LocalGovCamp > Project Maple

On 14th July 2012 at Maple House in Birmingham, I attended an unconference for people in and around local government, called LocalGovCamp.  One of the most interesting sessions I attended was, "One LocalGov website / platform" led by Matt Johnson and Stuart HarrisonWe discussed common user needs of local government (e.g. bin collection) and common internal needs (e.g. optimised gritting routes).

At the end of the session I urged everyone to continue this conversation after the event and try to emulate what @gdsteam has done with GOV.UK, i.e. one website for all common local government digital user needs.  Stuart took emails addresses and setup a newsgroup.

Here are some of the pre-event posts on the LocalGovCamp website: - 

6 July 2012 Matt Johnson 

I think I had a ‘Jerry Maguire’ moment the other day…

There’s over 400 local gov websites, each costing ‘a fair packet’ to support, host, develop, maintain and design for.

What if…. instead of each local gov website we had Just One…

- One domain
- One host
- One CMS (could it be open source?)
- One design
- Lots of developers working on the same platform
- Sharing content
- One search engine
- One navigation system
- Local variations

My thinking is that we all do similar (if not the same) services. I’ve spent the last 2 weeks re-writing Planning content – I’m sure it’s the same in each authority - why not just have this in one place – with localised variations for say – the location of the Planning Dept, opening times etc.

We’ve all developed a bin day calendar. These have all cost money – why not just have one bin day calendar – we all just upload the data to it.

Instead of http://www.sandwell.gov.uk we would have http://www.gov.uk/sandwell

The savings across all 400+ would be erm… I don’t know… a lot.

Crazy idea maybe. Just thought I’d throw it out there to get a discussion going and maybe an interesting and lively session.

8 July 2012 James Clarke 

WordPress could do this? The ‘multisite’ feature allows multiple iterations from one installation, so you can create hundreds or thousands of sites from one installation, with no need to do maintenance/security updates on each one – you just do them on the core installation.

With the amount of plugins already available and it’s popularity as a platform for developers it would be an ideal solution…and it’s all free!

8 July 2012 Dave Briggs 

Ha! We could have an all day session going through the reasons why this would never happen – and still have plenty more to go through in the pub afterwards! ;-) 

8 July 2012 James Clarke 

Sounds like a challenge? ;-)

9 July 2012 Vicky Sargent 

We could run some sessions on cat herding too…..!

Joking apart, it certainly would be worth talking about prospects for greater collaboration in developing approaches and solutions that everyone can use, this is very much what I believe GDS has in mind.

There’s going to be a session on ‘making your money go further’ at the Socitm/Headstar Perfect Council Websites 12 event in Birmingham on Thursday, and this will certainly be covering shared solutions. I expect this to be quite speaker-led, so Saturday would be a good oppo for more general discussion around this. 

9 July 2012 Matt Johnson 

Yes, WP multi-thingy could well do it. With loads of developers or off the shelf plugins to tap into.

‘Challenge’ I hear you say?? … I’m sure if there’s a bit of free web space knocking around somewhere we could knock up a quick prototype. 

9 July 2012 Benjamin Welby 

I’m with Matt. Whether it’s naive and unrealistic idealism or not, the scale of the overlap, duplication and internal time wasted is so great that the case is compelling.

Herding bees it might be but if a few did it and proved the worth then maybe there could be some critical mass and it could happen. I wonder how much could be drawn from MySociety’s thinking about components rather than sites – http://www.mysociety.org/2012/07/04/mysocietys-components-strategy-our-take-on-small-pieces-loosely-joined/

It’s either part of the solution, or one of the questions to be dealt with in getting local government to make digital the default from the ground up.

10 July 2012 Pete McClymont 

Great idea for a session or six.
What about the impact on local IT? How would support and development work? We have zero php, MySQL resource.
Who pays? 

13 July 2012 Mark Craddock 

There’s plenty of free server space available via the G-Cloud | CloudStore. Many IaaS/PaaS providers offering free trials. gov.uk/cloudstore 

10 July 2012 Mike Grafham 

+1 to this! 

10 July 2012 Claire Bustin 

The more I think about the amount of content that is duplicated across all UK council websites, the more sense that a move in this direction makes – as impossible a dream that it might be.

I’m gutted I won’t be with you all on Saturday (pesky weddings abroad, grrr.) 

10 July 2012 James Cattell 

Great minds think alike! Having visited the Government Digital Service offices earlier this year and felt the energy flowing around that place, I’m very much up for a single domain for local gov services, a la http://gov.uk 

13 July 2012 Alan Ferguson 

Hi

Sorry I cannot make it tomorrow, but I had to comment on this one.

It really got me thinking last night. I am a 1 man band when it comes to website content. Development happens at a snails pace and we launched a website which took so long to get live that we ended up creating a site which was out of date on launch. So that’s the bad part.

Dave’s ear is a lot closer to the ground than mine on the work of the GDS. From what he was saying, they are snapping up great developers, working on fast paced innovative improvements, it’s all open source…so surely it wouldn’t take a genius to take the template which .gov.uk uses and then build a local government website around this?

Now I ain’t the code genius that can do this. Sadly. However, I’d be up for building a prototype using our website content. The reason in a nutshell is that since we relaunched our site, we got the content down to 750 pages. The top 90% of page visits are for 10% of our pages. So, it would not take long to build those top pages into a beta system to show how easy this could happen.

I am probably making this too simplistic? It’s not a crazy idea. It’s a completely sensible idea.

Cheers

Alan

13 July 2012 Mark Craddock 

Plenty of free servers/hosting available via the G-Cloud | CloudStore. There are many IaaS/PaaS service providers available and the quickest purchase has been 48 hours.

There are also a few Agile tools/services available, if you want to use the same working practices as GDS.

14 July 2012 James Cattell

"The Maple Project" - a central place for common ‪#LocalGov‬ services. @PezHolio is signing people up ‪#LocalGovCamp‬ 


Other people that tweeted about this during (or just after) the sessions are in the attached spreadsheet and are highlighted 
Or you can access them via this @GoogleDocs http://j.mp/MapleProject-LocalGovCampTweets
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James Arthur Cattell,
11 Nov 2012, 06:53
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