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Stephen HaleHead of Engagement, Digital Diplomacy, London
I'm ashamed to say that I wasn't at the annual UK government web barcamp
on Saturday. But my colleague Shane Dillon was there, representing the
Foreign Office. This is Shane's account of the day and the sessions he
took part in:
Barcamp or should it be called #UKGC09? Such is the influence of Twitter on this event that by midday #UKGC09 was appearing on Twitters trending topics. Will a day come when an event can dispense with an official title and just go with their proposed Twitter hashtag?
Twitter was the subject of a lively talk which drew together three perspectives on how to use Twitter in a corporate environment. The three Twitties (and not in follower number order) were Communities UK , No 10 and Foreign Office.
The talk raised some interesting topics; one I found interesting was the importance of voice for a Twitter channel. Can a corporate Twitter find a voice? By devolving your Twitter channel to other teams in your organisation you can generate more varied content to tweet. But do you need an editorial voice that receives content and then tweets this in a unique and consistent voice?
A interesting debate developed around whether a corporate Twitter merely broadcasts to an audience instead of building a relationship. Of course, building relationships, following, tweeting and retweeting takes a lot more effort than just using Twitter to broadcast messages.
What was refreshing was how we each came to use Twitter, not via some grand strategy but as an experiment. Having done the experiment, where to now? Well I sensed a feeling that government can be more ambitious with their use of Twitter. What is refreshing is that Twitter is no longer a nerdy exotic, but a tool to be considered alongside macro blogs and other engagement tools - an important part of the digital engagement jigsaw.
From micro blogs to macro blogs: Julia from DFID gave a great talk about her experience of government blogging, and she kindly allowed me to speak a bit about our FCO blogs. Government blogging is thankfully not a uniform effort. Each blog is distinctive, with its own style and audience. But DFID and FCO did coordinate our blogging efforts last year in support of Blog Action Day. There must be other opportunities to coordinate government blogs around a common cause (and not just in central government - some of the most interesting work on digital engagement is coming our of local government (eg Kent and Coventry )
My favourite talk though was that given by Tim Hood from Yoosk which allows users to post questions to politicians and public figures. These are ranked by users and answers are delivered back on Yoosk. Does this bring politicians closer to the people? Does it give a sense or deliver real participation? The documentary Us Now reflects well on this issue. While Yoosk allows users to rank questions Help a London Park allows users to vote online to choose which parks get a makeover. Democracy brought closer to the people or decisions made by the wisdom of one particular crowd?
Barcamp 09 was a good meeting point of ideas and great for networking. The format makes it impossible to do everything but the conversation continues. I don't plan to wait until Barcamp 2010 to continue the conversation.