On Saturday I went along to UKGovCamp 2010 at Google's UK HQ in Victoria. It could be broadly described as an unconference for those working in and around, or simply interested in, UK government online - an opportunity for people with a wide variety of skills, experiences and perspectives to share their knowledge and get to know each other.
It was run in the BarCamp format, meaning there was no set schedule prior to the event and the programme was decided upon by the participants at the beginning of the day.
It was a great day, with too many great sessions to choose from. The highlight for me was Eve Shuttleworth's session on the future of journalism – where is traditional media headed and how should a government / local gov press office evolve. Despite us being packed into a tiny room, it was a really enlightening and lively discussion. I learnt a lot about the sorts of challenges social media brings to those on the front line and the organisational barriers they face and I was able share some hopefully useful experience from work we've done with some of our clients. For those who were in the session with me - here's the Clay Shirky quote I was referring to:
When someone demands to know how we are going to replace newspapers, they are really demanding to be told that we are not living through a revolution. They are demanding to be told that old systems won’t break before new systems are in place. They are demanding to be told that ancient social bargains aren’t in peril, that core institutions will be spared, that new methods of spreading information will improve previous practice rather than upending it. They are demanding to be lied to.
Towards the end of the day I ended up running a small session on public consultations and social media. It was really useful to hear people's first hand experiences of using social media to gather the public's opinions for consultations, both large and small, and how to best present them back to policy makers in order that their voices actually get heard. It was also good to get positive feedback on an approach to tapping into conversations in social media we think has the potential to significantly augment the standard way of conducting public consultations.
However, the day was really about making and strengthening connections, and it was great to see people like Steph Gray, Dave Briggs, Paul Clarke, Jeremy Gould, Emma Mulqueeny, May Race and Harry Metcalfe again, and to meet Eve Shuttleworth, Justin Kerr-Stevens, Hadley Beeman, Simon Dickson, Sharon O'Dea, Alistair Reid, Kim Willis, Roger Oldham, Charlotte Beckett and many others for the first time. The pub afterwards was a lot of fun too.
My thanks go to Dave Briggs, Hadley Beeman and the rest of the organising team. If you're interested in this sort of stuff, I'd recommend you check out the tweets from the day, read Dave's wrap-up post and join the conversation on UKGovWeb.