Podcast: moving into fifth

This is the latest edition of the Natteron podcast I record with Helen Reynolds.

In this edition we were joined by Rose Rees Jones to talk about open data, anthropology, the Missing Maps project, the Big Pathwatch, Wales, Cornwall, and data.parliament.uk amongst other subjects.

Links referenced in this podcast

Podcast: second album syndrome

Against all expectation Helen Reynolds and I have managed to produce a second podcast. The sound quality isn’t perfect as we were wrestling with flaky hotel internet.

But we did manage to cover NATO, the joys of the Economist, a smart NHS marketing campaign, encryption and loads of other stuff.

Hope you enjoy it

If you really like it, why not subscribe on iTunes?

5 things we learned at #RocketCamp 5

Lovely to be back on Church St for #rocketcamp

A photo posted by Toki Noz (@tiktoknoz) on


Thanks to everyone who came along to RocketCamp last week, and especially our three speakers.

There was loads of great discussion. Here are 5 things that I took away from the evening

1. Consider visually impaired people when you post photos online

Bik Lee from the Royal National College for the Blind took us through an exercise which took everyone from “What?” to “Whoa, I totally get this”.

We all know that photos are awesome on social networks, but what about people who can’t see your image? The RNC provides a full description of each image they post on Facebook. Even if you think that’s over the top, a short note might help ensure you aren’t shutting out a section of your audience.

2. Things are changing at Herefordshire Nature Trust

For a start it’s becoming Herefordshire Wildlife Trust.

But they’re also going to be dusting off their social media presences and refreshing their website.

John Clarke from the Trust gave a passionate talk about the work of the Trust and how their focus will be on connecting the people of the county with the wildlife of the county.

3. Choose your weapon

There is a LOT of social media out there. You don’t want to be, and probably can’t be on every platform. So pick the right platforms and work with them.
Richard Gallagher (who works with me at Herefordshire Council) covered this in his great talk on getting started with social media marketing. He also talked about the importance of working with people who are already influential in your networks. In his case he’s still chuffed to bits about a bit of help he received from PewDiePie (what do you mean, who?)

4. Social media can be a tool for inclusion

Apparently one of the things students at the RNC like about social media platforms is that online they are the same as everyone else. Offline people can see their white stick or their guide dog. On social networks people just see them.

5. If you don’t like tweeting for yourself, maybe a customer will help you

Apparently one of Ben’s customers at the Rocket Camp is so keen to share the joys of the food and atmosphere that she is tweeting for him.

How awesome is that?

Rocket Camp returns April-ish.

Crouton in a tab makes Chromebooks unbeatably awesome

Screenshot shows Taylor Swift and and xfce in a tab

Geeks tend to pay attention when they see my laptop. It’s cool and sleek and quite industrial. It’s clearly not a Mac, it’s certainly not a Dell or Lenovo, what is it?

And usually a look of disappointment or confusion crosses their face when they discover it’s a Chromebook Pixel. Why, they ask, would anyone, anyone with serious intent, waste their money on a machine that just throws you in to the Chrome web browser?

And the answer lies in the Crouton project. A side project of a Google engineer, Crouton harnesses the fact that deep down the operating system of a Chromebook is a very stripped down and locked down version of Linux. And Linux is used by those with serious intent.

In fact it was Crouton that persuaded my to invest in the Pixel in the first place. It uses a fairly deep Unix feature called the chroot to run Linux alongside the Chrome OS. For the past couple of years this has been pretty good. I can boot into Chrome in around 3 seconds (no really) and do a lot of the things I might want to do in that environment. If I need some proper computing (or to use Skype which doesn’t have a Chrome client) I fire up my Linux installation. You have to switch between one and the other environment and that has a tendency to be slightly annoying, though it’s not exactly the end of the world.

Now the Crouton community have released a rather marvellous enhancement. It’s a Chrome extension and a modification to the Crouton code which means you can run your chroot in a browser tab.

And this really is special. It means I can effectively run Firefox in a Chrome Tab, or do some serious GIS work on QGIS and snap backwards and forwards between that and, my window onto the world, Hootsuite.

And it brings Skype onto my Chrome desktop.

Some links for emergency planners on drones

Why drones?

When I first went freelance in 2008 I decided to specialise in the emerging field of social media for emergency management. This was, on reflection, a terrible idea because I was attempting to sell people a solution to a problem they didn’t agree they had (for more on terrible business decisions see my blog on how to fail at freelancing)

If I were launching a freelance career now and wanted to be similarly unsuccessful I would specialise in how drone (or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or Unmanned Aerial Systems) technology will impact on emergency management.

Droning on

Unmanned or remote control aircraft have been with us for many years and governments have been making increasing use of them. Until recently civilians were limited to model aircraft which are difficult to fly without training and have limited capability.

Advances in technology mean that UAVs can fly autonomously, take still photos (and monitor other factors) and stream and sound over large distances. Costs are falling and availability is increasing.

Why emergency planners should care

There are many, many positive uses for drone technologies.

The UAViators network is attempting to create an effective framework for the use of drones for humanitarian purposes.

The West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service has used a drone to identify people in need of rescue, direction and speed of fire spread, rendezvous points, access and egress to the incident ground evacuation zones and other issues around incidents. (for more on this read West Midlands Fire Service employs Unmanned Aerial Systems to protect responders).

There are several obvious anti-social or malicious use cases for drones, to harass or attack others. The use of drones by terrorists is seen by some as an increasing risk.

Regulation (in the UK)

In the UK UAV flights are regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority and they provide guidance on the rules for different sizes and uses of aircraft.

The Information Commissioner has provided guidance on drones and data protection.

Find out more

There is an All Party Parliamentary Group on drones.

There is a thriving community of people designing, building and printing drones.

The tech blog Mashable has a regular “Drone Beat” news section.


There was a demonstration of drone tech and a Q&A at this years’ BlueLightCamp.

Here’s a vido of the demonstration.

Health and social care, IT and informatics

Yesterday SOCITM (people who know about IT in local government) and ADASS (people who know about social care) held a workshop in Birmingham.

I rocked up. There was an interesting mix. I think I was probably the only digital rather than big IT person.

Essentially the programme was talk/chat all the way through.

It was, perhaps inevitably, focused on preparations for the Care Act.

This post is really a set of personal notes and reflections. I would have written it on the train back yesterday if I had been able to move…

It assumes you know quite a lot about the Care Act. If anyone has a link to a good primer on the Act (especially the tech aspects) do send it to me.

Random notes

Getting IT and social care people together is crucial. Involving health and digital people is also crucial.

Apparently in the NHS what we call ICT they call informatics. @ehealth_guru sent me a link to this [PDF] about how informatics can help improve social care

The challenge, in this context, is being presented as an IT issue. There are big IT and IG issues. In the room there was popular support for maintaining the focus on user needs but I think we’ve all seen how a focus on systems makes that really hard.

The approach in Cornwall looked very interesting in this regard @penwithpioneer

No-one seems to be much further ahead of us in the region.

The approach in Leeds is really interesting as per this PDF Whole Place Informatics Model

I worry also that the focus on systems will mean that we miss opportunities to deliver real transformation. Self assessment was being couched in terms of being a significant technical challenge and probably not very easy to do. There are so many criteria to check etc.

But we have an opportunity to build amazing services that are much better than what we can achieve with our current modes. We have to stop thinking about the systems and start thinking like consumer tech companies.

And is there consensus about the most appropriate interventions are. It seems to me that providing open data and open (API) services is where local authorities could add the most value.

Next steps

As always when you get a bunch of folk in a room focused on a shared problem there is a sense that “we should do this more often”. We should but it’s not clear what the framework for that should be. There was talk of a roadmap for health and social care ICT developments. That might be useful.

Talking is always good. Collaboration is always good. But organisations need to be moving in the same direction to really get the value from this.

Which is why I favour delivering some of these services on a national basis. And also why I think projects like Pipeline should be supported too.