UKGovcamp 15

30 Jan 2015

I attended UKGovcamp 15 last Saturday, had a bunch of thoughts on the day and wanted to sketch them out in this blog. The full UKGovcamp 2015 schedule is here and the full notes from the sessions are here.

UKGovcamp is a free annual unconference for people interested in how the public sector does digital stuff – my favourite description (seen on Twitter) was ‘Glastonbury for government digital geeks’.

I’ve been going to unconferences for years (and traditional conferences for years and years), this was my favourite to date. @harryharrold nailed it when he said there were deep, specific sessions – something that (un)conferences can often lack (I typically come away saying that lunchtime was the most valuable ‘session’ because it was the first opportunity to genuinely talk with people). There was enough structure to make the event run smoothly (and clearly enough learning from previous years to inform the structure). Sessions I attended were well organised and (importantly) were noted and shared by the end of the day (important to support reflection like this and to extend the learning beyond those in the room on the day).

My #ukgc15 ran something like this:

Blockchain and public services, led by @MartinHowitt, was a chance to get behind the buzzword and find out what it actually is. I found this film explaining Bitcoin and Martin wrote this blog post to share this thoughts. It’s fair to say that few people understand the technical detail of blockchain and that its value seems mainly metaphorical: something symbolic of decenrtalised power/fewer gatekeepers rather than a technical solution that will be widely used in public services in the UK in the short term.

Parliamentary Digital Service, led by Tracy Green was a chance to discuss how to reconnect a cynical population with legislative power and offer an alternatice to sometimes weak political press coverage. This session provoked strong emotions amongst govcampers, with particular disdain for outmoded voting processes. I was a policy analyst in a previous life and enjoyed parliamentary questions and select committees because they gave an immediacy and transparency to the parliamentary system – I’d love the new Parliamentary Digital Service to do the same thing.

@hindsightery and @lewisnyman brought us back to thinking about real people amongst all the chat of digital services. All roads lead to GDS and we talked around service design and starting with needs (with some interesting chat about user insights and guerrilla testing).

we got security screw-ups from @glynwintle, showing that even ‘techies’ can overlook the importance of security and that the main weakness of many digital systems are people. Added a capital letter and numbers to your password requirements? That means that everyone capitalises the first letter and adds a ‘1’ to it. World’s worst frequently used password? ‘123456’. Second most popular password? ‘password’. Ninth most popular password? ‘iloveyou’. Awww.

UKGovcamp was interesting on a personal level (hence this blog), will influence me professionally in my role as product manager for Propeller and has been fed into the wider system of public services - I’ve shared a UKGovcamp update with colleagues at Catch22.