6 things thinks I learnt from BarCampUKGovWeb

I'm on the train back to Leicester after the first BarCampUKGovWeb and thought I should get down in blog form some of my early reflections.

6 Things I leant from BarCampUKGovWeb

  • We need to talk (and commission technology?) in terms of narratives and stories of user experience: What do we want to do for people? Unless I can describe in technology neutral terms what it is I want to do, and unless I can explain a) exactly how technology will help me do that, and b) why a technological solution is preferable over any other form of solution – I'm probably not going to end up with the technology that fits my needs. Stories are powerful. And we should be using them more.
  • We as citizens need to demand open data from Government: next time a government consultation asks me what would make youth services work better, or consultation work better, or government in general work better – I need to ask for open data; for web service APIs to direct gov; and for the right for committed citizens to innovate with public data – because I need to give my support to the committed and talented civil servants who can make that happen – but who won't be able to without the top down pressure from political masters and management.
  • This isn't simple. It's not about 'setting all the data free', or 'locking all the data down'. It's about deciding which data we should set free. Which information should be shared. Which contexts civil servants should be empowered to speak in, and what contexts they should be silent servants of the political system in. Choosing what government should do in the online space involves many complex decisions. But then so does deciding what government should do in the physical space. Why should I expect anything different?
  • There is amazing innovation and progress taking place in Government against the odds, but the stories of change are not always being shared – for example, UK legislation online has gone from being published with horrendous and unparsable HTML 3.1 markup to being published with very nifty semantic XHTML, but BarCampUKGovWeb was the first time that the story of how that happened was widely (?) shared. We need to share stories of change to inspire and encourage government webbies to create the amazing changes they would really like to be creating anyway.
  • We need to be thinking about content strategies, not web strategies. Citizens want information. Government wants to get content to citizens. Websites are only one platform. And platforms are just a small part of the process.
  • Self-organised conferences work – ok, only 50% of the session may really work for you. But compared to the 10% or 5% of sessions that really do the business at a conventional pre-planned conference, BarCamp is worth the (very well organised) chaos.

If you were at BarCampUKGovWeb what were 5 of the things you learnt today?

BTW: Many thanks to Jermy Gould and all others who make BarCampUKGovWeb happen.

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