In the words of Vanilla Ice…

Stop, collaborate and listen.

Demos have a new collection out today called The Collaborative State. I’ve got two pieces in there: One on the online response to Hurricane Katrina (co-authored with Niamh) and another about how Government can use online collaborative tools more generally called Flesh, steel and Wikipedia (written with Molly).

Simon and Catherine had an op-ed article (sub req’d) in the FT yesterday which sets out the overall argument of the collection. The book also includes a piece by the brilliant Yochai Benkler, whose Wealth of Networks I reviewed last year.

Number 63

The Long Now Foundation (who I’ve got to know and enjoy working with over the past five years) have a new Membership Program. Becoming a Long Now member helps to fund their various projects (like the Clock) and provides access to high quality online video of their San Francisco Seminars.

They also send you a really cool stainless steel membership card engraved with your charter member number. I’m number 63.

The political backdrop

I realised recently that political theatre has changed quite substantially in the last decade in the UK. When I think back to 1997, the background to the Blair campaign was all about big crowds waving flags and placards and cheering and clapping. I think it was borrowed from the US with those huge party conventions with booming “The Next President of the United States” introductions and balloons falling from the ceiling.

But today that’s gone. The backdrop for the emerging UK political generation is their own front room. Cameron doesn’t do big speeches — he speaks to a webcam. The only place he can have a cheering backdrop is at Tory party conference and they’ve changed the format of that away from a set piece speech for the leader. Also — historically at least — the party hasn’t really attracted the cheering type.

I guess it might be a practical. It’s hard to find enough supporters to make a convincing crowd in an age where political party membership is low and party funding is too tight to manufacture those kind of opportunities. Peter Hitchens said this morning on Start the Week that he thought the two political parties would disappear — something I wrote about a while back with Tom. It still wouldn’t surprise me to see one of the main parties go into receivership.

But I also wondered whether the shift of image is deliberate. Maybe the Tories have made a calculation that people have less trust for the kind of politician who needs a cheering crowd. It would make some sense of Peter Mandelson’s comments over the weekend that imply Labour should skip a generation. Love him or loathe him, his ability to spot political currents ahead of time is probably unrivaled. He well knows that the style of the next generation of Milibands, Balls, Coopers and Lamys is a much more laid back, low-key politics rather than the fist clenched, booming Brown.

Tories 2.0

I went along to hear George Osborne speak at the RSA yesterday morning about the internet and was very impressed. Normally, listening to politicians talking about technology is a bit embarrassing. They fall into lots of very obvious traps and sound very naive.

But the shadow chancellor has met the people, read the books and obviously spends a fair amount of time online (using Firefox which earned him extra brownie points). The speech should be a real wake up call to Labour and the other parties. It made me realise quite how far behind they are.

Read the full speech here.

Lurching between optimism and pessimism

Just noticed that the RSA have put up a transcript (pdf) of the climate change event last year where I responded to the Treasury’s Michael Jacobs. My short talk was about the emotionally exhausting nature of the climate change issue — how it has developed an uneasy relationship between optimism and pessimism.

Also noticed that Matthew Taylor — new Chief Exec at the RSA — has started blogging.


A little while back I met Tom Savage at a event about social enterprise. Tom is behind Tiptheplanet which is a kind of editable ‘How To’ guide to being more sustainable. It strikes me as a genuinely useful use of a wiki — as Tom explains:

From little things, like cleaning your leather shoes with a banana skin – (rub with the inside of the peel, then wipe and buff with a cloth), dusting down the coils at the back of the fridge (dusty coils can waste up to 30% extra electricity) or not having a screen saver (set your computer to sleep instead to save money and energy)… To those bigger issues, such as recycling (if 100,000 people who currently don’t recycle began to do so, they could collectively reduce CO2 emissions by 42,000 tons a year) to turning off office lights at night (Lighting an average-size office overnight wastes enough energy to heat water for 1000 cups of tea), has tips that can help individuals and organisations do their bit toward making the world a better, easier and cheaper-to-live in place!

Well worth a look.

It’s not what you know…

I’m writing a piece for the wonderful Enterprise Insight about networking and entrepreneurialism. The basic thrust will be that networking is a good thing to do if you want to make your ideas happen.

It’s an interesting time for me to be writing it because I’m busy trying to start up a business with some friends. The thing that has struck me so far is how willing people have been to help and to make introductions. It’s been a really pleasant experience meeting up with old contacts to tell them what we’re up to and follow their leads and advice.

So writing the piece for EI gives me a chance to step back and look at what I’ve learned myself about networks and start-ups so far. I’ll write the piece to include a mixture of examples of how networks have helped successful businesses get off the ground and some of the theory behind networks that I’ve learned over the years including through editing Network Logic.