My GovCamp wishlist (and yours)

A week and a half to go until this year’s UK GovCamp, bringing together 150 (ish) people prepared to sacrifice a Saturday to drop by Microsoft’s London offices, and talk about the web, government, and what happens when you force the two together. Messrs Gray and Briggs promise it’ll be ‘so awesome it’s untrue’ – for which I’d love to hold them to account, but I’m not sure how.
So, anyway, it’s probably time to start thinking about what I can contribute to the event – and what I want to get from it. Let’s tackle those in reverse order.
I want to hear from the new CEO for Digital. If widely-circulating rumours prove to be correct, the Cabinet Office has just appointed a new Director for Directgov and Digital Engagement. The timing couldn’t be more fortuitous. You couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to introduce yourself, explain your philosophy, and meet the gang. It would seem rather odd not to take it. Sold out or not, I’m sure a ticket could be found.
I want the Cabinet Office to tell us about Drupal. At the very least, their move to a multisite Drupal environment will make for an interesting case study. But my instinct is that the commitment to Drupal goes deeper than that. I’m expecting Downing Street to cross over to the same platform soon (although I have no inside knowledge on that); and if we’re serious about Martha Lane Fox’s proposals, you have to assume Drupal will be the platform on which the future super-supersite is built. I doubt we’ll get an answer to that specific question, but I’ll be listening out for clues. (Note: 9 people on the guest list from CO.)
I want to see the meat on the bones. Since the election, there’s been a lot of tech jargon flying around, but not a lot of visible progress. There’s going to be a skunkworks, and an app store, and everything’s going to be in the cloud. Apart from a full house in Buzzword Bingo, what the heck does it all amount to – in real life? Can someone please tell me what a government App Store actually is – specifically, what’s ‘on sale’? who does the selling? and who does the buying? Who are the skunks, and what will they be working on?
I want to feel reassured. Frankly, the last six months have been a bit slow, with the biggest developments being the departures of senior people – John Suffolk, Jayne Nickalls, Andrew Stott, Matt Tee. We’re all feeling the chill of the spending freeze; there is understandable anxiety at talk of centralisation; and nasty tactics by the Big Consultancies to protect their positions in the long term. This doesn’t feel like an exciting or indeed a safe place to be right now. I hope I’m wrong. Inspire me, gang, please.
I want our generous hosts, Microsoft to announce that they will use a third-party, open-source HTML rendering engine in future releases of Internet Explorer. Yeah, well. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
As for what I can contribute…
Advanced features in WordPress v3.0 / 3.1. Six months ago, I wrote a post about the significance of the new functions in WordPress v3.0:

The most significant aspects … only become available to those prepared to get their hands dirty in the PHP code. You won’t see them, or perhaps even know they exist, until you start hacking. … And as such, that feels like a subtle departure from the previous scenario, where a ‘power user’ could accomplish almost everything via the WordPress interface and a few plugins.

In other words, WordPress is now able to do a lot of things that many people won’t ever have heard about, or seen in practice: multisite setups, custom post types, custom taxonomies. And in v3.1, which shouldn’t be more than a few days away, we’ll have complex multi-taxonomy queries and post formats. So I’m wondering if there might be interest in a hands-on demo of some of these concepts – using sites I/we’ve already built, or taking a vanilla WP install, and wreaking some havoc with it.
Project Defra. I know Simons E & W talked about this at the Word Up Whitehall event, but I know there’s been quite a bit of subsequent interest in it. If there’s interest in a reprise, or perhaps a more detailed hands-on run-through, I’m sure we can oblige.
Something else. If there’s something you’d like me to lead (or contribute to) a session on, please do let me know.

One thought on “My GovCamp wishlist (and yours)”

  1. I’d be well up for a WordPress sesh! I’m a strong advocate of Puffbox’s philosophy what WP is ideal for rapid, cheap, efficient development (our latest rollout, our ePetitions system, is a WordPress powered site – so I’d love to see how I can get more out of it.

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