A couple of times my commute has included the #timetunneltrain. As a passenger it was a little awkward at first, but turned in to good fun.

Steve the driver reads out clues across the speaker system in the carriages, and passengers have to guess a year that is the common answer. If you’re inclined, you can tweet the answer using the hashtag, and connect with a few fellow passengers, online. Or offline, if you’re feeling un-British and want to talk to the people you share a carriage with.

I’m the first to encourage giving staff a public voice, and to do something fun or different.

In between flicking through my phone, any ambient noise is welcome, over and above posters for charities inside the carriage that just make me feel guilty, or the endless safety notices.

However, I’m not sure how I’d feel about #timetunneltrain after a bad run of delays or cancellations. Perhaps Steve chooses his days carefully, but looking around the carriages, I’d be surprised if everyone feels as warm to this idea as Twitter appears to.

Steve is doing this of his own volition and I imagine it’s difficult for Southern to control something like this. You could argue that it is great to see staff within a big organisation being creative, but it could be seen as something that Southern shouldn’t be encouraging. Train companies need to run a safe and efficient service. Anything else is a distraction, and most definitely not a priority.

The challenge for Southern is to ensure they, and particular their marketeers and social media managers, don’t try and ride off the back of this. And, in the event of delays and leaves on the line, they’ll need a plan to manage upset commuters further riled by one employee’s best intentions.

You can hear the experience for yourself:

‘PDF me a coffee!’ Where does it all go wrong?

In 2003 I worked for a small Anglo-American company publishing journals, magazines and websites. The company had moved with the times, sort of, but was still predominantly an advertising sales-led, offline publishing company.

Useful technology was making the production process easier and faster. But we still used a fax machine for certain processes.

PDFs were still something of a novelty in certain quarters and the term was bandied around, without everyone fully understanding what it was. Hence, one morning I was walking through the office kitchen when I heard a senior director say to another colleague 'and PDF me a coffee, please'. Needless to say, I wasted no time in taking the piss.


Now, what could possibly have happened for him to think that a file format could also help deliver a hot beverage, I know not.

In hindsight I was arrogant and stupid to react the way I did to the PDF comment. Why should my colleague have known or cared? He wasn't on the production team. His work was a million miles away from the Macs and wires and printing presses.

But his words come back to haunt me when I peddle presentations about digital engagement around Government departments.

Until now I have never worked in any organisation where there is such a broad range of ages. I really value it, because there's a corporate memory there that has often been lacking in the young, high churn companies I have worked for. But it also makes me think twice about assuming too much knowledge or confidence when it comes to digital.

I don't think for a second that age automatically relates to confidence or knowledge of digital. But its fair to assume that while my career started in a digital environment, many people's did not. And for some, that does affect confidence. I do my best to allay fears and preconceived ideas.

This got me thinking about what, where or when will be the break point for me? I would consider myself reasonably close to the innovative end of the modern workplace, but presumably so did lots of other people at one time. I don't have much to do with open data or code, so maybe that is the future and therefore where I might be left behind. Or perhaps there is some yet unknown platform or channel out there that I just won't be able to get my head around?

I feel like I am waiting for my own 'PDF me a coffee' moment. Has anyone else identified theirs?

Image courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/doug88888/


The Department of Digital

I came across this interesting study from Booz and Company, examining where social media sits within organisations; how aware the CEO is of digital, which department owns social media etc.

It is a US study, and I think primarily focused on the private sector.

But it got me thinking about some of the results, particularly where digital lives in an organisation (slide 3). The report shows eight per cent of respondents citing IT as the home of digital. I’m willing to bet this is greater in the public sector, and particularly the NHS.

I’m not sure how much faith I put in slides that tell of increased spend and resource. No-one wants to be the person to say ‘we’re don’t know how useful it really is’.

It’s an interesting snapshot though. How do you think these results might contrast with the UK public sector?

[scribd id=67355794 key=key-14bawm708nrsmi20uryy mode=list]

Tagging tanks and blogging battalions

For the armed forces, security is paramount. When security is breached it can be life threatening.

I have been aware for some time that the Ministry of Defence has taken a very considered approach to the use of social media by personnel. They seem to have accepted that people are using social media, will continue using it regardless, and that their duty of care means they have to accommodate social media, not rule it out.

This doesn’t mean security breaches can be ignored, so with that in mind they created these compelling, sometimes sinister, and occasionally amusing films. Their aim is to raise awareness of the security issues for serving personnel using social media.

I like the fact they don’t focus on any one channel. In fact they manage to highlight a number of social media functions that people may not have even considered as posing a threat.

If the armed forces can tackle use of social media in such a proactive and enlightened way, then surely there is hope for addressing similar issues in other large workforces, such as the NHS perhaps?

Watch the video below and tell me what you think.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXzN3uJTGbI&w=560&h=315]