September 2009


Coincidence? Not sure, but I’ve certainly noticed a lot of sites recently which are either windows onto lots of data, or what used to be known as portals (sure there must be a new name by now…..)

Seeing the adverts for this years Africa Gathering reminded me of the fascinating things I saw at last year’s event : one which is really proving itself is FrontlineSMS – which recently was awarded a laureate at the 2009 Tech Awards.

Thepresentation that most stuck in my memory was Afrigadget – a fascinating site ‘dedicated to showcasing African ingenuity’ which I recommend to all. A team of bloggers highlight  all sorts of simple inventions – check out the FLAP bags – I can see those catching on.

And in the way of the web, dishing up serendipitous links when you are thinking of a particular subject , this weekend I noticed 2 blogs – one post which highlighted the recent Africa Makers Faire in Ghana – more ingenuity there, plus  a blog that Road to the Horizon pointed out- Woody’s blog about poverty in the Congo. Worth dipping into – he uses pictures and brief posts to illustrate all aspects of life.

Interested to see that 2 UK government websites launched new looks today. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have explained what they did in a news page (which reminded me of the one we wrote earlier inthe year when the DFID site changed). I like this site – just had a quick browse rather than a serious quest for information, but the look is fresh and tidy. I confess I learned something too – I didn’t know Defra had responsibility for pets!

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) have I think just made cosmetic changes to their wordpress based site – but the whole thing does look very solid and clean. There is a phenomenal amount of information on the home page – plus clear links to BIS presence in social media channels. Another step on the path towards merging 2 complex former departmental sites.

UPDATE: Steph and Neil describe in more detail what they have done at BIS – with pictures (thanks for showing me how much more can be done with a blog post!)

Miscellaneous recent findings:

  • Page which currently contains 82 social media policies from around the world – mostly american, but does include the now infamous UK twitter strategy
  • Noticed that Facebook now has a page:  Facebook and government – again, mostly american, but curious to see if it gives any useful pointers
  • Thanks to Owen for blogging this amazing map of Africa
  • This blog post from Steph Gray really hits home – How to sell me stuff. Most of the comments agree – really fed up with clumsy, ill prepared pitches – and several are even gleefully looking forward to the first suppliers who actually do a cut and paste job on his sample pitch!

and finally, this blog post made me laugh – a list of the 46 phases of twitter

Been thinking about this topic a lot recently – in particular the use of photos, but also telling real peoples stories. Its always an issue at work, and so I was interested to read about some of the work done by the DFID funded Young Lives programme
The page illustrates their carefully thought through approach, which is worth reading. I like their suggestion (contained in their guidelines on photographing children) that all children who are photographed are given a copy of their image as a souvenir, but I’m still not really clear how informed consent can work – can people who may never have used a computer have any real understanding of what it means to publish a photo on the web?

On a lighter note, another DFID funded research programme has produced a really simple guide to help amateur photographers improve their pictures – another  thing well worth reading : photoguide (pdf)