Yesterday I was at 2012′s LocalGovCamp at Maple House, Birmingham.
I started the day on the wrong foot – way too near the start of introductions line. Even though I knew it was coming I couldn’t marshall my thoughts into giving my single word about why I was there. All I could think of was Nick’s (@psfnick) profane suggestion from the previous night.
The words I should have chosen
Relapse. I didn’t go to UKGovCamp because I’d begun to feel like a fraud. As much as I’d contributed beyond my job title in Hull my roles had never gone hand in glove with unconference conversations. So I’d go along and hear great things, maybe contribute an opinion or two of my own but then return to work and be unable to execute anything. When the next event rolled round I wouldn’t have anything to share, or any progress to report.
There is something recharging about being exposed to a collection of brilliant minds with a blank canvas invited to share and think and plan and do but as much as sectoral camaraderie is a great thing there’s little point if it ends up as talking and not doing. And that’s all my contribution felt like.
When opportunity first came knocking this wasn’t the plan – that was to take a career break and return to Hull City Council when the offer came to an end. But because the work has nothing to do with my day job and coincided with the busiest period in Hull’s BSF programme it caused headaches.
So despite my love for local government, and despite being conscious of how hard it might be to return, I’m walking away. I’m ditching the security of a contract with 16 months left to run and my ‘gold-plated’ pension. I’m leaving the relationships I’ve built over the last 3.5 years. I’m even choosing to spend part of every week in #thatLondon.
And I’m doing all of that for six months’ work. Risky? Cavalier? Unwise? Perhaps, but I think the opportunity is worth it.
So three weeks ago I took a day off work and travelled south. I’d asked Louise Kidney (who has swapped localgov for GDS herself) what I should expect from her new colleagues. Nothing she’d said prepared me to finish the day using a wall as my canvas to present back work I’d been set a couple of hours to complete.
Prepared or not my scrawl did the trick and I start as a Business Analyst on May 28th.
Two years ago I researched and wrote a business case to replace our content management system (CMS). This was shortly after BCCDIY and I argued that we should explore the opportunity to coopt partner with Hull’s excellent local talent to build something in the open that encouraged challenge and invited contribution. I lost (“we don’t want to be leaders”) and we picked a safer option. It was approved but something killed the project after I’d moved on in the graduate scheme rotation.
The need hasn’t gone away and on Tuesday I was invited to a meeting to identify tangible benefits for replacing the current CMS that would justify spending some money. Happily there’s talk of open standards and open source so that whilst buying something off a shelf wasn’t out of the question it might not be the automatic choice it once was.
I started this post at the start of April, returned to it with the demise of Flip but finally finished it after Andrew Beeken shared his own thoughts yesterday.
April saw the demise of Flip. Despite being the leading camcorder brand in the US, parent company Cisco judged the marketplace to be unsustainable in the face of the competition posed by our mobile phones.
Given that they paid $590m for the technology two years ago it’s a bold move. Equally, their quitting from a position at the top is shrewd because of the inevitable future of hand-held video recording.
I really like my Flip camera and when the product was first introduced it disrupted the market but I expect to get similar functionality from my next mobile phone without having to carry something else in my pocket. Whilst convergence is not good for the 550 employees at Flip, the rest of us benefit – we get one thing where once we might have had to use more.
It’s that sort of approach which lies behind Martha Lane Fox’s vision for a single government domain and over the last three months it has been brought to life by 11 people somewhere in London. There had been glimpses of what they were working on and The Telegraph had featured a couple of screenshots as well as some interviews but this week we were able to get our grubby mitts on this “proof of concept prototype“.