Why should you live stream your event?

I firmly believe these days that the tools we have at our disposal mean there is no excuse for only talking to the people in the room when you hold an event. Conferences, seminars, workshops, are normally held to bring people together around a common agenda, to solve a problem, or to form new alliances. All these objectives can be achieved a lot more effectively if people outside the room are invited to join in.

Alternatively, you can video your event and release the coverage later. This is better than nothing, but it misses the immediacy of the discussion. Often events contain calls to action and deal with topical issues. This means they need to engage the wider world at the time. Releasing a video later will not address this need and risks the learning from your discussions falling into a vacuum. With live streaming you get the best of both worlds as the video can be archived for later viewing as well.

And, events tend to attract like-minded people to turn up and listen to speakers. This risks small cliques continually talking to each other. The problems of our time cannot be solved by the same people saying the same things to each other over and again. Live streaming opens the event up to other people with different perspectives who may have a contribution to make which you would never have thought of.

But, I hear many people say, live streaming is expensive and technically difficult. It isn’t the way I do it, and I can even train you and your staff  to do it for themselves. There’s a list of the main events I have live streamed here. Please contact me if you’d like to talk to me about doing something similar for you

Back in the Saddle

I’m writing this on my way to day 2 of Our Digital Planet’s visit to Wigan. Yesterday was almost 6 months to the day from when I locked up the Internet Station and walked away from it in Glasgow, and it was great to be back in there again.

But, of course, what really made it worthwhile was being able to help people do things which will improve their lives. That is a wonderful feeling.

And, to prove a point, our very first visitor was Harriet, who is 81 and was full of tales of the African refugee children she adopted in the 1950s who went on to be successful in the music industry and counted The Beatles and Rolling Stones among their friends. Harriet’s grandson has a degree in Computer Science, but she doesn’t like to bother him with her “trivial” issues, so she will be coming back another day with her laptop and scanner in a trolley.

I believe everyone has a touching point in their lives which will make internet use compelling to them. I will be looking for those touch points in Wigan until Wednesday, and then we move on to Leigh.


Introducing the WOW Bus

OK, this is a working title for a project I am working on, and I need your help.

Our Digital Planet - Bristol

If you follow my work, you’ll be familiar with Our Digital Planet, the touring exhibition, which visits, city centres, engages people through images of internet use, and then coaxes them to get online. Now, I’m working on a project (working title, the WOW Bus) which will do something similar, but fully mobile; able to go anywhere.

The project is at funding application stage. I am working in partnership with a largeish organisation which is putting a chunk of its own resources in and applying, with me, for funding to make the project happen. The plan is for the organisation to use the bus with its own clients, and for myself and others to use it at other times.

I am really excited about this. This needs to be done quickly, and I need to explore a range of options. Which is why I am asking for your support.

I believe in being ambitious. Maybe we’ll have to scale things down, but I’d like this to be a combination of Eastella’s Brilliant Bus, the John Lennon Bus, Peabody Trust’s Digivan, and New York City Housing Authority’s Digital Vans. We want it to create a buzz when it arrives in an area. It will flood the surrounding environment with free wifi and inspire people to explore the digital world. It will be the WOW Bus, because it will be a mobile Window on the World, but also, because people will say “wow!” when they see it.

We are going to explore all options, including buying and equipping a new vehicle. But, I know there are all sorts of vehicles out there which could, with a little tweaking and adaptation, become the WOW Bus at much lower cost. If you have such a vehicle, or know of one, please get in touch. If you can help in any way, drop me a line at john.popham@johnpopham.com or tweet me at @johnpopham.

Please help to make the WOW Bus a reality.

New York City Housing Authority Digital Van from http://www.nyc.gov/html/nycha/html/community/education_digital_vans.shtml

The Internet is not always the answer

As you may have guessed, I love the internet, but, I’ve been thinking recently how it is not always the answer. I love radio too, and that has a role to play.

Some time ago, I was kicking around an idea about how schools could use FM radio to communicate with parents. My idea was for students and teachers to make radio programmes which could be broadcast to parents’ car radios when they arrived to drop off and pick up their kids..

And last weekend I was at BlueLightCamp when the conversation turned to communicating with people during emergency situations. I suggested it ought to be possible to set up a temporary local FM transmitter to speak to people via their radios.

Now, I must admit, I haven’t delved too far into the Ofcom regulations on local broadcasting, and, what I have seen would suggest that either of these ideas might be illegal under current legislation. But I think they are worth investigating, and, if legislation needs to be changed…..

Video Streaming via 4G

Because of the work I do live video streaming, I’ve just become a field tester for EE’s 4G mobile broadband. I only took delivery of my 4G device yesterday, but already I am impressed. I’ve only been moving around a relatively small area in Manchester, but the speeds I have been getting have been very encouraging, and, for the most part, I’ve been testing it in-doors in large buildings.


This is all particularly pleasing for me because it is another string to my bow in the live streaming work I do. Providing the venue is in a 4G coverage area, I reckon there are very few occasions when in-house wifi will beat the upload speeds I am getting with 4G, which are more than enough for a high quality video stream.


I am appealing, therefore, for more organisations to come forward and let me live stream their events and activities. It doesn’t cost a lot the  way I do it, and, now, if you’ve got 4G coverage, I can more or less guarantee the video will be of a very high quality.


Please contact me if you want to talk to me about live video streaming.


Our Digital Planet – Phase 2

Our Digital Planet Phase 2 is now in the planning stage. We are looking for cities, towns, neighbourhoods and organisations to come forward to host the Our Digital Planet 2013 tour. We can offer the opportunity to be part of one of the highest profile digital inclusion initiatives, reaching people who have so far missed out on the digital revolution, including many of those in danger of losing out by the move of services and welfare benefits online. You’ll also have a facility which is a major enhancement to the local environment, as well as a prime showcase for any technology or digital inclusion products or services you may wish to promote.


Some history. In the Autumn of 2012, Our Digital Planet toured several cities in the UK, taking Digital Inclusion to places of greatest footfall. As the project moved from city to city it gathered momentum and profile, culminating in a fortnight in Glasgow which saw record numbers of people through the doors and some very interesting barriers to digital inclusion tackled head on.

Now, the planning is beginning for Our Digital Planet – Phase 2. The first phase was very much organised and directed by Nominet Trust as their project, with the technical aspects delivered by wecommunic8, and the management of the Internet Station carried out by myself, in three locations, and by Lloyd Davis in two other places, under contract to Nick Booth‘s company Podnosh. The next phase will go forward as an independent project managed in partnership by myself and wecommunic8, with some support from Nominet Trust.

To make it happen we are going to need lots of support from the community out there. So, for those who have not been following the story so far, what is Our Digital Planet? Well, it’s a touring exhibition which showcases the power of the internet and offers direct, personal support to those whose interest is stimulated. It consists of a display of annotated photographs showcasing the power of the internet (you can see some of them here), arranged around a portacabin (the Internet Station), whose external walls are clad with similar photographs, and, within which, are 5 computer stations, some comfortable seating and tables, and a plasma display screen. Internet access from the Internet Station is provided by a 3G router.

Here’s what it all looks like insitu:

photos 1

Part of the photographic display

Photos 2

More photographs

Internet Station

The Internet Station


The computer stations in use inside the Internet Station

At the bottom of this post, I have posted links to previous posts of mine which detail some of the results that came out of Phase 1. If it’s stats you need, then, by the end of the Phase 1, we were recording more than 100 concrete, recorded, cases of people helped with digital inclusion and digital literacy issues per two-and-a-half weeks in each town, thousands of people were seeing the display materials and hundreds were spoken to and given a non-recorded instance of advice. It also provided opportunities for a considerable number of local projects and agencies, including libraries, regeneration agencies, UK Online Centres,  and digital inclusion projects, to meet potential new clients and showcase their services in a new location, where high footfall was more or less guaranteed.

So, what do we need?

In the first instance, we need expressions of interest from cities, towns, neighbourhoods, and agencies who would be interested in hosting Our Digital Planet for at least a fortnight (or longer) in your area. Please email your expression of interest to me at john.popham@johnpopham.com with “EOI – Our Digital Planet” in the subject line. An EOI commits you to nothing at this stage, it simply helps us to have some measure of the likely level of demand. I should stress that we are still developing the model for Phase 2, and it may be that we will need each locality to make a financial contribution to hosting the project. But, don’t let this put you off, it might not come to that, and, if it does, we will work with all local partners to identify funds.

We are also looking for sponsors. As well as financial contributions, we are looking for anyone who can provide with materials and services in exchange for a high profile marketing opportunity. We need organisations who can supply laptops, tablets, internet connectivity, display screens, volunteer support, as well as cash.

We also need expressions of interest from agencies interested in partnering with Our Digital Planet. The project works best when we have a group of people helping out and engaging with people. Agencies such as libraries, regeneration agencies, UK Online Centres, local digital inclusion projects, private companies and others have all sent volunteers down to help staff the internet station and attract new clients.

I believe Our Digital Planet filled a gap in the Digital Inclusion landscape.  There is no one else consistently taking digital inclusion to where people are, and gently coaxing them along a route to inclusion based on their interests with no hidden agenda. The needs that the project have met have included:

  • an independent source of advice with no selling agenda for those (particularly older people) bewildered by the array of modern technology options;
  • a non-judgemental introduction to IT and the internet for the digitally-excluded;
  • a resource that recognises that there are multiple barriers in people’s lives which prevent them from using the internet and listens to their concerns before dispelling advice;
  • a high profile hub, which demonstrates to the non-internet user that internet use is a normal part of most people’s everyday life;
  • an enhancement to the local environment, and a new destination.

In most of the locations where Our Digital Planet has operated, there has been someone who has expressed regret that it is leaving as the run has come to an end. There is no doubt that a major presence in key locations is a draw, has an impact on both the environment and people’s consciousness, and contributes to the “normalisation” of internet use. These are the benefits of continuing with a high profile touring exhibition as a hook to bring people to the keyboard, or, more likely, tablet.

And it is extremely important that we re-double efforts to bring the reluctant and disengaged online at this time. The Government’s moves to a Digital by Default strategy as well as the forthcoming introduction of Universal Credit, which will be managed primarily online, threaten to leave many digitally excluded people disadvantaged. It may well be that these events provide the Tipping Point which forces them online. They will do so reluctantly, and it may feel like a punishment. This could well be counter-productive. I think we have a very short window (possibly as short as 12 months) when we need to pull out all the stops to get people to see the benefits of being online to all aspects of their lives, and, in particular, that it can be real fun, like it is for most of the rest of the population. I think lots of people have a responsibility in this respect, including older people who have already embraced technology, charities and support organisations, employers, social housing providers, care homes, and health authorities.

This is why I think Our Digital Planet is such an important project at this moment in time. Please get in touch to help us make Phase 2 happen.

Previous posts about Our Digital Planet


Let’s use technology to unlock ingenuity

My friend Abi Manifold reminded me, through a post on Twitter, of Sugata Mitra’s inspirational TED talk about how he had embedded computers in walls in Delhi which children had used to educate themselves.

I think there are so many other ways we can use this principle. It’s why I support the deployment of free wifi wherever it can be utilised. Put it there and people will use it in ingenious ways. People are creative when given the chance. They just need some tools.

Here’s Sugata Mitra’s talk

Keeping tech simple

I love this idea for Live-streaming the City from CityCamp Coventry, brought to my attention on Twitter this morning by Sasha Taylor and others.

I’m an advocate of keeping technology simple, and as cheap as possible. If you want to do something like live-streaming the city, by all means make use of big screens in public spaces and any other expensive technology you may have at your disposal, but, if resources are tight, and focussing on expensive tech threatens to prevent you from achieving your objectives, then keep it simple and cheap.

Get some old, redundant, computers, put them in shop windows, connect them to the internet, and turn the screen to face the public. I reckon that could work for something like this, as I advocated for something similar here.

Alternative Boat Race?

This is not a political point, I myself went to a fairly elitist university so I might be on difficult ground.

But, it occurred to me that the annual Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge has the same 2 teams every year, and is something of a celebration of both academic and social elitism.

So, next year (the 2013 Boat Race is scheduled for Saturday 23rd March) can we stage an alternative boat race which is a celebration of diversity, talent and all aspects of a local community?

I’ll live video stream the alternative Boat Race on the web, along with a day of community celebrations. It could be an opportunity to showcase all that is good in a local community, benefiting from some of the publicity generated by that other event on the Thames.

So, I’m looking for a community that wants to celebrate itself on the web, and has access to a stretch of water and some boats, along with some brave souls prepared and able to get in the boats and “race” each other.

Who’s in?

The IslandGovCamp Odyssey

I’m thinking there should be a klaxon going off at this point and a flashing banner, reading DAFT IDEA.

But… here goes anywhere.

Announcing the IslandGovCamp Odyssey… or, at least running it up a flagpole to see who salutes.


Image shamelessly stolen from the IslandGovCamp Facebook page

I’ve never met Sweyn Hunter in person, but I’ve talked a lot to him online, mainly on Twitter, and he seems like a good guy to me. His day job is in IT at Orkney Council, but he also loves cricket and The Archers, so we have quite a lot in common really. It was over cricket that we first connected, as he was a great supporter of #twicket, the world’s first live online broadcast of a village cricket match that I ran (with a lot of help from others) on Easter Monday last year.

Any way, for some time now, Sweyn has been planning IslandGovCamp, an unconference for people working in the governance of islands (and those with an interest). I love this idea, and really want to attend, particularly, as Sweyn says, it makes perfect sense for me to be there live-streaming the event to people on other islands who can’t make it. Perhaps I can help some people find their way to making things easier when they are prevented from travelling by the presence of stretches of water in the way.

So, as I say, I really want to be at IslandGovCamp, which is taking place on 26th and 27th May, but Orkney is a very long way from me, probably about 600 miles, and there’s a stretch of water in-between too. And I’m operating on a limited budget. So, here’s a potential solution, but, before I dive in, I need to know how much support there for the proposed course of action.

Random Welsh Beach

Oh, and there are at least 4 other people who want to make the trip as well. I’m not going to name them here, because some, at least, of them have regular office jobs, and I’m not sure if they’ve all got permission to make the trip.

So – this is the idea:

Jumping in and laying cards on the table….. I reckon if we do this in the preferred way, it will probably cost around £1,000. My proposal is to crowd-fund this cost. The money would be for a week’s hire of a campervan, food and subsistence, site fees, ferry crossing, etc.

The proposal is for a Social Media Odyssey from the Midlands / North of England to Orkney. I’ve done something similar with “Can’t Get Online Week” last November (see http://wp.me/ppLRZ-kJ), that was 1300 miles, or a similar distance to Orkney and back, and that was modeled, in part, on Christian Payne‘s epic trip from Land’s End to John O’Groats in November 201o.

So, can we get five (or so) people in a campervan, trek up the country to Orkney, documenting our progress as we go, and stopping off to do interesting social media things on the way? I’m thinking we might take three days to get there, stopping to meet people and doing things like:

  • a social media surgery
  • a half-day unconference; and
  • a lightning talks session

as we go.

So, what do you think? Is this a wild and wacky idea? Would you like to see it happen? If we did it would you chip in some money to help us raise £1000? Would it be a mad waste of resources? Could you offer support in kind in any way to help us reduce the costs? Are there companies out there who might sponsor us in exchange for a high profile during the journey?

And, if you did chip in, what would you get? I’m open to suggestions on this, but, here are some ideas:

  • It will be fun and you’ll get to share in the enjoyment;
  • We’ll do some useful events and live-stream them, so you might learn something;
  • You’ll get to watch IslandGovCamp on live-stream as this might be the only way I have of getting there;
  • …… please make any other suggestions in the comments below.

IslandGovCamp is only 7 weeks away, so, if this is going to happen we need to make a decision pretty soon. The first step will be to set up a crowd-funding site, but, I’m not even going to do that unless I know there is some support out there.