Monday, 10 December 2012

Getting back on board the blogging bus

I've had a rather frustrating couple of years on the professional front. The details aren't really important, suffice to say, there's been a lot of 'dealing' with disappointment. The last six months in particular have been a bit grim, a knock on effect being the almost complete drying up of my social media activity.

But things are looking up. I'm about to start a - potentially very exciting - new job and I'm feeling more positive generally. So, I'm easing myself back into Twitter and I'm hoping to get properly back on the blogging bus in the new year. I haven't had 'the talk' with my new line manager yet, so I don't know how much I'll be able to say about what I'm doing. [NB. This is not about abandoning #jfdi! It's not about asking permission, more about starting off on the right footing. :)] I'm fairly confident that the nature of the post means that the team will be keen for me to share. Watch this space!

In the meantime, my 'extra-curricular' activities are bubbling away nicely. Here's some stuff that's happening:

  • Me and t'other Scottish Public Sector Digital Group ladies are planning some activities for next year that'll knock yer socks off! Join the Knowledge Hub group (if you've not aleady) to get advance notice of events, etc.You'll also get lots of other Scottish public sector digital news, views and other good stuff. For free!
  • TeacampScotland is taking a well earned break over the holidays, but should be back in February with renewed tea-fueled vigour (and possibly a shiny new interwebz gizmo).
  • Tonight (10 December) I'm heading to Spoon Cafe for a meeting of prospective social media 'surgeons' to talk about getting social media surgeries up and running in Edinburgh early in the new year. If you're interested, please come along.
  • Chandos Publishing have approached me about writing a book for them. I have some ideas and am chatting to a few folk about collaborative works. But, if there's a information science/management/literacy book that you think needs written, please let me know!
  • And last, but by no means least, I'm having conversations with folks that will hopefully result in one or more 'Camps' taking place in Scotland next year. 

Hopefully that'll keep me out of trouble for the foreseeable future!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

My mum, the geek

Today is Ada Lovelace Day. Ada Lovelace Day aims to raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering and maths by encouraging people around the world to talk about the women whose work they admire.

The inspiration for Ada Lovelace Day came from psychologist Penelope Lockwood, who carried out a study which found that women need to see female role models more than men need to see male role models. “Outstanding women can function as inspirational examples of success,” she said, “illustrating the kinds of achievements that are possible for women around them. They demonstrate that it is possible to overcome traditional gender barriers, indicating to other women that high levels of success are indeed attainable.” []

Well, I've never been one for role models to be honest, and I'm not really looking to attain 'high levels of success', but I wanted to take this opportunity to write about someone who has inspired me, and who I know has inspired others. My mum.

My mum is a geek. A proper one. She takes stuff apart to find out how it works. She buys parts online and then builds computers and laptops from them. Then she sells some of them. She was the first person I know to get a Raspberry Pi. She gave me her iPad when she found she couldn't really "muck about with it". She was my 'go to guy' when I needed my creaky old laptop souped up a bit. She experiments. She tinkers. She learns by doing. She may have indulged in some dubious downloading practices in the past, but I think she's got past that now :) And over the past couple of years, she's helped friends and family buy, set up and maintain the right computer equipment for their needs. And help them get online and do stuff online.

This is a woman who struggled to send a text message a few years ago. I can't remember the exact circumstances, but at some point she got a computer. Initially it was for photos and video but I got her online, signed her up for an email account and bought her a 12 month subscription to Computer Active. But as much as I'd like to take responsibility for creating the nerd that she became*, I think it was when she took some classes at the local library, that she really got hooked. And once she'd found the techy forums, and eBay, she was off!

This has been a very good thing for all concerned. It's given my mum a hobby that keeps her out of the pub (only kidding mummy :)). It's increased her confidence. She's been able to find information online that has helped her deal with all the usual life stuff and generally just be more informed (eg my grandma's medical condition). And on a more practical level, she's benefited by taking advantage of all the money saving deals that can be had online. Although I think most of those savings have gone into buying more computer kit!

It's been great for the aforementioned friends and family who have been supported. And it's brilliant for me, obviously. I get less questions along the line of "how do I find out how much pension I'm entitled to?". I get the odd bit of 'surplus' kit. I get free IT support. Tech is something that she and my equally geeky t'other 'alf  can talk about. And it makes buying Christmas and birthday presents much easier than it used to be (I got a case for her Raspberry Pi for her most recent birthday). I don't even mind that it's my inheritance she's spending on all those motherboards!

But it's also a 'Very Good Thing'. Digital participation is a key part of Scotland's Digital Future and we have some ambitious targets for getting people online. My mum is playing a key part in helping us achieve those targets. I spent yesterday talking about how libraries are contributing to to digital participation in Scotland (and I'll blog more about that at some point). One of the themes of the day was the admission that individual organisations or people can't achieve very much on their own. We need to work in partnerships and to leverage the network effect. Give one person the skills - and the confidence - to get online and hopefully they will pass those skills and confidence on. And so on. Basically, we need more of my mum.

So, thanks mum! Keep spreading the geek love. And don't worry (too much) about spending my inheritance!

* She has since admitted that she didn't find me a very good tutor. That's yet another other blog post!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Losing patience with the refuseniks

Last week I was a bit melancholy. This week I'm a bit grumpy. Maybe it's the weather. Or p'raps I've just reached that difficult age. Whatever. Anyway, I'm afraid this post may be a bit of a rant. Sorry about that.

Right, here's the thing. I've been helping people use IT for almost 20 years now (yes, I am that old). I'm well aware that people have very different reasons/motivations for using (or choosing not to use) particular technologies. And that some will take a lot of convincing to get them to try something new. Change can be scary. That's OK though. I'm pretty good at what I do. I tailor my support to the individual and their circumstances. And I am very patient :)

However. I am starting to lose patience a bit with the straight up social media refuseniks. The ones that trot out the "oh no, I don't do social media" line (often preceeded by the "I'm a luddite, me" refrain). Really getting under my skin are those that seem proud of the fact. Wearing it as a badge of honour, almost.

So what's my beef? Well. For a start, that luddite arguement is a red herring. I'm not talking about very senior managers who have their PAs print out their emails (they are a whole other kettle of lightly-spiced fish with a tangy lemongrass dip). The people I'm grumpy with are those that happily send copious emails. And use office IT systems to claim expenses or record their working hours. And no doubt do their shopping and book their holidays online. Social media tools are hardly complicated technologies. There's not a huge ramp up in technical expertise required from sending an email to sending a tweet. So, lets not kid ourselves that it's about the technology.

Back in the day, when I was doing IT support in a DWP office, the typing pool had their electric typewriters replaced with PCs (yes, I really am that old). One of the typists decided as soon as she heard the news that she wanted nothing to do with these new fangled computermabobs and left. The others were nervous, but also curious. It took them a while - and lots of support - to get the hang of the PCs (the mice in particular were a constant source of frustration and we had some fun with the disk drives :)). But they all went on to do amazing things with their new toys. Now that was a significant technological change to get used to.

And here's another thing. I do not like the telephone. Never have. I find telephone calls really uncomfortable. If I can't chat to someone in person, I'd much rather use email. But I have friends who dislike email as much as I dislike the telephone. But they respect my communication preferences and email me occasionally and, likewise, I respect theirs and make the effort to call them now and again. At work, I use the telephone when it is appropriate to do so. And if the phone rings on my desk, I don't turn to my colleagues and say "ooo, I'm not answering that. I don't do the telephone". Although I may try it one day...just to see what the reaction is...

OK, so maybe the public at large doesn't expect us all to be available for immediate communication on the other end of a Twitter account. And of course, it took time for the telephone to reach mass adoption as a communication technology. So the comparison isn't completely fair. But the public's expectations for social media engagement with government are rising. And rapidly. We can't afford to hang around waiting for social media to eventually find its way into everyone's comfort zone.

I have my suspicions about where this particular attitude springs from. Euan Semple touches on it in a recent post. There are strong emotions involved. So, I'd like to say to these guys: hey, I understand that this is a new - and possibly scary - way of working. That's why we're developing policies and guidance and training. And why there are people who can support you. But please don't close your mind to social media completely. And don't tell me it's 'cos you're 'not good with technology'!

So, folks. Am I just being a grumpy old woman? Do I need to cut these guys some slack?

[Incidently, are those of us evangelising about this stuff actually making things worse by emphasising the disruptive nature of social media? Should we be saying, hey, this is just another way of talking to people?]

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Farewall my summer love...(a letter to the Edinburgh Book Festival)

Dear ebf

Your letter arrived this morning. It remains unopened. I am trying to be strong and I fear that if I even glance at it I will crumble.

Yes, I'm afraid it's over. I won't be spending my summer holidays with you this year.

Hey, we've had six fantastic summers together. I have some great memories. I can still recall the thrill of being first in the queue for my first ever Iain Banks event (and then getting a seat in the front row!). And I still feel pretty smug at having pulled off the same feat several times since! And of hearing Neil Gaiman read from one of his books for the first time. And seeing Alasdair Gray (and awesome supporting cast) in full flight performing Fleck. I could go on.


It's not you, it's me. Well OK, it's mostly me. But a little bit you. I've made a significant investment of time (and money) into our relationship over the years. Not that I regret any of it. But I've changed quite a bit over those six years. And you haven't. Not really. And maybe you shouldn't.

In those six years, I've seen the internet (and social media in particular) breaking down barriers and hierarchies. I've been introduced to unconferences and hacks and jams and the like. Truely interactive events. The result being that I just don't get very much out of the traditional book festival format anymore. I want to have a conversation. I'm just not willing to pay to sit passively and listen for an hour and then maybe get the opportunity to ask a question. However unrealistically, I expect a more frictionless interaction with my favourite authors these days. Fortunately, many are willing to interact with the likes of me on social media.

So, I guess I've just outgrown you. But the final straw? Well, you have to admit you had some significant personal hygiene issues last year. The lingering odour was getting to be a bit embarrassing. Not pleasant to be around at all.

There's no-one else in case you're wondering. I have no intention of flirting with the likes of Aye Write, or Word, or the Borders Book Festival. I am swearing off your kind entirely.

I do hope we can part on good terms. You are good - probably the best - at what you do. It's just that what you do, doesn't do it for me anymore.

I wish you all the best for the future.


Friday, 8 June 2012

This time it's personal

The recent publication of social media guidelines by the Cabinet Office has prompted a discussion on our internal Yammer network. There are mixed views as to how practical the guidelines actually are, particularly when dealing with the old personal/professional chestnut. One colleague has questioned whether paragraph 7 essentially requires "that we are civil servants 24 hours a day and that we cannot comment to anyone on any controversial issues at all".

This post is effectively my contribution to the discussion - it got a bit long for Yammer. And, anyway, I've been trying to blog about this particular topic for a while...

I jumped on the old social media bandwagon fairly early doors. There was no social media policy for civil servants when I started blogging. Or when I joined Twitter. What I did have, and still have, is the Civil Service Code (pdf). And my some several many years experience of working in a very prescriptive environment.

And yes, very soon after joining the civil service, I was sat down by a big scary boss man and indeed told that I 'was a civil servant 24 hours a day'. That didn't mean that I couldn't have a social life. But it did mean that anything naughty I got up to out of work could reflect badly on the civil service if I was caught getting up to it. 

Prescription comes with the territory. The Civil Service Management Code (doc) - which sets out our conditions of service - is 90+ pages for goodness sake! I've never really had a problem with that. If I had, I'd have left long ago.

Social media hasn't changed any of that. What has changed, is that it's more difficult to keep the different parts of your life separate online. If you veer away from the code in a online environment, you're more likely to get caught doing it. Engaging in political debate online - even if it's with friends on Facebook - is not the same as having a good old rammy over a pint or two in the pub. Comments you make in an online environment are rather more permanent and open to being re-purposed, re-published and/or taken out of context. And keeping separate personal and professional accounts accounts is no guarantee of safety. Determined people can (and have) made connections between accounts and anonymous users have found themselves named.

We shouldn't have any expectancy of real privacy online - that's not how the internet works. And right now, the reality is, the media is interested in the 'off-piste' activities of public servants. I'm not saying I like it, or agree with it, but I've accepted that that's the way it is.

So, yes, I am 'always on' and very conscious of who I work for when using social media. I avoid politics. I think twice before I post. I would certainly never use social media while under the influence of anything stronger than a cappuccino. 

But I don't really mind the blurry lines. My status as a professional librarian and a civil servant go some way to defining me as a person (although not the whole way I should point out!). I do take work home (mentally and physically) and that's OK, mostly. A wise woman once tweeted to me "work is so much a part of who we are". And I think it was Mark Twain who said "work and play are words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions". But then, I'm lucky enough to have an interesting job that I'm pretty passionate about. Not everyone has one of those. And I can certainly understand why people want to switch off completely when they leave the office. 

And I don't use social media for purely personal purposes - and have no desire to do so. I'm not on Facebook. I prefer other ways of communicating with friends and family. I don't have interests out of work that I want to blog or tweet about.

It's also important to point out that I don't work in a sensitive policy area. I have the sort of job that allows me to talk in fairly abstract terms about what I do. My blogging and tweeting is generally confined to professional issues.

But what of my colleagues who are still trying to work out the rules of engagement? What of those who are active on social media in a purely personal capacity? What of those who don't want the lines between their personal and professional lives blurring?

Well, yes, the guidelines will reassure some. And we have some Scottish Government guidelines on the way that may help further clarify some of the grey areas. Support from senior management will help. It's a bit step that the Head of the Civil Service, Sir Bob Kerslake appears to have wholeheartedly embraced social media. A supportive environment will help - and that will come as more of us use social media without the world coming to an end. But some of my colleagues will remain unsure of the boundaries and will, quite understandably, decide that it's safer just to give social media a wide berth.

As I've alluded to above, my use of social media is affected by many factors - including my personal circumstances. Indeed, something happened to me recently that made me completely reappraise my use of social media. It was a blip, but I was actually on the verge of deleting my Twitter account.

So we can have all the guidelines and policies and training courses in the world. The nature of social media is such that there will be many factors that will influence the way people use (or don't use) social media. And that's something those of us responsible for writing the guidance, developing and delivering the training and generally evangelising about social media would do well to remember.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Camping it up

Regular viewers will know that I'm fond of a camp. I'm also very fond of a good cuppa. It turns out that I'm not the only one. Which is lucky really, or I'd have been drinking tea and talking to myself last Thursday afternoon. Fortunately, fourteen other intrepid tea drinkers braved some shocking Edinburgh weather to gather in Spoon Cafe on Nicolson Street to talk about all things digital and government. A strong, pungent blend of central and local government and academic types discussed topics as diverse as joining up social media strategies, technologies enabling home working and hyperlocal news. [If you want to follow these fine people, there's a Twitter list for that.]

Here's the tweetage:

And here's a quick analysis:

When: Thursday seemed as good a day as any and the 1600 - 1800 time slot allowed folk to pop in on the way home.

Where: Spoon was really busy when the first campers arrived and there was only a small table free. By the time all 14 of us had arrived we were split over several tables. This was down to my lack of planning really - I had intended reserving a table, but never got round to it. To be honest, I thought maybe five or six people would show, so it wasn't a priority. Anyway, some pointed staring in the direction of a poor chap sitting on his own and we eventually got a large bench that seated us all. We may have upset the staff a bit with our constant moving around, and in my personal experience, service can be a bit erratic. But it's a central location, and the orange blossom tea is very nice.

What: There were mixed feelings about whether there should be a specific topic for discussion and/or presentations. Some felt that a bit of structure would be helpful - particularly if you need to make the case to your manager for attending. Others preferred the more free flowing discussion. I'm thinking we'll give a topic a go for the next one and see what happens.

As a proof of concept, I think we have a success on our hands, so we'll return to Spoon for the next teacampscotland on 14 June. With a topic, probably. And possibly a new hashtag (#youllhavehadyourteacamp ;) )

While we're on the subject of camps...I'm off to Orkney tomorrow for IslandGovCamp. You can take part by registering as a 'remote attendee' or follow the action on Twitter (hashtag is #IsleGC12).

Monday, 7 May 2012

Desert island tweeps*

So, there's been a fair bit of sniping on Twitter about this article in yesterday's Observer. Lauren Laverne gives what is actually quite a nice intro, but then it all descends into a bit of a celeb Twitter love-in.

I don't think we can really be too critical of the fact that celebs follow other celebs - these are the people they socialise with and who they have most in common with after all. What is pretty galling about the article, is the implication that because the celebs follow these accounts then we should too.

Anyway, earlier today, @corrinnedouglas came up with the rather brilliant idea of crowdsourcing a version for us 'real people'.

So, off I went to have a think about my top three follows. And it was really hard. Really, really hard. I follow almost 1500 people and I wouldn't want to give any of them up. How to decide? Well, some criteria was obviously required. Should it be tweeple:

  • who post interesting links?
  • who I have good conversations with?
  • who spark ideas in my head? 
  • I've met in real life?
  • who are controversial?
  • who make me laugh?
  • who make me want to scream?
  • who like libraries?
  • I'd be happy to have round for tea?

But I doubt I could narrow it down to three in any of those categories, or even in an 'all of the above' category!

I had another look at the article and there doesn't appear to be any consistency in how the celebs have decided on their favourite tweeps. @johncleese follows @mrmichaelwinner "because he is Michael Winner"; @salmanrushdie follows @shteyngart (Gary Shteyngart) "because he's funny, has a dachshund and travels a lot"; @emmafreud follows @prodnose (Danny Baker) because "he's a brilliant, inspired, wise commentator on our strange world and his stranger imaginings of it". So, that didn't help.

And then I thought, who am I to tell anyone who they should follow? As Lauren points out in her intro,"one thing everyone agrees on is that nobody agrees on the point of Twitter." So we all get something different out of it (I've blogged before about why Twitter works for me, if you're interested).

So, at that point I stopped worrying about criteria. I'm not recommending Twitter feeds for you to follow. Instead, here are three people who have taken the time to join me on my personal Twitter 'journey':

1. The first person on #mytwitterthree list then is @snap2grid, aka 't'other 'alf'. He's the one who introduced me to Twitter in the first place. He doesn't tweet as much I'd like...but is good value when he does. He mostly tweets about nerdy stuff. He's a writer, so he knows how to get the best out of 140 characters. And he's generally very funny and/or clever.

2. Second on the list is @euan. One of the first people I followed (and who followed me back!) and instigator of a fairly pivotal moment in my Twitter life. I went to see him talk at a British Computer Society event in Edinburgh a few years ago and got the shock of my life when one of the first things he did when he got up to speak was ask where Lesley Thomson was sitting. When I put my hand up, he preceded to ask what I'd bought at the shops. Turns out he'd read a tweet I'd sent earlier in the day while doing some shopping on route to the talk. That was quite a big deal for me - someone was actually reading my tweets and was willing to have a conversation with me! "Euan is a one man digital upgrade solution for companies that really want to get their heads around all that is new in social computing" (testimonial from his website). And he knows that the emphasis should be on the 'social', not the 'computing'. He's recently written Organizations Don't Tweet, People Do: A Manager's Guide to the Social Web, which should be required reading for anyone 'doing' social media. I'm hoping I can get him to come and talk to our senior managers!

3. And my last but not least top follow is @dianebrodie. I've known Diane for several years and would consider her a good friend, but have only recently started following her on Twitter. Mainly because I didn't know she had a personal account. She's been quietly doing brilliant social media stuff at UK Trade and Investment for a few years now. She tweets about social media and webby stuff, and art and tractors. And she's a librarian. I may be responsible for getting her to start tweeting (rather than just using Twitter to follow people)...and I'm hoping this post encourages her to tweet more (but I'm also a bit worried it'll have completely the opposite effect :))

So there you go, three good tweeps that I'd happily take to a desert island (whether they'd want to come with me is, of course, another matter...). Follow them, or don't follow them, that's entirely up to you.

* blog post title shamelessly stolen from @comms2point0

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Stuck on Storify. Or, do as I say, not do as I do...

When I’ve got my official ‘social media adviser’ hat on, I generally try to steer people away from starting with the tool. I get approaches along the lines of "we want to use Twitter, can you help us?". But when I ask why they want to use Twitter and what for, they tend to go a bit quiet and mutter something about "well, everyone else is using it". So I get them to take a step back and think about what it is they want to achieve. And then we have a discussion about which tool/s will best help them get there.

That’s not to say that I always take my own advice…

So, a confession: I’m a wee bit addicted to Storify. It's what all social media tools should be: easy and intuitive to use, and it works well across all devices.

I’ve recently used it to curate content from events:

But that hasn't been enough to feed my habit…and I’ve been giving some thought to other ways to get my Storify fix. 

Hence, as a bit of an experiment, I’ve Storifyed my week on Twitter. My thinking went something like this:

  1. I don’t currently archive my tweetage.
  2. I often tweet/retweet something and then instantly forget about it.
  3. I tweet quite a lot.
  4. My tweets probably reflect the veritable information smorgesboard that constitutes my ‘area of professional interest’.
  5. I need to be better at following through on some of those thoughts/ideas that get sparked off by something I’ve seen, or a conversation I’ve had on Twitter. Sometimes they get blogged about - but more often than not, they're left hanging...)
  6. Storifying my tweets on a regular basis might be a nice way to be more systematic about recording my activities, thoughts and ideas.
  7. Making the effort to capture my tweets in this way may also prove to be a useful prompt for reflection. It should also help the blogging process.
This is the result of a weeks worth of tweeting: (it embeds very nicely as slideshow, see below)

My thoughts so far:

  • Slightly more tweetage here than there would be in a normal week due to a day of event tweeting. I think in future, I'll record events separately.
  • Could make more use of the text boxes for the reflection bit.
  • It's not really a 'story'. Does that matter?
  • Maybe a thematic rather than chronological approach would work better?

So, proof of concept is still to be validated :) I'm not sure this particular tool is the best one for helping me achieve what I'm trying to achieve. But while my love affair with Storify continues, it will probably be the one I use :).

If you want to know more about Storify and how it works, Steve Dale has just written a very comprehensive blog post on that very topic. 

For some great government examples, have a look at:
Anybody got any other examples of Storifyication?

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The first rule of weeklyblogclub...

You may have noticed a dramatic increase in the posting rate of this blog recently. I've gone from about every four weeks to once a week. The blame for this rests squarely with one Janet Davis - the evil mastermind behind weeklyblogclub. I'd witnessed the birth of the club on Twitter a few months ago and was watching developments with interest. But I made a point of keeping my virtual head down, as I really wasn't sure I wanted to commit to blogging once a week.

However, one fateful day, Janet just came straight out and asked me if I wanted to join...what could I do? Well, I suppose I could have said no...I tried to, I did...but Janet is a persuasive I eventually found myself agreeing.

And, so far so good. I've managed to find something to talk about - and more crucially the time to write about it - for a few weeks now (apart from last week, but I wasn't well). This is partly just down to timing, as I'm up to all sorts at the moment. What happens when it all dries up, I don't know. And I do worry that the quality of my posting will suffer (and there's not much leeway there as it is!).

Still, I've banged on before about getting more public sector people blogging and something like weeklyblogclub is a grand way to do it. And I'm in really good company - which may well help me raise my blogging game.

So, if you feel that you could be doing with some encouragement to get (or keep) your blog on, there's no joining fee or registration process. Just follow the instructions and blog away! If you're not quite ready to blog yourself, check out the site for brilliant bloggage on a weekly basis.

PS. As far as I know, there isn't a 'first rule of weeklyblogclub'. But I'm pretty sure that, if there were, it wouldn't be 'don't talk about weeklyblogclub'!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Anyone for teacamp?

***UPDATE***: the inaugural #teacampscotland will take place at Spoon on Nicolson Street, Edinburgh (across the road from the Festival Theatre) on Thursday, 17 May from 4pm - 6pm.  No booking required - just turn up! (First order of business: coming up with a better hashtag!)

Probably not a week goes by without me getting a little pang of that ‘wishing I still lived in London’ thing. It’s usually because there’s a show on or an exhibition that I really want to see. But it’s also because of teacamp. As the website says: teacamps are “regular meetups of gov/non gov digerati in a cafe over a cup of tea. Teacamps are informal and you can just turn up”. The first teacamp took place in February 2008, not long after I left London (I don’t think they waited for me to go...). The original teacamp is still going strong, regional teacamps have sprung up, and recently, specialist teacamps have started to appear.

And the pang is quite strong this week because the topic of discussion at today's teacamp is social media guidance – something that I know more than a little about, having been writing some for the Scottish Government for what feels like a short lifetime (but that’s for another blog post!). 

I made an attempt to start something similar up here a couple of years back, but there wasn’t much interest at the time. But after a tweet from Gordon Hunt (Ayr Campus Director and University Librarian at the University of the West of Scotland), I’m giving it some further thought.

There are issues though. 

Location, location, location! Teacamp takes place in Cafe Zest in House of Fraser on Victoria Street – which is really only a stones throw from many of the big government department headquarters. There isn’t really an equivalent location in Scotland. Even in Edinburgh, Scottish Government and agency offices are spread all over the city. Would Glasgow folk come to Edinburgh, or vice versa? And what about the rest of our wee country - which is actually not always that easy to get around! I guess maybe the answer is not worry about it too much - set something up where people are interested and if someone wants one somewhere else there's nothing to stop them.

Gordon and I may see a need, but does anyone else? It’s not that there aren’t already opportunities for government/wider public sector/people who live in the real world to get together to talk digital stuff in Scotland. I’ve already blogged (twice!) about the amazing stuff that’s starting to happen here. We’ve recently had two very successful Tartan TweetMeets in multiple locations and we’ve just re-booted the Scottish Public Sector Digital Group. But neither of those does quite what teacamp does.

The nearest equivalent may be the ‘coffee mornings'. Edinburgh Coffee Morning (#Edcm) which takes place at Centotre on George Street early every Friday morning, is probably the most successful, but there are others. There are a few public sector folk (and people who work with the public sector) who attend, but the focus is on general geekery rather than public sector geekery. And us government types aren’t always comfortable in that sort of environment.

So what do you think? Would you be interested in attending a Scottish teacamp/s? If so, where? And would you want to help set something up?

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Recipe for success…how to cook up a day of public sector digital goodness

[NB: cross posted from the Scottish Public Sector Digital Group blog]


Serves: 16431+ *

Preparation time: as long as it takes 

Cooking time: a day or so




60+ digi types (a high quality mix from 14 local authorities and 16 public sector organisations)
4 inspirational speakers
1 very helpful sponsor
several pints of coffee
2 great venues
1 flipchart
limitless sticky notes
smartphones, Macs, netbooks and iPads
whatever social media sites you have to hand
many, many teacakes 


Place the digi types in the first venue, fill with coffee and then slowly add the inspirational speakers.

Simmer for a bit, then allow the mixture to rest for 30 minutes.

Remove the digi types and place in the second venue.

Carefully place the sticky notes onto the flip chart (using the picture above as a guide).

Stuff the digi types with teacakes, add the wifi to the mix and fold in the Macs, netbooks, smartphones and iPads. Sprinkle on the social media sites.

Separate the mixture into 3 separate rooms.

Allow the mixture to rise. Remove after 45 minutes and stir.

Repeat twice more.

Recombine the mixture.

Serve chilled.

Optional step: add alcohol to the digi types and flambé.

And hey presto! A day of questioning, listening, knowledge sharing, planning, plotting, idea forming, contact making, and more!

* that's the number of accounts Tweet Reach says we reached...

Friday, 30 March 2012

Social media: A tool for research and collaboration

the research cycle - from the Research Information Network's
 'Social media: a guide for researchers'
I had a great day at Edinburgh University last Friday (23 March) as the guest of the Scottish branch of the CILIP Universities, Colleges and Research Group, who'd put on a event entitled 'Social Media: tools for research and collaboration'. I'd been asked to present by the lovely Sheila Williams, Liaison Services Manager  at Queen Margaret University (aka @Budsmam). I first met Sheila some years back, on a Webquests (whatever happened to them?!) training course and she feels like an old friend (old in a good way!). Although, as she reminded me on the day, we've only actually met on three occasions!

I kicked off the event with a fairly general intro to social media as a tool for research and collaboration (pinching lots of stuff from the rather excellent Research Information Network's 'Social Media: A guide for researchers') - identifying some examples of social media being used at all points of the research cycle. I also talked a bit about online identity. My presentation is available on Slideshare. And I've put together a list of relevant resources on Diigo.

Helen Muir, Research Support Librarian at Queen Margaret University (@HMuir), then spoke in a bit more detail about why researchers really need to get on board with social media (the Research Excellence Framework (REF) is beginning to have a big impact) and highlighted some tools that may be of particular use for researchers. Helen's rather super presentation is on Prezi. I was a bit concerned when Helen said she'd used Prezi - they generally give me a headache - but Helen's presentation makes great use of Prezi's features. Helen's presentation has prompted me to take another look at, a sort of Linkedin for academics, that allows you to share your papers and to follow the work of other researchers.

Perhaps the biggest revelation of the day for me came in Helen's presentation. I cannot believe that I've not come across Bright Club before. Researchers doing stand up! Or as the website puts it: 'researchers become comedians for just one night'. How brilliant is that?!

After lunch, Phil Bradley (internet search expert extraordinaire, current CILIP President, all round nice chap and @PhilBradley on Twitter) took us on a tour of the impact that social media is having on search. Phil's presentation is also available on Slideshare. We were in a computer lab for Phil's session, so could play around a bit with some of the tools covered in his presentation. I had a look at - which promises spam free search (by only crawling 3 billion pages, focusing on 'quality websites'). Blekko also has a tool called a slashtag that organizes websites around specific topics and improves search results for those topics. It's worth a look if you want an alternative to the 'tyranny of Google'.

There was some great tweeting on the #UCRSocMed hashtag throughout the day. Particularly from Sheila (we even had the odd tweet from Sheila's dog @Budthepuppy :)). And I've had fun putting everything (presentations, resources and tweets) into Storify. It's a bit back to front...but hey, it was my first time :)

Monday, 19 March 2012

Amazing things are happening in Scotland: Part 2

gratuitous shot of the Firth of Forth

1. I failed miserably to talk, eat and tweet concurrently (I know, I know, I let the sisterhood down...) at #tartantm, but the event was a great success, with public sector types tweeting from all corners of the country! James Coltham has a nice write up (and some nifty time lapse photography) from the Edinburgh event on his blog. So successful was the whole shindig, that there's already a second load of tweetups planned for 28 March, when the topic will be 'social media and the future of journalism'.

2. Sally Kerr, Web Manager at Edinburgh City Council, has kindly let me help out with rebooting the Scottish Webteams Forum. The Forum was created by Sally way back in 2004 to provide a Scotland-wide platform for public sector webteams to discuss issues and developments, share knowledge and consider partnership working opportunities.

We've decided to try a hybrid traditional conference/unconference format for the relaunch event. The morning session at the City Chambers will include formal presentations on:  

  • Direct Scot's prototype findings
  • Aberdeen's experience of implementing an open data approach
  • the key role that customer experience played in delivering Edinburgh's 4 Star SOCITM site for 2011
  • some exciting social media stuff happening in Edinburgh

The event is sponsored by web solutions company Squiz, and we'll decant to their lovely offices just up the road for an afternoon of 'user generated content'! Rather than try to guess what folk want to hear about, we thought it'd be nice to give attendees the opportunity to set the agenda - in true GovCamp stylee :). Anyone can suggest any topic (within reason!) for discussion sessions. There will be opportunities to suggest session topics in the run up, and also on the day itself. Suggestions so far include:

  • social media and records management
  • the EU Cookie Directive
  • social media policies
[NB. We also decided to update the group's name - so the 'Webteams Forum' is now the Scottish Public Sector Digital Group (SPSDG) to reflect a slightly enhanced remit.]

We're literally down to a handful of places left - so if you haven't booked, then do so soon! Or if you can't make it in person, follow the #spsdg Twitter hashtag on 29 March. Or read the write ups on the new SPSDG blog.

3. Oh, and just to confirm that good things do come in threes, it looks like the eagerly anticipated IslandGovCamp is a goer! 

Sunday, 19 February 2012

I was only DREaMing

Hmmmm...[ref item 17]
A few Mondays ago I was lucky enough to participate in the second LIS DREaM workshop at the British Library in old London town. Developing Research Excellence and Methods is an AHRC funded project which aims to develop a formal UK-wide network of Library and Information Science (LIS) researchers.

The workshop materials are all available online (including video of the presentations) and others have already done a fantastic job of blogging the day. So, I'm pinching Dan Slee's UK GovCamp '20 things' as a format for some reflections:

  1. User involvement in research is a hot issue and getting hotter. There is a growing canon of work and it's increasingly a funding requirement. Professor Peter Beresford's inspiring presentation (given refreshingly without any PowerPoint!) outlined the challenges - personal, ethical and methodological - that this presents for us all as service users, researchers and policy makers.
  2. It is possible to get a perfectly nice (if a little eccentric) hotel in central London for under £50 (B&B).
  3. Ella Taylor Smith (@Ellatasm) and Lauren Smith (@walkyouhome) are both embarking on very interesting PhDs that touch on digital participation, libraries and democratic engagement. Particularly relevant right now. Will be keeping a close eye on both of these.
  4. That's not to say that others are not doing interesting research as well. The proof can be found via the video of the 'unconference' half hour when some of us talked about our research interests.
  5. I can live without paper. For five days anyway. That was a bit of revelation for me - one that warrants a blog post all of its own.
  6. The cafe in the British Library serves the biggest muffins in the world. The wifi is pretty tasty as well.
  7. I have yet to be disappointed when I've met IRL people I know only from Twitter.
  8. Despite a great presentation from Dr Thomas Haigh on 'techniques from history', I will not be doing historical research any time soon. History was my best subject at school and I was advised to study it at uni. So I did. And pretty much hated every minute of those four years. During the workshop exercise, we discussed how we might apply historical methods to my research interest in the LIS profession in government. And I can see how it would be useful. But it does not inspire any passion...which leads me onto...
  9. Nick Moore made a great point in his presentation on 'research and policy' about motivation. Real interest in, and indeed, a passion for, your area of research are essential, especially if you want to inform policy. Now, I'm interested in lots of aspects of LIS...but I'm not sure what I'm passionate about. Need to give that some thought.
  10. I must have a chatelaine. Saw some beautiful ones at the V&A. I have some ideas for a modern version.
  11. Sentiment analysis seems to have come a long way since I first became aware of it a couple of years ago. Still not convinced of its usefullness though, despite the interesting stuff going on at the University of Wolverhampton's Statistical Cybermetrics Research Group, which Mike Thelwall talked about during his presentation on 'webometrics'. I'm going to have a play with SentiStrength though.
  12. Am already looking forward to the final workshop (at Edinburgh Napier University on 25 April), which will include a presentation on data mining.
  13. The Pajama Men are hilarious. Go see them.
  14. I love my iPad :) [ref item 5.] I am ever so grateful to my Mum for giving me one. Thanks Mum!
  15. There was some interest in my T-shirt - which was a Christmas pressie from t'other 'alf. You can get one from his Red Bubble site.
  16. The DREaM Project is a very slick operation. Offline and online content combine seamlessly (I was unable to attend the first workshop, but viewing the comprehensive online content was almost as good as being there in person), pre-workshop information was very thorough and the event itself went very smoothly. Kudos to Hazel Hall and Charles Oppenheim and Christine Irving, Kirsty Pipkin and others involved.
  17. However...because the online content is so comprehensive, I'd have liked the workshop to have made more of the opportunities of having us together - with a greater level of interactivity and more opportunities for discussion. Although it's nice to meet people IRL, I don't think I'd have felt that I'd missed out if I hadn't been able to attend in person.
  18. I am too old to mooch round Camden High Street of a Sunday :(
  19. Having been lucky enough to be involved with the project, I need to start thinking about how I might apply the techniques. This is very timely. And tempting...but I'm not sure that I'm ready to go back to full time study. Not just yet.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Amazing things are happening in Scotland...

One of my public sector digital inspirations, Dan Slee (Walsall Council), recently made some predications about digital in local government in 2012, including this one:

12. Amazing things will happen in Scotland. Some of the brightest people in the public sector who are innocavating aren’t in London. They’re north of the border serving as police officers as well as in local government. It’ll be fascinating to see how this develops.

Which is nice.

It’s good to get a more objective perspective. I’ve been feeling a bit disheartened recently by (what seems to me anyway) our lack of progress on the digital front and have been looking south with jealous eyes. On reflection, I think this is actually more to do with people not talking enough about the good stuff they're doing rather than no good stuff happening at all (is it the Scottish Calvinist thing?).

And I this year certainly does have the potential to be a very interesting one for digital in Scotland (and hopefully that means lots for me to blog about!). 

We’ve certainly got things off to a cracking start with the announcement of #Tartantm - concurrent TweetUps for public sector types in all the major Scottish cities on the evening of 22 February.

It’s ambitious. But it’s got two of our most dedicated public sector social media advocates, Carolyne Mitchell (South Lanarkshire Council) and Gordon Scobbie (Deputy Chief Constable of Tayside Police) behind it (assisted by others around the country), so it can’t fail.

If you work in the public sector and are interested in using social media to engage or to build online communities, you should get yourself along for food, chatting and tweeting. There's more info at

So, I’ll see you there! (And if you really can’t be there – and you’d better have a damn good excuse - then follow the Twitter hashtag #tartantm.)