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Sunday, February 1

Barcamp rocks

The BarcampUKGovweb09 event was, first and foremost, fun.

The format of everyone contributing and the 'controlled anarchy' contributed to this feeling.

Barcamp = user generated conferences — open, participatory workshop-events, whose content is provided by participants.

I had two ideas. Tying together blog posts I've done on 'How Obama does it' and 'How Labour isn't'. I ended up sticking this with a 'politics 2.0' workshop idea which was far more prepared (and mostly went over/past my head) and just checking in my 2p worth.

  • Yes, UK politics is different but American developments has a wicked way of making their way across the pond. There is definitely nothing but value in looking'n'learning at the mechanics and politics of how this experiment is panning out.
  • Much if not most of the participants were focussing on how social media feeds back to decision making, organising and policy. But if new tools allow decision makers to get metrics from how the UK-wide social media discussion is playing doesn't that trump how certain interests and players attempt to intervene?
  • Yes, we do need a UK version of the Huffington Post.
My second contribution was my old chestnut: discount aka guerilla usability testing. I first presented on this back in 2006 and used the exact same presentation!

It went somewhat against the tide of contributions and, as a mate said, 'ow, something about the web!'

It wasn't a big crowd (grand total, seven) but consisted of some VIPs in this small egov world. It was also almost a collaborative presentation as people chipped in with their ideas and experience. Which was great!

As well, a guy from the Office of the Qualifications and Examinations Regulator, Philip McAllister, attached his presentation idea to mine (this is how Barcamps work) so we got some fascinating stuff at the end of the hour about his work on qualitative analysis of his site. This fitted well as it was, again, not a 'black art' but simple to do, with vital results generated for understanding how your website (aka brand) comes across.

  • One thing I've learnt from doing this in practice is the importance of social skills by people trying it.
As I said, the day was lotsa fun. But there are a coupla issues.
  • This format doesn't work so well for the less confident, unless this is managed. I can think of a few people I know with much to contribute (I'm thinking of you, GoogleMaps genius man) but far less skills to allow them to do it.
  • Boystown. Male, male male. Summed up by the changing of the notice above the feeding area from 'Would you expect your mum to clean this up?' to 'Dad'.
  • The great mix of inside/outside/across government was welcomed by everyone I spoke with. Therin lies a nerve to work.
And this note:
And this to-do:
  • Join Twitter. Sigh.

Simon Dickson has a good round up here. (And it was lovely to finally meet you too :} )

He talks about this stuff from DirectGov, which very much interested me. I haven't posted this before, but they have widgets on the way — something I've been carping on about for, owh, two years? Though more from a marketing angle than from the angle BarCamp would take.

Here's all the tagged content.


  1. >Yes, we do need a UK version of the Huffington Post.

    That may be good for a longer post.

    What do we need?

    The scale, the comprehensiveness, the reach, a big site with the same politics, or the use of the grassroots?

  2. Great to meet you in your usability session - it was lots of fun!

  3. yup. fun being the right word :}