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

1 comment:

Kenny McDonald said...

Sounds like a wild un-adventure!