David Wilcox and I walked down the Embankment last summer and talked about his idea for social reporting.  This spring it has gathered some momentum and today he and Dave Briggs are at the Digital Inclusion Conference at the Brewery in London.

They have created a site to provide some coverage of the event.  At the moment it consists mostly of videos recorded by David and uploaded by Dave.

You get some sense of what the event is like and does serve a purpose. For example David tries on a glove designed to replicate what it is like to be an arthritis sufferer.  It’s good to see new stuff.  Kevin Carey gives an interesting view on digital inclusion and bemoans the focus on PCs rather than phones.

BUT, there are too many talking heads; there is no live feed although Public-i were webcasting apparently; and the live blogging aspect isn’t really there.  Come on Dave’s let’s hear something about the conference.  What’s the purpose?  Who is buzzing?  Was it worth paying £295 to attend (not very inclusive – VAT was extra)?  What have you learnt today? 


Dave Briggs · 29th April 2008 at 10:21 pm

Thanks for the mention, Shane. It’s fair to say we would have liked to have done more, but we were restricted in time, both at the event itself and prep time beforehand.
For example, the best time to grab folk for interviews was while the conference sessions were going on, because things were quieter – only that meant we weren’t at the sessions to blog about them. We probably could have done with a third team member just to do that.
Another thing we found was that the people we really wanted to talk to – many of them local gov officers – weren’t happy talking to a camera!
Still, it wasn’t a bad effort for a first time – which I think is kinda what you’re saying. We’ll keep improving it, in fact David is going solo at another event tomorrow. Am sure he’ll be posting a link to the mini-site for that.

Shane McCracken · 30th April 2008 at 9:43 am

Hi Dave,
It was a good first effort and experience will improve the format. My main comment is that the concept could be made more powerful by concentrating on the things that most people can’t get. Updates from existing organisations with their own outlet (such as a slot on the agenda) aren’t as useful as seeing David trying a new glove or getting reactions from coal-face practitioners in the audience to what they have heard.
I was at a conference run by the Scarman Trust in December. David Blunkett, Parmjit Dhandra (Minister for Communities) and some other dignitaries spoke, but the most powerful words came from the ordinary Community Champions that Scarman had helped over the years. Traditionally coverage of such an event would focus on the “names” but in doing so you would get the same old same old you could get anywhere. By focusing on the new and unheard you can provide more value to your reader.

David Wilcox · 2nd May 2008 at 5:44 pm

Hi Shane
As Dave says, there were logistical challenges … it is difficult to focus on video and writing at the same time, and presentation/coffee break formats are not social-reporting friendly. You either get not-very-compelling platform stuff which is being recorded by public-i anyway, or rather inhibited talking heads with a lot of background noise. It is difficult to break in to workshop sessions unless people are comfortable with being recorded. Most people are pretty inhibited in their remarks.
To do it well, you need to design the socialreporting into the event with the agreement of organisers and participants. The alternative is a critical take … but we were being paid:-) Maybe we should declare that more explicitly.
I agree about the community champions having the most compelling voices… but then they don’t get to this sort of conference, a point made by one of the platform speakers.
So – what sort of format and participation should events about inclusion aim for?

Shane McCracken · 2nd May 2008 at 7:14 pm

Hi David,
I appreciate the logistical demands and I expect the notice you had could be counted in days rather than months (or weeks?).
For me the key thing is the point about designing social reporting (or simply a wider audience) into the conference format. I guess that for commercial organisers the idea of the conference being broadcast is very risky because it’ll reduce sale of tickets if successful, but for Govt conferences that take place in order to disseminate findings social reporting should be on an equal footing with the day itself.
You pose a question about format for an event and I think we could have some fun designing our ideal conference. After all we’ve both been to enough that don’t meet our high standards for participation.
Perhaps we should set up a wiki space and design the ideal conference to include participation, unheard voices, interaction with non-attending participants, and full blooded social reporting.
I wonder if Dave has a wiki space already set-up???

paul canning · 3rd May 2008 at 2:23 pm

£295 is the very definition of social exclusion! sick to the back teeth of unnecessary public sector monetary feedback loops like this. just look at who’s featured in the photo!

Dave Briggs · 4th May 2008 at 10:47 pm

Hmmm. BarcampLocalGovWeb anyone?

Paul Caplan · 12th May 2008 at 1:12 pm

I think it’s incumbent on conference organisers to enable their events to be more open source. ‘Live Blogging’ should be everyone’s job at an event. Multiple stories, perspectives, before, during and after. The problem of course is that conference organisers are still stuck in the old ‘my content’ model, seeing their job as selling rather than enabling content. They could make money by setting networks in motion, enabling conversations and then selling added value services on top rather than keeping the discussion IP in house and forcing Dave and David to try and leverage it open.

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