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Thursday, 5 December 2013

Norfolk County Council and HP join forces to transform public services

Press release by Norfolk County Council Media Team 05 December 2013
Norfolk County Council and HP join forces to transform public services

A ground-breaking agreement to transform and improve public services in Norfolk by harnessing the power of new technology has been announced today between Norfolk County Council and HP, and its key partners Microsoft and Vodafone.
The Digital Norfolk Ambition (DNA) project will deliver more than £10 million of savings from the Council’s IT budget over the next five years, while providing front-line staff with the latest technology to help deliver efficient and sustainable public services.
At the heart of this innovative partnership is the Council’s commitment to its Putting People First strategy. The use of technology and better sharing of data and resources between partners is fundamental to building the right services for Norfolk and the new partnership will support closer and more informed working.
Over the coming weeks the County Council, HP, Vodafone and Microsoft will be inviting partners and other agencies to participate in a number of initiatives to support better education, higher education and sustainable public services.
One of the aims of the DNA initiative will be to break down existing communication barriers between organisations and establish a secure ‘information hub’ which will allow the joining and sharing of data across Norfolk to help public services plan more effective services - targeted at those most in need.
The hub will be developed by graduates from the University of East Anglia alongside HP and Norfolk County Council.
Already a large employer in Norfolk, HP has an insight into the county’s world-class potential. The presence of the UEA, Norwich Research Park and a vibrant business community were key factors in HP’s targeted pursuit of this cutting-edge deal.
A shared vision of a smarter, more inclusive and dynamic future for Norfolk will be supported by the following initiatives that the partnership will also deliver:
• A new four-year degree in Information and Management Analytics at the UEA sponsored by HP will be launched to help provide the workforce of the future with new skills
• A new one-year course for 16-year-olds will be launched to provide technical computer skills in the fast-growing field of information technology. Those who pass will receive an Advanced Technical Associate accreditation from HP
• 50 new apprenticeships will be provided to small and medium sized businesses via the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce and free advice and guidance offered to companies by HP and Microsoft
• In addition, all schools in Norfolk will be approached in the coming weeks to gauge interest in joining the initiative with the aim of providing devices for teachers and pupils at heavily discounted rates
• ‘Tech camps’ will be held for teachers in Norfolk to keep them abreast of the latest technological developments, and an online IT academy will be launched along with a new competition - to be called the Norfolk Challenge Cup - to unlock the IT potential of Norfolk school children
• A target of more 10,000 volunteering hours by staff from HP and others partners will be provided in the county to support local communities
As part of the project, Norfolk joins the growing number of cities and regions under the umbrella of the global Microsoft CityNext programme which opens access to Microsoft’s global innovation and corporate social responsibility programmes.
Launching Digital Norfolk Ambition, Norfolk County Council Leader, George Nobbs, said: “Economic growth is at the top of the County Council’s priorities, and this groundbreaking partnership will ensure that we are best placed to achieve that. The financial challenges facing the public sector mean it is essential that we collaborate with our partners across the county to better plan and deliver public services for Norfolk.
“New learning courses for our young people, access to the latest equipment for our school children, new apprenticeships and practical help for businesses add up to a formidable package of investment in our county. Raising attainment of our children and bringing public services together are absolute key measures of success.”
Stuart Bladen, Vice President and General Manager, UK Public Sector, HP Enterprise Services said: “This partnership with Norfolk is unique in local government in the UK: it will provide a new style of public service that enables multiple agencies to effectively participate in joint service delivery. Furthermore, we are excited to bring HP, Microsoft and Vodafone together to focus on the education, skills and jobs agenda here in Norfolk.”
Ian Hacon, President of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, added: “Norfolk Chamber of Commerce is absolutely delighted that HP and Norfolk County Council have signed this agreement. Digital competitiveness has become one of the cornerstones of great business. Norfolk has a real opportunity through this deal to be at the forefront. As well as making our public sector better value for money, we are particularly pleased to see the work that will happen with our young people, both in schools and colleges, and the 50 apprenticeships to support small and medium sized enterprises.”
David Richardson, Deputy Vice Chancellor at UEA, said: “I am delighted that the university has the opportunity to be a part of Norfolk Digital Ambition, a visionary project for which we are most grateful to Norfolk County Council. We are particularly pleased that our students will have the chance to gain vital work experience and enhance their employability in partnership with leading companies such as HP, Microsoft and Vodafone.”
Nigel Williams, Chief Fire Officer, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, said: "We see this initiative as an exciting opportunity to better join up public services and improve public safety, whilst at the same time rising to the challenge of having to find the budget savings that we all face at this time. We are firmly committed to exploring the opportunities this initiative offers to better integrate Fire and Rescue service ICT systems within the wider County Council network."
About HP HP creates new possibilities for technology to have a meaningful impact on people, businesses, governments and society. With the broadest technology portfolio spanning printing, personal systems, software, services and IT infrastructure, HP delivers solutions for customers’ most complex challenges in every region of the world. More information about HP (NYSE: HPQ) is available at http://www.hp.com

Friday, 21 June 2013

Twitter Followers - Gotta Catch 'Em All

Twitter bird flying

What are you saying to your Twitter followers?

Are you saying anything at all or are you just collecting followers?  Have you gotta catch them all, like you are the ultimate Pokemon Master, or Mini Monsters or whatever it is the cool kids are collecting these days.

Do you have hundreds of followers and you follow just a handful? Does that make you feel good?  Does that make you feel famous?  Are you convinced that you are important?

Guess again.

You are not seeing what people are saying.  About you, your products, your competitors.  Maybe you don't care and that's just fine.  If you can afford to be that arrogant, then good for you.

But while you are sitting on your lonely Twitter throne, your competitors are talking to your customers, engaging them, finding out who they are, asking what they want, what they would like, what they need, asking how they can do things better to help.  They are finding out where they are doing things really well.  They are finding out where they are doing things really wrong.  They are not only listening, they are engaging.  they are being social and they are getting attention.

Good luck sitting on your Twitter empire.  Let me know how that works out for you?

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Free SEO and Digital Marketing Course in Norwich

 Infocux Technologies

The SEO App for Digital Marketing
I spent today at Yodelay's free Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Digital Marketing course that was held at Drayton Old Lodge.  I'm job-hunting at the moment you see.  Yes...I'm busy organising MobDevCon, but I lost my bread and butter job at the end of March.  This means that, on the downside I'm money poor.  But on the shiny upside I am fortunate to have time free to learn new things in an attempt to get my marketing job of dreaminess that still so stubbornly eludes me.

So obviously when I noticed there was an opportunity to attend an SEO and Digital Marketing course in Norwich, everything else went out the window and I was going to be there come hell or high water.  Especially as it had the magic word "free" attached to it. 

Here's just some of the useful, juicy stuff that was covered.......
•         Search Engine Optimisation
•         Relevancy and building authority
•         Factors of a good content strategy and how to get over writer's block
•         Lead generation
•         Link building

I don’t think there was anything massively technical and Duncan Johnson from Yodelay made sure everyone knew what the terminology meant.  Knowing a little html might be useful to put a few of the things into practice but you certainly didn't need to be an uber-geek to understand what was going on.  Keir Harness talked through an excellent case study of where the psychology of consumers and subsequent improvements to the website content, design and SEO resulted in a much more effective site.

If people can't find your website because it is stuck way down on page 42 of Google and you feel that the information superhighway is leaving you floundering in the slow lane then you really should get on the course if you can.  There were some dead handy tricks, tips and tools that I didn't know about.  So, what am I doing sitting here telling you this?...I'm off to try to put some of it into practice and increase my marketing powers to levels of super-awesome.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Sewell Barn - New Season 2013 - 2014

I got an invite to pop along to our local Sewell Barn Theatre.  They had an open launch afternoon to present all of the upcoming productions that will be making up next season’s performances.
Sewell Barn Theatre Norwich
Photograph by Cameron Self:
Wiki Creative Commons Attribution ShareALike License

I arrived fashionably late and decided to climb to a spot rather than wiggle past people and get in the way. A lovely lady gave me a hand clambering up to a seat.

I really wish I had had the forethought to pop my notebook in my bag on the way out of the house. There were so many exciting projects introduced that I couldn't possibly recall them all.  There were not only descriptions of all the plays being described by their directors but also lots of the details of the things that go on behind the scenes and requests for actors and actresses to take part.  I had to go look on the website to remind myself of the details.  

New Sewell Barn Productions for 2013 - 2014

There are nine new productions in the new season for 2013-14

Festen  By David Eldridge
The Cricket Match  By Alan Ayckbourn
The Shape of Things  By Neil Labute
Once In A Lifetime  by Moss Hart & George S Kaufman
Down Among the Wines and Spirits - the golden age of the real music hall     
Brave New World  by Aldous Huxley  adapted by Roger Parsley
All My Sons by Arthur Miller
The Attractions  by Tony Marchant
The Libertine  by Stephen Jeffreys

Brave New World  by Aldous Huxley  adapted by Roger Parsley

Aldous Huxley's Brave New World at Sewell Barn TheatreI couldn't help but let out an audible ooooh at the announcement of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, which I could hear echoed by other people around the auditorium.  Apparently this play doesn't receive permission to be performed often.  An application has to be submitted and approved by Universal Studios.  Sewell Barn has been fortunate to have been given that approval.

The Libertine  by Stephen Jeffreys 

The director gave a very humorous casting call for 'The Libertine' by Stephen Jeffrey’s.  The person introducing it was trying to describe the play in such a way as to let people read between the lines.  I am so glad someone shouted out that it was a bit "risqué" as I wasn't getting the implied references. Subtlety never having been one of my strong points at the best of times, neither the receiving or giving of.   I wish I had carried on with acting lessons now.  I'm quite excited by the idea of acting up in period costume for devilish and comical debauchery.

The Shape of Things  By Neil Labute

'The Shape of Things' is being directed by Luke Owen, one of our very own UEA creative writing students.  Sounds like the young actors who get involved are going to need exceptional memories because apparently it is a very wordy play.

The Cricket Match  By Alan Ayckbourn

'The Cricket Match' sounds like a fun and unusual play. The play consists of just two actors playing ten different characters between them, but the sets also change to take into account that the play is made up of several smaller plays but they share the same opening scene.  And if that wasn't enough, each scene of the play has an alternate ending.   Confused yet?  I can't wait to see it just to see how the actors switch characters and get in and out of their costumes and back on stage in time.

Once In A Lifetime  by Moss Hart & George S Kaufman

The director who brought Bedlam to Sewell Barn, Robert Little, introduced his next production, 'Once in a Lifetime'.  Set in the 1920's, it is a satirical comedy that follows 3 people heading to Hollywood to make it big.  And big it is!  I thought Bedlam had a large cast at 26.  'Once in a Lifetime' will have 39 characters.

Down Among the Wines and Spirits - the golden age of the real music hall 

Jesús León Creative Commons Attributed Licence
A play that was conceived later in the day and didn't make it into the brochure, Down Among the Wines and Spirits' sounds a fun production to be involved in. It is set at a time before the Good Old Days and variety shows back in the real music hall days.  It is being written to fit around the characters who will be performing anything from monologs to singing.  The narration is going to be based on a local music hall family.  
The play is called 'Down Among the Wines and Spirits because that is where the performers used to get listed when they were at the bottom of the bill.  Down at the bottom of the poster near the drinks list.  Wonderfully thought out concept and local connection, I love it.  I think that this will be an enjoyable, sing-song of an evening after a tipple or three.

Go check out one, some, or all of the productions if you can.  No need for binoculars at Sewell Barn.  It's a lovely little theatre that lets you get right up and personal to the action.   The theatre has unbelievably reasonable prices considering all of the hard work that is going into these productions.   It was fascinating hearing the discussion of the technical aspects, costuming, building of sets and the number of days of rehearsals that actors invest in.  Three days in rehearsals per week.   It must definitely be a labour of love and absolutely electric when all of the hard work comes together on the night.  

I wish all of those taking part in the new season happy rehearsals, smooth changeovers, full houses and wild after parties.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Start-up Lounge, City College Norwich

It's been a long time since I walked the halls of City College Norwich.  I did my GCSEs there, A levels and and Access Course before I went to university.  It has changed a lot since then.

Gone are the long, dark corridors of closed blue doors, replaced by open, airy, glass-fronted office spaces.  What I remember to be grey, dull walls are now light and above the doorways you can read positive and inspiring quotations.
Innovation and creativity in the Start-Up Lounge
Image courtesy of ddpavumba / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There's a smell of Starbucks coffee down the hall and a hustling, bustling and friendly atmosphere.  The reception staff are authentic, happy and helpful.

The Start-up Lounge

I am there to meet up with Richard Steer who has offered to show me around their Start-Up Lounge.  I wait in the Advice Shop.  Full of colour, pot plants and Information about what's on in Norwich and the College.

I'd been excited since hearing about it.  I love the idea that the entrepreneurial spirit is being promoted in the college and ideas are being incubated and encouraged.

We walk over to the new Start-up lounge.  For anyone who might have frequented the college back in the days, it's in The Blakeney Building, off to the right hand side of the main building behind the Restaurant .  The one that always got used for exams.  I wish I had grabbed a photo while I was there.  I have a photo somewhere of what it used to look like. I would love to contrast it with what it's likes now.  Compared to what it used to be, it's unrecognisable.

We walk into an open plan area.  It full of teens from Norwich School, everyone so busy they don't pay us any mind as we enter.  There's a group to the left of us oblivious to our scrutiny. Some sitting on cube seats, whilst others in the group are studiously brainstorming and scribbling on a concave wall which seemingly doubles as a whiteboard from floor to ceiling.

Start-up Lounge Functional Areas 

The room is broken up into different functional areas:

·         Ideation
·         Research
·         Collaboratorium
·         Consultation
·         The Studio
·         Intereaction
·         Workplace
·         Entrepreneurs’ Lounge

There's a glassed off section in the centre with a screen.  The area is used for presenting and pitching.  I'm told the glass doors pull all the way around, opening up the space to fit even more people.  Seems like a great meeting area.

Creativity Ideas at City College Norwich
Image courtesy of 

One of the school governors comes over and shares some of the ideas that the students have been generating.  In just an afternoon they have come up with innovative and interesting ideas for products.

A far cry from a few years ago when people signed up for course at college, took their course, passed the exam and then passed out of the door to work for someone else.  The Start-up Lounge is a refreshingly exhilarating workspace where young people's ideas are supported and nurtured.  Where they can be given the skills to take their ideas and make them happen. 

A Bright Future for Norwich

In the past a student might have thought they were different, wanted to do more, wanted to create something, wanted to change the world.  But without direction, support or inspiration may have ended up sat at a desk in an office working for someone else and not quite knowing how they got there.  

But now, with innovative places like the Start-up Lounge they might set off on the path less travelled.  Now the spark and the dream might have the opportunity to become a reality.   I've no doubt that good things are going to come out of this.  And from what I heard today, things already are.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

MobDevCon - The Countdown

Norfolk's first mobile development conference

Mobile Development

Mobile technology is booming and the possibilities and opportunities available are endless. It is now widely accepted that the number of people accessing the internet via mobile devices will overtake those using fixed line PC connections by 2014. Companies need to decide on whether they want to implement mobile strategies. Mobile isn’t the future, mobile is now.

If you are serious about mobile development, don’t miss out on MobDevCon. This is the first
Norfolk hub of engineering and manufacturing innovation
Mobile Development Conference to be held in Norfolk. We are bringing together some amazing speakers for you from as far away as Spain and the Netherlands, from Bristol and London to the home grown talent we are lucky to have right here on our doorstep in East Anglia.

MobDevCon is being held at Hethel Engineering Centre, near Lotus Cars in Norfolk. Hethel Engineering is a hub for engineering and manufacturing innovation in the region.

MobDevCon tickets

The Super Early Bird tickets for MobDevCon have sold out but there are still Early Bird tickets available for only £75 (plus fees) at:  Eventbrite

This price includes not only the presentations and workshops but also lunch and tea/coffee between sessions.

MobDevCon will have the following sessions on offer throughout the day. Further details on sessions and speakers can be found at the MobDevCon website.  As can a list of all the wonderful sponsors who have helped make MobdDevCon possible:

Elite Sponsor:   tbc


•            Near Field Communication
•            Aviva’s Mobile Journey and Future
•            Custom Components for Android
•            History of Monogame
•            Mobile technology developments, culminating in Worklight
•            Developing apps for FirefoxOS
•            A practical guide to pricing mobile apps
•            Why Cross-Platform Development Is The Only Way Forward


•            10 tips when porting to Windows Phone
•            Android security tips
•            Developing Cross Platform Apps using Xamarin and MvvmCross
•            Custom Components for Android
•            Building a Media Player Application with the GStreamer SDK for Android
•            The Android + NFC developer kick-start  workshop

If you have any queries or just unsure whether the conference will be suitable to your needs, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Perspective is EVERYTHING

Job hunting in today's climate of high unemployment is difficult. It's hard work and stressful.  There are so many people out there telling you what the best thing is to do to find employment and the best thing to put on your CV/Resume.  Trouble is, everyone is saying something different and it's difficult to push through the crap.

Richard St John gives a fantastic Ted Talk on Success and defines "crap" wonderfully as:

C:     Criticism
R:     Rejection
A:     Assholes
P:     Pressure

It goes for success in all areas of your life, including job hunting.  Sometimes you just have to push through the criticism, the rejections the assholes and the pressure to succeed..

Somebody looked over my CV and critiqued my personal statement.

Despite the fact it had secured me two big interviews, I was advised that I should rewrite it because, apparently, prospective employers might find it 'intimidating'.

I took it personally.  It was difficult not to.  It's my personal statement and describes how I see myself and what I presume an employer can expect from me. Someone who had only just met me and didn't know me from Adam looked at my CV and decided it would be better to portray myself as mediocre.  It would be difficult for anybody, not to take that personally.

The world of employment already seems to suffer from the status quo bias of the bland and uniform.  If you portray yourself as mediocre to the world, how can you possibly expect anything but mediocrity in return?

I want someone amazing to read my CV.  Someone with passion and drive who will read my personal statement and think 'I would like to work with this person.  This person might bring something great and positive to the company'.  What I don't want is for them to read it and think that this is someone just like everyone else on the pile.  They appear to be a boring, mindless cog that would fit and chug away talentlessly in any mediocre system.

I've been described as being too quiet, too loud.  I talk too much, I talk too little.  I come across as unconfident, I come across as arrogant.  I always share what I know, I don't share enough.  I'm early, I'm late.  I'm passionate, I'm indifferent.  I'm honest and sincere, I'm blunt and tactless.  I'm focused, I'm erratic. What I am thinking is all over my face, I never give away how I'm feeling.

Do you know, the one thing that I've learnt about other people's opinions is that they are just that, opinions.  Sometimes they can provide some valuable feedback but often they can be taken with an articulated lorry full of salt that's stuck precariously rocking on the top of an excessively large salt mountain.

Everyone perceives everything differently.  That's because, surprise surprise, we are all different with different values and attitudes.  And not only that, it changes with time, with age, with experience, with the side of the bed you got out of this morning.

I have lost count of how many people, organisations and friends have looked over my CV and advised me on what should and shouldn't be in it.  And it's always...not occasionally...or once in a blue moon, no.....ALWAYS different.

This person looked at my CV and thought I came across as intimidating on paper because I referred to myself as empowered, positive and driven.  Company A might read it and say 'hey! This is just the kind of enthused, motivated and positive individual we want to work with.  They sound like they will get results and enjoy doing it'.

Company B might think, 'I'm scared. My company has been doing x,y,z for decades, I don't want someone who might embrace change; they might....change things'.

Well, who's to say I want to work for Company B.  We wouldn't be a good fit.  And at the end of the day, applying for a new job is like any type of relationship, if it isn't a good fit, it's not going to work out well for either party.

So by all means listen and be up for a second, third or even nth opinion. But don't feel you have to take every word on board. " Be open-minded, but not so open-minded that your brain falls out".  Richard Feynman(1918-1988)

You could tear yourself into pieces caring about what other people think and their negative re-frames   I wonder how many people in the current climate of high unemployment are struggling with issues of low self esteem and de-motivation because of the constant, do this, don't do that, say this, don't say that, wear this, don't wear, sit like this, not like that.  Fearmongering messages that that they are constantly bombarded with that say you will never be good enough unless....

If you are different, find something different to do.  Don't feel the need to change to fit.  Believe in yourself and find something that fits you.

Stop listening to the naysayers' excuses on why you are likely to fail.  Listen to Larry Smith present his very clever and humorous talk on Why You Will Fail to Have a Good Career.

Find your passion.  Be yourself.  Be motivated.  Be inspired.  Be awesome.

What do you think?.......Have you been given advice that you feel will hinder rather than help your career.  What did you do?  And what happened?  

Please share your experiences in the comments......

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