Happy New Year!


A few things I want to do this year

I found it telling that the BBC’s highlights of 2012 in the run up to Big Ben’s Bongs, the only thing that seemed to feature were the Olympics and Paralympics. What’s it going to be like in 12 months time when we don’t have the Jubilympics taking place?

After a series of ranty shouty moany posts, I’ll try and refrain from starting the New Year in a similar manner. Being ‘on edge’, like a powder keg ready to go off at any minute is incredibly draining. I dare say recent days’ food and wine consumption haven’t helped either. [*Note to self: Drink less alcohol this year. [*Note from Puffles: Put it in the jelly instead*]].

Being more organised and being more disciplined

That doesn’t mean being less spontaneous and more boring. When we think of the word ‘discipline’ visions of corporal punishment arise for some of us. Discipline is something that is done to us rather than something we do to ourselves for the benefit of ourselves and others. Simple things such as getting out of bed at a certain time so that I can fit more things in during the day, or co-ordinate visits in advance so as to get to see and meet more of you – that sort of thing.

New projects

Actually, I got an insight into what being organised and more disciplined meant for me in my ‘free spirit’ lifestyle when AliceDaveKate and Nyika came over for my first digital media project. It’s one thing doing project management for an organisation where they take the financial hit. It’s quite another thing when it’s you. Later on this week, I have Sally, Dana and Ceri joining me to help make some further digital video guides on social media, with more day-long gatherings for an additional group later on this month.

As I’ve stated on my work website, the purpose of these digital videos is varied. From a working perspective they enable me to demonstrate the basics of various social media tools, while breaking up the monotony of my voice in a presentation or workshop. It also showcases the skills of people in my social community who are otherwise un/underemployed. It’s also a safe environment for all of us to learn within too. Finally it adds to and strengthens the bonds of friendship that exist within my community. Alice, Dave, Kate and Nyika came from different parts of my community, had not met up before yet worked splendidly both individually and as a team.

Just a note for those of you who have expressed an interest in taking part in one of the commissions, part of the ‘deal’ is engaging constructively with Puffles and my social media community. Through your normal social media use I’d like to see evidence that you are likely to get on with not just myself but others working on the projects. I have very limited resources and would like to prioritise them towards those that have invested their time and personalities in my social media community. This is also all at a very experimental stage too – we’re learning as we’re going along.

Existing projects

Liz Stevenson and I launched Teacambs just under a year ago, and it has been trundling along quite nicely as the daughter of the mother ship in London. Now having established it as something that happens at a regular point at the end of each month, I want to step things up a little bit in terms of co-ordination and outreach. One of the big ‘lessons learnt’ for me this year has been just how far ‘behind’ Cambridge and the surrounding area is in terms of using digital and social media in a corporate setting in a manner that isn’t simply just an additional marketing channel. One of the other things we don’t have is a stable group of ‘regulars’ (if I can call them that). While there has been a wide number of people who have come along to various talks – often influenced by who is presenting on which issue, I’d like to establish a wider ‘core’ of people to get some momentum going across the public sector locally.

There was also Eva Amsen’s blogpost about Cambridge which illustrated some of the problems the city has – and for me pictured perfectly some of the things that I want to tackle through a wider longer term project I’m currently calling CambridgeL!VE. Over the past year, the attending and listening that I have been doing has made me alter both my approach and my original timescales for what I want to achieve on this. Basically it will take longer, involve much more face-to-face time and a lot more effort. It’s not a case of turning up with dragon and saying “Hi! This’ll work! Let’s do this thing!”

Training and workshops pay my bills and enable me to do other things too. For me, they are also fun, which is why I like doing them. At the same time, there’s also a duty on me to continue learning – especially in the fast-moving world of social media. On the voluntary side of things, I’m exploring with a couple of people the option of running some free workshops in my local community – in particular for parents and teachers. It’s one of the things that for me goes hand-in-hand with being a new school governor. Which reminds me, my first training course for my new responsibilities is in a couple of weeks time.

Broadening and deepening my community of friends

In the grand scheme of things the offline meetups have been pleasantly popular. There were a couple of ones over the summer that crashed and burned – but this was due to the awful weather more than anything else. There was also a lesson for me about not trying to look backwards for something that is no longer there, or is only a shadow of what it once was.

At the end of 2011 I visited Twitter friends in Bristol, Manchester and Liverpool. Poor health and little money meant that I didn’t venture far in 2012. In 2013, things have changed again. Hence taking Puffles on what will feel like a tour of the UK. A number of you have kindly offered to welcome Puffles and I to various parts of the UK that I’ve either never been to (eg Northern Ireland) or haven’t visited for ages (eg Scotland). My intention for these visits is to link them to an existing event or gathering of interest. A concert, festival, exhibition, or conference – something that allows me to do several things while in those parts of the country, and thus extending the time I can spend outside of Cambridge. The other thing I want to do in all of this is bring together those of you that live and work geographically near each other too. But that involves having an idea of who is based where. Hence needing to do some work on this before putting people in touch with each other. With 4,400+ followers, a mixture of data crunching and hard graft lie ahead. (For some reason I quite like the idea of getting a huge paper map and sticking lots of pins into it the old-fashioned way!)

Politics – local and national

Puffles in Hansard? On BBC online? Is Puffles getting too big for Puffles’ boots? [*Note from Puffles: Dragons don’t wear boots – and if they did, they’d be very expensive!] On a more serious note, I’ve got a balance to strike here. While I believe it’s my duty as a citizen to help hold government and Parliament to account, I also need to be mindful of the manner in how I do so. Hence updating Puffles’ House Rules. What might get praise in some quarters may lose potential commissions in others – and we all have to make a living.

One of the things that has concerned me is the number of (mainstream grassroots) political activists who have told me that their party political activities is something disapproved of or not thought highly of by potential, current or past employers. There are a couple of things within this context locally I want to have a look at sometime this year. For example are local political activists allowed to canvass and deliver leaflets in gated communities? If not, is this yet a symptom of the crisis in our democracy? I put this because two large developments of apartments are very much ‘gated’ communities. Why you’d need to build such things in South Cambridge I have no idea.

I’ll continue to blog and tweet about what goes on in Parliament, paying particular attention to the Public Administration Select Committee. Apart from it being the area I’m genuinely most interested in – they scrutinise all things Whitehall social media too – it’s the area that is the least party political. In principle. While I have my own political disposition and views on individual policies, what I look for are the gaps in the policy-making process. If something in Whitehall goes wrong or is made worse because due process has not been followed, it is more likely to interest MPs from across Parliament, not just those that might share my opinions.

Locally, I might turn up to a few full council meetings just to see what they are like. I’ve not been to one before. May take Puffles too. Keep them on their toes.

Happy New Year!


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