Friday, 25 January 2013

It's UKGovCamp Jim! But not as we know it!

This time last week (Thursday morning) I was on the train to London. There was no snow when I left home but it certainly got whiter the further south I went. There was a fair bit of the cold stuff around in London when I arrived. And, heck, it just kept snowing.
snowy South Bank

I’d traveled down to the big smoke mainly for UKGovCamp* - due to take place on the Saturday. But it got cancelled! A difficult decision for the organisers to have to make, but no doubt the right one. I’m used to weather stopping play. But it amused me (in a wry sort of way) that I’d traveled the furthest distance to attend only for the event to be cancelled because of rubbish weather in/near London. 

Anyway, after some online chatter about whether the event could still go ahead in a virtual format, it was decided that, actually, there could still be a face to face get together of sorts, as Lloyd Davis explains on his blog. So the shout went out that an un-unconference henceforth hashtagged #altukgc13 [Or #ukgc13b, or possibly both. The hashtag situation got a bit confused and I think the streams may even have crossed at one point!] would go ahead on Saturday, on the 5th floor of the Royal Festival Hall. The news was greeted enthusiastically by those of us already in London and those hardy types keen to attempt a journey into the capital despite the conditions. 

By the time I got to the South Bank Centre at about 11am on the Saturday morning, there were a few campers there and Lloyd had got the introductions going. The intros continued and we each had the opportunity to suggest topics we wanted to discuss. We were a fairly small group to start with – more mini-campers appeared as the day wore on. And indeed, not everyone stayed for the whole day. I don’t think anyone was counting, but there must have been 20-25 of us there at some point during the day. We stayed in the one group until after lunch, by which time we were in sufficient numbers to split into two.

A valiant attempt was made to live stream at least some of the discussions. This was appreciated by those following at home, but the logistics started to ‘interrupt the conversational flow a bit’ and we had to make a plea for patience to the folks at home :)

Puffles holding court
So to the discussions. [I didn’t take detailed notes during these sessions, sorry, but those that were filmed are available on YouTube.] We talked about:
  • civil servants and social media (yes, that old chestnut!)
  • open data
  • digital by default and digital inclusion – which inspired @Puffles2010’s bestest buddy to write on the topic
  • influencing stakeholders
  • tools as solutions to problems currently dealt with by public (or private) sector by facilitating community self-organisation
  • diversity of speakers at tech events [a session that inspired Mary McKenna to write this blog post and also to offer to hold career counselling sessions at GovCamp proper when it happens.

So, did it work? Most definitely. In addition to the actual discussions on the day, #altukgc13 was an opportunity to refine some of those sessions that had already been proposed for UKGovCamp proper. And new session ideas emerged. The space worked really well. The wifi was pretty stable throughout the day and the very pleasant classical** soundtrack created a certain ambience. Can’t complain about the coffee and cake either. And those tuning in from home were able to contribute to the discussions. Kudos to Lloyd (@lloyddavis) and James (@jacatell) for making it all happen! And to everyone who battled the weather to turn up!

On a more personal level, I also had a really good chat over lunch with the guys behind LibraryCamp – Sue Lawson (@shedsue) and Richard Veevers (@richardveevers). So, continue to watch this space for news on the first LibraryCampScotland!

On a slightly less positive note: having just got the hang of explaining to people what an 'unconference' is, I now have to find a way to explain an 'un-unconference'!

And. It wasn’t UKGovCamp. The date for the rescheduled event has yet to be announced. I do hope I can make it.

* I was down for other stuff as well, but that'll have to wait for another post
** don’t ask me to be more specific, it’s not my area of musical expertise

Monday, 14 January 2013

Kicking it in 2013: Part 2

Herewith my second goal post of 2013. (Part 1: goals one - five)

um, another goal post

Goal six - not worry about what Mr Phil Jewitt calls 'life leak'

I've written before about not really minding the increasingly blurry lines between personal and work. Recent frustrations on the work front made me re-evaluate that a bit. I was getting to the point where I did just want to do my day and forget all about work immediately on leaving the building. Couldn't do it though. I get inspiration for what I do at work from all sorts of places. Stuff I do out of work develops me as a person, which in turn, makes me more effective at work. It's not for everyone, but it works for me and I'm not going to worry about it.

Was just about to hit the publish button when someone tweeted a link to this post by Gareth Morgan, Assistant Chief Constable Local Policing for Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police. Go and read it, I'll wait 'till you get back. Good stuff, eh?

Goal seven - do some stuff I'm scared off

Probably not lava surfing or shark wrestling, but I do want to venture out of my comfort zone a bit more. An example is video. I hate - absolutely loathe - being filmed and I've no desire to be behind the camera. But, video is such an important medium for so much of what I do, I really, really, need to make an effort with it. T'other 'alf is a film-maker and it seems a shame not to take advantage of his expertise! 

Audio comes into this category as well. Never really got into podcasts and the sound of my recorded voice makes me squirm. But, like video, there may be occasions when it's the most appropriate medium of communication for what I'm trying to do/audience I'm trying to reach.

Goal eight - be more adventurous with my shoe wearing

bought myself these for Christmas :)

I've been seeing the word 'empathy' all over the place recently. I particularly like this post: 'Fitness trainer gains and loses 70 pounds in 1 year - on purpose'

I think I'm generally a nice person. I try to see all sides of an issue. But it is easier to be empathic towards those people whose ideas agree with mine. This one is kinda related to goal three. Some of those occasions where I've not communicated as well as I'd liked may have been down to a lack of empathy on my part. True empathy means learning to put aside a life time of cultural conditioning. That takes a lot of practice. If you're lacking in empathy, you're likely to misread what is transpiring in a situation and misunderstand the intentions of others. So, it's about asking 'am I saying or doing it in a way in which the other person will be most responsive to hearing and listening to me?'

Goal nine - finish stuff

I'm notoriously bad at starting stuff but not following through. Blog posts, projects, conversations get started but flounder and don't go anywhere. That's fine up to a point - a lot of the stuff that doesn't get finished probably doesn't deserve to be - but it's not a very efficient use of my time. When something piques my interest, I should be asking myself 'can really I add something here?'. If not, I should - as Jeff Jarvis would say - 'do what you do best and link to the rest' and maybe tweet a link and move on.

Goal ten - to be confirmed

Open to suggestions... ;)

Monday, 7 January 2013

Kicking it in 2013: Part 1

Never one to miss a bandwagon, I thought I'd get my blog back on with some goal setting. Goals, not resolutions, mind. Important distinction :) I wouldn't normally bother. For me, the 1 January thing usually feels a bit arbitrary (eg for work purposes, the start of the new financial year can be a more appropriate time to review and re-evaluate). But I do have lots of new stuff kicking off right about now, so it works for me this year. So here are some things I'd like to get a handle on in 2013:

Murrayfield: where my favourite goal posts of 2012 could be found :)

Goal one - be more organised

This is not a 'nice to have', it's an absolute necessity. I mentioned in my last post that 2013 was going to be a bit busy. Well, when I wrote that post I didn't know that I'd also be kicking off an MSc in Elearning (soon to be renamed 'Digital Education') this month. I used to be really good at organising my time. I worked full time while I studied for my LIS post-grad and also held down a part-time job. And I can't remember my social life suffering much. That was all down to time management*. Not sure what happened, but it's something I've got very lax about over recent years. Stuff has still got done - but I'm not sure quite how in some cases.

I'm aware that 'be more organised' is a bit vague (and about as far from being SMART as one could possibly get). I need to think it through a bit more (see goal four). Probably warrants a blog post all of it's own.

Goal two - knock my social media use into shape

Part of succeeding with goal numero uno, I think, will involve more focused use of social media. Erika Anderson - reacting to J. Maureen Henderson‘s recent post on Forbes, three reasons you should quit social media - lists three pretty sensible ways to do that:

1. Make social media serve you: decide what you want to get out of social media and use it only for that purpose.
2. Guard against zoning out: if you’re using social media for hours of daily pacification, you should probably turn off the computer and do something else!
3. Vet new tools before putting them in your toolkit.

I think I'm already pretty good at 1 and 3, but 2 is an issue for me.

Goal three - don't take things so personally

I kinda like this from Tony Dowling: "Everyone lies, everyone has an agenda and, ultimately, everyone will disappoint you" [the whole post: These things I know, is worth a read]. A bit harsh maybe, but managing your expectations of people allows you to deal with them better. Being aware that everything has a background and context, should enable me to be more open to the opportunities that present themselves, and more wary of potential slip ups. This is also about remembering that 'message transmitted is not necessarily the same as message received'! I need to ensure that the people I'm talking to (in whatever context) know what I'm talking about. I don't think I've been as good at that as I could be. There's also an element of being better at taking responsibility for myself and my actions. It's not someone else’s fault that I've failed at something. That one single thought can be so destructive. 

Goal four - make time for thinking things through

Another pearl of wisdom from Tony Dowling: "The only truth you can achieve is truth you achieve through intellectualisation". This one is inspired by a post from Phil Jewitt. I've had an ongoing struggle with being reflective (see previous blog posts :)). But, as Phil says: "you can’t do more with less. You can be smarter with less and do less better, but more for less just won’t go. Thing is, if you keep piling it on there is less doing time, but more importantly less thinking time; mistakes are made, things get forgotten, stuff won’t happen". If that means actually 'doing' less, then so be it.

Reflection is part of the assessment criteria for my course, so that's another reason to be giving it some serious attention! 

Goal five - begin designing my life

Know where I am, where I want to be and how I'm going to get there. There probably needs to be a plan. And bench marking and plotting of improvements and such. The new job is partly about using design thinking to make my organisation more creative and innovative and, inspired by this post from Tim Brown, I can see where it might help at a more personal level: "We can have a sense of purpose without deluding ourselves that we can predict every outcome in advance, for this is the space of creativity. We can blur the distinction between the final product and the creative process that got us there. We can learn how to take joy in the things we create. We can work within the constraints of our own natures—and still be agile, build capabilities, iterate. We can conduct experiments, make discoveries, change our perspectives."

OK, I'm going to stop there. I think there are additional goals I want to add, but, with goal one in mind, I allocated myself a specific amount of time to write this post and I'm now out of time. Hence this is 'part one'.

* I got by on a lot less sleep back then. That may also have helped...