This is a test for friday
This is a test for friday
This is a test from Hootsuite. Please ignore.
I haven’t blogged for a while now and that isn’t because I don’t have anything to say, in fact the opposite. I have so many things in my head it’s about knowing what to get down first really. So apologies for the long post…I won’t take offence if you don’t read on…
My new role is very interesting and also very busy, which also contributes to the lack of posts, but this is something I want to resolve as I think it is an important part of my role to sharing thinking and seek feedback on how we can approach certain areas of our work.
An immediate priority for my team is the Corporate Website and Intranet, they are in pretty bad shape and need a good tidy up in terms of data, documents, content etc as well as a complete reboot from the bottom up in terms of technology and infrastructure. One example of how bad the public website has got is that we identified 44,000 pdf documents which make up around 80% of the total size of the website…personally I feel this can be traced back to when we worked on eGovernment and it was deemed acceptable to “bung” up pdf’s as an alternative to actually providing a meaningful and useful service…some even called it an “acceptable cheat” to meeting the BV157 indicator…but that is history and we are where we are…so my team and some colleagues have started work on reducing that size, by understanding what each pdf is, whether it needs to be published at all (is it current) or whether it needs to be moved to our records management system.
The key principle we are applying is our content management system should not be the place for these documents, so as long as they aren’t in there we are making progress… The ideal scenario of course, as I’m sure some of you are thinking “no documents on the website, that is mad, how will you do that?” is that we use the appropriate technology for the job, so documents reside in a document management system and are presented to the website via an integration or web service in some way… This really is simple stuff, but it never happened when we first moved to a Content Management system about 10 years ago…
Anyway we are making progress, albeit slowly but we have had to overcome some very simple but significant issues around ownership and access which has resulted recently (last week in fact) in a very good and consistent understanding around the role of my team in and around the web.
The bigger challenge of course is working out and agreeing what we believe the purpose and business strategy should be for a local government website.
Now for some this may seem a pretty simple question and one which I really shouldn’t be spending much time on, but it really is the most fundamental thing a local council should do before developing, building or even investing in a new website and the technology that it runs on…
I believe this question isn’t as simple as it used to be since the consultation on Open Public Services White Paper. Now the interesting thing with this is – and some of it I agree with in principle but in practice, I’m not sure how that would play out – is that it actually means that local government would essentially disappear…we would have no obligation or responsibility to deliver any service at all… Now when you think about that, for a moment….it is actually quite dramatic change and one which local councils have not yet articulated or perhaps understood… many are seeing the decentralisation as a positive thing which will reinforce their position but I’m not sure the paper actually has the same outcome in mind as current local government colleagues think.
So when you consider a local government website in that situation what is it? A yellow pages of local services really…not an all-encompassing site with service transactions and top tasks or whatever the latest fad is for the local government homepage…it is simply a searchable directory of services which clearly and I think this is the critical part in local accountability shows who is responsible and who to complain to when something goes wrong…
It is almost like Amazon, except we won’t have anything of our own in it to sell…
That is of course quite an extreme view and not a logical conclusion but it is certainly one potential outcome which fundamentally changes the purpose of a local government website…my questions is are we adaptable enough to change as quickly as we need to?… Currently we are nowhere near that level of agility and adaptability…but we are heading in that direction.
Coming back to Amazon model (the current model), I actually believe this is more likely the representation of how local government website will and should work. For example you go online, search the website for a product/service and you get a range of options (choice in Coalition Government terms) from a variety of suppliers (diversity in Coalition Government terms). You as the consumer of that service get to choice which option or provider you wish to purchase from and it clearly states whether or not this will be fullfilled by Amazon or by someone in their marketplace (Accountability in Coalition Government terms).
So when it comes to writing a web strategy, we also need to consider the “marketplace” and how that impacts on the development of a website and its infrastructure and core technology…We would actually become an integration hub instead of a primary service provider… That changes the proposition of a council website and any investment plan considerably.
Another angle which has recently been floating in my mind is the role of a local authority website as an economic development tool…not entirely by itself but more the data and information being freely available for other to commercially benefit from. I like the approach being built on beta gov, which allows a user to download the data used to make and create that page…
To go back a bit for context – when I first started in local government web around 8 years ago, my ambition was that the councils website was the best, had the best functionality, best little widgets, best information, the best of everything…just like all other web managers I’m sure…However now and I’m not sure if this is age related or simply #lazyweb taking over my thinking or the episode of The Simpson’s where Homer runs for Sanitation Commissioner offering the new slogan “Can’t Someone Else Do It?”.
But why should local councils develop their website alone…why can’t we open the whole thing up and allow local developers, businesses etc and develop on top of our platform as well as using the data to build things that are meaningful for people… Well we can, there isn’t really anything stopping us other than the infrastructure and technology as well as the data….so just a few minor things to resolve then…
I know that no matter how hard you try as a web manager in local government, you’ll never consistently develop anything that is really that good (no disrespect to fellow web managers/developers out there, who do build some great individual things). But the challenge is making all this stuff a priority in a council balanced against resources who are looking at maintain an Adult Social care system or developing a small widget to search bus timetables…i know which one the organisation would want done first…
AlphaGov are doing some great things but we can’t compete with that level of investment or resources, so I’m hoping what they build, learn and develop will be reusable to the whole public sector community…not as one big thing but in small modules/widgets etc that can add value locally.
So I come back to a web strategy and the purpose of a local authority website…it doesn’t really seem straight forward, but it certainly is an interesting area to work right now.
It all started for me at the Navan library when I was a young gossun of about seven or eight. The love of books.
All those stories, waiting to be read, inside those paperback and hardback covers, protected by the plastic coverings put on by the library; stacked on shelves by the hundreds in the childrens’ section; inviting me personally on a journey; a journey of discovery of new worlds that continues to this day.
I don’t remember my first visit, or visits, to the Navan library, or who first took me to that important looking building on the far side of the Fair Green heading out towards theTrim Road, but I’m sure my mother was involved. She was a teacher herself in Saint Anne’s and of course believed in the value of introducing one’s children to books at an early age.
I do remember though, once I got my taste for books, becoming a daily visitor to the library. I was obsessed with Enid Blyton’s books. After reading my first Famous Five adventure, which I think was ‘Five Go Off In A Caravan’, I had to get hold of them all, and sure enough they were all to be found in the Navan library.
It was a thrill to lift these books into my hand, and turn open the pages, pages that I knew had been turned by other small pairs of hands before me, pages that would be turned over after I handed the book back in to Mr Daly at the check out desk on my way in to search for more stories.
It’s probably why I still almost prefer today to buy secondhand books, and to browse through secondhand bookshops. That sense perhaps, from looking at and feeling the already touched pages, that you’re on a shared adventure. Someone has been here before. And now it’s my turn.
I love outdoor bookstalls with old classics being sold on them for next to nothing; I will never pass one by if I see one on the street, and I usually, after an hour’s browsing, will pick up a volume or two before going on my way. You see less and less of these outlets today, unfortunately. Like live music in pubs, they are just not as tolerated any more as they once were. At least that’s the case inNew York, where I lived for many years. They continue, but they are harder to find.
It’s a thrill to this day that I still get when I see a bookshop, a bookstall on a street, or even a rack of books in a supermarket. That excited feeling comes over me instantaneously.
I’ve been a musician for the past several years and have been on the road quite a lot, sometimes alone, sometimes with other musicians. When we’d hit a town and had an hour or two to spare before or after playing, the guys in the band would make for the nearest music store to check out gear, usually guitar amps. Me, I’d make for the local Barnes And Noble, or Borders bookstore, and would spend a good while browsing. It was almost a guilty pleasure because I felt I should be looking at amps myself, or guitars, or something musical, and be serious about the trade I had chosen for myself, but sometimes you just can’t help being pulled to where you belong. It was like a homing device, the bookstore, drawing me back to this world of adventure on the typed page. We all have our places that we prefer to be, where we feel most at home.
And instead of reading Enid Blyton I’ll go to the classics shelf and pick out a Dostoyevsky or a Burgess or a Balzac (yes I like the older stuff), but the basic excited feeling is still the same as it was when I was a kid of seven. Alright, I admit it, I still read Enid Blyton.
I got started young. I’m sure it was no bad thing that St Anne’s, my first school, was only across the road from the library. And even at that early age I was impressed that such a large, important looking building could be devoted to books; books that you could take home with you for free, and as often as you wanted.
Our habits are formed early, I suppose.
I remember waking up as a toddler, at dawn, long before school was due to start, and reaching for my book. My mother would come into the bedroom to open the curtains and get us out of bed; my two brothers were still in sleepland but she didn’t have to worry about me: I was awake already and deep into another Secret Seven mystery.
The library was always there with its endless supply to feed my growing book habit.
Entering the teenage years, horror books became my preferred reading. I was big into music at that stage, but books still had a hold over me and I was still a frequent visitor to the library. I was especially big into vampires and decided to do a little research into the possible existence of vampires in Meath. I did not ask the librarians on duty for any books specifically about ‘Vampires in Meath’- they might start wondering about me- but I did ask to be shown to the local history room, with the excuse that I was doing a school project on local ghost stories. That sounded more reasonable.
At that stage I wanted to be a writer of horror stories myself, and what better place to start looking for something original to write about than one’s local library…I ended up writing a few articles on general local history, the story of Newgrange or an account of the general historical landmarks of the Boyne Valley, as inspired by that Meath classic written by Oscar Wilde’s Father, ‘The Beaties Of The Boyne And Blackwater’. These articles of mine were published in the Meath Chronicle, and were my first taste of writing and publishing.
I knew that I wanted to be a writer. I had known for a long time.
Punk music got in the way for several years and I didn’t go to the library as much, nor read as much; but I do remember getting the same thrill above in the St Patrick’s classical school library when I’d pick a book from the shelves- only a book lover can know that feeling, which is actually hard to describe- a sense of mystical adventure, of oncoming mind travel-okay I’m getting carried away. By the time I left St Pats I was into poetry and had a high determination to be the next John Keats (as if there hadn’t been one already!), or the next Gerard Manley Hopkins…
I brought my first poems to Father Rice the English teacher above in Saint Patrick’s classical school. He graciously accepted to have a look at them. I went back to him that summer of 1985, after we had done the Leaving Cert exam. The future was laid out ahead of us like a young girl with flowers in her hair, invitingly. I was fully convinced my teacher was going to be completely won over by these first poems of this future giant of literature. I remember he was sunbathing on a deckchair in his garden immersed in a Brian Moore novel when I cycled up to the priests’ house.
“Well,” I says, approaching him shyly, “did you read my poetry?”
“I did,” he said, in that cheerfully sardonic tone of his.
“Well,” I says, “what did you think of it?”
“It ain’t Shakespeare, Son,” he answered, looking at me from behind his sunglasses, his manner full of the assumption that at least I would be in agreement with that.
“No,” says I, disappointed. “You’re right it’s not Shakespeare.”
“But I like the one about climbing the Twelve Pins inConnemara. That was good.”
I didn’t ask him if he thought I could be the John Keats of Ireland; after being put in a running that was clearly below that of the great bard of Avon, I didn’t want to risk a sardonic remark. His remarks could be biting sometimes.
But he had said one poem was good. That was enough for me to go on with for a while…
And it was enough to send me back to the library looking for more poetry books. I knew I’d find them there.
The library, we had been told, had access to every book published in the English language. I don’t know if that was true, but it sure felt like it, that summer before I started out on my own voyage of literary discovery…
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How to: Build an Awesome Government Facebook Page with Tons of Fans and Engagement – http://www.govloop.com/profiles/blogs/how-to-build-an-awesome
Welcome to my first post on https://pdunnetest.wordpress.com.
I have added some initial pages with interesting information related to Social Media.
I will be adding to these and adding a Business Process Improvement page as soon as possible.
These are two areas I am currently working in.