Tech, culture, caring – and a purple cow

The (entirely optional) Week 35 themes were heroes and heroines for a second week, or  the start of the new academic term (how that feels as a student or a parent of a student). Nobody took up either (entirely optional) theme, and minds were very much on digital things, including public sector use of digital technology, caring (including not great  customer service), and a purple cow.

Maybe everyone was exhausted after the previous weeks of busy blogging but Week 35 was a quiet week and had been heading towards being possibly our quietest week ever when Liz Azyan, Weekly Blog Club, rediscovered her blogging mojo and made not one first-time contribution but two at once – and then found time to write a third. And after being the first to contribute this week, Janet Harkin helped to raise the week’s total with a related post which squeezed under the Squidgiest Deadline.

Culture emerged in quite different ways this week. Carol Woolley shared musical moments with us in Joined in harmony as she looked forward to singing as part of a choir in a charity concert at the Royal Albert Hall with two famous brass bands. She and her fellow singers had recently competed against a thunderstorm at a wedding (surely one to be remembered well by all participants).

Ross Wigham put forward the cultural heritage as well as the landscapes of Northumberland as great reasons to choose to get married there in The business of weddings. I might have mentioned before that Northumberland is gorgeous. Even if you have never visited, you are highly likely to have seen some of its stunning landscape and atmospheric castles and Roman remains on television or in films. Friendliness is also part of the county’s culture in the 21st century.

Janet Harkin was getting excited at the beginning of the week about a digital culture event  Derry plans a digital creativity celebration with CultureTECH festival and made time at the end of the blogging week to share the first event with us – Digital marketing conference opens inaugural CultureTECH festival – at which the big corporations rubbed shoulders with the small enterprises, and there was much hugging. I am looking forward to hearing more about this festival, including how the virtual coconut shy worked. An interesting point that emerged in her second post was the need to develop better customer service.

Elaine Walton, Kate Bentham and Carolyne Mitchell all considered customer service this week. Carolyne was looking at it from a service provider angle, seeking views from the public of how well parts of her council’s website worked for them in I saw a purple cow (you need to read it to find out what purple cows have to do with it – they are relevant). User-centred evaluations are hard work but well worth doing.

If only the restaurant and shop that Elaine and Kate went to had had the same concern to provide a good customer experience. Elaine and her friends encountered a rigid approach to keeping the restaurant’s rules that created more problems rather than alleviating the initial issue of not keeping their reserved table for them in Customer Service = Anticipating Their Needs. Not giving the crayons to children when they arrived seemed bizarre. Most family-friendly restaurants surely provide those to help keep the children quietly occupied before as well as after the meal? Kate actually left a store more confused than when she arrived – and without having made the purchase. Read how the staff managed to put off a customer keen to spend money in Dear PC World.

Liz Azyan wrote about How government can spend less money on IT investments by using open source software. She has written a very clear summary of why open source is a good thing and provides great examples of the big companies and organisations that have opted for it. I became convinced of the benefits of open source software twelve years ago, and have recommended and implemented it for projects with which I have been involved in public and third sectors.

Liz also looked at a playful approach to solving government problems and engaging citizens in finding solutions in Can games solve our problems and bring our communities together? ‘Lord of Football’ featured as an interesting example of how mainstream games are shifting towards a greater realism where issues beyond those immediately obvious affect the game’s outcome. She reviewed several digital games that are specifically designed to foster citizens’ involvement in their communities’ issues.

It is surprising that there is still a need to persuade any parts of the public service that using social media is a good idea, but one of the commonly quoted barriers to using it is safety and security. If any public services had problems with the safety and security, it would be the armed services and the National Health Service. I do hope that people interested in these issues read all three of the following blogs because they do relate to each other.

The armed services’ approach to social media, however, might surprise you a bit if you have not come across it before. As Dan Slee pointed out in SOCIAL ORDERS: How the British military can help you use social media, if they can have sensible guidelines and allow blogging and the use of other social media platforms, there seems nothing to stop others from doing it. Elaine Mead, Chief Executive of NHS Highland, in Why does blogging work? – A Highland View wrote about how she wished that she had thought of blogging as Ayrshire Health do. She sees social media as an important and very useful method of communication and aiding a more collaborative approach as NHS Scotland transforms. Liz Azyan’s post  Public Sector Social Media Guidelines & Safeguarding Citizens Information complemented Dan’s and Elaine’s posts well, with more practical advice on the blurry bits, a couple of good examples that happen to be about nursing, and Helpful Technology’s great poster.

Finally, I wrote the least words in my own post this week: Ouseburn August 2012 07. It is a Flickr set of photographs (with a scant amount of text) about a very short walk that I took very slowly (inflammatory arthritis had hit my ankle enthusiastically) on a late August day with more than a whiff of autumn about it. I was focusing on the tiny details along the way because it becomes easier to see them when moving slowly. Colour was the main attraction in most cases, natural and human-created.

Thank you very much to all those who read, liked, commented and followed this week, as well as those who contributed by writing posts. Thank you also to those who suggested that this blog should be nominated (it now has been) for the Blog North Awards since it was founded (and most often written in) the North of England.

Louise Brown is looking after Weekly Blog Club over the next week, so perhaps I should leave the setting of the Week 36 (entirely optional) theme to her. Of course, last week’s suggestions (heroes/heroines and start of new academic year) still remain relevant this week, and I see that someone else has embarked on a Songs of Me selection today (I need to finish my own).

Over to Louise…


Janet E Davis.

Summary of Week 35

Derry plans a digital creativity celebration with CultureTECH festival by Janet Harkin.

The business of weddings by Ross Wigham.

SOCIAL ORDERS: How the British military can help you use social media by Dan Slee.

I saw a purple cow by Carolyne Mitchell.

Public Sector Social Media Guidelines & Safeguarding Citizens Information by Liz Azyan.

Feat. ‘Lords of Football’: Can games solve our problems and bring our communities together? by Liz Azyan.

Joined in harmony by Carol Woolley.

Customer Service = Anticipating Their Needs by Elaine Walton.

Ouseburn August 2012 07 by Janet E Davis.

How government can spend less money on IT investments by Liz Azyan.

Why does blogging work? – A Highland View by Elaine Mead, guest blogger on the Ayrshire Health blog.

Digital marketing conference opens inaugural CultureTECH festival by Janet Harkin.

Dear PC World by Kate Bentham.

Weekly Blog Club was set up in early January 2012 to encourage people to blog regularly, and especially to encourage those working in and with the public sector, charities and voluntary organisations in the UK to find their own 'voice' through writing.

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Posted in #WeeklyBlogClub summary, blogging, Business, cake/caek, communicating, communities, cultural heritage, customer service, digital technology, festival, football, health, leadership, music, national government, natural environment, private sector, public sector, public spaces, social media, Third sector, time management, tourism, walking, websites, working practices

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