There's no substitute for face to face communication but sometimes it's just not possible. Take UK GovCamp this year for example. I know for a fact there were local government officers who wanted to attend but couldn't afford to pay for travel themselves, nor could they get their organisation to fund it.
If you're wondering why there was less local government representation at UK GovCamp 14, this may be the answer and as an aside, anyone proposing a centralised local government digital service would need to factor in the travel of talking to multiple service teams at 400 councils across the country, but that's another topic.
After the LocalGov Digital Makers Hack Day I talked about how hack days are essential for better digital services, and LocalGov Digital are working to help create formal structures so collaboration can occur where political priorities and local user needs align. Given that financial constrains are limiting some from attending discover or hack days, I wondered if it was possible to run one solely online.
Generally, the main weapons of choice at a hack day, before if and when anyone gets to the tech, are post-its, flip charts and pens. Online there are tools like Trello for post-its, Google Docs for flipboards and Google Hangouts for free video conferencing and screen sharing, but would these work and is there anything better?
I've seen organisations like Global Jam use Hangouts to bring together a number of physical hack days, but I've not heard of one done just online, so if you have I'd be very grateful if you could point me in their direction please so I can ask them about it and learn from what they did.
As you probably know, LocalGov Digital people are doers, so once we've explored the options we'll be doing this. I'll talk about the topic in another post, but if you're a digital practitioner working in or around local governments I'm sure it'll be of interest to you, so let me know if you want to join in.
Just like the Makers Hack Day, a hack day on a work day attended by around 50 people, it'll be just as much about discovering if it works, as the topic we'll be working on.