Tag Archives: unconference

HASLibCamp

I remember fondly my first unconference, UKLocalGovCamp, in Birmingham in 2009. It really was life-changing for me; the way it opened my eyes to the possibilities of disruptive innovation was the catalyst for me eventually becoming a freelancer. I made many long-standing friends, makers and activists inside and outside local government, there, too.

Since then I’ve attended many more, and have run or facilitated a good number of unconferences, and unconference-style sessions within more traditional types of events. If I say so myself, it’s something I’m good at, and I certainly enjoy it.

So I was pleased, last Saturday, to be able to spend the day in London to attend, and help to facilitate, HASLibCamp, an unconference for librarians in the field of Health and Science. That’s a relatively narrow focus, and so the event wasn’t as big as some I’ve been to, but in no way did that diminish the quality of the sessions, nor the participants’ enthusiasm.

After housekeeping and introductions on behalf of our host, the Department of Library & Information Science at London City University (CityLIS), I asked for a few shows-of-hands, and quickly determined that we had been joined by academic, commercial, hospital and public librarians, and archivists, as well as some student librarians.

I then explained how unconferences work, and invited any of them who wanted to, to give a thirty-second “pitch” for a session in which they wanted to participate, or a topic they wished to discuss.

Luckily, we had just the right number of pitches for the rooms and timeslots available, leaving two gaps after lunch, which were filled during the day with follow-up sessions. A “chill out” room was also avaialable, as was space for ad-hoc discussions and meetings.


whiteboard with list of sessions, in timetable format

The pitched sessions.

I pitched two sessions, one on ORCID identifiers (what they are, and how librarians can help to embed them in their organisations), and another – in response to a request received before the event – on Wikipedia, Wikidata and my work as a Wikimedian in Residence.

I also attended a session on what public libraries might learn about giving healthcare information, from academic libraries. Several resources were mentioned and are linked in the Storify reporting (see below). My final session was billed as being about understanding customer needs, and took the form of a lateral-thinking exercise.

Here’s a brief roundup of coverage elsewhere:

I’m grateful to the Consortium of Independent Health Libraries in London (CHILL) for sponsoring my attendance at the event (a condition of which was that this blog post be written).

Open Up Your Content – a piece written for Hyperlocal West Midlands

My friends Kate Sahota, Dan Slee and Simon Whitehouse, and Liz O’nions from our sponsors Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, and I ran the ‘Hyperlocal West Midlands‘ (‘HyperWM’) unconference today; the third of these annual events, for local government and other public sector workers, and hyperlocal bloggers interested in working with them. As usual, I got to be compère, a role which I greatly enjoy.

It was great to see many old friends, even though the opportunity to chat to them was of necessity limited.

For the event, we produced a newspaper. Yes, a real newspaper, made from dead trees. The idea was to give some information to the many attendees who are not yet fully engaged with the digital world.

Two of my articles were included, a shortened version of my blog post “Tips for Unconference newbies“, and the following, written specially, and reproduced here in its original form, before Dan got his sub-editing mitts on it, and with added links:

Open Up Your Content

No doubt you’ve heard a lot about open data (and if you haven’t, you soon will do). But what about “open content”? And what is open content?

The commonly accepted definition refers to content (text, images, audio or video) which may be used by anyone, freely (free as in speech, and as in beer), under what is known as an open licence. The “four Rs” apply: people should be able to Reuse, Revise, Remix (combine with other content) and Redistribute (give away or sell) the content. There may be a requirement to give attribution (in other words, you have to say who the author or owner of the content is) and an open licence does not negate moral rights (so you shouldn’t misrepresent the author or owner).

Open content sources include all of Wikipedia (except a few images, such as DVD covers), everything on Wikimedia Commons, many images on Flickr (check the individual licences, or use the “Creative Commons” option in their advanced search) and much, much more, and you can use any of that, on your website and in your paper publications and reports. For free!

So how does open licensing work, in the public sector?

Suppose you’ve written an FAQ about food hygiene. If a blogger, or a neighbouring council or health authority, or suchlike, ask for permission to use some or all of it, you’d probably say “sure, just give us a mention”. If you receive a request for a photograph of your new chief executive from the same people, you’d probably provide them with one. You’d do that, even for a local newspaper which makes money by selling adverts, and by being sold in newsagents.

An open licence, such as one of those provided by Creative Commons as a set of boilerplate terms which you can use without paying a lawyer to write them, simply formalises such sensible responses.

Better still, you can apply an open licence in advance of receiving a request, or many such requests, thereby relieving you of a tiresome administrative burden.

If you have useful content (of course you do!), and you’re not going to sell it (of course you’re not!), make it available (on your website, or a third party one like Flickr or Wikimedia Commons), and let the community you serve and the world at large benefit from it. You might be surprised at the uses they put it to, and how you and your customers can benefit from them.

More from HyperWM

Licence

This post is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (3.0 Unported) licence. Attribution should include a link to the post, or, in print, the short URL http://wp.me/p10xWg-qV.

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 beta.gov.uk comes out of beta, and current .go.uk 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!

Tips for Unconference newbies

This post was renamed from ‘Tips for LocalGovCamp newbies‘ in April 2012, to make it more easily findable

I’m delighted to be going to LocalGovCamp on Saturday; my second event of that title and one of many unconferences I’ve attended in recent years. I hope to see you there.

Coral Musgrove asked me, on Twitter, for advice for unconference newbies.

I’ve come up with the following, which apply equally to any unconference:

  • Don’t expect to be able to go to every session. Sessions are run in parallel, and though a few may be repeated, most aren’t. So if you want to go to two that are happening at the same time, buddy up with someone with the same desire, and agree to go to one each then share your learning. Also…
  • Follow the event’s tag/ hashtag (e.g. #LocalGovCamp) on Twitter, , on SlideShare and on Delicious [Update: Delicious became awful when it relaunched, I now use Pinboard]. (The same applies if you don’t have a ticket for the event — better luck next time!) The sessions you couldn’t attend (and those you did) will most likely be blogged about, by the presenter or attendees. Which leads to…
  • Be prepared to blog about the event yourself, in the following day or two and…
  • If you can, tweet about the event while it happens, and at the same time…
  • Ask questions. Unconference sessions are conversations, not lectures. And if you can…
  • Speak about your own experiences and knowledge, chip in, and share what you have. Unconferences (unlike most traditional conferences) are for sharing.
  • Evangelise about the event when you get back to work…
  • Get your colleagues, and bosses, to read the most relevant blog posts.
  • Find about similar events near to you. If there are none…
  • Think about running your own unconference, or a smaller event, or even a social media surgery. Others will help you!

But most of all have fun! You’re probably attending the unconference in your own time; and it’s a social event as much as it is about work.

Please add any other tips in the comments, below.

Wi-Fi checklist for unconference or hack-day organisers

Do you want to see your event branded a #WiFi #FAIL on Twitter?

In the last couple of years, I’ve been to or worked at a lot of unconferences, hack-days, social media cafes, social media surgeries, “tweet-ups” and similar events. I’ve had great fun, speaking at several, organising HyperWM & BrewCamp and facilitating ShropCamp. Unfortunately, at some of the events I’ve attended, the provision of Wi-Fi has been, shall we say, problematic. By which I mean awful. That’s frustrating for attendees and a right pain in the proverbial for those seen as responsible.

Frustration (was: threesixtyfive | day 244)

For some reason, the public sector (with honourable exceptions) don’t seem as capable of providing usable Wi-Fi as the private sector. If small independent coffee shops can get this right, then councils and colleges should be able to.

So here, for people organising hack-days, unconferences, and similar happenings, is a Wi-Fi checklist, based on the problems I’ve encountered as an event organiser and as a participant:

wifi

  • Make sure the staff at the venue know in advance that you will be needing Wi-Fi, and that your event depends on it working properly. If you’re paying for the venue, make it part of the deal, and have your requirements, in writing, signed off.
  • Check that the Wi-Fi is secure. If it isn’t, will your audience be prepared to use it? Will you?
  • Make sure your contact at the venue knows how the Wi-Fi works, what passwords are required and whether guest accounts need to be set up, and what the passwords and account IDs are.
  • Explain that your audience will need access to sites the venue may have blocked, such as Twitter, You Tube, WordPress.com, Google Docs and so on. And yes, I’ve known public sector organisations where all of those were blocked.
  • Before the event, test the Wi-Fi yourself, making sure you visit such sites.
  • Test the Wi-Fi on multiple devices, including non-Windows laptops and smart phones — one venue I visited had Wi-Fi that would only work on Windows devices.
  • If you’re providing each participant with a guest account, make sure it will work on multiple devices simultaneously; or provide spare accounts. I went to one event where I needed to use two devices, but my guest account would only support a single log-in.
  • Check that the Wi-Fi works where you will be meeting, including any breakout rooms — I’ve been to one event where people wanting to use Wi-Fi had to leave the meeting room and work in a stairwell.
  • Check the bandwidth. 4Mbps download and 500 Kbps upload may be adequate at home, but with dozens of people downloading — and hopefully uploading media —  at once, it will soon start to feel like a dial-up connection.
  • Know who to contact, and where to get hold of them, if the Wi-Fi goes down during the event. Make sure they don’t plan to be away for part of the day, and get a second contact if you can.
  • Have a 3G dongle on hand, equally tested (can you get a signal in your rural basement meeting room?), for any live presentations.
  • Plan how you will run things if the Wi-Fi (or the dongle) does die. Have archived copies of any websites you want to demonstrate, or video of live interactions, on a local hard drive. Have a spare speaker in the room, or a later speaker prepared to move up the running order at short notice (or at least learn some good jokes), in case a planned video-conference speaker disappears into the ether.
  • Provide ample power sockets and extension leads. It’s no use having Wi-Fi if people’s devices are dead by mid-afternoon.
  • On the day of the event, arrive in ample time and check that the Wi-Fi is on and working properly.
  • Relax and enjoy your event!

What other Wi-Fi related tips do you suggest?

One of the things I’ll be doing as part of my new freelance career is helping organisations to plan and run events; and live-blogging them. How can I help with yours?

My name is Andy Mabbett, and I’m a Hyperlocal blogger

Recently, I’ve been increasingly interested in the phenomenon of ‘hyperlocal’ blogging: blogs about a particular area or locality (or, in one of my favourite and rather extreme cases, a single square metre).

Some fantastic work has been done by my friends at Talk About Local, whose site will tell you all you could ever need to know about about hyperlocal blogs.

For a long time, I’ve been contributing to the debate about how hyperlocal blogs might evolve, for example organising events such as the Hyperlocal Govcamp West Midlands (aka ) unconference, the first such event to introduce hyperlocal bloggers to local government web folk and other public sector people. I’ve also attended others, like the excellent TAL11 in Cardiff. I’ve also taught hyperlocal bloggers to use WordPress and other tools, at Social Media Surgeries. My hyperlocal activity even pre-dates blogging — I was the instigator and founder of the Usenet discussion newsgroup uk.local.birmingham, in 1998.

Having talked the talk for so long, I’ve finally decided to walk the walk, and am now a contributor to my local blog, The B44 (B44 is the postcode for where I live, covering parts of the Great Barr and Kingstanding parts of north Birmingham).

My first post there is on the subject of . That and future posts will appear under the “My comment elsewhere” section of this blog.

I’m grateful to the site’s founder, , for the opportunity to participate.