New Public Thinkers: My Nominations

My good friend and intellectual scratching post Dougald Hine has started a conversation here to identify the next generation of public thinkers, and has invited me to be part of it. Here's what Dougald says:

"Radio 3 is currently looking for "a new generation of public intellectuals". You can apply here - except that to be eligible, you must be studying or working inside a university. Now, call me self-interested, but by this criterion, the likes of John Berger or a young Karl Polanyi would fall through their net. I'm not comparing myself to those remarkable men. But as someone whose work gets cited by academics in a range of disciplines and is, I hope, beginning to make some impression in the public sphere, I'm disappointed to be excluded from consideration.

This isn't just about me, though - there's a whole network of people I'm aware of in the UK and beyond who are doing substantial new thinking from outside of academia - often in close and constructive dialogue with those operating from inside university departments. The way Radio 3 and the AHRC are approaching this project is going to miss out on a huge amount of the emerging intellectual culture of our generation - many of whose brightest minds saw what was happening to academia and chose to do our thinking elsewhere.

I've written to Roger Wright, the controller of Radio 3, telling him this and inviting him to redress the balance. To help him, I'd like you to nominate your own choice of "new public thinkers" from outside of the university walls."

It's a compelling argument, and one which I wholeheartedly support. I have nothing against the academic world, having worked with many academics over the years including on Social by Social, but ever since my School of Everything days I have been convinced of the importance of breaking learning out of institutions and embedding it into society, and of the huge intellectual value created outside the academic world. And as one commenter pointed out, it seems odd that Radio 3's criteria would actually exclude Antonio Gramsci, inventor of the term "public intellectual".

Dougald has very flatteringly nominated me as one of his choices, prompting a flurry of blogging and tweeting from me as I try to live up to the moniker! So now here are my three initial nominations, although I'm sure I'll think of more later. Interestingly, they're all people who do things rather than write or talk about them, which perhaps reflects my growing belief that ideas are worth far more if they've been tried out in practice. So here goes...

  1. Dougald himself - obviously I should return the favour, but over many years of collaborating with Dougald he's been consistently years ahead of public discourse, introducing me to Ivan Illich when we were dreaming up School of Everything, writing about economic collapse long before the mainstream had the courage to do so, and creating new models for living and working which I believe will help shape the future of society for years to come.
  2. Charles Armstrong - an entrepreneur by profession, Charles brings his understanding of ethnography and technology together to create new tools and infrastructure to help us live better, and has som incredibly smart ideas about networks, crowdfunding and the future of business and society. I'm nominating him particularly for his work on emergent democracy and the brilliant One Click Orgs which is introducing democratic structures into the corporate world.
  3. Tessy Britton - another long-term collaborator of mine, I could nominate Tessy for the work she has done on learning and personal development which has shaped our work together on Mindapples. However, I'm particularly nominating her for her incredible work on Social Spaces, including the wonderful book Hand Made, and her bold action-research project of the Travelling Pantry, touring the country to test her ideas out in practice. Many PhDs have been awarded for far less.

So, who are your nominations? Please name your choices on your own blogs or webspaces, link back to Dougald's post, and invite your friends to do the same. Let's see what interesting people emerge...

Activity round-up for October

Consistency has never been one of my strongest points, and consistency of blog posting especially. I've had quite a lot of things going on lately which merit a post though, so here are a few of the headlines. The main thing to announce is that Social by Social is now in print and also available to download in PDF at It's a detailed practical guide to using social technology for social impact, and it's intended to be especially useful for civil servants, social entrepreneurs and campaigners. It lists the best software to use, explains how to use digital tools to engage communities, and tells some stories of the what happens if you do. Thanks to contributors like Euan Semple, Steve Bridger, Dominic Campbell and many more.

My co-authors Amy Sample Ward, David Wilcox and I have also decided to put our ideas into practice by building an online community of people who are using social technology for social good. If you're involved in trying these tools out, sign up to the SxS Network at and connect with others in this field, share best practice - and get personal advice from us too.

Mindapples is progressing well. Tom, Ana, Sangeet and I have been working on a new brand and a new website and we'll have something ready for alpha testing next month ready for a beefed up PR campaign in December. The team is growing and we've been analysing the results to produce some interesting stories for public consumption. The next step is to secure some seed funding to accelerate the project, so please do introduce us to anyone who wants to fund public mental health education programmes. Read more on

There's lots going on at School of Everything too. This month we've launched School of Everything Gifts, which means you can buy your loved ones some lessons with hand-picked teachers in anything from breadmaking to Twitter lessons (with personal tutoring from yours truly).

And finally, I'm very pleased to be working with Futuregov on a consultancy project for the DCLG on ePetitions. We're writing some data standards for all local government petitions systems to ensure our collective efforts to call the Government to account are processed and shared smoothly. More on how to get involved with that on the Futuregov blog.

So, lots happening, especially in my favourite areas of education, democracy and mental health. There's more, including fun (and occasionally cheesy) things going on with the Courvoisier Future 500, plus interesting plotting with Luke Nicholson at Kept, and some new writing projects in the pipeline. Watch this space for more, when I have time to post.

In the meantime, a little plug for my friends at Castle Galeazza, where I will be spending a few days this weekend to unwind. Reading retreats in rural Italy - the perfect antidote to all this high-tech sociable London living.

Social media and social conventions

On Friday I spoke at Sadlers Wells at the Arts Council's Art of Digital event, Do the arts speak digital? The topic of the talk and the subsequent Guardian PDA panel discussion was "does the phenomenon and the tools of social media change expectations and relationships with audiences?" A few people asked me to blog it, so here's (roughly) what I said. Having recently published Social by Social, I didn't want to focus on the details of the tools and how to use them - anyone looking for information on technology tools and how to deploy them should check out the book. Instead I focussed my thoughts on the new ‘social conventions’ being created by these tools, and the implications on our culture and power structures as a result of all these technologies. How does it affect my relationship with my audience if the audience can talk back, and talk to each other?

I began with a story my friend Charlie once told me about a speaking job he did in Finland. He arrived to find he was speaking to an audience of one man. He gave his talk anyway, as best he could, and was rewarded with a large and pleasing round of applause from this audience member. Moderately satisfied, he gathered his possessions to leave but was stopped by a cry from the man: "But you can't go yet: I'm the next speaker!" Because that's the thing about audiences: you never know who's in them or what they might have to say.

I was speaking here to a silent audience in a darkened theatre: a common format for these events but actually a relatively recent convention. Richard Sennett in The Fall of Public Man (thanks to Dougald for putting me onto this) narrates the shift in the 19th Century from performances where the audience talked and participated, to a new social convention of a silent audience. But in this talk, I had a Twitter feed behind me showing the things the audience were saying to each other about what I was saying. So what are the conventions for interacting with that? Is it rude of them to interrupt me, or is it rude of me to ignore their comments?

The point is, it's not the tools that matter: it's the impact they have on our social structures and conventions. The media has changed: we already have a completely new ecosystem of news. It’s changed marketing too, with sites like Dell's Ideastorm and Skittles turning their website into a Twitter feed for conversations about their product acting as living proof of the Cluetrain Manifesto's "markets are conversations". Organisations and work have changed too: my various friends and followers on Twitter act as a distributed consultancy and community of practice for me.

I see this as a time to play with social conventions and find new ways to interact, with and without technology. A conference is a set of social conventions of audience silence, expert performance and public conversations - and these can be played with, as we do at the People Speak with things like the Twitter stream visualisation, or the talkaoke table. A blog is another social convention, in which we agree to listen patiently to what the author has to say before making our comments on their ideas. Discussion forums are flatter, with no hierarchy except a custodian keeping the space active and safe. Twitter is more complex again, a vast multiplicity of asymmetric relationships, public and private conversations and even old-fashioned broadcast. With each of these new tools comes a set of new conventions, each of which - as Rohan Gunatillake rightly observes - eventually leaks back into the rest of our society.

So if it's a time to play with convention, it's also a time to challenge some of the 19th Century assumptions about how things "should" be done. At the same time as the silent audience emerges, so too does the culture of street silence, the shift from the noisy, sociable marketplace to the silent, impersonal shop as the context for commerce, and the shift from consumer-commissioning to mass production of products. Amidst technological revolution, economic recession and climate change, all of these conventions are now open to challenge.

School of Everything is a social marketplace for face-to-face learning. We're moving from a 19th Century broadcast model of teaching to a social media approach where everyone can be a teacher. Similarly, Mindapples is about respecting everyone's "expertise" about what works for their minds. As I say in the introduction to Social by Social, it's about helping people do things, not doing things to people.

So for cultural organisations, what is cultural production when it’s not mass production? What are the conventions and power structures for facilitating social production of and around the arts? And what are the implications for expert practictioners when they are not stood in front a silent audience? Someone asked a question in the following panel about quality control on School of Everything, and also about quality in arts production, and my answer in both cases is that just because an organisation isn't taking responsibility for quality control, doesn't mean individuals aren't doing it themselves. We can all take responsibility for assessing expertise, curating content and making our own judgements; and the price we pay for moving up the power chain is that we must sit through more poor quality material. Thanks to these new tools, the choice is ours.

I believe that social tools make the invisible networks of our culture visible, and therefore possible to engage with. A good arts organisation can rally a community around a cultural event, but all the ripples in the pond become visible too and arts organisations can engage with them. At what point does it become rude for them, and me, to ignore what the audience is saying? Cultural production can create meaningful culture, but it is social tools that embeds it and makes it diverse and relevant to a wider audience.

I think the biggest issue for arts organisations within these shifting social conventions concerns the role of performance. Social media is most certainly performative: when I Twitter I speak to a larger audience than were present at Friday's event, so don't for a minute think I'm not performing when I tweet. In fact, if you want to understand Twitter you could do a lot worse than read Keith Johnstone's Impro. But there are times when it is appropriate to improvise together, and others when it is better to be silent and listen. I don't want to send text messages during a play, I want to really watch the play (unless it's a really bad play...).

Arts organisations, like the rest of us, now need to consider the role of silence and performance in all their work, and deploy appropriate tools to assist the performance and embed the culture it creates. But that doesn't mean the moonlight sonata is improved by twittering through it or making Domain Exploration easier.

Webby, Steady, Go!

School of Everything has been selected as an Official Honoree for the Education category in The 13th Annual Webby Awards. Yay! This is what they say: "The Official Honoree distinction is awarded to the top 15% of all work entered that exhibits remarkable achievement. With nearly 10,000 entries received from all 50 states and over 60 countries, this is an outstanding accomplishment."

So well done to our hard-working team and thanks to the Webbys for giving us a well-timed boost of publicity following the launch of our new payment system last week. We'll put the award in our growing trophy cabinet alongside the New Statesman New Media Award and the Catalyst Award we won last year. Onwards and upwards!

#SXSW takeaways

I've been off exploring lately. Those of you who follow me on Twitter etc. will have spotted that I was at '#sxsw' - also known as "South by Southwest". The South by Southwest Festival is held every year in Austin, Texas, and it's a huge international (mainly US of course) festival of Film, Music and Interactive content. The #kebab unpanel - photo by Benjamin Ellis

School of Everything were out in force promoting ourselves internationally, meeting other start-ups and soaking up new ideas. The flavour was very much Silicon Valley though and I was surprised at the lack of cutting edge thinking in the panel discussions. I've come back feeling that the quality of discussion in London is extremely high: hearing apparently cutting-edge panellists repeating ideas which I'd heard two years ago in London made me feel we're really at the heart of something interesting over here.

I enjoyed Steven Johnson's talk about the eco-system of news, not least because I enjoy analogies to ecology to describe business developments. I also enjoyed hearing Bruce Sterling rant about the recession, the human impact of web 2.0 and the importance of bringing your own beer to speaking gigs. And I managed to get myself into an argument with Chris Anderson of Wired about the economics of 'free' culture and the future of publishing, which actually included him shouting "screw the printers!" at me. All rather good fun, and he was nice enough to Twitter me afterwards and continue the discussion over here.

The highlight though was undoubtedly the British invasion of the conference with the now-infamous #kebab session. In the pub with Richard Pope on the Saturday night, we decided that the conference needed stirring up and hence that we should run a Brit-focussed panel about using the web to achieve social aims rather than just "how to monetise Twitter". The next morning, Richard found us an empty room to steal, nagged me into facilitating it, and we somehow persuaded Mike Butcher and others to announce it - until by 2 o'clock we had a room full of people waiting for us to do something interesting.

We ended up running "Not another social media panel" - an improvised 'panel-slam' event where anyone on the panel could instantly replaced by a member of the audience. Be interesting, be knowledgeable, or be replaced by someone who has something better to say. The result was a pleasing array of organised chaos, including user-generated name labels and a live Twitter-stream for the event following (for some reason) the hashtag #kebab. By the end of the session (via some references to monetising waterboarding and assorted US vs. UK banter) the entire panel had been replaced including me, the room was packed and 'kebab' had trended as the fifth most mentioned word on Twitter. There's some video footage kicking around in the Twitter stream, and we also ended up on Techcrunch, the Guardian and even in Wikipedia. Not bad for a little idea we had in the pub.

We're now wondering how we can start a SXSW-style event (with added kebab) here in London and rally some of the cutting edge discussions around the UK start-up scene. Anyone interested in helping out with that, let me know.

The Human Intranet

Here's the presentation I gave at the NCVO Information Management Conference on Monday - now with added Zappa. the ABCD of Organisational Knowledge Management, by Andy Gibson

Behavioural publishing

Mindapples is coming along nicely (hence my silence here - sorry, too many blogs...), and whilst explaining the project to people I keep finding myself pushing the concept of 'behavioural publishing'. So I thought I'd better think out loud and try to explain what I mean. Mindapples asks a question that people want to know the answer to, and gives them a platform to share their answers in public. The idea is to encourage everyone to take more care of their minds, simply by publishing what people are already doing. The site doesn't help you 'do' anything in a practical sense. All it does (or at least will do once we've built a better website) is publish the behaviours that we want to see more of. And I think that, simply by publishing these behaviours, we can create more of them.

As well as helping us practically to perform tasks, the web can also give us the inspiration to do things that we didn't previously feel were possible. For example, School of Everything provides a set of tools to help people organise their learning and find new students near them. But as my friend Stowe says, "the presence of the tool implies a permission to behave in a certain way." By building a website that helps everyone become a teacher, we want to show everyone that they have something to teach. Or to use another example, Flickr doesn't help you take photos, but by publishing the photos of millions of photographers it gives us all permission to be a photographer too.

So if there is a behaviour you want to encourage - be that social care, photography, knitting or democracy - rather than leaping straight into building complex tools to help people do it, why not find where it's happening already and share it with the world? If you can rally the people together who want it to happen and tell their stories, maybe they'll build the tools for you.

UK Catalyst Awards

School of Everything won a UK Catalyst Award (from the Prime Minister no less) last month, which was particularly nice following so hot on the heels of our New Statesman New Media Award a few weeks ago. Aside from obviously being very flattered, what struck me about this one though was the curious focus on individuals compared to other social innovation awards. They seemed very keen to attribute each winning idea to one person and praise these special individuals for their unique creativity. There seemed to be little understanding of the teamwork that actually underpins genuine innovation and social enterprise. We even had to ask them to put the names of all five co-founders on their awards website.

The Times Business section just featured a nice interview with me about the idea behind School of Everything, and re-telling the story to them reminded me of just what a collaborative process it has been to get this idea off the ground. If we'd been driven by one person's vision, I don't think we could have done it, at least not in the way we have. School of Everything is the product like best e cigarette but of all our experiences of education, the writings and experiments of various pioneers in the sixties and seventies, the advice of our friends and colleagues, the activities and desires of our users.

Ideas don't just pop out of thin air, they emerge from conversations, collaboration, stimulation. It's wonderful that the Government are starting to recognise the contribution of social innovation and web 2.0 to our communities and social services. But maybe they need to adjust their perceptions about how change actually happens, or else they risk undermining the very thing they seek to celebrate.

Everything wins!

Look! School of Everything just won an award! [wp_caption id="attachment_75" align="aligncenter" width="448" caption="Team Everything celebrate with characteristic restraint and good taste."]Everything wins![/wp_caption]

We won a New Statesman New Media Award, in the Inform and Educate category, which is very nice indeed thankyouverymuch. Big thanks to the judges, the New Statesman and everyone who nominated us, cheered us on and generally spread the love.

Next stop, the world! Bwahahahahahahaha! Ahem. Yes.

Being Interesting

I spent a wonderful day yesterday at Interesting 2008, exploring interesting things with interesting people. It wasn't like any conference I've ever been to before: much more informal, more fun, more varied. It made traditional conferences look like what they are: sterile, mannered, orchestrated sales events. Thank God for people who are happy to sit in a big room and talk to each other about things they're passionate about. Why doesn't that happen more often? In some ways this was to conferences what blogs are to mainstream media. It's personal instead of abstracted, defined by the personality of the marvellous Russell Davies and his friends rather than 'brand values', and inviting lasting relationships. Lovely.

A few quick thoughts on why Interesting was so much better than most events (and I'm still trying to work this out so please do add your own thoughts if you want):

  1. Short talks about simple things. No essays, no complexity - just 5 or 10 minutes for each speaker to get you interested in their thing.
  2. Passion. Everyone was talking about something they loved and did in their spare time, rather than something they were selling. You can pay people to do things, but you can't pay them to be interested in them. And as Russell himself said, in order to be interesting you have to be interested.
  3. Nice surprises. No-one knew what each speaker was talking about before they started, so no-one wanted to miss a word.
  4. Bring your own. No lunches provided, and though sponsors brought cake and biscuits we came for the content, not the freebies.
  5. Singing. And recorders. And electric guitars. And a ukelele. And other things that conferences aren't supposed to have.
  6. Jokes. Conferences are so bloody serious - and being serious is not the same as being interesting.

There are more of course, and in some ways it's like a magic trick: I don't want to know how it works, because if there's a repeatable pattern then Glaxo and Nike could do it too. But there's definitely a lot I've learnt about how to run more "interesting" events. Big thanks to the ever-lovely Tessy for giving me her spare tickets, and to Russell for letting School of Everything do Interesting Things in the foyer.

So here's to fewer conferences, more Interesting, and huge respect to this guy, and this guy.

More videos of me with bad hair

It's dangerous who you get talking to these days: in this age of consumer media and mobile technology, everyone's a TV journalist. I went for a drink in the sunshine with Stowe Boyd yesterday after the School of Everything Tech Advisory Board, and the next thing I know I'm being interviewed on his N82 and streamed live to his blog:

The technology was so quick, I didn't even have time to do my hair...

Look mum, I'm in the Guardian!

Lovely piece about School of Everything in today's Guardian. I particularly like the "Explain your project to my mum" question, which should really be mandatory on all project specifications. (Not quite so sure about my hair in the photo though...) And while we're at it, a nice piece about us from Libby Davy on Authentic Blogging too, and some kind words from my friend Tessy.

I'm feeling the love...

Money for Everything

School of Everything is now officially solvent. We announced the deal yesterday, and it's been picked up quite a bit already:

I'll add more links here as they come in, but see for the best of the coverage.

Now we've just got to build it and make it work...

Freeschool Tools

I've been rambling on about Freeschools again. Here's me yesterday explaining how to turn any community into a school by the simple application of a few post-its and a bit of enthusiasm...

Thanks to the ever-sociable David Wilcox for the video, and for his excellent accompanying blog post. And why not join the Sociability Freeschool on our new experimental freeschools site? Let me know what you think of it, and what you could teach me.

School of Everywhere

The School of Everything went international yesterday. We launched in New York at the NY Tech Meetup, which is terribly glamorous of course, but the exciting bit for me was the process back at Everything HQ of getting our new international locations system working. We've implemented the open gazetteer source Geonames as our locations database, so rather than using the very UK-specific "postcode" lookup we're now handling everything based on names of localities. You enter your location, such as "Clapham" or "Felixstowe", we look it up in Geonames and assign you a location on the map. If Geonames picks the wrong Clapham, we've added a neat disambiguation tool so you can choose which Clapham is right for you.

The data is easy to change in the Geonames database (via their site), which means if your location isn't listed currently, you can add it. We're hoping that over time we can encourage lots of web projects to standardise on Geonames, so that in time we can refine it to be a really comprehensive, open geolocations system for everyone to share.

Take a look at now, create a teacher profile, have a play with it and let me know what you think. And if you've got friends around the world who have something to teach, tell them about us!

Friday cartoon

I've always been a fan of visual ways to explain complex things, so I'm very happy that the School of Everything now has it's own comic strip to explain what we do. Happy Friday! Paul learns to knit


Here's a video of a talk I did for my friend and Sociability Associate Saul Albert back in October, explaining my Freeschools project. It's a bit long and more than a little rambling, but some of you might find it interesting, if only for the fluffiness of my hair.


It picks up from about 7 minutes in. (There's also a transcript and some interesting marginal discussions on our Freeschool Commentpress site.)

The Freeschools concept is my favourite "social technology" project right now because it's so simple. Through the simple application of two colours of post-it notes and some simple "social software", it is possible to turn any group of people into a learning network. We're starting to spread this concept via the School of Everything now, and already people are beginning to run these evenings all around the country. If you'd like to have a go at starting your own freeschool, the instructions are here.

The Freeschool concept is based on the experiments of the Palo Alto Free U, on which the School of Everything is based and which I explain a little in the talk. You can see a Freeschool experiment in action in the second half of the video. I think as a social research project, it demonstrates two very important things: firstly, all people need to begin sharing their skills is a clear process for sharing what they know, and what they need; and secondly, you never know what people know.

Freeschools are more than just experiments for me though, they are a good example of an emerging methodology for designing social interactions, once called "social engineering" but which might now be termed social design. In modelling processes for constructing interactive software applications, we are discovering new ways to model all the other interactions in our lives too.

In each strand of my work at the moment, my underlying purpose seems to be to reduce what we're doing to the simplest format possible. For the RSA Networks we reduced the process of incubating projects to "propose -> discuss -> support". For Croydon Council last week I was modelling citizen-led campaigning as "Be heard. Get involved. Make change." My colleague Mary recently reduced the process of a peer-to-peer project support group to "what are you doing, and what do you need help with?"

It may feel like oversimplification, human interactions are surely too rich to really be defined in such crude terms. But that's the joy of complex systems: a few simple rules can have huge and unpredictable consequences. After all, Go is a very simple game. So is football for that matter. Freeschools are a very simple idea, but their potential for impact is complex and far-reaching. And most importantly, they demonstrate that you don't need the internet to have social technology.

Growing up in public

So, 2008 is upon us and we're all a year older and a little wiser. As things start to wind up again (slowly) after the Christmas and New Year break, one thing has struck me: it's nice to be back in these conversations again. In 2008 I intend to have more interesting conversations, online and offline. I hope you'll all join me. I'm particularly happy to be spending more time this year on School of Everything, which has really kicked up a gear since Christmas. We've just launched a new, tidier version of our alpha site, so all feedback very welcome. It's not the finished article yet though - far from it - and this has left me pondering the implications of releasing our early versions into the public eye in such a bold way.

The "release early, release often" motto is a good one, and I'm discovering something important at the moment: it's okay not to get things right first time. The work we've been doing with the RSA recently is a great example of that: we produced a prototype which does one thing well, and from that we've grown a community and justified spending more time refining it and adding requested features. It's a very healthy way to grow a system: grow the technology alongside the community, and it certainly brings down those pesky barriers between community facilitators and the members themselves.

But openness comes at a price. By showing our users something which isn't finished, we risk leaving them frustrated, possibly so much so that they never coming back, or bad-mouth us to their friends. We're not exactly following the standard cautious processes for online brand-building (closed alpha, restricted beta, invitation only etc.). But if we don't trust our users, how can they trust us? And surely if we trust them, they'll see what we're aiming at and help us get there with them. Sometimes it takes that naked honesty to really convince people you're worth helping.

Fingers crossed anyway. Here's to a hopeful, collaborative, honest 2008, to more interesting conversations, and to the School of Everything - growing up in public.

Free collaboration tools

With more and more tools available either free or for small sums to help people collaborate and share information, I've been compiling a list of the best ones I've come across. (Thanks to Saul Albert and the School of Everything team for their contributions to this list.)

  • FolderShare: my favourite, a simple application which turns any group of un-networked, web-enabled PCs into a virtual shared drive (backed-up onto all machines, available offline, and it even includes good version control).
  • FilesAnywhere: free tool for sharing documents and files online, including version control and multiple workgroups functionality.
  • Skype: an obvious one, the most common internet telephony service also offers handy chat functions, plus Skype Prime for video conferencing.
  • Wordpress: collaborative blogging can be a powerful way to collaborate and develop a project; Wordpress now allows private blogs accessible only to selected users. (It also produces nifty little websites like this one...)
  • PhpBB: vanilla free bulletin board software, often cited as the open-source standard.
  • Google for Domains: particularly their e-mail and calendar tools for project management.
  • Google Docs: excellent for collaborative concurrent authoring of documentation and project plans.
  • Wikispaces, Wikidot, Stikipad: free wiki tools for recording ideas, meeting notes and decisions collaboratively in a shared space. (See also the neat new Facebook wiki tool, Wikimono.)
  • the most well-known bookmark-sharing system is increasingly popular with organisations for sharing useful links
  • Feedburner: the free RSS aggregation and subscription tool, now including e-mail broadcasting (subscribe to this site for a demo)
  • Hiveminder: a simple-to use but powerful task management tool, with support for groups and email integration.
  • 37 Signals: these guys offer some classic project management tools, including Backpack, Tadalist and Basecamp.
  • Zoho: a range of online project and collaboration tools including wiki and task manager.
  • Huddle: yet another new project collaboration engine, but slick and with many features.
  • Openworkbench: basic Gantt and project planning charts, editable and shareable online.
  • MindMeister: powerful collaborative online and offline mindmapping software
  • Gliffy: diagramming and project planning software online.
  • Rememble: social site for timelining and sharing a range of media, from text-messages to photos. Useful if you have too much communication! (Disclosure: my friend Gavin actually runs this, but I was recommending it before I knew him.)
  • Compendium: excellent if rather technical tool from the OU for mapping discussions and capturing decisions.
  • Surveymonkey: simple, free survey tool for basic questionnaires and consultations.
  • Highrise and SugarCRM: cheap and effective contact management tools for managing wider engagement (Highrise is actually provided by 37 Signals).

So, anything I've missed? There are new tools emerging all the time and I make no claims to completeness, so if you've got anything to add please share it in your comments below. Happy collaboration!

More of everything

Fiendishly busy at the moment, particularly doing some very interesting work for the RSA on their "networks" project to harness the power of their fellowship to achieve civic and social innovations. It's particularly nice to be working with Saul Albert of The People Speak again so soon after our recent talk on peer education. Thanks also to David Wilcox for helping me make sense of the back story - and for the fine apple danish too. Saul and I are experimenting with some new ways of collecting user feedback, and working with Pete Brownell and Liz Turner on a Drupal-based prototype to model the generation of project ideas organically within a community (think Innovation Exchange with teeth). Saul's blogging the development process at if you're curious. There may be mileage in this one.

Meanwhile, the School of Everything just hit the big-time, blog-wise. Cracking summary of the concept by Sean Flannagan of Deeplinking - and a very unexpected but welcome endorsement from web legend Esther Dyson. (Nice photo of my colleague Paul too - very smart jeans there Paul.)

Blimey. More soon.