Category Archives: 24924

My talk from CRIM Crystal Ball 2010 – video

Following my talk in Montreal a couple of weeks ago, my hosts from CRIM have been kind enough to provide me with the video and have also given me permission to share it online. They’ve also posted a short photo report on Flickr.

See the High Def / full quality version on Vimeo

Also available (lower quality) on Viddler

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Technology and Elections – social meets society

A digital election?

My thoughts about the emerging digital engagement around the UK’s General Election (#ge2010) are many and varied. On the one hand it’s interesting to be able to debate issues with friends online, and there are a variety of cool sites which are emerging to locate and contact candidates or share concerns on “geek issues”. On the other, certain aspects of the “digital election” make me feel even more disenchanted. For one thing, the furore prior to the passing of the Digital Economy Act in the dying moments of the last Parliament made me feel very frustrated – even when those of us in the industry were offering to share our expertise with our local MPs to enable them to make better value judgements, we were fobbed off. The discussion on Twitter over the first leaders’ debate (#leadersdebate) was dismissed by the media as background noise – actually I think Radio 4 referred to it as “piffle”. My incumbent local candidate uses his Twitter account for broadcast rather than for discussion (and as far as I can tell, the others don’t have much of an online presence).

Engaging with candidates

One glimmer of hope is that new technology is not going completely unnoticed by everyone. I’ve had contact with a few candidates and former MPs which at least shows that not all of them are wedded to tree-based communication. Just, not my local ones.

It turns out that it was the hustings for my constituency yesterday. I didn’t hear about the event locally, but only via @FarnboroughNews on Twitter. I was abroad and not able to attend, but the guys from the paper were good enough to ask a couple of the candidates about their digital engagement strategies for me. The Conservative candidate responded by saying that he’s on Facebook and Twitter and can be emailed… which rather misses the point of my question, as he has a Facebook page which I can only choose to “like”, and where he doesn’t obviously actually talk to anyone, and his Twitter account seems to contain information about his diary events rather than having him behind it responding to reasonable questions. The Lib Dem said he knew that he needed to be more digital and would get there, he gets most of his inquiries via email. I didn’t hear whether the others had anything to say.

Overall, this is all still hit-and-miss. A few candidates “get it” but I’m left with an overriding impression that they are not understanding how communications and voter engagement has moved on in the 21st century. As I’ve been saying lately, we’re in the age of social everything.

Analysing opinion

These (heavily abbreviated) lines of thought bring me to the real point of this post. Some of my friends have put together a nice little mashup which aims to collect a sense of the political feeling around the country.

I conducted a short email interview with Kieron, Chris, and Ben, to find out a little more behind TwitVoteUK. Here’s the consolidated and summarised response!

What gave you the idea for TwitVoteUK? How did you get involved in the project?
Chris and Ben: it was all Kieron’s idea! (although @andysc may have pointed him to us…)

Kieron: the idea was sparked by the success of the #uksnow tag on Twitter and the accompanying website. The accuracy of the data was amazing when compared to the rainfall radar on the Met Office website. Some time before the election was called, I thought that many of the same principles could be applied to a Twitter-based polling site.

Who else is involved?

Chris: Ben and Kieron did the majority of the work. I just helped with the first draft of the database schema and coded the website with a friend Ian from theAttick doing the initial design and graphics.

Tell me a little bit about the system it is running on?
Ben: I wrote the code to pull the posts from Twitter. There are 2 separate Java processes doing the work, one for the hashtags and one for the @replies. These take in the username, postcode and party, then pass the postcode to the They Work For You API to find the constituency. This is then put into a database for the event processing software to work magic on.

Kieron: When a new vote is successfully recorded, some scripts are run to establish whether this new vote has changed the leading party in the constituency for which the opinion was received. If it does, then this is a significant event and it is sent to the event processing engine. This uses rules to see how often the leader has changed for each constituency within a given time period so that it can tweet about particularly “hot” constituencies, i.e. those where the leading party changes quite often.

Various other rules also control the frequency with which the overall results are tweeted and tweets about constituencies receiving a lot of votes within an hour. An example of one of these rules is that when the leading party changes in a constituency, the events engine checks how long it was since the last set of national data was tweeted – if it was more than an hour ago, then as well as the tweet about the change of leader in the constituency, it tweets about the party with the most constituencies and voting percentages.

Have you had any problems getting things going? How has it evolved?
Ben: I’ve had fun dreaming up regexps to match all the combinations of @replies and #hashtags that people have been using to try and “vote” with. Matching postcodes is a pain. The next step is to look at validating if a party has a candidate running in that constituency now the filing deadline has past.

Chris: People were not prepared to tweet their postcode, which is fair. The three of us got together and decided to add a form on the website so people could do it without their postcode being stored or tweeted.

Have you noticed any surprising results from TwitVoteUK so far?
Ben: Not really a surprise but the early influx of the Pirate Party UK shows they are on the ball with tech. It also looks like we may have found a Liberal Democrat mailing list as well.

Chris: I am surprised by the disproportion of votes. I expected it to be much more equally spread between the main three parties.

Any thoughts on the levels of digital engagement that the political parties are showing?
Chris: I hear murmings of lots of things that are being done by the parties but I have not come across anything that really makes me want to vote for a certain party. Maybe if I looked I will find something.

Any other favourite #ge2010 sites that you think are innovative / useful?
Chris: With the exception of They Work For You (and presumably Twitter, Chris? –Andy) I have not really taken the time to look at election-related sites. I follow the news quite closely though via the BBC.

Andy (yup, back to me!): Well I don’t know about what others think, but I reckon this is a pretty nice experiment. Thanks to Chris, Ben, and Kieron for taking the time to answer the questions I threw at them!

Final thought

I can’t help thinking that the US were much more advanced, particularly the Obama campaign. Maybe next time around, the FTW Party will give me something more compelling to vote for!

Impact 2010 (and the cloud – no not that one!)

Despite the efforts of the volcanic cloud of doom, I’m currently teaching some of my peers from across north-east Europe (NE IOT in IBM parlance) at an education event in Germany. My specialist subject(s)? WebSphere Service Registry and Repository, Service Federation Management, Enterprise Service Bus, and MQTT… the torch for last one of these having been passed to me recently by a very “hard act to follow”, aka Mr Martin Gale.

Assuming I can get back to the UK, and then assuming I can get out of it again, the next conference – and the last one currently in my calendar for this year – is going to be IBM Impact 2010 (#ibmimpact), the premier annual WebSphere event. There, I’ll be teaching about WSRR, presenting on WebSphere Message Broker, and attempting to also provide ongoing commentary of what is happening. Wish me luck! :-)

Impact 2010 | IBM Software Conference | May 2-8 Las Vegas, NVIf you’re also going to the event and want to get a head start – or perhaps more importantly, if you are not going, but you want to follow along – you might want to check out the Social @ Impact 2010 site, where we’re aggregating content.

Eyjafjallajokull image credit: Boaworm via Wikimedia Commons under a CC license.

Alpha, beta… [aka try stuff for free!]

A couple of small IBM Software announcements, depending on your point of view :-)

  1. WebSphere Application Server version 8.0 is now available to try out as an alpha version. This was announced over on the WebSphere Community Blog a couple of weeks ago (a blog worth following, if you are into WebSphere). Key parts of JEE 6.0 are showing up, and there are new security and governance features, as well as a simplified install. Check it out.
  2. Rational Software Architect is now available as an open beta. This is billed as offering “a simpler, more streamlined way to design, develop, deploy, and test IT solutions”.

And now back to your regular unscheduled programming.

Enterprise Convergence: CRIM Crystal Ball 2010

Today I had the privilege of joining a number of distinguished speakers on the slate at the CRIM Crystal Ball Conference, 2010, in Montreal, Quebec.

My topic was what I chose to term Enterprise Convergence: or, how consumer technology is changing the way we work. The pendulum has swung the other way from the past – previously, email was used in academia and by corporations before it gained mass adoption; now, mass adoption of social networks, virtual worlds / 3D Internet and always-on and pervasive connectivity are driving the ways in which enterprises have to adapt their models of operation internally.

My slides are on Slideshare (and I created a SlideShare event to collect others). I’ll try to add some commentary shortly, because they are largely images and may not make a huge amount of sense without the words to back them up!

As usual I get excited and animated and could have gone off in all kinds of directions when asked to speak on a topic like this – I envied a few of the other presenters and could have jumped in to add to some of their commentaries, too! A few references and reading suggestions if you are interested in learning more around the subjects I was covering:

  • Everyware by Adam Greenfield. One lady asked me afterwards whether this book is still worth reading as it was published in 2006. Absolutely. It’s a great read. Actually I reviewed it here on my blog back in 2007.
  • Convergence Culture by Henry Jenkins. This is interesting in terms of media convergence and the blurring of the lines between different types of media and connections. Not an essential read, but it’s where I got inspiration for my title!
  • The Future of Management by Gary Hamel. At least one other speaker mentioned this at CRIM 2010 and it’s really a great read, thinking about trusting employees and daring to be different in management and business models.
  • Grown Up Digital by Don Tapscott. I lose count of the number of times I’ve recommended this. Read it. It’s awesome and will likely change the way that you think of the generation entering business in the next few years. Trust them. Innovate with them.
  • Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky. Everything is social, live with it, use it, embrace it.
  • Andy Stanford-Clark’s infamous Twittering automated home
  • If you want to keep up with trends in technology like those I outlined in the talk, you might want to subscribe to the weekly podcast that I co-host, Dogear Nation
  • IBM Social Computing Guidelines – publically available to read and review, and there’s a nice video too.
  • INNOV8 Game – IBM’s Business Process Management simulation game
  • IBM Lotus Connections – a modular social software platform for the enterprise
  • IBM Sametime 3D – virtual collaboration
  • IBM WebSphere Cloudburst – provision private cloud servers
  • Unity3D and Layar
  • David Helgason from Unity on Gamification and 2010 trends

Finally, you can find photos from my first trip to Quebec here and photos from the event in the event photoset on Flickr.