Thursday, 13 January 2011

Jimmy Wales in the Cathedral

When I was 8 I remember walking down the corridor at school on the way to the hall where we would all watch an Apollo landing on the TV.  At the time it seemed like we were going to the moon every year and it wasn't really something that I was going to get worked up about.  But, as it turned out, it wasn't a "once a year" thing and we've never been back to the moon since.  Perhaps I should have paid more attention?

This morning I went to Bristol's Cathedral School to see Jimmy Wales, father of Wikipedia, deliver a morning assembly address to school children.  I wondered if they, like me, were a bit blase about the whole thing.  Perhaps Wikipedia, to them, was just a quick way of getting the homework done?

If they were indeed blase then they can be forgiven, the real question is "do the population at large realise what a monumental achievement Wikipedia is.  It is now the eighth most trafficked website in the world and the English language version has more than 3.5 million entries.  It also supports 257 other languages.  Not bad for an organisation that employs less than 50 employees.  Talk about drawing on the power of crowdsourcing.

Obviously there's a cast of thousands working behind the scenes but the point is that this "thing" called Wikpedia has mobilised those thousands and allowed them to self-organise.  What a powerful thing that is.  If only governments could tap into that sort of crowd-sourcing-mobilisation.  Perhaps Wikipedia is an example of "The Big Society" done right?

Anyway, back to the Cathedral.

Jimmy Wales has given so many interviews and presentations that I'm sure he could do them in his sleep.  But, despite him leaving on the 05:25 from Paddington, he gave a remarkably lively presentation and one that was tailor made for the kids.  You can see it here.  (Apologies for the poor quality video, it was hand held in poor light and my camera can only handle 10 minutes of video at a time.)

I don't think that most adults realise what a world-changer Wikipedia is and I'm sure that the kids only dimly realised it, if it all.  But it was quite refreshing and funny when one of them thanked Jimmy for helping him with his Biology homework.  Huh, I never got that sort of help.  All I had when I was a kid was moon landings.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

What would you ask Jimmy Wales

There are just 4 shopping days till Christmas but, more importantly, just 23 blogging days till Jimmy Wales comes to Bristol.  We all know that its traditional in Britain to leave Christmas shopping to the last minute and hope that a Christmas Eve dash to Cribbs Causeway will come up with the goods.  I'm not sure if the same holds true for blogging about Jimmy Wales' visit though.  Maybe I can persuade all of you to make a metaphorical dash to Cribbs and help me with the blogging?  Or perhaps I should wrap this up in a bit of social media jargon and say that I'm "crowdsourcing".  Or how about I just come out with it and say: "Help! I need you to come up with some blogging ideas for his visit."

To make it easier, the first thing that I'm asking for are some SHORT QUESTIONS for a five minute interview that I'm hoping to do with Jimmy.  The interview will be videoed and uploaded to BrrismTV and there will also be an accompanying blog piece. 

Please leave your ideas (either for blog posts or quick questions) in the comments section below or, if you'd rather submit your question confidentially use the form below.

Remember that Jimmy does countless interviews and has heard all the standard Wikipedia questions by now. Also bear in mind that Jimmy's press office will have final say regarding whether we can ask the question. 

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Jimmy Wales is coming to Bristol!

According to Wikipedia, Wikipedia was founded on January 15 2001.  Obviously, since  Wikipedia is full of untruths and inaccuracies, I thought I'd better check my facts.  But even Encyclopaedia Britannica agrees that January 15th 2001 was the day, so it must be true, mustn't it?  ;)

In ten years Wikipedia has progressed from a tiny little backwater website into the seventh most popular website in the world and now has 3.4 million articles in its English language version.  Even more amazing is that, unlike Britannica, this was done with just a handful of paid staff - the entire encyclopaedia was written by unpaid contributors, people like you and me.  (If you want to be part of this amazing phenomenon be sure to read this page.)  But despite this global-scale crowdsourcing , none of this would have happened without the efforts of one man - Jimmy Wales.  And the amazing thing is - he's coming to Bristol!

This is a very rare opportunity to hear from someone that's created something that's had such a big impact on the world so make sure your diary is clear on 13 January 2011 12.00-13.00.  It'll be at the Victoria Rooms, University of Bristol and if you want a ticket send an email to

This event has been organised in association with Bristol Festival of Ideas, Connecting Bristol, Bristol City Council, BBC Anchor Trust and Wikimedia UK.  I'm sure Brrismers will join me in thanking them for doing this.  :)

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Brrism11 - eDemocracy/Open Data/Social Media Systems

Brrism11 takes place on 21st July at thePervasive Media Studio and we've got some interesting social media related topics to discuss. As usual we're using our short presentation/long discussion format (5 minutes from each of the presenters followed by a 45 minute "open space" style discussion where you are free to join whatever groups you are interested in). The speakers are listed below.

(For meeting time/venue details, and to sign up for a free ticket, please go along to the EventBrite Page.)

Social Media eDemocracy

During the election a local Bristol company, Evans Finch ran a Election 2010 Challenge website which allowed people to submit ideas on how the country could be run better and allowed people to vote on those ideas. The site was slick, well executed and its a good example of how Social Media can be used to find out what issues are foremost on the minds of our fellow countrymen.

Experience from that website showed that people were keen on a more open, digital and most of all participatory democracy. Fancy that! Here are just two of the suggestions:
  • “e-voting open to all UK residents on all laws, statutes,motions & other parliamentary business. Bring parliament to people OPEN DEMOCRACY!”
  • “Create a system to let the people vote on government bills being passed through the commons.”
Chris Keegan from Evans Finch will be talking about the site and ideas submitted through it and asking “how can Social Media be used to usher in an era of neo-Athenian democracy”?

About the Speaker

Chris is a veteran of the video games industry, working on games from WWII Bomber Simulations through to Destruction Derby via Massive Role Playing Games. He is currently the Managing Director of Evans Finch a local company specialising in producing innovative Social Media Applications. He brings a wealth of technical knowledge from the interactive world as well as deep insight into games design, which he now applies to the curiously difficult task of encouraging people to push buttons on web-sites.  Despite all that, he's not such a bad chap and may even be worth  following on Twitter.

Open Data in Bristol

The concept of Open Data is gaining momentum in the UK, pioneered by advocates such as Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, and with vocal support from initiatives such as The Guardian’s Free Our Data campaign. Bristol City Council recognises the important of this global movement and has recently launched B-Open, an initiative to encourage Open Data in Bristol.

In this Brrism talk, Mark Leaver will talk about B-Open and how you can get involved. And, in true Brrism "open space" style, we've got some issues to discuss. Is Open Data still in "geek to geek" mode or is real public value beginning to emerge? Is the "digital divide" a consideration if we are trying to create public value or public services? Or is Bristol about to go through its moment of clarity where the public sector realises that other people (that means you, gentle Brrismer) are cleverer, quicker and more in tune with demand?

About the Speaker
Mark Leaver is an independent consultant concentrating on the development of projects combining creative media and digital technologies, with a specific focus on making strategic connections to international markets.
With a background which spans a range of organisational structures, including regional development agency, dot com start up, national broadcaster, international corporation and independent consultant, Mark has successfully developed businesses and delivered innovative project ideas across a range of media disciplines.
Mark was one of the originators of the Media Sandbox (with Clare Reddington) and is currently part of the 2010 scheme, including specifically the B-Open open data strand in partnership with Bristol City Council.

Understanding the social media system

A couple of Brrism's ago we briefly looked at systems modelling as a way of thinking about social media. Following that we began to develop a definition of a 'system' that could be used to describe Brrism. That work is ongoing and contributions are welcomed. In this 5 min presentation, a view of Brrism will be described that builds on this definition and begins to outline the system using the Soft Systems approach. Afterwards, as always, will be a healthy discussion on how we can further develop the systems view and alternative views that could also be used.

About the Speaker

Having taught systems theory at the University of Plymouth and developed a systemic approach to change management for his research,John has spent the last 10 years applying his knowledge of systems theory to University-Business collaborations. John prefers the discussions and shared knowledge that arise from developing systems models a lot more than complying religiously to the nomenclature of any particular theory. Follow him on Twitter.