UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Serious Thinking at Bathcamp08

Posted by Brian Kelly on 14 September 2008

On Saturday (13 September 2008) I attended my first Barcamp – the Bathcamp08 event held at Invention Studios in Bath. I was present at the conception of this event, in a cafe in Montreal where Mike Ellis floated the idea and explored possible themes with myself, Mia Ridge and Frankie Roberto on the day after the end of the Museums and the Web 2008 conference.  It was initially suggested that the Barcamp should have a focus on the role of IT and the Web in cultural heritage organisations. However during the planning for the event is seems that this suggestion was dropped and the event didn’t have a particular single theme to it.  What it did have, though, was a lot of enthusiasm and friendly vibes across a more diverse set of participants than I normally encounter, with free-lance software developers, people working in small Web development companies and from Web design and marketing agencies, developers from large companies as well as a handful from the academic and cultural heritage sectors.

As the attendees were mostly very active users of various Web 2.0 technologies and services much of the discussions, comments and reflections of the event took place on Twitter using the ‘bathcamp08′ tag, with photos being uploaded to Flickr and slides to Slideshare using this tag and other resources, including blog posts about the event, should be available using this tag. There is also a Bathcamp08 Pageflakes page which aggregates the various RSS feeds associated with the event. And finally I should mention that there are a number of video recordings of the event available, including MIke Ellis’s introduction to Bathcamp08.

With so many other comments about the event likely to be published soon I’ll not attempt to summarise the event, except to thank Mike Ellis (in particular) and the other organisers of the event (including Tim Beadle, Frankie Roberto, Matt Jukes and Mike’s Eduserv colleagues) for ensuring the event was such a success.

The Barcamp rules expect first-timers to participate actively at the event, and not just be passive lurkers. I had floated the idea of a double-act with Dave Briggs (whom I’ve not met but have had a couple of Twitter conversations with) on the use of Web 2.0 in public sector organisations, with a focus on the barriers rather than the potential barriers. However Dave couldn’t make the event, which meant some last minute updating of my slides for my 40 minute session, which I decided to call “Web 2.0: Time For Serious Thinking!” – a reference to a talk Mike Ellis and myself gave at the Museums and the Web 2007 conference on “Web 2.0: How to Stop Thinking and Start Doing”.

My slides are available on Slideshare and are also embedded below.

As the Bathcamp was an informal and friendly event I had the opportunity to be sceptical about our previous paper, using the example of the enthusiastic Web 2.0 developer (which I called an ‘Ellis‘) who has a valuable role to play in the early stages of a new technology in getting the involvement of other developers and early adopters. However once the initial period of excitement has died down, there’s a need for the more serious thinking to take place.  This will include the need to address the various barriers to the use of Web 2.0 which I have encountered in recent workshop, including, most recently, the Sharing Made Simple: An Introduction to the Social Web workshop I facilitated for organisations in the cultural heritage sector in Wales. As documented on the event wikithe barriers for museums, libraries and archives include:

Corporate Depts (eg IT, Corporate Image etc)- need to get political partners on board to apply pressure via SMT

Need for Higher Level Education- fear of impacts of negative return from Web 2.0 – “it’s chaos”. Especially at SnrManager level. Need for realistic risk management.

Computer Literacy (public) – would we be excluding a generation who don’t use this tech but visual content can be more appealing to those with poor literacy.

Training/ Staff Knowledge – How do we get people’s knowledge and skills up to scratch?

Time – How do we resource this work? Who has the time?

Evaluation- how do you evaluate this work as being worthwhile? How do we get our paymasters to say that these are OK in terms of our KPIs?

Legislation & Procedures - DDA, DPA etc

Sustainability – of Software and activity. How do you work with services with which you have no SLA? How do you make sure this continues in the long term? Who might support us?

Choosing Software – how do we select the right product?

Duplication of Effort (eg. with Corporate Website) – is this a waste of time? Will it be contradictory?

Getting People to Use It - If we build it, will they come? What’s a ‘good’ level to judge ourselves against?

Abuse & Bad Publicity – How do we deal with this? What if it all goes wrong and gets in the papers? Could I lose my job?

Cost – Who pays? How?

Anyone have any suggestions as to how these barriers can be addressed? Or even comments as to whether these barriers are real?

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One Response to “Serious Thinking at Bathcamp08”

  1. Brian, I think Time and Staff Training/Knowledge are two huge barriers. I work in a large organisation where we’ve had a CMS for almost 5 years yet people still see managing their content as something that’s an add on to the their job, not an integral part. I appreciate business areas have other pressures and so the issue mainly comes down to resourcing. Senior management are very keen to see our web facing content and approach modernised but yet don’t properly resource it either through head count or budget. Accidentally there I’ve covered another issue Cost!
    The knowledge aspect is one that particularly concerns me, especially in relation to Web 2.0 technologies. For example, I recently gave a presentation on Blogs to a forum of experienced ICT staff. In the entire room not one person raised their hand when asked did they ever read blogs so of course not one contributed to a blog! Now if the techies are behind the times, what hope is there for the non-techies in the business areas? I am of course generalising and there will always be exceptions to the rule but I think if Gov is to move forward on this issue it’ll take a small group of people to be innovative and make the change as seemlessly as possible ie take the content and repurpose for Web 2.0 use.
    There’s been too much talking about this subject in Gov and not enough action. I’ve experienced it myself first hand, when trying to take us to the next level, people I need to help me move forward are more interested in policy and risk. I think now is the time to take a chance before Gov misses the Web 2.0 revolution completely.

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