Tag Archives: delib

48GB of DDR3 memory, in individual 8GB sticks.

I’ve just added more RAM to our testing machines

Here at Delib, we use a little XenServer 6 cluster for continuous integration. We have programs that act like users of each of our online applications and put them through their paces, which we write using a framework called Selenium. We use these automated tests to demonstrate that the entire software stack under each of our applications all works together, before we roll out changes to any individual part of it. These are full end-to-end tests, demonstrating all of the layers from our application code through to the operating system that they are running on.

The XenServer cluster is a small group of physical computers that work together to host a larger group of virtual computers. This makes running our tests on different versions of operating systems much easier than if we had installed them directly onto physical computers, because we can do things like clone virtual machines or roll them back to a specific point in the past with just a few clicks (or commands).

Virtualisation is an enormous help for testing how our software interacts with its operating systems, but it has one very small downside: you end up needing a lot of RAM to run a large number of virtual machines. Each physical computer needs to have as much RAM in it as all of the virtual machines that it is hosting, added together. We’re not big fans of spending our lives manually shuffling things around to fit within limited resources when they’re cheap, so the first alteration that we are making to our QA cluster here is to double the amount of memory in it.

48GB of DDR3 memory, in individual 8GB sticks.
48GB of DDR3 memory, in individual 8GB sticks.

This was a stack of sticks of plastic and silicon to the immediate left of my desk, when it had just arrived this morning from Crucial. I’ve just installed them all into the physical computers, and we should be up and running and making use of this soon. This upgrade should, as soon as we’ve reconfigured everything to take advantage of the extra memory, make the time that it takes to complete one of our test runs at least a little shorter, which makes me happier.

A mini unconference – some thoughts from the first BlueLightCamp

Having attended my first ‘unconference‘ back in January, in the form of UK GovCamp, the prospect of attending a smaller, emergency services focused event seemed exciting and timely. The day proved interesting and varied, with 5 different sessions and a lengthy lunch to discuss ideas further.

There has certainly been some interesting reflections following the event. Here are 4 take home pointers from us:

1) There needs to be an appropriate time to use social media. Conditions need to be created in order to allow the conversation to flow rather than simply the content. As one camper rightly pointed out:

“There is a balance between people having a voice and letting them use that voice”

2) Using social networking makes the face to face time more valuable. A case can be created for using social media both at the beginning of a consultation and at the end – to reach out and to pull feedback. However, let’s not forget the value of face to face time within this process.

3) There is more transparency online than often given credit for. Understanding who the community leaders are online and what they are talking about could be an invaluable channel of communication.

4) Adopting appropriate platforms for communication. Joining up various channels of communication and identifying crossovers, helps ensure consultations are relevant, focused and above all engaging for the end user.

Also Social Simulator is awesome. A personal highlight of mine was getting a mini taster of The Social Simulator, an innovative tool used to simulate how social media can help in a crisis. Taking on the role of a Local Authority in a crisis, I certainly learnt a few lessons about taking the lead, communicating, fact finding and above all ensuring a clear and informed response to the general public.

Social Simulator session at Bluelightcamp photo courtesy of event updates

Thanks to the event organisers for making this possible and I look forward to the next unconference soon 🙂

Gov Camp 2012 – 15 take home pointers

GovCamp 2012 was awesome. With two days of packed and uber interesting un-conference style talks, coupled with an opportunity to talk to and debate with a whole host of varied people, the event was truly worth working on a Saturday for ;).

In a true round-up style I thought I would go for a nice take-home-pointers blog post.

5 things we learnt from meeting people:

  1. Best practice needs to be shared more. We need to build a greater network of conversation and trust.
  2. Consultation needs to be fluid. Statutory rules on consultation may be too rigid?
  3. Digital maturity is varied within organisations. Recognising this both internally and externally is key.
  4. We need to find and target key nodes within a network. Once we have recognised this we can start to connect people. Connecting people leads to better governance.
  5. Is digital by default over-rated? One camper mentioned heralding The WI as a key player. Grounding consultation in a digital age is still important.

5 things we learnt from the awesome un-conference sessions:

  1. ‘Radical’ websites should become the norm and designed from the bottom up. We need to start looking at websites in terms of what people actually want. We like Utah and Calgary who both use clean and user friendly search portals as their home page sites.
  2. Agile working methods are awesome. We should move away from ‘black-boxing development’. Agile methods should be heralded as the norm.
  3. Don’t forget the end user. We need to advocate a culture of starting with the end user when designing websites and consultation questions.
  4. Manage expectations within consultations. People need to have context and a reasonable set of boundaries.
  5. Sites need to be streamlined and simplified. As one camper mentioned “portals can end up being a hungry mouth which needs feeding information”.

5 things we would like to see next time:

  1. More real life examples on how to apply things in practice. Examples help people go away from Govcamp and start putting their thoughts into practice.
  2. Further examination of bottom up thinking – where does the user journey start and how can we get back to this point?
  3. More focus on futurology – what will our digital environment look like in 5-10 years? What counts as digital literacy and how can we aid this?
  4. How can we connect the feedback loops? How does the nature of decisions change as a result of consultation.
  5. How can we promote buy-in and the awesomeness of digital. Practical tips for spreading the word need to be advocated.

The two day event certainly prompted some take home thoughts – if I am honest this blog post started off as a small essay; I have trimmed it for snappy readers. Thanks to Dave Briggs and Steph Gray for making such event possible and happen 🙂

Five useful links for the new look NHS

I speak to a lot of health care professionals about stakeholder engagement. The overwhelming problem faced by many in the NHS is the new engagement strategies needed by the GP Consortiums. I’ve gathered some helpful links to assist those re-thinking their Public and Patient Engagement strategies.

With all the uncertainty in the current state of health reforms, it is good to know that the NHS alliance is championing the cause of the GP Consortium.

A very real concern of many health care professionals is how to engage all stakeholders, something Journalista has blogged about very well.

The Guardian have published a rather interesting article about the NHS use of Twitter and Facebook, which is well worth a read.

The guys at RCGP Centre for Commissioning have developed a ‘Rough Guide to Engagement and Experience for GP Consortia’ on the emerging national framework governing patient interaction. As a starters guide it’s invaluable.

Finally, a word to Stockport Clinical Commissioning Partnership who are using our very own Citizen Space to consult with the public. It’s great to see it working so well.

We’re speaking to lots of NHS organisations who want to engage more effectively with their stakeholders. If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of using Citizen Space, please get in touch or request a demo

How our apps link into IAP2 Spectrum of public participation

Having worked with a number of global clients including NAPA in America and DFC in South Australia, we are particularly interested in learning how our current and future clients can use our apps to inform IAP2 (International Association of Public Participation) guidelines.

One area of particular interest from the IAP2 toolbox is the spectrum of participation (pdf) which can easily be applied to our apps:

Vertical ladder of participation

The levels of engagement are of course appropriate to different circumstances and can be used to achieve different outcomes. One common level for all stages, is to inform communities at every stage of an engagement process. Through the use of different engagement goals, supplemented by our apps differing levels of community involvement can be achieved with empowerment being the key outcome.

How can our apps be used to meet IAP2 guidelines?

Dialogue between communities in the early stages of an engagement process will help to determine expectations. Dialogue App can be used within this to inform, consult and involve key stakeholders, and many of our clients such as NAPA use Dialogue App to engage communities.

NAPA developed a dialogue whereby participants were asked to identify challenges to, and innovate practices for, improving the health, safety and energy efficiency of low to moderate income homes:

In just two and a half weeks and 320 unique registered users the results could be used to inform recommendations – including a decision to further educate government departments and the public on the importance of developing Green and Healthy Homes. A key outcome which will eventually lead to community empowerment.

Similarly DFC use another of our key apps – Citizen Space to help inform their SASP (South Australia Strategic Plan) update:

During the 2010 SASP update (a target of 10,000) South Australians will be invited to participate in extensive, state-wide consultations using a combination of face to face forums and interactive online forums.

Through using a combination of engagement techniques and our apps to inform different levels of engagement, our clients can work towards different levels of the spectrum of public participation, eventually collaborating with key stakeholders to empower communities.

If you are interested in learning more about our apps and how they inform public participation please contact either Ben or Gill on 0845 638 1848 (UK) or +44 117 031 609 508 (worldwide).

Here’s a nice video case study of the use of Dialogue App in public participation:

Five interesting pieces of digital democracy news for people working in Local Government

1) Guidance – best value consultation + communities
Just released: guidance from Communities and Local Government on Best Value Duty.

This document provides guidance on how authorities can work with voluntary and community groups and small businesses when facing funding decisions.

We found it interesting because we’ve been speaking to councils who are currently looking to work more closely with voluntary and community groups, including co-funding procurement of services (including consultation software).

2) Interesting tech story – internet of things
How the ‘internet of things’ could radically change local government: Guardian article.

The article is a simple introduction to a very ‘tech’ concept, where physical objects are connected to the internet and can send and receive data. There are multiple benefits to this – examples given include making transport run more smoothly, and the use of smart meters to cut electricity waste. BUT, I would really like to see this kind of thinking applied to community engagement and consultation. This could quite simply enable easier discovery of consultations and enable people to participate more easily.

For example, participating in a consultation on a public space such as a playground, or a planning issue like the opening hours of a licensed premises. This would involve participating via smartphones and could be done with a variety of methods, including QR codes on printed vinyl stickers, or via augmented reality overlays, or simple alerts based on GIS and mapping data. More on this in a blog post from us soon 🙂

3) Another interesting tech story – open source in local government
Bristol’s new website is open source. We like open source. Here’s some more about the new Bristol site.

4) Some thoughts on: Twitter; flexible working with holiday buybacks
Twitter and local gov is it a mismatch? – an in-depth guide from Peter Barton (formerly at Lincolnshire County Council) on how councils can use Twitter effectively. If you’re already using Twitter (many councils are now using it effectively), this is interesting. If you’re not using Twitter, this is essential reading – whether you’re creating a case to management for using Twitter, wanting to do Twitter but not sure where to start.

With local authorities under pressure to cut costs without cutting service delivery, we thought this was an interesting scheme from Nottingham City Council: swapping pay for holidays. Savings of £153,000 are attributed to the scheme. Is this a controversial scheme, or common sense?

5) A fun thing.
We discovered a Flickr group for local gov “Local Government Does Some Brilliant Things” – via Adriel Hampton.

Some useful things from Delib
Using remote working in the public sector to save costs: how Citizen Space consultation software can help with this (also includes 3 useful links about remote working).

Budget consultation and engagement: Walsall extend community involvement in budget setting with Budget Simulator.

Consultation tools that can be shared across an authority: London Borough of Sutton use Citizen Space + Dialogue App for consultation (PDF case study).

And finally, here’s a quick list of some UK local government Citizen Space users: Barnet, Bolsover, Bristol, Cumbria Partnership, London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, North East Derbyshire, Rotherham, Rochdale, Sutton…

Want to know more about Citizen Space or any of our other apps for consultation and engagement? Give us a call on 0845 638 1848 or contact Beccy or Gill for a demonstration

Delib @ #BurningRubber – and some reflections from seven years of digital democracy

#BurningRubber was an event to celebrate ten years of Team Rubber (Delib’s parent company). It was a lot of fun to take the day out in *deepest North Somerset* at Colliters Brook Farm. There were small amounts of danger, some ball sports and a fire, all to be seen in Burning Rubber – the photo story.

Meanwhile, I just worked out that Delib is seven years old (incorporated June 2004). There have been a lot of changes in digital democracy in that time, here are some reflections from me:

After a turbulent 2010 (and a lot of turmoil for our public sector friends and clients), I’m seeing more and more great stuff in the UK, and abroad (hello Australia). I’m bullish about the potential of digital democracy to build a more inclusive, more responsive, more rewarding society. Times are interesting – and in a good way.

cheers,

Andy

Group photo. Some of these people work for Delib.  They like apples.  I am not in this picture

Some of these people work for Delib. They like apples. I am not in this picture.