data initiative.
The event, CES Government 2010 (#cesgov10 for those on twitter), was styled around a Skype-provided video link-up with Las Vegas, which reminded me of why businesses still avoid extensive use of videoconferencing. The link was unreliable, and had to be re-established so many times that momentum of the event was difficult to maintain.
Q: How long should it take to develop a new digital product?
A: As long as it takes to get it right – within the limits of time, scope and budget (oh, and don’t forget the needs of the user… and the organisation)
I am a long-time believer in the User-Centred Design process. For me (and to most people in the business) this means (to a greater or lessor degree):
5th Communia Workshop: Accessing, Using, Reusing Public Sector Content and Data
On 26 March 2009 I will be speaking at the 5th Communia Workshop: Accessing, Using, Reusing Public Sector Content and Data held at the New Academic Building at London School of Economics.
I’ll be speaking during the 14:30-16:00 session titled “Getting the right tools for the job: technology and communities”. I will be talking about innovation and data use in government. Be sure to register early for this event.
On 22 April 2009 I will be speaking and participating in OpenGov taking place at Boston Computer Society. This is a 1-day conference to discuss and debate the challenges and opportunities in using digital technology to enable transparency, engagement and collaboration in government.
I will be speaking and participating throughout the day. Be sure to register early for this event.