The skeleton of a good #PublicSector #hackday / #hackathon

I’ve been to (and organised) enough hackdays and hackthons, that I can spot a good one.

The best ones have all:

  • done research on the problem they’re trying to solve
  • formed this into a challenge for hackers
  • openly blogged about the above
  • engaged with critics
  • made changes if necessary
  • got any required data into a useable format
  • booked an accessible venue
  • arranged solid wi-fi
  • ordered catering based on hackers dietary requirements
  • facilitated the day very well
  • documented the day and outputs
  • made sure outputs are openly licensed
  • awarded prizes to runners up
  • awarded ongoing development resources to the winner

What have a missed? Can you think of anything else?

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#socitm2014 – once upon a time this room was full of rebels

The society of information technology managers (socitm) have an annual conference. In 2014 it was held at Old Trafford, the Manchester United football ground.

According to the website, approximately 350 delegates + 40 exhibitors attended. It was a 2 day event with an awards dinner in the middle. I was unable to attend day 1 but followed the #socitm2014 hashtag on Twitter.

[deleted a section here – just see this tweet and the replies]

I try to be objective. When someone criticises something I don’t understand, I make it my mission to learn more. I don’t know much about socitm and unfortunately, people I respect criticise it. So when the chance to attend the conference was offered, I took it. On the way there I wrote down a bunch of questions and tweeted them:

14989629863_dcc89e8443_o

This received some feedback.

I spoke to a socitm member on day 2 and got the following answers:

  • Diversity – “well, just look around” (I saw mainly middle aged white men)
  • What is it good for? – “yes, all of those”
  • Who can be a member? – “both, but not sure how much”

I didn’t pursue answers to the other questions.

Here is the conference agenda (scroll to day 2). My recollection of the morning was vague, but I do remember that:

  • there wasn’t an interactive voting session during the chair’s intro
  • the Director of Digital Value for Money from National Audit Office wasn’t on Twitter
  • Kelvin Lee from Crown Commercial Service spoke with some passion
  • I walked out of David Chalmers talk as I was bored
  • all the presentation slides were awful, inaccessible and, well, awful

I missed most of the 1st breakout sessions. I had to make calls and do some work. Big thank you to the people on the O2 stand. They had the tool I needed to swap SIM cards in my iPad.

Parts of the 1st breakout sessions I did see were uninspiring. With the exception of Tom Baker, Chief Information Officer at Norfolk County Council. He showed an interesting slide which Nick Roberts (socitm president) captured:

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 18.56.14

This received lots of interest and questions, which I was pleased to see.

After lunch I saw a speech by Tom Loosemore, deputy director at the government digital service (GDS). He nailed it. I’m not typing this because I work at GDS. He just nailed it. Clear delivery. Simple slides. Easy to follow.

More breakout sessions followed. More uninspiring content. The worst by far was IBM’s “Smarter Cities – As if People Mattered”. The advertised speaker was unable to attend, which may explain the poor presentation. I took nothing away, except that playing several 6 minute videos is a bad idea.

After the last break, a very nervous Rachael Mfoafo talked through her research project. Then we got onto the panel session, which for me was the highlight of the day.

NB: 350 delegates came to the conference. Only 55 were left for the panel discussion. That means 295 people missed the most inspiring part of day 2.

Panel member Tristan Wilkinson was replaced with Carrie Bishop. Like Tom, she nailed it. I mean, she really nailed it. Here are some quotes:

  • “what is the actual problem we’re trying to solve?” LINK
  • “It should be digital by design, not digital by default” LINK
  • “It’s not just about open source or open data it’s about being open as a human being” LINK
  • “we’re still doing the wrong things, for the wrong reasons, most of the time” LINK
  • “legacy systems; get rid of them!” LINK
  • “it costs public money to procure the wrong thing” LINK
  • “they haven’t got a spec, they’ve got a bunch of prototypes to inspire the market” LINK

and my personal favourite from Carrie:

  • “once upon a time this room was full of rebels” LINK

I really liked what Carrie’s fellow panel member and Guardian journalist Jane Dudman said:

  • “you’ve got to accept that #digital is disruptive and just get on with it” LINK

295 delegates missed that, the fools.

All in all I’m glad I went. But there some changes I would make:

  • vet all presentations
  • vet all speakers
  • be more diverse
  • unconference

Happy to help make this happen.