Category Archives: Uncategorized

Better plumbing at No. 10

26072008959The backlash against the new site from the Prime Minister’s Office has begun. Neil McIntosh just popped up in my feed reader tearing it apart for limiting conversation and some poor planning/research around the branding of the video channel. And then Tosh minor chimes in on twitter: “@DowningStreet – turn on your comments”

In my view, what’s happening here is that we’ve got some better plumbing installed, and while that in itself does a little to raise the quality of the drinking water, there’s so much more to be done and part of that is recognising that plumbing isn’t just about delivering water, it’s about providing a circulatory system to support and enhance something that’s going on already.

I’m not certain that just turning the comments on is the way to go, immediately. Of course it would be great to open up the conversation online but I do think the whole thing is still too fragile to withstand the shenanigans of people like this.

The work now should be to build some more solid two-way relationships between No. 10, online journalists and bloggers. My first question would be why press people like Neil haven’t been more intimately involved in the project already. Many people are still impressed when the guys on the @downingstreet twitter feed reply directly to questions and comments. When Obama was here and I was hanging around outside, I had a significantly different experience simply because we had a feed coming from inside and questions were answered in real time. Yes, our government departments are too opaque, but from where I’m sitting, I see much greater will to move towards real transparency than we’ve had in the past. This is a small enabling step towards it – let’s support it rather than knock it down straight away.

We don’t have to write anything

more journo's than puntersI was going to write something long and thoughtful about PR & Bloggers last week but got caught up in the Underground Busking debacle instead.

Meanwhile Véro kicked something off that James and Jonathan are running with. So there’s less I want to say that hasn’t already been said. And now it comes down to this thing about PR’s thinking that bloggers are just like print journalists – we’re not – well in some ways we are, but in many others we’re not, particularly for the reason stated above – I don’t have to ever write anything at all again on this blog if I don’t want to – I write to please myself and my friends, I don’t *have* any deadlines or quotas (of course sometimes I’m paid for a quota of stuff, but that’s different) and nobody sits between me and pressing (or not pressing) the button marked publish.

I’m not sitting here, thinking “I wonder what I can write by the end of today to fill that quarter page” I’m actually thinking “How can I find enough time to write about all the things I’m excited about”. So rather than helping me out – these PR e-mails always have the air that we should be grateful to get this “scoop” – you’re actually making my life more difficult by using up my time working out whether there’s something interesting in what your saying or not.

Note – and this may also be a sticking point – that we are not all the same. At times, I blog for different reasons and have different needs from someone like Ewan but I agree and understand entirely where he’s coming from here. And… I am not averse to being approached to talk about stuff that I find interesting – it’s the assumption that if we talk and you give me something then I’ll be your dog that I find a turn-off in a Coatesian sort of way.

Y’see it’s complicated.

(*ahem* – just going to tweet that I’d written this and saw @darika wanting less PR bashing – so I’d like to point out that funnily enough, not all PR’s are the same either – there are one’s that get it quite well and those that don’t – this post is directed to those that don’t…)

Tim Berners-Lee at NESTA on the Future of the Web

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NESTA keep setting them up and we keep falling for them.

This evening Tim Berners-Lee, y’know, clever chappy – invented this web thing that I’m using to write to you, got the Order of Merit no less, was speaking on the Future of the Web and in particular his Web Science Research Initiative – trying to get us to understand the web as it is and where it’s going in order to help make it better.

Lovely, humble, articulate man. I’d love to write more about what he had to say but we didn’t hear nearly enough of him – the soundbites you can find on twitter weren’t edited very much. In an evening overflowing with irony, I was particularly struck that a man who allowed millions to gain a public voice by creating a system with a minimal number of rules and prescribed behaviours was almost silenced by a format that called for:

  • a clear separation between the panel and the audience;
  • people speaking in strictly managed order;
  • the contribution of audience members constrained to asking questions;
  • questions collected in threes, then divided between the panel members by the chair;
  • arbitrary precedence given to people on twitter over people actually in the room.

I have questions, but more than three.
“What mysterious hold does Charlie Leadbeater have over Jonathan Kestenbaum?”,
“Did you think that we’d get bored by only having Tim to listen to?”
“Or perhaps that he doesn’t have the stamina to carry a whole hour’s session by himself?”
“Are you familiar with the phrase ‘gilding a lily’?”
“Were the people in the reserved seats on the front row because they *really* don’t know anything about this stuff and need to be able to hear every word?”
“How can we take you seriously on innovation when you continue to repeat the same tired event format?”
“If I don’t like these things so much, then why do I keep going?”

[UPDATE: thank you NESTA for splitting the video up so that people can just play the Berners-Lee segment – anyone who wants to judge for themselves whether I was just getting my knickers in a twist about nothing should take a look at the panel session

Potential

Another day another mind-blowing conference – today it’s 2gether08 which feels a bit like I imagine it is to crawl around inside Steve Moore’s head. Hundreds of gobsmackingly smart folk talking big, talking social, talking good.

I’m thinking again about the potential for action that this sort of event creates. Loads and loads of people, talking big ideas, connecting disparate subjects and disciplines, talking about what they’ve done, what they’re doing, what they’d like to do. Ooooh yes, let’s do that, let’s do this, oh my god, can you imagine if we did that? Let’s talk about it, let’s make it happen.

It’s something that happens every week at the Tuttle Club. People get enthused about an idea or another person or their work and they talk animatedly about what they might do and how they might collaborate. A small number of those collaborations actually have come quickly to fruition. Sometimes this is because they’re at the level of “hey! what if we could mash up flickr and google maps and ‘ta-dah’ – you know” ie it’s not really a new idea, just new to the people involved. Other times it’s more about already busy people having great ideas bu they don’t have time, or money, or time to generate the money to do it.

However, it is a weekly experience for me and I’m getting used to seeing the realisation of awesome potential and the later associated deflation. That’s in a group of 30 or so people. So it’s not surprising that we get it in spades at conferences like today.

So. Much. Potential.

I feel it physically. It’s painful. I think sometimes it’s the thing that winds me up most about events – the raising of potential and the lack of resolution. I know I’m going to feel it again tomorrow. The only answer I have by the way is something Umair Haque said this morning: “Organise something” Y’know like “just do it” but no, really do it.

Irony Alert: this post lacks a real resolution

(and I’m cross-posting to the 2gether blog)

How many CCTV cameras per person?

One of the factoids that’s been repeated again and again in the recent civil rights car crash is that there is at least one CCTV camera for every 14 people in the UK. This from the wikipedia page on CCTV

“The exact number of CCTV cameras in the UK is not known but a 2002 working paper by Michael McCahill and Clive Norris of UrbanEye[5], based on a small sample in Putney High Street, estimated the number of surveillance cameras in private premises in London is around 500,000 and the total number of cameras in the UK is around 4,200,000. The UK has one camera for every 14 people.”

Can we do better than this? We don’t have to limit ourselves to a “small sample in Putney High Street” – Has anyone created an interactive map where you can submit known public and private CCTV sites? I think it would show large areas that are not covered by CCTV and many areas that are completely over-saturated.

Would knowing a more accurate number change anything? Would knowing that there’s actually one camera for every 7 people mean that we had any more power to stop the things being put there in the first place? I’d be interested to see what the tipping point is before we get so fed up that we start using paintball guns on the High St like Bernard Cribbins facing a dalek.