Archive for miscellaneous

TeaCamp / BrewCamp by John Popham

By John Popham.

Following on from the success of TeaCamp in London and BrewCamp in Birmingham, I am now looking to bring this concept to the North.

TeaCamp (see here) is a regular, informal meeting of London-based people who use the internet and social media to help the public sector do more interesting things and do what they already do more effectively. The concept has also been successfully transplanted to the West Midlands, where BrewCamp brings together people from local government, police, NHS and other parts of the public sector to support each other in their pioneering work with the internet and social media.

TeaCamp / BrewCamp are held in the early evening, after work, in a coffee shop with wifi, and continue the longstanding tradition of people getting together over a cuppa and a piece of cake to chew the fat. They normally involve one or more people giving a little talk about an interesting project, or something they feel passionate about, and often result in people being able to help each other overcome obstacles, and perhaps even work on joint projects.

Being an internet or social media pioneer in the public sector can be a lonely process, so the principal aim of these events is help people get some mutual support. If something more concrete comes out of it, that is a bonus. Following TeaCamp and BrewCamp events, Twitter is normally full of people expressing their joy about meeting people face-to-face in similar circumstances to themselves. Archived live video of the latest BrewCamp can be found here.

So, do you work with the internet and / or social media in the public sector in the North West, Yorkshire or the East Midlands? and, if so, would you be interested in an informal get together on a monthly basis in the early evening (say 5:30-8pm)?

I am looking to run CuppaCamp North in Leeds and Manchester, and my good friend and esteemed colleague, Paul Webster is testing the water about support for a MashCamp East Midlands (if you don’t know “Mashing” is a term used for brewing tea in parts of the East Midlands and South Yorkshire). If you think this is something you might be interested in being part of (you don’t have to commit yourself to anything), then please add your name to this Google Doc. There are three separate tables, for Leeds, Manchester and East Midlands. Feel free to add yourself to more than one table if you could attend in either location.

If there is enough support I will go about sorting venues which will be in the city centres in Leeds, Manchester and whichever of the East Midlands cities is most convenient to attendees.


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twitter cop

Greater Manchester Police are today tweeting every incident that they have to deal with over the next 24 hour period This is to create awareness of the number and variety of incidents and services that they provide on a daily basis. They are also claiming that two thirds of the incidents that they deal with are of a social (care) nature – dealing with domestic incidents, people with mental illness, dealing with homeless people etc. They are hoping to highlight this issue before the spending review I suppose in the hope of either avoiding cuts getting that work diverted to other agencies. Interesting use of twitter though I thought.

Manchester Evening News:  Live – Police use Twitter to post 24 hours of incidents in Greater Manchester

Sky News:  Day In The Life Live: Bobbies On The Tweet

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Schrodinger’s Lolcat & The Social Media Pub Social

After the last few social media surgeries I’ve taken part in in Huddersfield I have bemoaned the lack of opportunity for the surgeons to socialise, compare notes and have a good old pint together. Though we do normally adjourn to a local pub for a chat after a surgery I thought we might all benefit from something a bit more – but then I would wouldn’t I? 🙂

After speaking to @johnpopham, @kevupnorth, @watfordgap and I think even @timdifford at the Huddersfield food festival I decided to try to organise a get together. With Tuesday 16th November being the aniversary of Huddersfield Social’s first social media surgery I couldn’t think of a more appropriate date.    The venue is still yet to be decided – I’m looking for somewhere near Huddersfield train station that has wifi – and things will kick off around 6pm. I’ll put up and Eventbrite page as soon as I’ve finalised the details.

It’s been a busy year in which I’ve enjoyed meeting so many wonderful people. Hope to see you there.

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Big Society, Odd ol’ me and the Lash

Before Oz Clarke and James May Drank Britain, The Ale Trail was a pleasantly understated affair enjoyed by a small amount of people with a spirit for adventure. Its appearance on TV has made it so popular that the train home from work now seems odd if there isn’t a group of beery breathed middle-aged men, razor-sharp creases ironed into their jeans, shirts awkwardly not tucked in, talking much louder than they would ever imagine they are. Usually harmless but leery and intimidating to the regular commuter they trundle their way to the next pub on the route.

OOz and Jamesne of the pubs on the route is in the village where I live. Weekends see a steady flow of these groups to and from the train station throughout the day. This is OK and I’m sure it’s boosted local businesses but with it comes the usual problems. My favourite being the – Oh no the train’s due we’re going to have to leave now groups – rushing up the hill back to the train station, pint in hand.

What do you think happens to the glass when they finish their pint?

The first time I noticed that the streets were sprouting pint glasses I walked past tutting and shaking my head, thinking, “Don’t they realise it’s litter?”.  I must admit I walked on for a 10 yards before stopping and thinking further:

beer glasses

beer glasses

  • Is it my responsibility? After all I didn’t leave it there.
  • If I leave that glass there am I just as bad?
  • What if it gets knocked over and smashed? Someone could get hurt.
  • My kids play on these streets – they could get hurt.
  • The place will end up looking scruffy.
  • What will people think when they get off the train and this is the first thing they see?

I went back and hid the glasses in a bush to be picked up on my way back home. I have now done this on several occasions and built up a collection of beer glasses which sit gleaming in my kitchen cupboard where they will remain until they’re claimed by the appropriate publican (well, erm… unless I have a barbecue) 🙂

I’m not posting this story to big myself up but hopefully to demonstrate that maybe The Big Society isn’t all about huge social projects like running a school or powering your town with a community run wind farm. It can be simple small acts too.

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4 Letter Word

When doing a presentation, workshop, surgery or any other type of social media advice session I find that clearing up the mystery behind some of the terms is an essential first step. It’s the same old story. Those who use terms everyday use them with a full (hopefully) understanding of what lies beneath the word. Most people (myself included), often don’t ask for clarification of the terms. This leads to slow or sometimes no progress at all. One of the most fearful words that still strikes fear into peoples hearts is Blog. That’s it. A simple, small 4 letter word that has the potential to cause untold confusion.

And do you know what a blog is? If you don’t or are not sure don’t be afraid to admit it because most people don’t. I might even not know but we’ve got to start somewhere.

So here goes..

Drum Roll………

A blog is….

A diary.

Sorry. That’s it.

Well the clue was in the name. Blog is simply the abbreviation of Weblog >> weBLOG >> get it? A Web Log being a log that you keep on the web 😉

Don’t look for any esoteric meaning, technical complexity, or insight that will elevate your conciousness onto a higher plane, that’s it. A blog is simply a web site used as a diary.

Easy innit?

How much you put in your diary is up to you
What you put in your diary is up to you
How often you update your diary is up to you

Now don’t get me wrong there are some things that work and some that don’t. Obviously if you’re a witty and errudite wordsmith you’re going to have more success than a clumsy mangler of the wirtten word like me. But that also depends on what you call success. If one person reads this and gets it I’ll consider this particular ramble a success but for some not making the Technorati Top 100 (or whatever) is a failure.

Why is this important? Because in my need to boil everything down to it’s most simplistic level isn’t most social media just a blog?

Twitter = small updates stating “What am I doing”

Facebook = small to medium status updates stating “What I am doing”

Blog = small to large updates stating “What I am doing”

etc etc…

There are varying degress of complexity within each of these tools but essentially they are still just diarys.

If you’re lucky enough you will attract people who are interested in “What you are doing” to your blog (whatever form that may take: blog, twitter, facebook etc) and form what has become known as a Social Network. Some of these people may want to just listen and some may want to communicate and engage with you. You may start to read their blogs which may introduce you to other routes and lead you to areas or poeple with a common interest and on it goes.

This is the social web which – remember – is just a diary.

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Simple innit?

I often think there must be a group of “management consultants” who spend their days sitting around under the palm trees on beaches in California, smoking pot and hoping for the next Eureka moment to arrive.

“Fuckin’ hey!”


“What we need man, is to get people thinking outside the box, pushing the envelope, squaring the circle”

“That’s some deep blue sky shit dude”

Where else could those phrases (and many others) come from?

What do they mean?

Does anybody actually know?

So I was surprised when I found this video recently which was a bit of an eye opener for me.

So after watching a colleague struggle to arrange the furniture to accommodate his guests in a small meeting room the other day, I drew it on the whiteboard. As he’s quite a bright fella I did expect him to work out the solution quite quickly. I was quite pleased – and it has to be said a little smug – when he didn’t as  I was hoping the revelation would strengthen the impact of the message.

Upon revealing the solution to him I asked:

“So how does that help you with your problem?”

“I’ll move the table out of the room,  we won’t need it anyway” he replied.

Sometimes the simple solution is the most effective but also the most elusive.

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ideAS Ideas idEas

Sorry if you’ve heard this before but it’s a theme that I’m trying to develop after a conversation with an inspiring, creative  friend.

In the current economic environment and public sector overhaul, what we need now, more than ever before, are ideas. We have technology. We have the knowledge to use it. We need ideas.

How can we make best use of our knowledge and the technologies avialable to us today to provide better more efficient services? Ideas seldom come from people trying to get the job done, trying to meet targets, rushing around from one end of the day to the other. Ideas require creativity and creativity requires space to develop and grow.

How can we create this kind of environment in cultures where sitting and thinking, allowing your mind the space to wander, to create new ideas, is often not seen as providing value for money?

What would this environment look like?

I’m having a meeting with someone under a desk next week 🙂

We need to learn more about the creative process and begin to allow people the freedom to explore it and play with it.

Several years ago I saw a documentary about Zen Buddhism. A group of people were meditating in a temple. After a period of time the Zen Master crept into the temple and struck one of the meditators across the back with a leather strap. This shock was designed to instantly switch the meditator from one form of consciousness to another and was said to help break habitual thought patterns. Now I’m not suggesting that we go around flaying ideas out of each other but I strikes me (see what I did there :-)) that switching consciousness, breaking free from habitual thought patterns, turning things on their head, approaching things from a different perspective is essential if we are to develop new and exciting ideas.

Ideas are valuable and the good thing is, anyone can have ’em.

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