Category Archives: tagging

Bullet points from UK Govcamp 2012

I spent Friday and Saturday at UKGovCamp2012, a splendid unconference, in London, for people interested in the use of digital technologies in local and national government. Or “Glasto for Geeks” as it has famously been described. My friend and fellow attendee Dan Slee has suggested that we all blog a list of 20 thoughts we brought away from the event. I’m happy to oblige.

Steph Gray planning sessions at UKGovCamp 2012. Picture by David J Pearson; some rights reserved.

  1. Our national and London rail systems are overpriced, and the former’s ticketing is ridiculously over-complicated.
  2. It’s a good idea to walk (or cycle) through London, rather then getting the tube. You’ll see great architecture and public art, and get a better impression of how the various districts are laid out. But wear sensible shoes.
  3. Geeks do have great senses of humour. Especially those at our generous hosts and butt of jokes, Microsoft.
  4. There is still a lot of uncertainty about Open Data — what’s it for, what do we want, how should we use it. This is good, because — despite some valid concerns about the centralisation of innovation more generally — there is still room for us to innovate with Open Data.
  5. There are a lot of Brompton bikes in London. I’m determined to take mine on a future trip.
  6. We need better systems in place for using social media in responding to emergency situations. Expect some exciting news about a new project I and some fellow attendees are planning, soon.
  7. Anke Holst does not appear old enough to have a teenage child.
  8. When comes out of beta, and current domains are “retired”, it’s really, really important that existing links to them, from external sites, still work. And by work, I mean go to relevant content, not a home page. As a very wise man once said, “Cool URIs don’t change“.
  9. It’s possible to spend one or two days at an event with good friends, and still fail to manage to say hello to them. Apologies if that’s you.
  10. Open Data and Freedom of Information are the two are opposite sides of the same coin. If an organisation has people responsible for Open Data and FoI and those people are not either the same, or closely linked, then that organisation has a problem.
  11. Terence Eden is not only (with ) a generous host, but also an impressively entertaining speaker. If his day job fails (it won’t) he has a viable alternative career in stand-up observational comedy. I went to his QR code session not only to learn, but to enjoy.
  12. If you ask them, people who share will kindly change their settings, so others can tag them.
  13. If you put three expert™ Wikipedia editors together in a room you will get at least four interpretations of the Conflict of Interest policy.
  14. Twitter still rocks. Its so ubiquitous (to us) that we forget that; and that some people still don’t get it.
  15. There are — contrary to popular perception — people working in Government who are keen to and do, make the images they produce available under open licences, so that others may reuse them. OpenAttribute may be useful to them.
  16. I want a Scottevest!
  17. People like having the #ukgc12 bookmarks curated on Pinboard.
  18. People recently turned, or thinking of becoming, freelance need more advice and help, and perhaps a support network.
  19. If our wonderful organisers Dave Briggs and Steph Gray are “the Lennon and McCartney of gov digital people”, who is going to be The Frog Chorus?
  20. Beer tastes even better when it’s free. Thank you, kind sponsors.

See you there next year!

HashMash: My invention of a new hashtag search tool

Yesterday, while reading through the for last Monday’s superb Twicket event (for background, read the , which I wrote), I started to notice that other hashtags had been used in tweets discussing it. I started to wonder which had been used the most, and what subjects they were about, and this gave me an idea, which I posted to Twitter:

Sadly, my coding days were so long ago that I no longer have the technical skills to make that happen.

Top tag is #digitalbritain, followed by #welovebrenda

Tags tweeted alongside #twicket

Then Rachel Beer () kindly retweeted my comment, and one of her followers, Simon Painter (), immediately responded that it was was something he could do. That evening, he already had a first daft up-and-running, and the tool, which I named “HashMash”, is now available for public use at . He’s done a superb job, it works just how I imagined it would. (Nonetheless, Simon tells me that he plans to make a jquery version and beautify it).

He kindly credited Rachel and me in the footer, so I recoded the footer to include links, and “tag” , and popped my amendments to Simon’s markup onto the very useful PasteBin website, which has syntax highlighting.

Just one minute later, Simon had uploaded my new markup.

Footer includes links to Andy Mabbett's and Rachel Beer's websites and Twitter accounts

The revised HashMash footer

Bearing in mind that Simon and I have never met, had never corresponded, and weren’t even following each other on Twitter until this happened, this has been a first-class example of the power of social media, and the JFDI approach to getting stuff done. In many large organisations, the first meeting about a project initiation document wouldn’t even be scheduled.

Why not ? Let me know what you think.

Simon and Rachel: Thank you. I owe you both a beer!

Footnote: Simon has the best Twitter disclaimer ever.

Update: Simon has written a .

Update 2: Following design changes, my “footer” markup is now at the top of the page!

Do you make comments on others’ blogs? Bookmark and share them!

You may notice (on the right hand side of this site, if you use the default view; or see image below), a list headed “My comments elsewhere”, with links to other people’s blog posts, on which I’ve recently commented.

List of the five last posts on which I commented, each linked to the post concerned

Screen shot of my recent comments, at the time of writing

I’ve been asked how I do this.

Every time I comment on a blog post — and I try to do so often, both to show my interest in others’ work, and to be part of their conversations — I bookmark that post on the site Delicious Pinboard, and tag it “comment”.

I then pass the RSS feed of all my bookmarks with that tag: to WordPress (the software I use to author and host this blog), which magically displays a list of the most recent five, as you can see.

The full feed is, of course, also available to anyone who wishes to subscribe to it in the feed reader of their choice; and my tagged comments can also be read as a web page.

In this way, as well as telling my readers what I’ve done, I bring extra attention to the blogs I comment on, thereby helping, albeit in a small way, their authors.

Why not bookmark your comments, and put a feed of them on your own blog?

Update: Delicious became awful when it relaunched, I now use Pinboard.

Update: You can also use this technique to add the list of your comments (specifically, the relevant URL on the bookmarking site) as a “work”, in your profile page on services which list your publications, such as ORCID.

This weekend was indistinguishable from magic

Today, I updated someone else’s website, with one button-press on my Nokia N95 mobile phone.

The button-press was all that was need, using the lovely Dabr web interface for Twitter, to favourite a tweet about an excellent event I attended yesterday, UK GovCamp 2011.

That tweet contained a URL, and a . monitors the tweets I favourite, as well as everything I tweet or re-tweet, for both links and hashtags, and saves the URLs, duly tagged, to Delicious.

Delicious then produces an RSS feed for (as they do with every tag).

Steph Gray (@lesteph) has done an excellent job, using Commentariat2 and WordPress to make the conversation aggregator (a “buzz” page) for UK GovCamp 2011, and has kindly accepted my suggestion to include the Delicious RSS feed for the event’s hashtag.

And so the link in the tweet I favourited appeared on the “buzz” page of the UK GovCamp 2011 website.

All because I made a single button-press on a device little bigger than a matchbox.

To quote the already over-quoted Arthur C Clarke‘s ‘Third Law‘:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic

Thirty-five years after I first (at a very youthful age!) used a computer, and seventeen years after I first used the web, I’m still excited by them. I wonder where they’ll take us next?

The event was indistinguishable from magic, too. The links above will show you why.

A proposed tag for including Wikipedia links in Twitter posts

I’ve had another idea!

I saw Matthew Somerville () tweet:

Reading about and bees

and it occurred to me, both that a fantastically high number of Wikipedia links are tweeted, and that Wikipedia URLs are relatively long. This latter fact might have been significant, if Matthew had needed to say a few more words, or was talking about something with a longer name. He could have shortened his link, using, say,, but then he’d have had to repeat the stem:

Reading about Clothianidin and bees

which is hardly shorter, and disrupts the flow.

What if we agreed a special tag, say W# or w:, used like this:

Reading about w:Clothianidin and bees

and Twitter clients automatically swapped that for a Wikipedia link:

Reading about Clothianidin and bees


Twitter clients could allow users to set their preferred language-version of Wikipedia, and perhaps find the relevant translations of articles (which Wikipedia could better facilitate, using rel=alternate headers), authors could also specify a language, such as w:fr:brie or w:de:München

Machine Tagging Flickr

I’ve posted some more thoughts on machine- (or triple-) tags and microformats on Flickr, in their Flickr Ideas group.

Update: There is now a tool to automatically generate tags for Flickr images of living things; iNaturalist tagger.