A self organised unconference for anyone with an interest in services in islands, wherever they may be (including the big one with Cardiff, Edinburgh, and London on it); and for anyone with connections to islands, however tenuous. Also (in May 2012 and May 2015), an opportunity for visitors to Orkney to see puffins!

IslandGovCamp #IsleGC15 : Saturday and Sunday 30-31 May 2015
Kirkwall Grammar School, Orkney (and online)

(There will also be an island visit, and/or bus tour in Orkney on Friday 29 May 2015, for govcampers travelling to Orkney who can arrive a day or 2 early.)

Wednesday 20 June 2012

So what does it all mean? #IsleGC12

[First draft - links and pictures will be added soon, and errors and inelegancies (some of them) removed!]

This first post-#IsleGC12 post has a simple aim: to think back to what I hoped #IsleGC12 might be, and reflect on the extent to which I now think it fulfilled that hope.

Apart from my thoughts and impressions, there is a mass of actual data following #IsleGC12 - tweets, blog posts, email, feedback questionnaire material, and other things - most of it produced and drawn together by other participants in #IsleGC12. This deserves detailed and careful analysis and consideration; another post with links to the work on this that others have already started will appear soon. Over the coming weeks to play my part in this effort, I promise (against my nature!) to force myself to step back from the many other exciting things happening at the moment - some of them directly made possible or inspired by my participation in #IsleGC12 - and to make sure I reflect and contribute to this effort, so that the #IsleGC12 experience is shared in a form that might be useful to others in the future.

During the 4 weeks or so since participants started arriving in Kirkwall for #IsleGC12, and we all started detailed preparations for how the event was going to organise itself, the thoughts and impressions about what it all means have been coming thick and fast. I think this is due to my relative inexperience with the unconference format, so my wonder and delight at the positive, self-organised, collaborative approach is strong - and perhaps even more keenly felt because I was learning about it at home in Orkney in (for once) glorious weather! In short, there is so much blog posts material available on so many aspects of #IsleGC12 that I may never need to think of another topic for years!

So what did I hope #IsleGC12 might be? I thought At one level, I took completely at face value that a govcamp will be what it will be, that the right people to be there are the people who are there, and that willing participants will organise themselves to make sure that the discussions and activities at the event are valuable and engaging. I'd previously attended only 2 events calling themselves govcamps (both in Scotland).The first - scotgovcamp2 (held in Aberdeen in September 2011, and arranged by individuals working in the public sector in, and sponsored by Learning Pool and others) - seemed to me to be a brilliant example of interactive collaboration, positively engaging people from a wide range of perspectives, and focussing on pragmatically helping to make progress on issues of importance chosen by those present. The discussion and debate around the merits and flaws of the second - GovCamp Scotland (held in Edinburgh in November 2011, arranged and sponsored by a consortium including Microsoft, the Scottish Government, Cisco, Sopra Group and others) - helped me understand that there is probably a rich variety of govcamp events, forming a spectrum with something very close to a purely social occasion at one end, and something even closer to a traditional conference at the other.

The original idea for #IslandGovCamp was literally an ironic joke (this is a weakness of mine!): it struck me in Aberdeen last September that if there can be UKGovCamp and a scotgovcamp, why couldn't there be an OrkneyGovCamp? After all, every year in Orkney a huge number of community-organised events are staged - from the serious and world-class such as the St Magnus International Festival (the 35th of which is just getting underway as I write) and the Orkney Folk Festival, to the locally focussed such as Stromness Shopping Week, the Westray Regatta and the Orkney District SCDA Festival of One-Act Plays. I will blog in the future about the fantastic social and (non-digital) technical infrastructure that has evolved in Orkney over the last 30 years, which has led (I believe) to Orkney being one of the most agile and flexible communities in the UK when it comes to facilitating events large or small - as long as everyone can afford the time and the plane fare to get here! A govcamp struck me as being - in essence - an Orkney festival, without the necessity of booking any artistes, with only 1 venue, and the running order for which would be organised by those attending. That did not seem a daunting prospect for someone like me to arrange!

As I waited on the ferry in Aberdeen, the day after scotgovcamp2, I started to think about which weekend, in the crowded Orkney events calendar, could possibly accommodate something new. Orkney has a population of around 20,000, only a certain (quite small) number of people, venues, bed & breakfast providers, ferry & plane tickets and so on are available on any given day! At the very least, any #IslandGovCamp would need to avoid the dozen or so biggest events each year. But hang on - who on earth would even be interested in attending a govcamp about Orkney? Maybe it would be better to expand the scope a bit. Which existing model should I pick, to suggest the expanded scope for my theoretical event? Several options (some of which I've been personally involved in establishing) sprang to mind: the Scottish Islands ICT Forum, established in 2006 to facilitate collaboration between ICT professionals within Scotland's 3 island authorities (Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Orkney and Shetland); the Pathfinder North partnership of councils in the Highlands and Islands area, which came together under the leadership of The Highland Council to specify and procure symmetric uncontended broadband links to all local authority sites in the Highlands and Islands area; the Scottish Region of Socitm, which provides a "safe space" for all public sector and third sector web and ICT people to share experience and provide mutual support; the (now defunct) Glow Mentors network, providing support to teachers in all schools in Scotland in the take up and use of the Glow intranet - the list is endless. In the end, the name #IslandGovCamp came into my head, and I realised that what might distinguish this (still theoretical) event should be that it would look at all the same stuff as other govcamps, but from an island perspective, and in an island setting.

Then (still waiting for the ferry to depart from Aberdeen to Kirkwall) I had an idea about how to have a bit more (still theoretical) fun with the concept: I created a twitter account and started spamming everyone I thought might be amused with an ironic consultation exercise: *If* there were to be an IslandGovCamp event in Orkney in 2012, which month would you like it to be held in? My vote was for September, to coincide with the Orkney International Science Festival (it would have been a wonderful synergistic fit!), but within hours there was an overwhelming consensus (led by Mary McKenna, of Learning Pool) that the event (which would never happen, I was fairly sure of it) should happen when there was a chance of seeing puffins in Orkney. I'd be lying if (at that stage) I really knew when that is, in any detail, but what was clear was that there was an appetite for the event to an extent I never imagined possible, so I started to downplay any notion of it ever coming to be. How, after all, could it?

I will blog (another promised future post) another time about the detail of how this ridiculous idea turned gradually into #IsleGC12, 25-27 May in Orkney (and on the internet). Suffice to say, that a number of different factors all combined in the right way to make it possible. Also, 3 or 4 individuals encouraged and supported the idea (and me) in practical (and psychological) ways that I will always be grateful for. Many others were enthusiastic about taking part, and that is the real reason why it happened, of course - like any other govcamp or unconference (or, in the end, like any other event, perhaps - discuss!).

It has long been said that THE. MOST. IMPORTANT. issue for islands is transport. Moving people and things into and out of a community surrounded by water is much more expensive, time-consuming and complicated than moving people and things in and out of (most) communities which are not so surrounded. Since the earliest days of hype around pervasive digital communications, Orkney has attempted to use digital technology to provide options (in certain circumstances) other than physically travelling from one place to another: this started (I claim) around 1990, with BT's vision for how ISDN would transform our lives. Of course there is a long history of analogue and radio communications predating this; technologies such as broadcast radio and the telephone were developed in different ways (and in a different age) in arguably successful attempts to do the same thing (let's leave aside entirely the development of steam and the internal combustion engine, and arguments about how roads, railways, and lifeline ferry and air services should be provided to the various communities in Scotland and beyond; but, in this context, they are chapters of the same story!).

For 15 years, I (and others in the islands) have been attempting to interest organisers of events to facilitate (where appropriate) remote attendance (one shorthand for this, nowadays, is "by webex or similar") at events we cannot otherwise ever hope to attend with our peers based on the big island with Cardiff, Edinburgh and London on it. I can get "very assertive" (and not in a particularly admirable way!) on this topic, as many readers of this blog will know. Over the past year or 2, with the advent of webcasting and mainstream usage of webinars for sales and other commercial purposes, I have sent an average of 3 emails a week (to organisations such as Socitm, Holyrood Events, Headstar, NextGen Events and many, many others) in response to "invitations" to "exciting" events, politely enquiring if I can follow or participate in the event remotely. Very recently (within the last 3 or 4 months) some of these emails have received more encouraging responses than a flat rejection. (Some of these events really do look exciting, by the way - essential even - but that still doesn't mean that it is affordable to attend them from the islands!).  One or 2 events (Digi 2012 and BlueLightCamp) stand out as being both brilliant, and accessible by webcast and twitter-or-similar!

When I started to think seriously about IslandGovCamp, I realised that THE. MOST. IMPORTANT. issue for islands nowadays (OK, one of the most important issues) is trying to ensure that the provision of appropriate remote attendance options for events becomes the norm, everywhere. So the main things I hoped for #IsleGC12 were that it would
  • raise the profile of remote attendance as a concept, 
  • provide experience which might be of practical use for those (wherever they are) who are willing to offer it, and 
  • provide an opportunity to encourage as many people as possible, who could not travel to the venue in Orkney (for whatever reason - money, time, health & mobility issues, family commitments, etc, etc, etc - it's not all about islanders!!), to try remote attendance for themselves.
I had lots of secondary hopes for #IsleGC12, some of which I list here (and many of which are described on the Ideascale page, along side the hopes of others):
  • a hope that a dozen or more people might attend in person, and that we might be able to connect 4 or 5 over the internet (in fact about 45 people attended in person at some point, and a similar number registered to attend remotely, with some other "lurking and learning" in a pleasing way)
  • a vague notion that the festivals and arts organisations of Orkney could benefit from "digital"
  • a desperate desire that more of the small businesses of Orkney embrace the opportunities for survival (and more) offered by digital technology, to attract local customers to the services they offer, and to increase exports from Orkney (like Ortak, Judith Glue and others already have)
  • a hope that Sue Wells from New Zealand would be able to interact with those who might be interested in using social media in civil contingencies work
  • that some of the discussions at BlueLightCamp might come to the attention of those in islands with an interest in resilience
Do I think we collaborated successfully around #IsleGC12 to make some progress on these things? The short answer is this: Yes, beyond my wildest hopes or expectations!

We had technical problems, misunderstandings, over-ambition, fun, good discussions, a guided tour of the Orkney mainland by public transport, an undinner - even an alleged sighting of a puffin (apart from Martin Howitt's confirmed interaction with puffins, in Westray a few days later) - and many other positive things. If I had known in September that so much good stuff (and so many opporunities for getting things done, and learning) would spring from #IslandGovCamp, I would not have hesitated so long in trying to make it happen. There will be lots of further, more measured analysis to follow (to add to the great intitial blogs, feeback, analysis and action already produced by Mark Braggins, James Coltham, John Fox, Duncan McKenzie, Jan Walburg, John Popham, Chris from Wray, and others)

Some people have urged me to stop saying thank you all the time, but I seriously doubt I will ever be able to! Thank you, everyone!

Monday 28 May 2012

#IslandGovCamp in transition from event to state of mind ...

[UPDATED: 14:40 Tue 29 May 2012: URLs for video recordings corrected]

Thanks to everyone who participated in #IsleGC12 , either remotely over the internet or here in Kirkwall. As the weekend's events turn from hectic reality to slightly gentler memories, I hope we can keep up the momentum and make sure that we all keep collaborating with any willing partners in the use of readily available technologies (including social media) to sustain and develop services (public, private and third sector) in our various island contexts.

We were very fortunate to have contributions from Sue Wells of Christchurch, New Zealand (over the internet), and from Jan Walburg of Bureau Walburg, based in Friesland in The Netherlands.  Sue's reflections on the experience so far of the hugely destructive earthquakes recently to have utterly transformed the city of Christchurch, and Jan's smartC4RE ideas (which we hope will result in developments and improvements in the use of technology for social care and health), added another dimension to the event. It was also great to have Duncan McKenzie of Northern Constabulary as a direct link to the #BlueLightCamp community, with #northernBLCamp , at Kirkwall Police Station (and on the internet) on Saturday morning. It is to be hoped that these contacts (among many others) will produce lasting results over the coming months and years.

Reflections on various aspects of the event will appear over the coming days and weeks, but in the meantime, there are some sources of video recordings of the event which may be of interest (anything with tags or hashtags of #IslandGovCamp , #IsleGC12, #smartcare and/or #northernBLCamp - as well as #twicket and #X1GuidedTourOfOrkney):

The list of specific thanks is very long, so let's adopt our habitual bulleted list, and hope that we don't miss anyone out.

Thanks go to those who worked hard to make the weekend as useful as it was, and to make sure there were as few avoidable issues for inperson and remote attendees as possible on the day:
  • whoever brought the excellent hot, sunny weather which lasted the entire weekend (although it is quite a bit cooler today, as the wind has gone back round to a mostly northerly direction)
  • Orkney College UHI - including Christine Scott (Business Manager, for providing effortless - on our part - access to the College's huge range of facilities), Anne Hill and Susan Mowat (and their colleagues and students, for the excellent lunches on Saturday and Sundain), and Mike Berg and Keith Chalmers (ICT technicians, for assistance with video conferencing and wifi access)
  • John Fox - for being the calm, reasonable, focussed one throughout the weekend, and for his indefatigable positivity and invaluable (although unpaid, sadly for him!) communications efforts from the very first day we decided to go ahead with the idea of #IslandGovCamp (about 10 weeks ago), including operating the @IslandGovCamp twitter account for the last few days
  • Kate Deans - for 24-hour availability, and for hours and hours of unpaid events management and organisational assistance (including operating the islandgovcamp@gmail.com account, and the @IslandGovCamp twitter account), during her time in Kirkwall after working in the EU Parliamentarium (Parliament Visitor Centre), and before taking up a post as language assistant in Germany
  • Alex Stobart, of Mydex CIC (a member of the Digital Participation Action Group established in Edinburgh in November 2011) - for invaluable advice, assistance and encouragement since the idea for #IslandGovCamp began to take shape in the last part of 2011
  • Sean Lewis, of Magnetic North Films - for dogged and persistent work in broadcasting #IsleGC12 discussions on the internet, including building his broadcast set up bit-by-bit, component-by-component (while getting and keeping the show on the road, and making continuous efforts to improve the quality of the broadcasts as we went through the weekend despite encountering every sort of technical hitch imaginable (and a few unimaginable ones!)
  • the University of the Highlands and Islands - including Jem Taylor and Bob Brandie (both of the Learning Information Services department), for providing access to the University's video-conferencing and webcasting infrastructure, and for providing guest wifi for inperson participants
  • Fran Flett Hollinrake, of Dragon History - for designing and conducting #X1GuidedTourOfOrkney , for lots of moral support and #soothchapelchat, and for copious amounts of good self-organised sense
  • Judith Glue, David, Paula and the Real Food Kitchen team, for a great UnDinner on Saturday night
  • Bruce Mainland, for entertaining us with some songs on Saturday night
  • Orkney Cricket Club - including Andy Hollinrake, who made the #twicket #oftheNorth a reality on Sunday afternoon, and Liam McArthur for some ferocious bowling and for receiving a briefing on the whole weekend on the boundary
  • James Coltham, Martin Howitt, Leah Lockhart, Mark Braggins, Michael McLean, Shirley Ayres , and others based on the big island with Cardiff, Edinburgh and London on it, for being extra specially willing participants
  • Lesley Thomson - for being equally extra-specially willing in her participation, and for starting off the ScotGovCamp event in 2010. (The #IslandGovCamp "joke" was cracked at ScotGovCamp 2011 in Aberdeen, from which the Orkney event grew.)  
  • Blue Light Camp - including Sasha Taylor and others, from which (along with ScotGovCamp) many ideas and principles were "borrowed" 
  • John Popham of Huddersfield, for his inspiring attitude to "just doing" webcasting
  • Mary McKenna of Learning Pool - for being enthusiastic about the concept of #IslandGovCamp, and about puffins
  • James Macdonald of Cisco - for help with using Cisco webex for planning sessions, and for experimenting with different ways of providing remote access to the event
  • Tom and Sam - for putting up with me being embarassing, and for assisting with the raffle
  • Jenny Devlin - for everything
  • Orkney Islands Council - including Dawn Sherwood, Robert Horrobin and Vince Buchan (of  IT and Support Services), for tolerating and assisting Sweyn Hunter's  obsession over the past weeks and months with making #IslandGovCamp happen, and Marine Services for sponsorship
  • Orkney ICT Forum committee members - including Steven Heddle for chairing everything, and Malcolm Marwick for practical assistance throughout the weekend
  • Scottish Government Digital Division - for funding the event, and to Alyson Mitchell for assistance with that process
  • UKGovCamp - for inspiration, encouragement and sponsorship 
  • Molly and Pepper - for mascot services in Orkney and Christchurch
  • everyone else who contributed or assisted in any way

Friday 25 May 2012

Remote Attendees - Participation Plan

The IslandGovCamp 2012 weekend begins tomorrow, there are various things you need to know to make sure that your remote attendance works as well as possible, allowing you to engage and participate fully in #IsleGC12.

We are aiming to strike a good balance between the needs of remote attendees and those of the people who will be in Orkney in person for the event. To enable effective remote participation, we might need to have a few more ground rules for those attending in person than is normal at a govcamp. On the other hand, we do not want to over-structure the discussions in the room, as one of the good things about the govcamp format is that it is very flexible, and avoids over-structuring discussions. So, we need organisation and structure to make sure that those attending remotely can follow what is going on, but we need informality and flexibility to make the most of the whole event; we will need to try to balance these competing aims, and we will not get it right 100% of the time. This element of #IsleGC12 is new and experimental, so please let us know about the problems and difficulties you will encounter.

All announcements, administration and important information will be given via @IslandGovCamp and #IslandGovCamp. If you have any problems, comments and enquiries about administrative and technical issues, tweet @IslandGovCamp. To avoid swamping this important information (especially for remote attendees), the hashtag #IsleGC12 (along with the event-specific hashtags, see below) is intended to be used for all discussion about the content of sessions (or any other discussion) between attendees.

Sessions will take place on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. We have four rooms available at Orkney College for sessions. Which sessions take place, and in what order, will be decided between 12.00 and 13.20 on Saturday; we will take all the ideas submitted on IdeaScale and any suggested on the day to this “session pitching” process.

Because the session topics have not yet been decided, the hashtags for each scheduled session (1 hour each) have already been allocated by time and room location (see the table below). The topics for each session will be entered into this table, will be posted on the Blog, and will be tweeted, as soon as the planning session has finished (approximately 1320).

Once the session planning session has finished, the discussion topics for the first time slot (13:30-14:30) will be known, and will be tweeted (and put on the blog), along with links to the session broadcasts. This will enable Remote attendees to participate in the first sessions immediately, while the rest of the schedule is prepared and and published on the blog (www.islandgovcamp.org.uk), and links to it are tweeted by @IslandGovCamp

Before every subsequent session there will be a 5 minute warning announcing the next session to take place in each room and the corresponding hashtag (and a reminder link to the full schedule). When each new timeslot actually begins, this will be repeated.

Each govcamp session will have:
  • A dedicated hashtag (e.g. #papay3). This is for all discussion related to that session.
  • A volunteer 'Twitter Monitor', in person in the room, to act as spokesperson for remote attendees at that session. (The Twitter Monitor will follow the session hashtag for comments and questions. All other in-person participants in the session are also encouraged to follow the hashtag, and take into account the comments of remote participants throughout the session).
  • A volunteer 'Session Tweeter', in person in the room, to narrate (as far as possible) in twitter the discussion in the room, labelling each tweet with the session hashtag.
  • At the beginning of each session, the broadcast link will be set up and tweeted out by @IslandGovCamp with the session hashtag.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch on Friday evening, or during Saturday by email (to islandgovcamp@gmail.com). Equally, if you have any questions or comments before or during the sessions, please tweet them if you'd rather (mentioning @IslandGovCamp and/or the #IslandGovCamp hashtag).

We are all looking forward to a great event, which we hope will be interesting and entertaining. Let's hope it all works!

Thursday 24 May 2012

Finalised IsleGC12 schedule and remote attendance info

Hello all attendees, both remote and in person!

We are almost there, and with that we have a finalised schedule for the IslandGovCamp weekend (see below). On here you can see the times and places you need to be along with any vital extra info.

Tomorrow, we will be sending out an email to remote attendees with specifics on how the broadcasting and remote discussion will be structured (e.g. which twitter hashtags to follow, where to get admin info, when streaming links will appear, etc), along with suggestions for facilitating interaction in the IslandGovCamp sessions (In person attendees will be given all this information when they arrive at Orkney College on Saturday).

In the meantime, keep an eye on #IslandGovCamp and @IslandGovCamp on Twitter and posts on this blog for administrative updates, and get ready for an exciting weekend!

#IsleGC12 Finalised Schedule

Friday 25 May

Tour of Orkney mainland by public transport (X1 tour)
0845 Kirkwall Travel Centre
For 0900 assembly, and 0910 X1 dep KTC

0925 Tormiston Mill
For 1000 Guided tour of Maeshowe.
1050 X1 dep Tormiston Mill (next bus1150; arr Stromness 1205)

1105 Stromness arr Travel Centre, and guided tour of Stromness by Fran Flett Hollinrake
1215 Lunch and free time
1340 X1 dep Stromness (next bus 1440, arr Kirkwall 1510)

1410 Kirkwall arr Travel Centre
1420 Tour of St Magnus Cathedral by Fran Flett Hollinrake. Toilets available.
1500 Coffee and free time

1610 Kirkwall Travel Centre
for 1615 X1 dep Kirkwall Travel Centre (next bus 1715, arr Lamb Holm 1730)

1630 Lamb Holm Walk to Italian Chapel. No toilets.
1705 Walk back to bus stop
for 1715 X1 dep Lamb Holm (next bus 1815, arr Kirkwall 1831)

1731 Kirkwall arr Kirkwall Travel Centre

Saturday 26 May 2012
1000 - 12.00 Kirkwall Police Station, Blue Light Camp

1200 Orkney College UHI, Kirkwall
1200 Lunch
1200 - 1730 IslandGovCamp planning and sessions. Coffee served throughout. Toilets.

1930 Judith Glue’s, Kirkwall
For 2000 - #IslandGovCamp Unconference Undinner, £20/head (not including drinks)

Sunday 27 May 2012
1000 Orkney College UHI, Kirkwall
1000 - 1300 IslandGovCamp sessions, coffee available throughout. Toilets.
12.15 Lunch served, raffle and wrap-up

From 1300 Pickaquoy Centre, Kirkwall Gather for Twicket
1300 Cricket club available at Pickaquoy Centre
1430 Twicket competition starts
[If wet weather: alternative event of Pub Quiz]

2000 The Reel, Kirkwall Transatlantic Tales, Orkney Storytelling Festival Event. Admission by donation (recommended min £5/£3)

Friday 18 May 2012

#IsleGC12 Venue and Remote Attendance Arrangements

We've had some thoughts about how to use the space available at Orkney College UHI, and how to ensure that remote attendees can follow all the sessions with as much prospect of seeing and hearing what is going on as an in-person participant will have.

Orkney College UHI, Kirkwall

What is listed below is subject to change, but initial discussions (with Orkney College UHI, University of the Highlands and Islands Learning and Information Services, Cisco and Orkney-based partners Magnetic North Films and Dragon History) suggest that the following will be feasible (all room numbers are Orkney College UHI numbers):
If you have any thoughts on this, or can offer to assist in making all this happen, please leave a comment below!

Use of space at the venue

For the #IsleGC12, we will name and use 4 areas in Orkney College UHI:

Auskerry: Room F4.07 (VC Studio OC-S2)

  • Discussions around the possible future smartC4RE project within the proposed EU/Interreg 5B North Sea Region programme
  • other discussions and sessions on the theme of social care, health and related services
  • Remote attendance will principally be by means of Cisco Webex.

Mainland: The Cafeteria

  • Lunches and coffees
  • Welcome and introductions
  • Session pitches
  • #IsleGC12 sessions on Saturday and Sunday 26 and 27 May 2012
    (as agreed by in-person and remote participants from noon on Saturday 26 May)
  • Wrap up sessions
  • 2.1.6 The Raffle
  • Remote attendance will principally be by means of http://bambuser.com (or similar internet broadcasting sofware)

Swona: Overblikk Restaurant (VC Studio OC-S6)

  • #IsleGC12 sessions on Saturday and Sunday 26 and 27 May 2012
    (as agreed by in-person and remote participants from noon on Saturday 26 May)
  • Remote attendance will principally be by means of connecting to the UHI video-conferencing infrastructure from other VC endpoints (and/or by means of UHI webcasting facilities)

Papay: Room F2.14 “The Room with a View”

  • #IsleGC12 sessions on Saturday and Sunday 26 and 27 May 2012
    (as agreed by in-person and remote participants from noon on Saturday 26 May)
  • Remote attendance will principally be by means of http://bambuser.com (or similar internet broadcasting sofware)
 (Text from #IsleGC12 - Venue and Broadcasting Plan - Draft 2)

Friday 11 May 2012

Tour of the Orkney mainland by public transport

Tour of the Orkney mainland by public transport
Friday 25 May 2012

Please Note:
To book a place on this tour, please register on the Ideascale page, and vote for the idea (also leave a comment saying how many places you wish to book): it's first-come-first-served!

Co-ordinated and led by Fran Flett Hollinrake, Orkney tour guide,
storyteller and
mild-mannered cathedral custodian

The Orkney ICT Forum is grateful to Fran Flett Hollinrake for sponsorship , in the form of contributing her professional services in devising the itinerary and leading the tour


1. All participants must bring stout footwear and waterproofs
2. We will use public service buses, which run to a timetable
3. Numbers on the tour are limited (to 20), due to the capacity of the Maeshowe monument
4. Additional guests may join the tour, but are not guaranteed entry to Maeshowe.
4. The format of “tour by service bus” is an experiment!
5. There is no absolute guarantee that buses we are relying on will have capacity to take us, so times and attractions visited may vary for this, or any other, reason!!
6. Anyone wishing to use their own vehicle (rather than buses) to follow the tour may do so (“Follow that bus!!), but parking may be an issue, especially at Maeshowe
7. Anyone wishing to join the tour at any point after the Maeshowe visit (or wishing to miss out a section of the tour, or leave the tour early) may do so – using the GovCAmp “rule of 2 feet” (and/or 1-or-more wheels) just meet us at the point you wish to take part (tweet @sweynh or ring 07796952788 first, to check where we are!)

The tour is designed to showcase some of the highlights of the Orkney mainland that are accessible by public transport in May. It contains many of the elements of an Orkney tour, including landscape, poetry, archaeology, geology, Norse sagas, Stone Age monuments, coffee, wartime heritage, lunch, modern art, shopping time, architecture, folklore. As far as the weather is concerned, Orkney is sometimes said to offer “all four seasons in each day”, although by late May we will hope for some sort of focus (for most of the time) on spring and/or summer!


0900 Arrive KW Travel Centre – distribute maps/mini-guides (index-cards as storyboard for proposed phone app ‘Kirkwall to Stromness by bus’, featuring sites of interest, geology, folklore, history, etc)

0910 Dep KW Travel Centre by X1 bus (next bus to Stromness at 1035)

0925 Arrive Tormiston Mill (Visitors Centre for Maeshowe) – check in for tour, toilet available, 7-8 minute walk to the monument. Photography NOT permitted inside Maeshowe. Members of Historic Scotland get free entry, as do members of English Heritage, Manx Heritage and Cadw (after 1st year of membership – if in 1st year then entry to HS properties is half price). Entry charge is £5.50 or £4.40 for concessions. If 11 or more people pay together as a group, there is a 10% discount.

1000 Tour of Maeshowe (booked). The tour starts at the monument and usually takes about 40 minutes. The guide will be informed that we are catching a bus at 1050. 7-8 minute walk back to the main road for the X1 bus to Stromness (next bus 1150).

1050 Dep Tormiston Mill

1105 Arrive Stromness Travel Centre

1115 Guided tour of Stromness by Fran Flett Hollinrake

1215 Lunch and free time for Pier Arts Centre, Stromness Museum, shopping etc. Lunch is self-sourced – various options include The Cafe Bar, Julia’s Bistro, Argo’s Bakery. Pier Arts Centre has free entry, Stromness Museum £3.00/£2.00.

1340 Dep Stromness (next bus 1440)

1410 Arr KW

1420 Tour of St Magnus Cathedral by Fran Flett Hollinrake. Photography permitted, free entry, toilets available.

1500 Coffee/Orkney Museum – Orkney Museum has free entry and will be self-guided with possible chat with Exhibitions Officer and local storyteller Tom Muir. Options for tea/coffee include The Reel or the St Magnus Cafe (both have WiFi), or The Strynd.

1615 Dep Kirkwall Travel Centre (next bus 1715)

1630 Arrive Lamb Holm – walk to Italian Chapel. Free entry, photography permitted, no toilets.

1640 Visit Italian chapel

1705 Walk back to bus stop

1715 Dep Lamb Holm (next bus 1815)

1731 Arrive Kirkwall Travel Centre

Monday 2 April 2012

Sharing transport to #IslandGovCamp

Once again we are basing our efforts to facilitate this event entirely on the great ideas behind ScotGovCamp2 in September 2011. James Coltham reminded me in a tweet that there was a map (created by Nick)to encourage the sharing of transport to that event.

Ten minutes (and a bit of cutting, pasting and changing of names/dates) later, we have the map below, complete with instructions for use! So, if you are able to offer a lift, would like to travel on the train, ferry or plane in company, or have any other observations to make about your own personal travel and accommodation plans, please edit them into the map!

(Using the map shown below, most people will have to zoom out quite a bit, to find their journey's starting point! Alternatively, I think this link will allow you to start with a view of the whole of the UK, and zoom in.)

View #IslandGovCamp 2012 in a larger map

Sunday 1 April 2012

We need ideas for sessions - post them online now!

There is now an Ideascale community so that we can suggest and prioritise the sessions we want to see happening at IslandGovCamp: http://islandgovcamp2012.ideascale.com/ If you were involved in ScotGovCamp 2011, you will find this very familiar, as I have shamelessly lifted this idea from there!

If you don't already have one, you'll need to register an account with Ideascale, but I hope that won't put you off: the better the online debate in advance of the event, the more valuable the sessions we have will be!

On the Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning (someone said this sounds like a film title!) I imagine we will have time for 10-15 sessions, depending on how many concurrent streams of activity we decide to have, so there should be scope for an interesting range of different topics, styles and interests!

To get the ball rolling, I've transferred my 3 initial suggestions from the Facebook page to the new site.

Wednesday 28 March 2012

A visitor’s practical guide to travelling to Orkney

In this guest post, John Fox (based in Hampshire, and a regular visitor to Orkney, the Western Isles and the Scottish Highlands) shares his experience of various travel and accommodation options in attending IslandGovCamp 2012 in Orkney

If you’re reading this then the chances are that you’re more than just a little bit interested in making the trip to IslandGovCamp at the end of May 2012. Well done for getting this far.

The purpose of this post is to summarise the various options for travelling to Orkney. It is a visitor’s perspective, based on the personal experience of the author over a number of years.

IslandGovCamp sessions will start in Kirkwall at noon on Saturday, running throughout Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning; however, do consider arriving as early as possible, ideally on Friday or even Thursday, for IslandGovCamp. This will give you an opportunity to orientate yourself and get to know Orkney properly. The organisers will be available from Thursday evening until Monday morning (and at other times, by arrangement) to help you make the most of your time. If you’re coming all this way, why not make the most of your visit?

Short on time, just need to get there and back?

Whenever you plan to arrive, if available time is a prime consideration for you, such that you just want to get there and home again, and in the least possible time, then in practical terms your only option is to fly to Kirkwall (KOI) with regional connections across the UK

When arriving by plane you’ll get a great aerial view of the various islands that make up the archipelago that the rest of the world incorrectly refers to as “the Orkneys” . Locally the islands are are known by their individual names such as Hoy, Flotta and Lamb Holm, and ironically there isn’t actually an island named Orkney! It’s quite a sight to behold, but before you make a booking ask yourself if you might perhaps allow some extra time for this trip, either in one direction alone or perhaps both

For example you could elect to fly to Inverness and then continue by train and then ferry as described below.

Could you spare an extra day or two for your journey?

Making more time to travel to/from Orkney will allow you a more relaxed, high-interest journey, one that you’ll probably never forget (for all the right reasons) whilst avoiding the less than glamorous aspects of 21st century air travel.

In short, why not make IslandGovCamp the excuse to book that couple of days leave you’ve been promising yourself for ages? Allow this article to sow the seeds of inspiration for a journey-of-a-lifetime to a work-related event! The only limitation, as you explore the many interesting places on the way to Orkney, will be the time available to you before you have to get back to the office.

There is, quite simply, no denying that the venue makes a refreshing change from the rather more usual London, Edinburgh or Manchester destinations and more besides, but there’s no escaping the fact that it ‘s a bit of trek which requires additional planning and time.

Yet Orkney really IS surprisingly easy to get to from just about every corner of the UK thanks to superb air services and excellent road connections to no less than four different ferry departure points from mainland Scotland.

If travel north of Edinburgh is entirely new territory for you, you could be excused for thinking the natives will be unfriendly and the roads are dirt track. You couldn’t be more wrong! You’re assured of a warm Highland welcome and it is perfectly feasible to anticipate a two-day rail or road journey from London to Kirkwall with excellent ferry connections from either Caithness or Aberdeen . You can even travel overnight using the ScotRrail Caledonian Sleeper service from London and intermediate pickup points.

Locally, Orkney’s road network is excellent and well maintained, and car hire is readily available at ferry terminals and Kirkwall airport if you’d prefer to leave your car at home. Like anywhere else in the UK, getting around Orkney by public transport needs a bit of planning yet for a population of less than 22,000 residents you’ll be pretty impressed by the island bus network and timetable particularly in the summer months (May-September) which is fully integrated with internal inter-island ferry services operated by Orkney Islands Council.

So hopefully you’re now thinking differently about getting to IslandGovCamp, so let’s turn to the practical steps involved in attending, starting with accommodation which will be the easiest to finalise and book. And once you know where you’ll be staying then you can plan how you’re actually going to get there.

Getting to Orkney links

Where to stay

There are plenty of places to stay in Orkney but do book early. May and June are a great time to visit the Northern Isles so prospective IslandGovCampers may have some competition from touring holidaymakers seeking local accommodation. The excellent Visit Orkney website has an online accommodation guide which explains all the different guest accommodation options available.

When selecting accommodation be sure to check its geographical location is suitable for your likely mode of travel to Orkney (and for travel to and from Orkney College UHI in Kirkwall, the venue for principal IslandGovCamp gatherings), particularly if you do not intend taking your own car or hiring one on arrival. Public transport services are good, but it would be folly to anticipate the service frequency of, say, London buses!

Accommodation providers may offer a pickup service for your flight or ferry arrival so it is worth checking their listing for this.

My recommendation: If you’re taking your own car or intend hiring a car upon arrival in Orkney, try to book guest accommodation away from Kirkwall itself.

Flying to Kirkwall (KOI)

Loganair/Flybe – from most regional airports in the UK, with connections to Orkney via Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow or Inverness.
If Flybe does not serve your local airport, then British Airways and EasyJet fly to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow or Inverness, where you can transfer to a direct Orkney flight.

Travelling by train or road then ferry

If you elect to travel by road or train, your journey will involve a sea crossing from either Caithness in the far north of Scotland, or from Aberdeen on the east coast.

Travelling via Inverness and the Far North Coast

Travelling via Aberdeen

At first examination taking the Aberdeen ferry to Orkney may seem the obvious choice but with only limited sailings calling at Kirkwall (Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday evenings only) this may not be a viable travel route for the time you have available.

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Welcome to #IslandGovCamp 2012

Orkney College UHI, Kirkwall, Orkney
Friday 25 - Sunday 27 May 2012

Book your place at IslandGovCamp (courtesy of Eventbrite):

Some of this information (and lots of links and other material) can be found on the Facebook page and twitter feed below.

What is IslandGovCamp?
A self organised unconference for people who work in and around government in islands, wherever they may be (including the big one with Cardiff, Edinburgh, and London on it); and for anyone with connections to islands, however tenuous. Also, an opportunity for visitors to Orkney to see puffins!

(Picture: Puffin Swarm, by Frederique Harmsze (under Creative Commons license)

How can I find out more?
Read the rest of this blog post! Queries? Raise them in a comment below, or by twitter or Facebook. Please also feel free to email me with queries, suggestions, offers of sponsorship or other observations at: sweyn.hunter at hotmail dot com

What will happen at IslandGovCamp?
That will depend on who participates! Roughly speaking, though, this is the suggested timetable:

Thursday 24 May 2012: Visitors to Orkney (if not already here, searching for puffins) might start to arrive (possibly on the Aberdeen to Kirkwall ferry, on the Scrabster to Stromness ferry, the Gills Bay to St Margaret's Hope ferry, the John O'Groats to Burwick ferry, or by Flybe/Loganair flight from most Scottish airports.)

(Picture: Sweyn Hunter (under Creative Commons license)

Friday 25 May 2012: Those who wish to might spend the day discussing possible GovCamp topics, as we tour around the Orkney mainland, possibly taking in Scara Brae, the Ring of Brodgar (and other UNESCO-designated Heart of Neolithic Orkney sites) and the Italian Chapel. Probably some Orkney residents will have to work on this day, and some visitors will just be arriving from Shetland or south, but those who wish to can interact online with these touring discussions, and join in in-person when they can. In the evening, perhaps we can spend some time in the pub, for example Helgi's, the Bothy Bar or The Auld Motorhoose.

Saturday 26 May 2012: Probably some visitors will still just be arriving, but in the morning we can do more discussing and touring. At 12:00 we will gather at the Orkney College UHI in Kirkwall, and use an hour or so to decide what sessions there are going to be, and in what order (a standard GovCamp process), and then those sessions can run until about 17:30. In the evening, we will surely find something musical, theatrical or educational to do.

Sunday 27 May 2012: At 10:00 (or thereabouts) we will gather again at the College, and have more GovCamp sessions and/or some sort of wrap-up process until about 13:00. From then on, those who have to travel home get get on their way, and those who live in Orkney can attempt to recover before work on Monday!

Attendance will be free, and it is hoped that lunch on Saturday and Sunday can be provided: if the search for sponsors is successful, perhaps more can be paid for (HINT: if you can think of possible sponsors, please get in touch!). Unfortunately, it does not seem likely that assistance with travel and accommodation will be possible - but as the event includes a Saturday night, perhaps the cost of getting here will not be too prohibitive. For non-Orkney-residents (or residents of Orkney's smaller islands) who cannot travel to IslandGovCamp, there will be the option of participation by internet audio/video streaming (with some form of interactivity, either via twitter and Facebook, or in some other way).

Further advice on travel options, and on finding accommodation, will appear here soon.

Where did the idea for IslandGovCamp come from?
It was inspired by ScotGovCamp in Aberdeen (and TechMeetUp in Aberdeen, and SOCITM Scotland in Edinburgh) in September 2012. GovCamps have been held all over the world in recent years, as indicated in this incomplete wiki list. Govcamps grew out of the concept of BarCamps, and tend to have a focus (if that is the right word!) on the pragmatic use of social media and technology to improve public services (and sometimes on puffins), but the important thing about this style of event is that the agenda is set by those attending, with a bit of prior discussion and debate online. It is also the latest in a string of Orkney technology-related events organised (if that is the correct word) by members of the Orkney ICT Forum (website under construction).

Who can attend IslandGovCamp?
Anyone! There will soon be a link to an online booking form, and it will be first come, first served. (The only limit will the maximum number of attendees we are able to accommodate at Orkney College UHI.) It doesn't matter if you are a technical expert, a front-line public sector worker, a manager, support staff, a contractor, a private citizen, a service user or anybody else - if you have an interest in discussing service improvements with likeminded people, IslandGovCamp is for you! It is hoped that a good mix of Orkney residents, and other islanders (even from that big one with Edinburgh, London and Cardiff on it) and others with an interest in island life will be able to take part.

Why is the IslandGovCamp page hosted on the Northern Blethers blog?
Because it was quick and easy to put the information here. If time permits, there will be a dedicated IslandGovCamp blog in due course. This is perhaps the place to stress that IslandGovCamp is not being organised as part of my employment with Orkney Islands Council, although I have had moral (and some practical) support from individuals within the Council's management, and also from one or 2 elected members. There is also interest in being involved in IslandGovCamp from individuals employed by NHS Orkney, although (in a way which is appropriate for the spirit of a GovCamp), everyone's participation should be assumed to be on personal basis, and not necessarily as a representative of their organisation.

Book your place at IslandGovCamp (courtesy of Eventbrite):

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