Category: Experiences

Last week I participated in the only UK instance of the Global GovJam. The group I was in made a prototype “Bridge of Fear” to help people come to a better understanding of their own fears. More on that anon. Since this is the first time I’ve attended a service design jam I wanted to share some of my impressions and thoughts, in no particular order.

  1. Jams reward teamwork over awesomeness.
  2. People love to talk and give their opinions. Jamming, however, requires we curtail that habit and build a model of some kind of something instead. It took me 44 of the 48 hours on offer to arrive at this understanding. The last 4 hours were very productive.
  3. Having fun is a serious business. Our facilitators were very skilled at knowing when and how to intervene.
  4. It was tiring. Next time I will not get up, do 1hr college coursework, then go to the office and spend 1.5hrs processing email before finally going to the jam. It needs your full attention and high levels of energy.
  5. We produced a number of artifacts and I think they vary in their value. Some are going to be useful if/when we take the idea to the next level of production. Others are just shiny ways to show off the idea. Unless (most probably) I’m missing the point again.
  6. There were some similarities with the Launch48 weekend I attended earlier this year, as well as Hackathons. I’m wondering if a combination of the three could get a product actually out in the market in, say, 144 hrs. It would be grossly awesome.
  7. I tend to work independently. This is a problem for me and I got grumpy at my team mates quite quickly when I didn’t get my way. I’ll need to do something about that if I want to work in any kind of team again.
  8. It was great fun and I learned a lot about myself.
  9. Will our Bridge of Fear idea take off? Not in its current form. But that’s ok.
  10. I now want to seek out more jams and participate in them until I get good at it.

My friends Carl Haggerty and Lucy Knight have also both blogged about the experience. They turned their blog posts around faster which means they win.


Two conferences

Last week I attended two conferences. This in itself is unusual for me as my office workload (and meeting schedule) don’t often allow me to get out, and the cost of many good conferences is prohibitive. So going to conferences is rare unless there are bonus items involved, or if the conference is local.

On Thursday I attended “Efficient ICT” which was organised and run by Gov.NET and was staged at the Queen Elizabeth II centre in the middle of London. We heard from the CIO and Deputy CIO of HMRC, the folks running the Kent PSN, the main sponsors and a raft of seminars from people such as Ubuntu, Suse, HP/Autonomy, and lots more.

This event followed a now quite standard design pattern: the main lobby is full of sponsors’ stands and you have to go through it to get anywhere or to get coffee. You are herded back and forth between pre-planned sessions designed to maximise the time you spend with suppliers.

And the main presentations? Well, the guy behind me fell asleep and started snoring. He had the right idea. I have no clue how people get to the top of public sector ICT (both on the supply and the demand side) without being able to deliver a passionate, lively presentation. Dull, monochrome stuff and mostly missing the point from where I am sitting (more on that in another post, hopefully).

This event was free, thankfully, and I am fortunate in that I have some good friends in central London who kindly put me up for the night so the impact on the public purse was limited to an advance train ticket and my time. I also took the opportunity to meet up with some interesting people who are London-based: I would have had more value from just spending the day in and around central London just going to see different people and buying them coffee. Next time that is what I will do instead!

On Friday I was back in Devon for Open Space South West which was hosted by my employer and organised by my friend and colleague Carl Haggerty.

There were sponsors and one or two of them spoke, but there was no selling opportunity for them. The event had low overheads. All the breakout sessions were devised on the day by attendees. And all the programme speakers were up for it – passionate, lively, prepared. They had all done their homework specifically for the event, from Redfront’s ad-hoc research about what people wanted from public services all the way through to RIPFA’s analysis of the audience.

Technical problems meant one presenter couldn’t use the presentation she had prepared so she did it – without missing a beat – from memory. The whole thing just had a level of energy about it that had been completely missing the previous day.

So what am I saying? There seems to be an inverse relationship between quality and money, which is not directly causal. Events put on by the sector, for the sector, work better than events put on by, and for, people selling to the sector.

And hierarchy has a tendency to converge on mediocrity. That is all.

Just over 3 years ago I was appointed to a position in my organisation called Enterprise Architect.  Naturally I researched the job before I interviewed for it, read the 50-page job description (I kid you not), bought a couple of books and read a metric shedload of internet articles and (since we were a client at that time) Gartner documentation.

I got a vague impression from all this that Enterprise Architecture was something that bridged the divide between business and technical people, that it was involved heavily with strategy, that there were a number of different competing frameworks involved, and that there was a high level of debate amongst practitioners with some people claiming to be the only ones in possession of  the One True Way of doing things.

In other words, par for the course. I had graduated through relentless discussions about what was really free software and what wasn’t, and I think I could cope with a few internet trolls. And surely as the discipline moved forward we would sort some of these issues out?

Seemingly not. And three years on from those heady days, the “enterprise architecture” team that I spent so long helping to try to form and drive forward along lines roughly similar to others in the industry and – most crucially – in a way that actually added value to my employer, is being de-scoped and effectively disbanded.

Initially this news was devastating to me, as I felt we were just about starting to get somewhere. But now I’ve just about settled with it and I’m starting to learn some lessons. Well, just one lesson really: and it’s one that I’m sure every enterprise architect, enterprise IT architect, technical architect or indeed anyone with an analytical nature who wants to succeed might do well to take on board: it doesn’t matter how clever you are.

We started strongly and soon had a very elegant programme for exploiting the organisation’s resources to drive higher productivity, better outcomes and lower costs. But no-one was interested. I now believe this wasn’t because people disagreed with it, it was because people didn’t understand it. And I think that has more to do with demographics than anything: there are still a large number of people at or near the tops of big organisations that have a blind spot when it comes to anything new: they can’t cope with big paradigm shifts and clever methods changing the way business is done.

So here are my four tips to anyone who calls themselves an Enterprise Architect:

1) By all means do the clever stuff. Analyse the current and future states of your organisation in its environment as well as you can. Use an expensive modelling tool or proprietary architecture framework if you must. But under no circumstances should anyone find out about it. Keep it under your hat. This work is just to ensure you have a good understanding of what the organisation has and what it’s trying to do so you don’t suggest anything stupid.

2) Break up the programme for reaching the future state into small chunks. And then break it up again. Projects that cost less than £100K at the very biggest. Less than £10k is ideal. Mainly though, they must be simple in concept and non-threatening in appearance. You aren’t re-engineering your financial payment processes: you are simply linking the website to your payments system. Because it makes common sense.

3) Build a business case for each project separately and gain business sponsorship, then get them through.  Sugar-coat each project with all the benefits you can find. Invest time and resources, if you have them, in ensuring they deliver what they say they will. Do the small stuff. Help people on the ground to implement and don’t compromise on quality.

4) Be clear about the services you provide. This is about how you work with people and the channels you use for delivering value: consulting on projects, providing and customising models, participating in governance and assurance, educating people about new developments, and doing research.

As for me, whatever role I find myself in in future, I think I’ll always be an enterprise architect. Even if I stay in IT I’ll still use these models and think this way.

Even if no-one I work with ever gets to hear about it.

A month of Sundays

In my household Sundays have tended to fall into a pattern: we wake late (some later than others), have a leisurely breakfast, do the housework, have a leisurely lunch, then drive out to one of the beautiful places near me and walk, chill out and take photographs, all the while letting the munificence of nature stroke our stressed-out brains.

Not very exciting, perhaps. Almost certainly not exciting enough for some of my readers. But it’s what we do.

The last four weeks, however, have seen this pattern repeated, but on a daily basis, as we toured New Zealand in what turned out to be a very small campervan. I didn’t keep a diary during this time as there wasn’t time or space to write. So I’m just jotting down here what we did on each day to remind me for when I get it together to upload photos and suchlike (at the time of writing I am still feeling quite dozy with jetlag).

Monday 21st Feb: Arrive Auckland 7am. Witnessed a road accident on way to hostel from airport. Spent day asleep and then had fish and chips, then slept again.

Tuesday 22nd Feb: picked up Nissan Vanette campervan from North Auckland. Decided to get as far from the city as possible so as to minimise the risk of becoming an accident statistic. Drove down SH1 and then a spectacular road up the west side of the Coromandel peninsula, booked into campsite. Saw the devastating news of Christchurch on the TV and started ocntacting people to let them know I was ok.

Wednesday 23rd Feb: Coromandel. I fell in love with Kiwi engineering and native Kiwi bush country on the Driving Creek railway. Then we drove East and camped in Whitianga.

Thursday 24th Feb: Whitianga – Hamilton. After a wander and leisurely breakfast we headed for Hamilton to see an old family friend. The drive went through some of the less interesting bits of Kiwi scenery: farmland, sheep, cows, abandoned farm machinery and vehicles on bricks. But I found our friend Joy Homewood easily enough and she was as lovely as I remembered from my childhood.

Friday 25th Feb: Hamilton and Waitomo. Joy drove us down to Waitomo to see the caves and we were guided through them by Maori. For a brief few moments, in a boat beneath a constellation of glowing insects, it was magical. Exit through the gift shop. Then we took Joy out to dinner at Genjy’s in Hamilton – a good fun place to eat. Good times.

Saturday 26th Feb: Hamilton – Rotorua – Tongariro. We reluctantly left Joy and headed to the volcanic centre of the North Island in Rotorua. A Maori guide explained some history and took us to see the most reliable geysers and boiling mud pools. Exit through the gift shop. Then a drive round the shores of the beautiful lake Taupo and an overnight at Tongariro Base Camp.

Sunday 27th Feb: Tongariro. This was my unfinished business. When I was 10, my family attempted to cross the Tongariro saddle but were turned back by bad weather. Today, we finally conquered the mountain. It was a tough walk amidst awesome scenery. I will never forget.

Monday 28th Feb: Tongariro – Napier. We were sore from walking so decided to head somewhere chilled out to cool off. Napier, famous for it’s Art Deco architecture, seemed suitably cultured so we set off from Tongariro Base camp, taking the Desert Highway before heading back round Lake Taupo and East to the coast. In the event, it was a long drive.

Tuesday 1st March: Napier. We spent most of the day doing chores, a bit of shopping, and exploring the town and observing the port from the hill. We also got some working internet and started booking some things up for the days ahead. Next time, I’ll do more planning up front.

Wednesday 2nd March: Napier – Martinborough. Our morning was spent taking a tractor trip out to see the gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers. The trip was good fun and we likes us some gannet, they are fine birds and the viewing positions were right up close. In the afternoon we headed South to wine country. New Zealand has lots of good wine and Martinborough is right in the centre of a great wine-growing area. I drink beer. I hate wine. Ho Hum. In the middle of the night I get out of the van to go to the loo, and the stars are out. I had no idea there were so many. I feel very small.

Thursday 3rd March: Crossing. Up very early to catch the ferry from Wellington over to the middle island on a perfect day for it. In fact the weather has been utterly glorious all the way so far with only the occasional shower at night. That is all set to change, however: we book into a campsite on Queen Charlotte Drive after watching a ray cruising around the bottom of the water nearby, and go to bed. In the night, the heavens open.

Friday 4th March: Picton – Farewell Spit. After a quick, rain-soaked breakfast, we headed west towards the far north-western corner of the middle island. The weather clears as we drive and in bright sunshine we reach the Farewell Spit in the late afternoon. On the far side is a beach that looks like the Skeleton Coast – all surf and sand dunes, and no-one about. Wild, sunny and raw. It’s unforgettable.

Saturday 5th March: Golden Bay. In the morning we visit the Farewell Spit again and spend some time watching for wildlife. There is surprisingly little. New Zealand seems to have lots of good habitat but not very much living in it. I don’t know why. There are a load of Pukeko and Jane spends some time trying to get good pictures.

Sunday 6th March: Abel Tasman. We leave our campsite early and drive West over the mountains to Marahau, where we book into a campsite and catch a water taxi a few miles up the coast. This National Park is spectacular with native bush, turquoise sea and golden sandy bays. We hike back to our campsite. The stars are out again that night.

Monday 7th March: The West Coast (1). A day’s drive to Westport and some more advance planning. The roads on the West of the island are spectacular and we pass through gorges and passes. The van is coping well although it is slow going up hills and I am constantly pulling over to let people past me. Kiwi drivers are insane.

Tuesday 8th March: The West Coast (2). We drive down the west coast from Westport to the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers. Westport – Greymouth in particular is just stunning. We book into a campsite in Fox and prepare to walk on the glacier in the morning.

Wednesday 9th March: Fox – Arrowtown. The morning is spent walking on the glacier as part of a group. I’ve never worn crampons before, but it worked out ok and the glacier was beautiful. In the afternoon we drove through the Haast pass and then over Cordrona towards Queenstown. Some scary driving but the van picked out its path like a little hill-pony. Arrowtown is VERY clean and tidy. A bit eerie in some ways.

Thursday 10th March: Queenstown and Fiordland. In the morning we did a rare adrenalin thing – well, when in Rome and all that – and went jetboating in the Shotover gorge. That was good fun. Then we drove to Milford sound in the afternoon. The weather was closing in and the trip is quite a scary one involving a very long tunnel. On the other side we discovered there was nowhere to camp, but the campsite owner took pity on us when he saw our little van and let us use his car park.

Friday 11th March: Piopiotahu (Milford Sound) and Te Anu. This isn’t just rain: this is Milford Sound rain. Huge succulent raindrops the size of blackberries soaked the van overnight, each carrying a seeming payload of starving sandfly who tucked into our pale English blood with relish. I could connect the dots on Jane’s legs and it would spell something unspeakable. But it cleared just as we took to the boat and we were rewarded with a million waterfalls all tumbling into the fjord (it’s technically a fjord, not a sound), a scene that photographed itself. In the afternoon we escaped the way we had come and dried out at the comparative civilisation of Te Anu.

Saturday 12th March: Te Anu – Catlins. A long day of driving to the extreme South where we showed up at the southernmost tip of the island (no gift shop – Land’s End please take note) and Porpoise bay. Camped in a campsite that seemed more like a farm. The stars, though…oh my.

Sunday 13th March: Catlins. We visited a lighthouse and explored another deserted beach, almost tripping over a resting sea lion. These big boys are dangerous, though, so we back off pretty quickly. Later there were fur seals along the coast, some penguins, and finally a short drive up to Dunedin where we camped.

Monday 14th March: Dunedin. The morning was spent on the Taieri Gorge railway, a gentle trundle into the mountains accompanied by a commentary from an increasingly leery Kiwi version of Peter Alliss. In the afternoon more wholesome pursuits as we went to view the albatross colony on the Otago peninsula. Those birds are BIG and magnificent.

Tuesday 15th March: Dunedin – Kaikoura. We decided to miss Christchurch out and a long day of driving took us round the city and up the coast. Christchurch outskirts were busy in rush hour but we didn’t see anything untoward.

Wednesday 16th March: Kaikoura. This place is the whale, dolphin and seal spotting and swimming capital of the Island. We opted for a Maori-owned expedition out and saw some magnificent sperm whales, dusky dolphins and a humpback whale.  Weather was perfect. Again.

Thursday 17th March: Kaikoura – Wellington. An early start to drive up the coast to Picton and catch the ferry back over to Wellington on the North Island. We have a dinner date with Doug Newdick and despite us messing him about a bit, we met up. Our best meal so far, and some good company – followed by a dash to the van in the rain. Is our luck with the weather going to hold?

Friday 18th March: Wellington – New Plymouth. Doug had tipped us off about some good things to see in Wellington, but we can’t cope with being in a city again and so we head off up the West Coast in search of some space. In the event we make it quite a long way – as far as New Plymouth, after circling the magnificent Mount Taranaki. a long drive but worth it.

Saturday 19th March: New Plymouth. We lol about town for a bit. I really like the atmosphere of the downtown area and we have some good food. Then we head for the mountain and take the short walk to Dawson’s Falls and the goblin forest that surrounds it.

Sunday 20th March: New Plymouth – Raglan. Our time in New Plymouth ends with an entertaining trip around the harbour and an excellent lunch courtesy of some cafe who’s name I can’t remember. Then we drive north to Raglan, home of one of the finest left-hand breaks in the world. Whatever that means. We eat at the excellent Namaste Kitchen. Namaste New Zealand. I honour the place where my wallet meets your gift shop.

Monday 21st March: Raglan – Auckland. Ah, so that’s what “left hand break” means. Surfer’s paradise. If I had more time I’d learn to surf here. But sadly, we are running out of time and have to return our trusty van in Auckland. Our flight finally takes off at 11 pm.

And that was that. Overall there was too much dashing about and not enough chilling out, but this was still the most awesome holiday I’ve ever had and I’d do it all again like a shot. Some more general reflections to follow once my brain settles….

Following on from my overview of the UK Govcamp unconference I want to put some markers down for the thing that excited me the most: the potential of location-based services to deliver on the localism agenda and some ideas on how that might work.

I’ve got quite a low tolerance for reading HM Government documents so the fact that the Government published a plain English guide to the localism bill (see was music to my ears.  There seem to be a few salient points which act as a background for this discussion:

  • The new general power of competence will give councils more freedom to work with others in new ways to drive down costs. This might, for example, give us the freedom to utlilise an existing location-based service to experiment with their APIs and/or pilot some services.
  • the Community right to bid to run local services effectively means that some of the facilities currently provided by the local council may move out to community groups. Doing this while maintaining the benefits of joined-up information mean that a solution architecture needs to be in place that provides an interface (in its broadest meaning) to allow a 2-way information flow between the public asset and the local authority and other local public services.
  • there are some reforms to the planning system included. Although not directly relevant to this solution architecture, the planning system is often hampered by lack of access to information. You might see a yellow planning application notice nailed to a tree somewhere but it’s not always easy and quick to see what is being planned. A location service might help with this.

I like to think about scenarios to help get some requirements teased out, and these ought to be based on services that we actually deliver. There seem to be categories of scenario based around

  • internal council workflow (eg Highway maintenance)
  • citizen interaction with the council (eg library services)
  • community group operations when delivering a service (eg Park services)
  • civic social interaction around a location (eg reporting a crime/graffiti)
  • general social interaction at a location

this last scenario is already well covered by location-based services such as FourSquare or Gowalla. Nothing to add there. However, the other four scenarios require that, on check-in, information is pushed and that information is a real-time aggregate of a number of other data sources, some of which might be under local authority control (Highways, libraries), some of which are provided by 3rd parties (community-provided Park services), and some of which are transactional forms to enable the person checking in to provide feedback and information (all of the above).

Currently the commercial services in this space provide the ability to send “tips” and special offers to people checking in, but these are relatively static. Perhaps some kind of frigging with the APIs could allow tips to be generated dynamically from an XML file? Then we could create the XML file in real time from whatever data sources we have and deliver that whenever someone checks in?

We also need a security model to ensure that a council highways officer gets a different view of the “tips” file (sorry, I really must think of a better name) to a citizen or community group representative.

Some of this stuff overlaps with my recent post about a solution architecture for highways, but I wasn’t location-enabled when I wrote that. Expect more detail to be added to this once I’ve met with colleagues later this week.

This year was the second time I had attended the UK GovCamp in London. As with last year, it was in the unconference format unorganised by Dave Briggs and Steph Gray and held in the offices of a technology giant in Victoria. Last year it was Google’s gaff, this year Microsoft kindly donated their space. The poor guy from MS had to put up with being the butt of everyone’s jokes pretty well all day, and to his credit he bore it all with very good humour.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The real event started the previous evening at a pre-event drinks session hosted by Learning Pool. We were quite late to this but managed to get some food and mingled with the various people there. Most notably I had a good catch-up chat with Sarah Baskerville who had had quite a difficult few months but I’m pleased to say seemed to be very much herself:

I do like Sarah, even if I feel I could get drunk just by talking to her 🙂

I also met up with a number of other people, it’s a bit blurry but I remember meeting Paul Mcelvaney, Mary Mckenna, Dave Briggs, Nick Booth, Anke Holst, Anne Kempster, and Dan Harris amongst others.

I can’t really take my drink, and when we got back to our hotel it was nearly midnight and I struggled to get to sleep. So the next morning was always going to be hard work. But loaded up with Travelodge coffee and breakfast we piled across to Victoria and across the “threshold of doom” (one of my companions paused just before the sliding front door and said “are you sure about this?”) into Microsoft’s HQ.

The first thing that happens at a GovCamp is that everyone introduces themselves in roughly 10 seconds. Last year it was name, organisation and 3 “tags”: this year it was name, organisation and “what you are here for in one word”. 178 people were there and Lloyd Davis expertly facilitated this to happen surprisingly quickly: having spent the previous week agonising over what my “tags” would be I was caught on the hop but managed to recover in time to say I was there to recharge: which is as true as I could make it.

The next thing is the creation of the agenda. There were a lot of available rooms and everyone queued up to propose a session and they all went on post-its and a programme was created. Again, Lloyd did this brilliantly, with good humour and managed to keep everyone brief and on-message. The whole thing took half an hour and then we were off into our first sessions.

My first session was a talk by the new Government supremo of all things digital, Chris Chant. He’s only been in post a couple of weeks and so this was quite a coup (by Mark O’Neill, I think) to get someone in with so much clout. Having said that, this session didn’t really belong at a GovCamp because the format (talk, Q&A) wasn’t what you normally hope for (ie a multi-way discussion). I think that Chris seemed a good guy but I’m not hopeful that the direction of Government IT will massively change as a result of his appearance at GovCamp. In my opinion this discussion needs to get to a new level of depth before we can have any reasonable chance of success. In particular there seems to be the view that engaging with SOCITM means you get a good view of the needs of local government: although SOCITM is a good organisation and there are some great people there, this just isn’t true. IT managers are not best placed to input to strategy, there are too many political considerations there, and I might be blowing my own trumpet but I feel that local government IT architects are the people that central government really need to be talking to.

A lot of sessions at the previous Govcamp had focused on open data or web-based public engagement. I’m not particularly interested in either of those topics so it was good to see a number of different emerging topic areas: my second session was a case in point as it was on the subject of mentoring. The government hopes to recruit a whole army of business mentors to replace Business Link, which is shutting down. New on-line mentoring services like Horse’s Mouth are starting to come to the fore, as well as MentorWell which this session demonstrated. I don’t know much about the skills involved in being a mentor but I think that I probably need to both have one and be one (if you’re interested, drop me a line 🙂 ) – and I think that modern organisations should have ways of supporting their workforce like mentoring embedded deeply into their cultures.

So that was the morning. Lunchtime saw me catch up with some more people (not enough, I fear) and then we were into the first sessions of the afternoon.

The first session after lunch turned out to be my favourite one of the day and was on location-based services. There was talk about using services like FourSquare, Google Latitude or Gowalla (disclaimer: other location services are available) to enable added value for people visiting public locations like libraries by showing their support, or by pushing additional information to them. My main epiphany around this time was that the interesting thing (to me) about location-based services was not so much the service itself but the supporting event-driven architecture that determines what value can be added. I came away from the session inspired to try and create a test case for something in this area.

My next session was about Sharepoint. It’s a bit unusual for a Microsoft product to be the subject of a GovCamp session but I felt it was important as a lot of time and money goes in to implementing Sharepoint in Local (and central) Government with seeming mediocre results. The facilitators of this session were the guys from 21 Apps (one of the conference sponsors) and they stressed the value of good communication, UX design, and requirements specification up front in the implementation project. An interesting aside occurred here as the 21 Apps presentation featured a slide showing the Marshall Rightshifting model. I happen to be following the creator of that model on Twitter and tweeted that I’d seen it on the off-chance he was listening, which he was, and we had a short exchange which concluded that the success of the implementation of any enterprise-scale software is critically dependent on the prevailing mindset in the organisation and cannot change it on its own.

The final session was a small (in number of people, but big in vision) one with James Cattell from Birmingham about the various models for divesting and mutualising services being delivered by local government. Not a lot can be said about this without naming the various councils and services discussed, which would be wrong I think, but the importance of social enterprise as a critical success factor in a lot of these operations was a heartening thing to see being taken seriously.

And then as fast as it had begun, it was all over and we headed for the pub. Big mistake on my part to have a pint on an empty stomach, we had to shoot across town really quickly to catch our train from Paddington and I felt pretty tired and ill all the way home.

I’d like to thank everyone who I met, especially my travelling companions, the organisers, sponsors and hosts, who made this such a great experience. I’m only sorry I couldn’t get to all the sessions I was interested in, particularly the ones about Agile project management in the public sector, LinkedGov, the Unlibrary and the particularly relevant primer about starting your own business. Fortunately I can catch up with everyone’s blogs about this on the #ukgc11 hashtag on Twitter.

I also met a load of people for the first time, and my experience was that everyone was very welcoming. We genuinely are all in this together, fighting for progress even if we sometimes disagree on what that looks like.

I’m already looking forward to #ukgc12! My objective is to have some more stuff to contribute back in terms of a session topic by then. 🙂

24 hour party tweeple

I’ve just had a whirlwind few days and (for my own sanity, mainly) want to put some markers down here and maybe develop some of the topics a bit later.

On Thursday and Friday this week I was privileged to attend the third Likeminds conference in my home town of Exeter. Likeminds is a conference that is largely about social media – at least there were a lot of social media consultants there, and the sessions were definitely angled that way for a lot of the time – and I am in no way a social media guru. Somehow, this worked for well for me.

After the last Likeminds back in February I blogged a load of things that I wanted to see changed to improve my own (selfish) experience. I’m delighted to say that a lot of those ideas were acted upon – although I can’t take all the credit, Scott and Drew (who set it all up) are a couple of sharp cookies who know what will work and what won’t – and it made the whole thing much more satisfying for me – less rock concert and more symposium.

I met a lot of great people and had a lot of interesting conversations, and (of course) learned a great deal. Perhaps I don’t learn as fast as I should and I have been since reflecting that this is probably an attitude problem on my part – I feel under a lot of pressure to demonstrate my expertise in my day job, and this restricts the sort of open-minded vulnerability you need to have in order to really allow yourself to be influenced.

On Friday night, a group of local Tweeters ran a 24-hour tweetathon in aid of some great local charities – HospiceCare, St Loyes and HeadwayDevon. As far as I know it hasn’t been done before in this format and it was a nerve-racking experience and my respect for people who have run interactive broadcast media (like the superb Matt Young from RokkXpress) has deepened – you really need to plan carefully as well as responding spontaneously to whatever happens.

It was also a struggle getting up at 5:30am for a 6am tweeting start on Saturday morning after all the excitement of a highly challenging two days at Like Minds! Now I am very tired and emotional but want to thank all the great people who have made the last few days such fun, in no particular order:

– my crew for the lunch on the first day of Likeminds – Ann Holman, Fabian King, Gary Day-Ellison, Patrick Hadfield, Julie Ellam, Kathryn Mcann, and at least one other person who I stupidly haven’t noted

– the people I met on the conference floor: Jonathan Alder, Ann Dempster, Ash Mashhadi, Matt Young, and many many more

– the second day lunch conversation which had me gripped, with Jon Akwue, Crispin Heath, @markofrespect, Sue Windley, and at least two other people who I haven’t noted

– my 24hr tweet companions Karen Clarke (awesome idea and organisation!), Adam Stone, Becky Moore, Jennifer Riach, Matt Young, Julie Harris, Judy Caley and Sue Windley.

ok, I’m done. If you met me and you’re not on the list, let me know! I need to curate my social life much better 😉