2 weeks ago I asked on Twitter if anyone was running the equivalent of #nhssm for local gov bods in the UK. I was very specific about the social media aspect of it - it's social media which it is becoming incredibly clear is still a bit of a massive mountain for some teams in local gov to climb, there's a lot of frustration and confusion flying around by DM and it seemed to me a time and place to moan/rant/share good practice/celebrate success was a damn good idea.
I didn't want to run it. I'll be totally honest. 2 weeks ago I felt like someone had found the valve in the inflatable me and pulled the stopper, letting all the confidence I'd been slowly building rush away. Work events have not helped with this, though as time has passed and I've dealt with the expected emotions (even understanding they were normal emotions to have helped enormously) and I'm back, pretty much, to where I was before the meteorite landed on our team.
Dave Briggs from Learning Pool very kindly offered to set up #lgchat (Wordpress) which would allow local gov types to talk about anything and everything to do with local gov. I will be in front of my PC every Thur at 3pm if I can be because I think the discussions which will inevitably happen will give me great insight into how people outside local gov see us.
However. There are a number of reasons why after much musing I decided to kick out on my own and go back to my original idea. Social media looks easy to everyone outside local government. If I were paid a pound every time someone said a sentence with 'but you just....' or 'why can't you.....' or 'it's free and simple, what's the problem' I'd be a millionaire.
It's not that simple. I don't care what anyone outside says, it's not that simple and that's coming from someone in a team inside a Council where social media is about to become as normal a way to communicate, I think, as picking up the telephone. There is a sea change, somewhere in peoples heads, a complete sea change in attitude. But anyway, there are barriers, there are still barriers, there will always be barriers. People outside don't know about GovConnect, don't know about the internal ICT project queues, don't know about locked down PC's which mean you can't install Tweetdeck, don't know, perhaps, that 5,000 people switching streaming Tweetdeck to on, could potentially impact negatively on aging WAN's (and LAN's). Then there's the fact that Flash updates are often stopped, that twinkly websites wont run, that lots and lots and lots of Councils don't allow their staff to use the web outside of their lunch time.
For these reasons and a thousand others, #lgovsm is simple. It's going to be kept simple. There's a webpage where transcripts of the chats will go so people who can't get on the web at all at work can come and read and take part in the discussion off Twitter. It'll be there for the people who are in meetings or out with the girls. It's at 1pm so people can go onto Twitter in their lunch breaks without getting into trouble. There's no complicated flash websites or anything involved. And if you can't get onto Twitter cos it's filtered under chat on the website blocking software, well then the blog on Tumblr is there too.
There is a place for both chats. But one is aimed very much at the bottom, while I think one is very much aimed at the top. And I am the right person to be running the one aimed at the operational people, the people who make things happen, who make things move, who run under the radar, who by whatever means necessary get the tech to work so other people can speak across it. That's me. The other isn't, not yet.
So, if you work in local government and you want to come and chat, see you on Friday at 1pm. The hashtag is #lgovchat. The Tumblr blog where the transcripts will be held is here. W'll be running for an hour, we'll spend about 20 minutes per question which will be put forward hopefully by all of you. You can submit questions to be discussed on the Tumblr. You can DM them to me if you want on Twitter @loulouk
Very most of all, everyone is welcome. Directors, CE's, Heads of Service, Officers, Managers, partners, voluntary sector who work with local gov, all Departments are welcome from Childrens Services to Environmental Services. There's no money for training, none for conferences, none for learning. Time to learn from each other and perhaps accept that the experts in local government social media are us. We're it. The buck stops with us.
See you there.