Sync Announces Its 2013 GEEKS IN RESIDENCE

A fantastic programme and something for public sector folk to keep an eye on. How can we replicate this? Should local government look at a geeks in residence programme?

The Scottish Games Network

sync logoSync is a project which supports cultural organisations in Scotland, learn more about technology, come to love it, then take it back to the office/theatre/museum/loft space and do many interesting and exciting new things with it.

As part of this remit, for the last several years Sync has placed a number of developers or technical designers within different arts organisations in Scotland, in a programme they’ve named Geeks In Residence.

Sync has just announced the geeks – and organisations – they’ve placed together in 2013…

bodysurfScotland_logo_green-600Alasdair Campbell (@ach_campbell) – hosted by Bodysurf Scotland

Alasdair is a Glasgow-based software and hardware developer. He recently completed an honours degree in Computing Science at Glasgow University.

His final year project at university involved developing autonomous optical tracking software for motion-controlled cameras, in order to develop the potential of routine live streaming from theatres. Alasdair is also a performing musician and has…

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Local Space

Public wifi zone at Edinburgh Council HQ

Public wifi zone at Edinburgh Council HQ

A partnership between Scottish Government, Scottish Futures Trust, Edinburgh Council, Fife Council and Improvement Service has given birth to the (very softly launched) Local Space scheme. Local Space is ‘in response to a need to help change and improve office working practices within the public sector’ and allows public sector people to book space at two locations in Fife and one in Edinburgh- all public sector buildings.

I’ve booked space at Edinburgh’s Waverley Court building quite a few times now and apart for some confusion with the switchboard staff and reception staff the whole process is smooth. Spaces are booked through the Facilities Management team and when you turn up at reception on the day it’s an easy process to get in and find your desk. Alternatively (and this is what I have been doing lately) you can just park yourself in their cafe or courtyard meeting areas and use the wifi. Brilliant. You use your own machine or device so issues about security are mostly on you. The wifi and internet connections provided are off the council’s own network but presumably secure.

I’ve booked in to have a meeting with a colleague from a different public sector organisation at Waverley Court later this month so it’s handy for meeting people in Edinburgh in a city centre area that is right next to the train station.

Have a go and see what you think. I don’t know what future plans are but I would hope the Local Space team would like to hear from other councils or public sector organisations who would like to open up their buildings for use.

Real stories in digital communications

Digital communications in the public sector is in a crazy place. While people running in social media circles accept the general truth that building trust and interest from customers rests heavily on people (customers or staff) telling their stories, this flies in the face of centrally controlled communications styles. Allowing people to tell  their own stories is powerful as it brings to life the inside of a public service and helps to give a true picture of what goes on day to day, unblemished by PR spin or overproduced news pieces.

So what would happen if staff were let loose on Twitter to tell their stories? What happens when staff are trusted to speak publicly about their work and their organisation on behalf of the organisation? I can hear a collective gasp from communications officers and senior and middle management the land over, the same people who often quip that frontline staff can’t be/shouldn’t be trusted to live tweet or blog about their experiences. They’ll probably say something stupid.

Behold the truth: current work going on in the South West neighbourhood of Edinburgh Council demonstrates the consideration with which frontline staff treat the opportunity to communicate directly to citizens about their work. Check out Graham Budd’s latest blog post Vexing myself into redundancy to get the real deal about how things are approached and organised when bringing staff online.

What do you think about this approach? Do you allow your staff to blog, publish to your website or Tweet on behalf of the organisation? If not, why not?


The one about the public sector crashing into the 21st century


If you’ve been hiding under a rock this week you will have missed the news that the UK’s first Youth Crime Commissioner with Kent Police, 17 year old Paris Brown, stepped down from her position after less than a week because a few of her old tweets came to light. The tweets, some around three years old, were somehow brought to the attention of Kent Police and she chose to quit despite Kent Police asking her to stay. Ms Brown admits the tweets will have offended some people and adds that she had published them hastily or while just trying to act cool.

So, there are the top line facts. What do you think about this situation and how would you expect a colleague in the same position to respond? How would you expect your organisation to respond? What would you do if this happened to you? More importantly, do you think you or your organisation is equipped to deal with investigating or accepting the digital history of the incoming young workforce? Discuss.

Here a hack, there a hack, everywhere a hack hack

Data hacking events are cropping up all over the place and that’s a good thing for public services.

What a data hack is

accessing publicly available data to use in creative ways like making useful apps, websites or for use in service design/redesign

What a data hack is not

illegally accessing computer systems or data sets

photo (26) This is what a data hack event looks like. Nothing sinister going on here!

Unfortunately the word ‘hack’ has negative connotations so some projects like the upcoming Learner Journey Data Jam are using ‘jam’ as an alternative word to ‘hack’. This may cause some confusion this summer as there is an upcoming GovJamUK in June being held in Dundee and Exeter which is not necessarily a data jam. So try to keep the nuances straight if you’re explaining to colleagues!

What happens at a data hack (usually over a weekend)

  • Technically minded people get together with people who are professionals in a field along with designers and generally interested parties
  • Anyone who has an idea for a useful service or product that can be produced by using data creatively pitches the idea to all attendees
  • Teams are formed organically as individuals choose a pitch they like and want to work on over a weekend
  • Work starts and prototypes are presented to judges at the end of the event.

There will be variations on a theme over events but the core of data hack events are usually standard. Why not check it out yourself? There are two upcoming events offering spectator tickets if you feel you don’t have any skills or expertise to help out a team. They are Learner Journey Data Jam taking place 12-14 April and Life Designs taking place 19-21 April. Both in Edinburgh. NHS Hack Scotland, which took place last month, has posted photos and video of their event so have a peek for a better idea of what goes on.

About Learner Journey Data Jam

Learner Journey Data Jam is a weekend long collaborative event involving developers, designers, learners, practitioners and education sector / policy makers. The purpose of the event is to explore and experiment with existing learner data and discover it’s potential in helping learners on their educational journey.
Data Jam is inspired by Culture Hack Scotland and the upcoming NHS Hack Scotland, both of which explore the benefits of open data for empowering individuals and producing innovative new projects.

About Life Designs

At the heart of a new three-year partnership between NHS24 and New Media Scotland, Life Designs will be a year long programme of public facing activity in 2014 at the Inspace laboratory in Edinburgh and venues across Scotland.

From tower blocks to totem poles- citizen digital in Edinburgh

8261041040_155d9ec796 Photo courtesy of jennifermackenziejones on Flickr

Check out this digital citizen project in the Wester Hailes area of Edinburgh. A joint venture between locals, Arts and Humanities Research Council, Edinburgh College of Art and Connected Communities it developed something combining art, digital and local knowledge.

What do you think of this project? Can you see something like this going down in your area?

Managing online learning communities


Thanks to Alex Morrice for sharing this video via Twitter. It’s important to us generally as people who champion digital collaboration, online learning and communication inside our organisations but also to us as SPSDG. Fantasic stuff about connectedness, learning together, social learning communities. That communities die because they don’t have purpose and passion, online communities are transient and community management is a skill!

It also introduces a new term to describe people who poopoo social media: CAVES- colleagues against virtually everything- while reminding us that working online and using social media are not for everyone and that must be respected.

Well worth a watch or listen if you’re managing any kind of online community or trying to build activity in an online community. Excellent points and tips.