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Emma Mulqueeny

H O C M O E N MT EA C NT O WM E

SEPTEMBER 26, 2010 Subscribe to
Mulqueeny
Small essay on Rewired State, Open Data
and future of public service Recent Comments
So I have been out of government now for over two months… seems a lot longer. It Interesting elsewher… on Small
has been incredibly good to focus on Rewired State properly and to try to grab hold of essay on Rewired State, …
and contain what we started, so that it does not spiral into something useless. The Mulqueeny on *sigh* private
Guardian have been utterly generous and supportive in this move and I have been school/parentin…
working with them as well – which continues to be fun. Anthony Pearson on *sigh* private
school/parentin…
Some of you may have noticed that we are talking quite a bit with the dev community
and our friends about the future of Rewired State; these discussions have been lively David Wilcox on Small essay on
Rewired State, …
and brain aching – but very good. We are running one in Manchester on the 22nd
October, as there is a large and engaged RS dev community there. Fran on Digital Advisory Board to

So, I thought I would do a very small update (that escalated) on what seems to be
coming out of this time of looking at RS’s future.
Top Posts
The data goldmine Small essay on Rewired State, Open Data
and future of public service
Firstly, there is still a great need for people and businesses to centre themselves around Me now
the trojan work of the Cabinet Office in opening government data through data.gov.uk *sigh* private school/parenting/guilt/not
and legislation.gov.uk. Those of you who have been fans of Rewired State may being a millionaire yet
remember that when we ran National Hack the Government Day in March 2009, there I *heart* Ivo Gormley - his film's quite
was no such thing; Richard Pope scraped all the data he could lay his hands on in the good too, but disturbing
days and weeks before the event and the potential for what could happen with open data Social media and democracy
was laid bare for all to see. Contact me
Sentiment analysis - analysis
Within no time Cabinet Office were working up data.gov.uk and brought in all manner Rewired State: Justice and Home Affairs
of luminaries, futurologists and geeks – as well as a small number of us already Hack day
working in departments across Whitehall – we set to work: teasing, coaxing and twitter update - (warning: this post
cajoling the data out of startled officials, who had no idea of the value their makes no sense unless you understand
spreadsheet/database or even micro fiche (on one occasion). It was an incredible @hubmum)
achievement and one that we should be proud of; it was speedy, open and a bit messy – Digital life story
but how fabulous and refreshing, and what superb grounding for creating a crude base
that works for everyone – something that we can build together as well as tailor to Blogroll
individual needs. (I would like to rally people back to this cause now – it needs to be
All public sector blogs
worked at and supported as a community, we can do that – there is no *way* of doing
Ben Hammersley
this, but I know that Thayer Prime @thayer, Richard Stirling @rchards and James
Beth Kanter
Forrester (sorry have forgotten yr twitter handle, James!) would gladly tell you how
Chris Thorpe
you might help).
Dave Briggs
Data.gov.uk provides us with a rich seam of sustainable information, information that Jenny Brown – dashboards for govnt
could be the building blocks of the revitalisation of enterprise in this country. Right Julia Chandler – v gd blog for govnt
now, the people who are realising the benefits are developers with defined and respected Lesley Thomson – librarian
skill sets – either for worthy social causes that have always bugged them, or perhaps Oli Barrett
more commercial use – like timetric.com <- those boys were always years ahead of the Paul Clarke
market and I am so pleased to see them growing steadily and continuing their Phill Ash
extraordinary business. Yet still, even though there are mobile app developers out there Robert Brook podcast
making stuff that we all find useful, it is still really the preserve of the geek – this data Roo Reynolds
wash – and in order for government to really see the value of this, it needs to translate
Sans everything
into value for the general public, a circular feed of data that washes through the
community bringing information, perhaps income and brings communities together – as
is the wont of this digital age.

The work now needs to focus on how we interpret the information on data.gov.uk into
something of value to everyone, not just in the way they can receive it, the ‘cut’ of the
data that might perhaps give them a differing view of a school, rather than just Ofsted
and their data, for example – but how can everyone have a go.

Efforts like Landshare really grab my attention. If you go and have a look at what they
do, then imagine that local councils work with Landshare, and use the data they have to
perhaps build a view of their community – perhaps the elderly lady who has given her
garden to Landshare, has a drive that she would also like to rent out as she is no longer
driving and has no car. Now she can create an income and join a new community. If
she is encouraged to do this online, perhaps she would be willing to add to an
information drive to map – say – all the disused land in the UK, and provide feedback
online to build such a data set; or post boxes in her area, or anything really – you see
where I am going with this? So from the open data drive, there is potential for a person
who would be the last person you would expect to derive direct financial and
community benefit – is that not the whole Big Idea?

We are not far off this, but we are drifting a bit, I feel, and very fragmented. With the
retirement of Andrew Stott – who is a great and, when necessary, brutal champion of
open data – and an absence of an obvious figure-head – it has crossed my mind that the
Coalition may not see this as a focus for their agenda. If this is the case then I think we
need to build our own head of steam, and drive this movement to the tipping point we
need to enable the explosion of innovation and potential revenue.

It’s tricky at the moment because we are in the inevitable chaos stage, with data not
exactly pouring but stumbling and limping from departments into data.gov.uk – Martha
working to get people online with raceonline.org, Helen working with UK Online
centres, Open Knowledge Foundation, My Society and us working on a variety of
challenges that err on the side of the geeky as well as the Guardian Open Platform and
their more commercial work with government and industry. The emergence of
initiatives such as linkedgov.org – a dev community based effort to make the data make
sense shows the tiny shift outwards from the information trough that has been feeding
the data-hungry devs – if I remember one thing from every single Rewired State event,
it has been the constant cry for more data (so much so that on many occasions the
audience has joined in as the developers end their presentations with pleas for data) –
well luckily, there is always more, and always will be: lovely sustainable stuff that it is

But taking the big vision, the proper head above the parapet moment, what has to
happen as a big leap into translating this stream of data and tables into a valuable source
of information and commerce to everyone who is not blessed with binary brilliance.
This is unlikely to be one thing, or enabled by any one person, but it will be a steady rise
in the number of initiatives that realise value of this information for many communities,
that weave themselves into the heart of every day life that will bring us to this epiphany.

So… please can we all rally back around data.gov.uk and start having a look over our
shoulders as we work the code, and see where we can sling something of value out
there, the more we sling, the more likely we are to build value for everyone.

To this end, these are the events Rewired State is running over the next few months.
We will create many prototypes from the public sector data, some will go on to great
things, some may become parts of other things and others will just slumber on until
they may be useful in the future. In the mean time, we have found some brilliantly fun
ways of playing!

Very important point to note here is that Rewired State will work with everyone if they
are looking to do things better, are asking for our help in order to do things better – you
will definitely see a rise in a number of events that are sponsored by companies that
may seem to be from ‘the past’, we always look at the ethics and drivers for working
with such bodies, so please trust that we are not just taking any buck we get. We work
on a 50:50 balance. 50% of the work we do we try to be fun/creative/worthy and 50%
is commissioned, paid help. This way, certainly for the next 6 months, we should be able
to move forward and bring value, whilst remaining true to our original plan of showing
government what is possible, whilst they show us what is needed.

So, here goes – in date order:

6th October sees the start of a very exciting few months, with developers in the
community in and around Rewired State working with NHS Choices data and digital
signage boards in UK train stations and bus stops http://rewiredstate.org/events/nhs-big-
screens. The idea here is to set a challenge to see what can be done with raw public
data, using a slightly different medium. These boards can play such a great part in
games, mobile and interactive web applications and we are very excited about what will
come of this developer challenge. We still have places, do sign up, it is for glory not pay
– but will definitely inspire the old creative developer juices. You will be able to see what
we did, live, on these screens between the 13th and 31st December across the UK.

On the weekend of the 30th and 31st of October we are running a Carbon and Energy
hack event with 10:10, Carbon Culture and the Guardian
http://rewiredstate.org/events/carbon-and-energy. This is a true hack weekend. There is
so much that everyone would love to do, but so little time, so this is a bit of a
playground event for developers of all creeds. It is not paid, we do need sponsors for
this, however – as we need to cover some costs – but it will be fun.

On the 13th and 14th November we are running a developer weekend on behalf of
DotGovLabs http://rewiredstate.org/events/dotgovlabs_weekender. They are going to be
launching a platform to bring together Big Society challenges and it is a massive
experiment. From the beginning they have asked for Rewired State to be involved, after
we ran an event with them last year, and we are very happy to throw our hat in to see if
this is a potential way to match data and real need – using agile development as one of
the potential solutions, or a part of the solution at least. It is an experiment. It is paid
and we can accomodate a few more developers (as I write this).

There are a few more events lined up for this year, including a postponed one for the
Technology Strategy Board in November, but we won’t recruit again until we have
signed everything up properly.

Next year we will be running National Hack the Government Day as ever in March,
Young Rewired State is currently billed for May, and we are testing the waters to see if
there is any interest in Rewired Stately: an event aimed at developers aged 50+. We will
also run events that we are asked to run, and we will maintain the balance between
paid/sponsored/free.

Currently we are an incorporated Limited Company, needs must to work with
government – but we are working right now as a not for profit, we don’t have
shareholders who wait for dividends – well right now the only shareholders are myself,
James Darling and Richard Pope, and we are not taking dividend payments. Any profit
we make goes back into running the unpaid RS events; (in the past we put our profit
into the community, such as HackSpace, but that is getting a bit more tricky as
everyone has less cash to spend). But we are growing, and we will need help to grow,
so it may well be that in the next year or so the basis of our funding may change, but
we won’t hide this if and when it happens.

Filed under Data, Open Data, Rewired State, UK 2 Comments
Government, coding, developers, public sector
Tags: National Hack the Government Day, Young Rewired
State, dotgovlabs, The Guardian, 10:10, Carbon Culture,
Rewired Stately

SEPTEMBER 8, 2010

Digital Advisory Board
to @MayorofLondon
I am really chuffed to join some really lovely boys on the Mayor’s Digital Advisory
Board:

Paul Clarke

Chris Thorpe

Chris Taggart

Prof Jonathan Raper

Mike Butcher

Toby Barnes

Christopher Osborne

We had our first meeting this morning and the sleeves are firmly rolled up for London. I
am sure that I will write more about this – it is as much about digital entrepreneurship in
the age of open data as it is about government sharing information with the public. We
need to keep pushing the edges of opportunity presented by this movement for society
and businesses of every size.

A massive thank you to Emer Coleman for her inviting me to join, and her relentless
work, natch.

Filed under Digital Advisory Board, London DataStore, 3 Comments
Open Data
Tags: BorisDAB

SEPTEMBER 1, 2010

*sigh* private school/parenting/guilt/not
being a millionaire yet
So, some of you more regulars here may note that I use this blog for a variety of
things, but often for working out stuff in my head, whether that be work things, or
sometimes more personal. So don’t read this if you hate the personal stuff.

I know for sure that I will get bashed a bit for sending my children to private school.
They didn’t always, it was only when I moved to Guildford and could not get them
both into the same State school that the local private village school seemed a nice and
not too pricey alternative, I had made some savings on my move out of London and I
was working all the hours God sends.

The problem with a lovely, not exclusively expensive junior school, is that then it gets
you into the not so nice and cosy private senior school, that costs an eye-watering
amount of money – but you feel compelled to make that happen, somehow, in order for
your child to have the best education – because what could be any more important?

So I have spent the last year scrabbling and stumbling my way through paying fees that
I simply couldn’t realistically carry on paying, unless I ditched all morality or suddenly
became a millionaire – something that I had always hoped would wonderfully happen
one day (the millionaire thing not the morality ditching).

Truth be told, I was never completely sure what exactly I was paying for anyway, as
we never really did fit in a grand private senior school and our lifestyle and values were
sometimes in direct contrast with those of the school. But yes, you could say this is all
very well in hindsight.

Anyhow. The savings stashes and ebay-able items eventually ran out and I had to throw
myself on the mercy of the school, to hold on to my eldest for the next term – or until I
could find her a place at a local school that would also work for my youngest – who
enjoys a multi-coloured variety of educational variant needs – for when she ascends into
the dizzy heights of senior school.

Today I find out that said educational business – and I was reminded that it was a
business (fair enough – although they give themselves a charitable status officially!)
won’t actually fathom having her there without the fees for any period of time, and so it
was goodbye and good luck. I left the bursar’s office with advice ringing in my ears
such as: ‘Use this to your benefit, cry to the Council to get her into a school’.

And so I have a week to find a school that my daughter can go to – much to her utter
delight, I have to say (with some relief).

I am writing this as I am experiencing a myriad of confusing emotions:

relief that I no longer have to fear the beginning of every term and the massive
bill
relief that I no longer have to send my child to a school where she feels ill-at-
ease socially
horror that my dastardly decisions have got us to this point
disappointment that I can’t make a choice about any education in the land for my
lovely daughters
fear that I may have no option about what school she goes to now
fear for her future – she has had to go to a total of seven schools because I have
moved so much – can she cope
social horror at my own attitude – wishing I could relax about this
disappointment that was not the perfect Mum – gifting my offspring with
security and stability at school and home

And so, I suppose, whilst I work through these things (helped along by the skipping joy
of my eldest) I would say one thing to any young parents out there thinking they would
ever one day be in my position: choose the safe option with education, go for the
security and stability. Be as playful as you like with your own lives and living, but make
sure your children get the good stuff, regular friends and regular education.

Playing the rags and riches thing with education will really do your head in – even if it is
not necessarily as big a deal as we think.

Right… go ahead with the mauling *hides*

Filed under private school, schooling, state school 22 Comments
Tags: guilt

AUGUST 25, 2010

Digital life story
Recently people have been surprised at my reticence to rave publicly on stage, in
interview or over coffee about social media.
“But”, they cry, “you are so active on twitter”.

To my slight shame I did do an email interview with a kind lady from New York about
the Internet, social media and democracy today – but that was because she was nice –
not because I considered myself any kind of expert – I just put in my 2pth and I did
point out that she should be talking to those with political science degrees who were also
active online – rather than me.

I thought it might be easier if I just explain through a story why I feel the way I do.

The story

During the Easter holidays I took my children to Morocco on holiday. I didn’t book
online as I had had a disastrous experience doing so previously; and anyway I have a
friend who is a whizz travel agent and can always beat any online deal, she knows me
and what I like and always comes up trumps. I called her, she emailed me the holiday
choices, I emailed back my preference, pay online, get the e-tickets, check in online and
we fly away.

Whilst in Morocco, I read books that I had bought on Amazon and go to hotel notice
boards to choose the trips we might like to take. I check on my iphone to see whether
these trips have been reviewed and find out which ones are the best value and most
exciting and appropriate for the girls and I. Excursions chosen, with additional insight
from others who have been on them before, I wait for a rep in reception at a designated
time to book said trips, talk through in person what is involved, pay by card, and turn
up at an agreed time to go on the selected adventure.

On the coach I meet a family who have children with similar ages to mine. Whilst the
children bond over their DSs and Facebook stories, I talk to the parents: Rachel and
Chris. It is through them that I discover a volcano has erupted (they knew from
watching Sky News) and that our journey home might be affected. Having my iphone
with me I check the BBC website and call out on twitter for updates.

The information and feedback I could find in a few minutes from twitter on that bus
ride intrigued and amused Chris, who was aware of twitter, but not of its value. This
triggered a discussion about the world I was involved in with government and digital
engagement, that later (months later) leads to me helping him find a value in twitter,
simply by monitoring what customers are saying about the brand he works for.

The children become firm friends over the course of the holiday and spend some time
on Facebook on our respective smartphones – building new friendships through their
own contacts and mates – introducing their friends to each other online as they discover
more about their lives and realise connections or common interests, even as we are
away. (They also spent 90% of the daylight hours in the pool shrieking with laughter
and the occasional spat – whilst us adults snored on loungers with our books from
Amazon and blue drinks from the pool bars).

My super travel agent lady, meanwhile, is texting me and emailing updates on what is
happening, also following how happy/worried I am from my Facebook updates. Twitter
and Facebook keep me sane: I can keep colleagues, friends and family updated on what
is happening where we are, and roundly take the inevitable slacker jokes – and can even
crowdsource an escape route should we need one.

When we get home, we swop all contact details with Rachel, Chris and family –
including home, mobile, Facebook and twitter details. The children, unsurprisingly, are
online to each other the minute they all get home and onto Broadband. I share a few
texts with Rachel and Chris but we are Facebook friends, so I can see without
interacting what fun they are having and vice versa.

We all decide that we should see each other again a few months after the holiday, and so
organise over the phone when would be a good date. Thereafter, Facebook planning
between the kids went into overdrive – with bemused interception from us grown-ups.
Rachel, Chris and I only communicate by phone – but again, we talk about things that
we have noted the other is doing from Facebook profiles – which is nice – not stalkery.

A great weekend is had, during which I taught Chris twitter and got him set up; Rachel
was not interested but enjoyed seeing what we were discovering through twitter. But it
was a balance, real life, windy beaches, lovely food, friendship and stories, yes – some
of which were fuelled by Facebook knowledge and inevitable discussions about the
value of twitter, sometimes.

A few weeks later and I am running Young Rewired State. Seeing as a centre is based in
Norwich, not a million miles away from Rachel and Chris, I get in touch through email
to see if I might stay with them for a night so that I can visit the Norwich centre – as
well as catch up with them. Again, they knew all about Young Rewired State through
Facebook – and the children were now even more close, so it was perfect.

That visit was awesome, and we had a lovely evening talking about real life things as
well as events and happenings that we already knew about each other through the third
party window of social media.

And so they were a great part of YRS, an extra bonus.

Since then I have been remiss in even looking at Facebook, or catching up with anyone
to be honest. Tonight I was struck by a feeling that it was time to have a catch up with
Rachel and Chris again. It was an automatic reaction for me to firstly swing by
Facebook to see what they had all been up to before I got in touch; for a variety of
reasons, mainly to check that they were about, to check that there was not anything
dreadful going on that I might interrupt and also to show that I had actually taken notice
of what they had chosen to share; it’s a natural etiquette for me now.

Tomorrow I will call Rachel – and confess I have written a blog post about them – and
we can all organise the next meet (this will be at mine I think, my turn, Rachel and
Chris, no?!)

Moral

So, you see, it is not any hatred of social media that makes me yawn when people start
asking me to speak about it – it is just that it is such an interwoven part of my life now
– and I wouldn’t expect to speak about my use of the telephone (which is dreadful) nor
would I particularly like to try to unravel the value of social media. It is a part of life, it
is the digital part – but hey, we are all part digital now, whether we like it or not.

Filed under crowdsourcing, facebook, social media 20 Comments
Tags: Facebook, twitter

AUGUST 8, 2010

Emma V.5.6.2.0.5
So, I have left government and am now officially allowed to start blogging again!
Hurrah – but bear with me as I am going to have to re-learn the habit. No I am not
going to write about everything over the last few months and what it was like under the
Coalition and through the massive cuts and changes, this is about the future and what
happens next.

Speaking of which…

I am indeed going to be running Rewired State as a more full-time part of my life now,
and we have some exciting work coming up and some cunning plans to pore over.

I have spent the last week running the very fabulous Young Rewired State and the UK
Online Centre hack days, both of which have been exhilarating, exhausting, triumphant
and (at some points) mortifying!
Proper blog posts about both of these events will be live on the Rewired State website
next week (they take ages to get together as you can imagine) however, I can show you
some stuff from Young Rewired State now at the following links:
Pictures courtesy of the super talented Paul Clarke
Some of the apps that were made
It was filmed by Sam Smith for us
There was – and continues to be – lots of twitter chatter
And finally from YRS2010, Tim Dobson from DFEY who helped run the centre in
Manchester – filmed and rapped this (he starts rapping at about 1:21 into it, it’s SO
GOOD!!)

So what am I actually going to do?
I do need to make sure that I can put a roof over my head and survive, can’t live on
worthy projects alone! Therefore I have accepted a very generous offer by The
Guardian for me to come in and do a little work for them whilst also running Rewired
State from their offices. The Guardian have always been unstinting in their support of
what we are doing in RS and I am massively grateful for this cuddle I am getting – it
makes life far, far easier.

Over the next three months I will be taking some serious time to not only look at the
future of RS, but to build on the developer network – with the help of a strong and
committed ‘geek advisory board’ – that I have imagined but not yet actually invited! –
who will be charged with making sure I don’t disappear down any bonkers avenues that
just won’t work.

Thanks for all of your encouragement, please do keep spreading the word, we are still
running our super fabulous hack days and we will be looking at curating some of the
apps we have sitting in our Creations section. We are also going to be actively building
the network and working with the young developers who have attended the past few
years, similarly taking forward some of what they have made.

So, that’s me… for now

Filed under Emma Mulqueeny, Rewired State 4 Comments
Tags: The Guardian, Young Rewired State
JULY 14, 2010

To all my colleagues and friends who are
feeling a bit dodge about work/life atm
So today I received an email from my favourite statistician in the world, who has taught
me very much. In it he had – very intuitively – sent me a quote that I loved so much
and thought it was so well timed with the current hiatus, that I just had to share it:

Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always
ineffectiveness.
Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the
ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: the moment one
definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would otherwise never have occurred. A
whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner
of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could
have dreamed would have come his way.

— W.N. Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition

He did also confuse me completely by saying that “this is perhaps in some respects an
artistic analogy of the Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment
( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schr%C3%B6dinger’s_cat )” <- which I simply don’t
understand, but am not statistician.

Anyway, hope that gave people some courage!

Filed under Courage, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition, 8 Comments
W. N. Murray

JUNE 21, 2010

Mullers V3.0
At the end of July I leave the Home Office, which will be equally as sad as it is exciting.
So much has happened here over the last two years and I have been really honoured to
be a part of that. Indeed, I am leaving government – sort of.

Most of you can’t have failed to notice that my heart has also been in running Rewired
State events, many evenings and weekends have been dominated by geeks and data –
this for me is heaven. So I have made a decision that was not exactly hard, but is a bit
scary.

From August I will be working full time on Rewired State, let’s see what happens when
it is not just a hobby business.

In order to do this we will obviously need to raise some funding, and are speaking to a
few organisations and people but always happy to chat to anyone who might want to
come on board. We don’t need too much dosh really, just enough to give this the kick
start it needs, mainly paying for peoples’ time in the first year, thereafter it should be
self funding.

Meanwhile I don’t want to totally go native, I would love to keep working a few days a
month with other people on other things, to keep my eyes and mind open. I learn best
when working with great people on their own projects, and don’t want to stop that
diversity and opportunity, so please do ask me if you have some interesting stuff you
need help with.

So… Rewired State here we come, can’t wait to do this.
Filed under Rewired State 19 Comments

JUNE 20, 2010

Facebook-gate
I had an interesting week this week. One where my parenting world collided with my
work in the digital space. My daughter came back from school in a bit of a state as she
and nine of her class had been called to see the deputy headmistress about their
behaviour on Facebook.

As she told me, the deputy head had a file full of print outs of the girls’ walls and chats,
and was reprimanding them for talking to boys and swearing. I was concerned and
parentally confused, whilst accepting that Jess should not be swearing really at 12,
she’s fine talking to boys. What most worried me was that Jess is on Facebook behind
massive privacy settings, all of her friends are people she knows in real life – I check
this – and this is the forum she uses to chat to her friends (for hours), like I did when I
was 12, running up massive phone bills for my parents.

Jess was actually more embarrassed than anything, and kept wincing and groaning “oh
no” as she thought of more and more things the school might have seen that she had
written, and spent the evening cleaning up her wall, sanitising and deleting everything
she deemed dodgy were a teacher looking.

I had absolutely no idea how the school had accessed the conversation and walls of
these girls, as they too are behind privacy blocks and no one can see what they are
saying on walls except the respective friends, and the chats are restricted to only those
directly involved in the conversation.

In my view, this is a safe and free environment for them to share their lives and grow
close friendships that in some cases will last for life, using a variety of media. And in
this safe place, they are free to more or less do as they please: and yes, I know they
swear, it’s not like I am so naive that I would think they don’t, and I know they talk to
boys there, for one, Jess’s cousin in Australia is a boy. However, so long as they are not
bullying anyone, something I would take very seriously, and admittedly if they were
slagging off the school that’s probably not on, although in a private environment, that is
not viewed easily by anyone – it is unreasonable to expect them to be 100% positive
about their place of education – but the issue the school had was not with bullying
or undermining the school.

Points to note: these conversations all took place outside of school hours on home
computers, never at school that has a block on Facebook – and they have no practical
need to try to beat that block, as the people they want to chat with on FB are all there
at school with them. The swearing was ‘normal’ swearing, not any of those really
*bad* words

I had a bit of a brainstorm on twitter about it, was I right to be concerned? There was a
pretty resounding cry of ‘yes’ from the twitterverse.

I wrote to the class teacher, explaining that I was not being a precious Mum, but that I
felt there was a violation of privacy here, and a blurring of the school/parenting role. I
asked for a full explanation of how the information was received by the school (the 6th
formers had filled Jess and her friends’ heads with tales of spying through the school
network and what have you). I felt a bit embarrassed, to be honest, but it just felt
wrong not to do anything. I also knew that Jess, at 12, actually should not be on
Facebook anyway, according to the terms – but they all are… (I know that’s not an
excuse, but it meant I was on very shaky ground).

The next night, the deputy head called me – by which time I had convinced myself that
there had been a huge violation of privacy, that the school could be in real trouble and
would have to revise their policy on social networking and young people etc etc. Here’s
where I learned my lesson.

It turned out that what had happened was that one of the parents of the other girls
involved had seen her daughters wall, and chat, had then explored all of the other girls’
walls and records of chats and had set about printing everything that concerned them.
This parent created the file of print outs and took them to the school, asking that they
do something about this. The deputy head said that she had a dilemma, really, she could
not do nothing, nor could she really get overly involved. She decided that the best
course of action was to call the girls in, to reprimand them for the behaviour that had
concerned the other parent, mainly to teach them that 1. they can get caught doing
anything online and 2. there is no such thing as completely private in the digital world.
She assured me that they had not been cautioned nor had any formal punishment, it was
merely a chat; her threat to read some of the conversations out in assembly was made
in jest – but she *did* say that it was unnerving how grown up they appeared online,
knowing them as she does. She also explained that she had not involved the parents as
she really did not want it to be made into a big issue… ah…

I talked through everything with her, all of my concerns that had built up over the
previous 24 hours, and she was understanding, but said that if anyone comes to the
school with complaints about the pupils behaviour they deal with it, and they have to be
able to do so. I can’t say that I disagree but I did ask that next time, I really do want to
be given a heads up.

So it ended up with me understanding the action the school had taken. The parent
concerned, on the other hand… well, it’s not how I would deal with it. And I think it
was an overreaction for swearing teenage girls.

Interesting though.

I have no intention of identifying the school concerned.

Filed under facebook, privacy, school 18 Comments
Tags: Facebook, online privacy, Parent power

MAY 16, 2010

Networking businesses not
people/Speed data-ing
Or… Hack day for start-ups (update) <- we had too many clever names for this post

Right, there has been growing interest in this hack day, which is all very exciting as I
think it might be brilliant. So here is a bit of an update:

Date: I did say I was aiming for the first Saturday in June, that is now looking unlikely
as I have been a bit busy with the day job , but it will be a Saturday probably in
June, possibly sneaking into July.

the rest of this post will refer to ‘we’, I have not come over all Royal, but have
dragged a few people into this

If you don’t know what I am talking about, here is my previous post on the matter.

What businesses, what data?

Ideally we want 15 businesses involved and we are now in the process of reducing a
wish-list of 44 down to 10. Then we would like to invite five volunteer businesses –
seem fair?

In order to put your business forward you just need to have some interesting non-
personal data,
data is information that has been translated into a form that is more convenient to
move or process

basically, the stuff that sits in databases. We don’t need to have any story behind why
your business should be included, just send us a link to your website and tell us about
the data you have. Email us: bizhackday at gmail dot com.

What’s in it for businesses?

We can’t be completely prescriptive, however we would expect at least the following:

1. connections with other businesses based on your professional data
2. potentially a new product or service that you can take forward
3. a visualisation of your information that makes more sense than you’ve ever seen
before
4. finding connections with data sets that you simply hadn’t thought of before

Here is a blog post about a hack day run by Rewired State, just to give you a better idea
of what happens. (Important to note that this business hack day is not a Rewired State
event, but is supported by some Rewired State developers and me, a founder director).

Stuff we need

I have had several offers of servers, so I will get back to you kind people. We need
money to pay for food during the day, IT support at Adam Street, paying the
developers, beer and pizza. Rewired State will be stumping up some cash but it would
be good to have sponsorship from elsewhere as well, contact me if you want to
sponsor.

Register your interest to attend

We really don’t know what is going to happen, what will be produced and what
opportunities will be created. What we do know is that the show and tell at the end is
usually brilliantly buzzy and incredible to watch. The business owners will obviously be
there and Adam Street members, sponsors (if we get any), but if you would like to
come along and see the presentations and be part of what we hope will be a inspirational
bit of geekery then please apply (again to bizhackday at gmail dot com) and we will
confirm places once we are clear on numbers.

I think that’s it, over the next week we will be contacting businesses, do yell if you
want to join in in some way!

Filed under coding, developers, geeks, networking 5 Comments

MAY 3, 2010

Running a very experimental hack day
for start-ups
This is nothing to do with my work in government, therefore I am blogging about it!
(Ref previous purdah post)

The idea is to gather together a number of business start-ups, owned by members of
Adam Street club, identify the ones with interesting data and information, pull together a
number of developers/hackers, some of whom are already working with the businesses
concerned, some of whom are nothing to do with it (including some Rewired State
developers) – and run a one-day hack event with the intention of creating a number of
mash-ups. The mash-ups can take many forms: websites, web applications, i-phone
apps, other data phone apps, i-pad apps, games, maps – endless possibilities.

The aim is to see where there might be connections and collaborations between
businesses not yet explored, and inevitably see what, if any, new products there are
hiding amongst that information. I have no idea what will happen, it could be simple
things like more effective ways to exploit the data or better ways to store and serve the
information. However, I think it is worth doing, as we all know that one of the best
ways to re-generate the economy is through enterprise and entrepreneurship – so why
not see if we can be pro-active about this with start-ups.

How will the day work?

The day will start with the owners of the selected businesses standing up and speaking
about what they do, what data they have put into the pot, any ideas or issues that have
that they would like solved, inspiration etc (this will be very time-limited!). A Rewired
State developer will have been working with me to get the data sorted for re-use, and
we will explain how to access the data and any APIs we may have.

Planning and coding will start as soon as possible, and will continue through the day –
fuelled by delicious food and beverages in a variety of forms. At 6pm there will be a
show and tell, where the developers will show what they have made, with the traditional
beer and pizza accompaniment, to their peers, the business and data owners, and a
selection of interested people.

What happens next?

Collaborations between start-ups, initiated by the mash-ups, are the primary outcome
we want to focus on. Where this goes depends entirely on the people involved and the
nature of the product. Perhaps products will be created that are completely new and
therefore further discussions will take place about how that might be taken forward
either by the business owners, or by the developers themselves. We will see, but we will
be making sure that whatever support needed going forward is provided and will be
looking for sponsors and investors to help us do that.

This first one will hopefully begin a series of start-up hack days, I hope that it does
work, it may not.

How to get involved

Well, in order to see if this works we will be hand-picking businesses, but if you are an
Adam Street member and have a business that you think should be involved, let me
know. If you are a developer and really want to be involved, then get in touch – I have
enough signed up, but we are not really squeezed on space so we can take more if you
are good.

We could do with a bit of sponsorship for beer and pizza in the evening, but all we can
offer in return for sponsorship, is attendance at the show and tell and a first dibs at
next-step talks with the business owners and hackers – plus inclusion in any Press we
do around this event (although we are not yet decided on whether we will invite Press –
thoughts?). Also, all of the developers do this on a voluntary basis, so if we get
sponsorship we will try to give them something in return for their work, usually in the
form of prizes – you can help us judge these.

We need a server… please…

I think it would be quite good if there was a group of people wanting to run an eye over
this, and act as a bit of an advisory panel, so that this does not become just a pointless,
but fun, exercise. There are a few involved already, but if you feel that you could bring
something to this particular party – please do let me know.

Want to come to the show and tell? Just let me know and let me know why and I will
see, we are limited on space for that – so it will be first come first served and relevancy.

Why Adam Street member businesses only?

Adam Street is a club that offers seriously affordable membership to entrepreneurs and
start-ups (I made that up from my own experience, it’s not their official line I don’t
think!). Most people that belong to it are serious about their business and are looking for
good networking opportunities, but perhaps cannot afford to invest in expensive
business clubs. These are the people we think would most benefit and appreciate this
form of innovation. I am a member and it seems a sensible place to start – apart from
the fact that I am not a member of anywhere else. (From the Adam Street side, they
started out wanting to provide an affordable space for entrepreneurs, offering them
collaboration opportunities – and they are keen to deliver on this, above and beyond the
Mojito).

I approached the club about this idea as I thought it would be a good idea for their
members and they were enthusiastic, embracing the ethos of hack days as much as me
and happy to go with the ‘suck it and see’ attitude <- do not insert crude joke here.

When?

*probably* the first Saturday in June. It has to be a Saturday as we need the best
developers, and they are busy all week. Also, Adam Street is shut until 6pm on a
Saturday, so we get the run of the club throughout the day when the developers need
peace to work.

Rewired State

I am a founder director of Rewired State, but that is really all that is relevant here. This
is not a Rewired State hack day – we are über busy with government work, and our
only focus is public sector information and hack days. However, I have opened the
offer to work on this hack day to our developers as they really are the best; and am
really pleased to say that ten of them are joining us to work on this, including two of
the Young Rewired State hackers, one aged 15 the other 16 (and mind-blowingly good).

Filed under coding, collaboration, community, developer 10 Comments
community, developers, geeks
Tags: Rewired State, Young Rewired State, hack day, start
ups, small business, entrepreneur, hackers, mash ups

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