CategorySocial Media

Digital Democracy Event

The Speaker of the House of Commons is currently running a commission on digital democracy. It’s looking at the future of democracy (with particular attention to the work of parliament) and the commissioners are looking for views on topics including ‘Making Laws in a Digital Age’, ‘Electronic Voting’ and ‘Representation’.

There have been a number of events around the UK with interested people coming together to discuss, debate and feed ideas into the commission’s report. Many of the round table discussion events have been organised by or for specific groups of people but I wanted to bring together people who didn’t have a particular identity in relation to ‘digital’ or ‘democracy’, but were just interested to have those conversations.

The commission is particularly interesting to me because the questions are fairly open so there are loads of opportunities to feed in new and creative ideas.

Spying my opportunity, I arranged to create a discussion event as a fringe event to Gov Camp Cymru. I worked with the Satori Lab team, who have great ideas and supplies of pens and Lego, and co-ordinated with the commission’s staff in Parliament to bring the event together.

We heard from one of the Commissioners, technology entrepreneur Paul Kane, who told the group about the commission and its role in putting together a report on digital democracy in the UK. Sam Knight, who created YourSenedd, also spoke about his experience with open data and democratic engagement.

We then had space for discussions around the commission’s final topics of Engagement and Facilitating Dialogue between Citizens. We asked questions such as whether or not is it Parliament’s responsibility to facilitate citizen dialogue, the opportunities to increase engagement with the current political system and whether a whole new system will be the most successful way to engage citizens in decision making in the future.

Alongside informal space (and encouragement to use the hotel’s bar) we provided write-on table cloths and a big box of Lego so people could create, think and share in any way they chose. Quite a few little Lego creations and tablecloth thoughts emerged from the evening.

The full report of discussions and ideas will be published on the commission website soon, and you can follow the commission on Twitter @digidemocracyuk.

Photos by Dan Green.

Fun Things on the Internet – 25th May

This week on the internet I’ve enjoyed…

1. Jim’ll Paint It: Jeremy Clarkson Can’t Eat Cereal

If you haven’t come across Jim’ll Paint It you’re in for a treat. People describe a scene, he paints it with Microsoft Paint.


2. Kami game for iOS and Android

A beautiful puzzle game about flipping over little pieces of coloured paper to turn the whole space one colour. Deceptively difficult with lovely visual design. Official site here.

Kami game

Kami game










3. 18 Microwave snacks you can cook in a mug

Self-explanatory. Everything from breakfasts to puddings. Read it here.


4. Nesta blog: How to change a country

A case study from the Basque Country about innovation-led development on a national level.


5. A robot built from a vacuum cleaner that tweets arts criticism*

It tweets randomly-generated comments about art as it visits galleries and cultural venues. Still, it’s pretty cool for something with a seive for a head. Article here.


Why do people give?

This morning I went to a workshop session on fundraising and giving. It was mainly focused around strategies for asking people to donate financially to an arts organisation, but included some really interesting psychology and other ideas about encouraging people to give.

One part particularly stood out and was really interesting to me, so I thought it might be interesting to other people too:

There are four different motivations for giving, and people will usually only respond to one of these. They fit into a matrix (below).



Basically, people will either be interested in the future or present, and with a positive or negative approach. This is not to say people are negative themselves, just that the possible negative outcome of not giving will have more effect than promoting the positives.

To explain the categories, the workshop leader used the example of an HIV crisis in an African nation:

Vision: we will put a clinic in every town (positive action, in the future)

Risk: thousands of children will be orphaned if their parents die (what will happen, in the future)

Opportunity: we can buy antiretroviral drugs at a reduced price for a limited time (what can be done right now)

Crisis: people are dying right now, we must help them (the immediate problem)

It’s such a simple concept when it’s spelled out but makes so much difference when thinking about fundraising and giving. Communicating the right need to the right person is likely to increase donations and therefore what charities and organisations can achieve. Obviously I’m a passionate communicator, and I do believe that the way you communicate with someone can have a huge influence on their actions, so it’s great to see that this is part of the development process as well as the consumer marketing one.

The next stage of the workshop was to look at the organisation at hand and work our what our visions, risks, opportunities and crises are – whether it’s ‘we can take engaging theatre to every person in Wales’ or ‘people can’t pay their bills because the cost of living has spiralled out of control’.

I work for an arts organisation, I’m part of a political party and I’m often involved in charitable projects so I’m looking forward to getting better at this by practising great communication!

2012: Apps of the Year

In the first of my roundup of the year posts, I’m had a look of which iPhone and iPad apps I’ve used most this year and the ones I’d recommend. Without further ado…

Super Jetpack Penguin

Game / iPhone / Free


What is it?

In Super Jetpack Penguin you need to help the penguin eat as many fish as possible without getting killed by any of the nastier sea creatures that try to block his path. He has a Jetpack so all you need to do is tap and hold to keep him going up or down the screen. Like many other games there’s the double challenge of not just passing the level but achieving a 3-star score.

It’s great because… 

It’s so simple. It can be learned very quickly and mastered with a little patience. Also, the sea creatures, and the penguin, are very cute.

Cdf Hotspots

Productivity / iPhone / Free

What is it? 

This app uses your device’s GPS to locate you and show you the nearest wifi hotspots. It’s a Cardiff app, so obviously only shows you hotspots in Cardiff! With a nice clean design, and just the right amount of information, I’ve used it on a number of occasions to locate the best wifi for wherever I am. This app was developed in conjunction with Cardiff Start by Applingua, a friendly app translation and localisation startup based in Cardiff. If you need your app localised, give them a shout.

(They’re not paying me to say that, but they are my friends, just incase you had any disclosure concerns.)

It’s great because… 

It has a clearly-defined purpose so it’s simple, clear and very helpful.


Game / iPhone / Free


What is it? 

An online word game. Use the grid of letters provided to spell a word. The letters you use go blue, then your opponent does the same and the letters they use go red. Be the first to complete the board, and make sure more are blue than red. Simple.

It’s great because… 

A lovely simple concept can be made more difficult by the word skills of the players. It’s also a nice, clean, flat design (no bevelling or skeuomorphs here!)

Draw Something

Game / iPhone & iPad / Free

What is it? 

Get a word, draw a picture, your friend has to guess what you’ve drawn. Effectively, it’s Pictionary but over the Internet. Words very from classic objects (spoon, train, man) to topical and entertaining things like Bieber, Hogwarts and J-Lo.

It’s great because… 

It’s entertaining. If you’re a really good artist, it’s an opportunity to show off. If you’re not so good at drawing (or your opponent isn’t!) it’s funny trying to work out what’s being attempted. I actually cite playing this game as the reason I’m better at drawing than I was a year ago.

Pinterest for iPad

Social Media / iPad (iPhone app also available) / Free


What is it? 

The long-awaited tablet version of Pinterest. It’s surprising it took this long to be released, as Pinterest’s browser interface has always been so tablet-like. I’m a very enthusiastic pinner so this has just completed my experience. It’s easy to use, if the navigation is a little congested and confusing, and uses a layered page system to show different types of information from pins to profiles to source links.

It’s great because… 

Pinterest is such a natural tablet experience. All those beautiful images you’ve pinned are now full-size on the retina screen and you can admire them and dream about when you actually afford a house/building/wedding/life like that.

Trip Advisor City Guides

Travel / iPhone / Free

What is it? 

An app featuring downloadable city guides of a selection of major travel destinations across the world. Once downloaded, the guide includes offline maps of the city which combine with GPS to make sure you’re never lost, and listings of restaurants, attractions, transport links, subway stops, etc. I used the New York guide on my recent trip there and it was extremely useful.

It’s great because… 

You get offline maps of a whole city for free. Also because it links to Trip Advisors reviews and rating system. A selection of the reviews for each place is available offline within the app so you can make an informed choice about a restaurant or bar.

Adobe Sketchbook Pro

Art & Design / iPad / £ – appears to be on sale at the moment at £1.99


What is it? 

A drawing, painting, creating app. It functions a lot like Photoshop but is optimised for tablet use in terms of tool placement and interface design. The paid version allows for up to 30 layers, great high resolution images and a whole host of tools and colours, all customisable. There’s an inbuilt gallery and you can save the images to your iPad’s camera roll.

It’s great because… 

You get a huge amount of function from it, and it’s on a tablet so is always there and nice and easy to use. For best results, combine with a good stylus. And some talent. There’s probably call for a disclaimer here that you still have to actually draw and the results will only be as good as you are. Maybe get Draw Something to practise 😉

The drawing in the screenshot is by Kat Aldridge. She’s an awesome illustrator and you can find her on Twitter here.


Photography / iPhone / Free

What is it? 

A simple app to create animated gif images and share them. Add up to 30 still images, set the speed and the rest is all done for you. It features a ‘feed’ of gifs created by people you’re following but I haven’t actually used this feature at all, as you can share the gifs you created straight to Facebook and Twitter, or just copy the URL.

It’s great because… 

It’s easy, and lots of fun to animate photos and video of your friends, or hand draw your own animations.

Livestreaming, Video and Theatre

Which is better? What does it mean? Where are the lines between each format? What’s it all for?

Guardian Culture Professionals raised these questions in a live chat last week, which you can view in its entirety here, but they have also produced a round up of some of the ‘top tips’ from the chat which you can use in your organisation. They included a couple of my suggestions and ideas, along with several from other interesting people. Check it out here.

Also, if you’re not yet a member of the Guardian Culture Professionals network I suggest you sign up. They send you lovely emails rounding up the week and on the site there are loads of articles, chats, tips and ideas.

Tweet of the Year?

Much-loved bookshop Waterstones this month did away with their apostrophe. Unsurprisingly this caused an amount of controversy in both traditional and social media. An entertaining Twitter account, Sad Apostrophe, also popped up pretty quickly.

Luckily, someone manning the Twitter account of Waterstones Oxford Street has a sense of humour and some social business savvy. The product of this? One of my favourite tweets ever:

tweet by waterstones



Blogroll: Inspirational Creative Blogs

I love checking out other people’s creative ideas and always manage to find inspiration from them. I follow a lot of blogs, but I thought I’d share a few of my favourite creative ones.


Who doesn’t love looking at wonderful places and spaces? Architizer keeps me happy with a huge range of different buildings, designs and ideas. They always have great photography too. The website isn’t the best design for viewing as a content stream but in your rss reader it’s brilliant.

Information Is Beautiful

This is a collection of infographics – showing off all the ways of presenting data visually. In addition to the great-looking graphics, the range of information presented in them makes for fun reading in itself.


Photojojo are a photography shop – and that side of their site is well worth checking out for quirky accessories you never knew you needed – but they also blog about everything from the latest lenses to a new way to frame your portraits. Check out their new sister site, We Love Phonography, too.

Sweet Home Style

This is more interior-design focused, but is great for pondering how your next workspace is going to look, or the dream living room you’ll be hanging out in after work.


Product design at its finest, this blog includes cutting edge products and some lovely concept work.


Pinterest isn’t technically a blog, it’s a social network which allows you to curate your own virtual pinboards. It’s still invite-only (but shout if you want one) but has very quickly become a home of creative people, and people who like creative things. Crafters, designers, typography geeks, architecture fans and an insane number of brides-to-be share images of things they love, things they want and things they’d like to make. A well-honed search function can lead you to the right people to follow very quickly and you’ll soon find it’s 3am and you can’t bring yourself to log out.

Image by suttonhoo on Flickr

Roundup of 2011 Part 2: Apps of the Year

I have been meaning to write a post about some of my favourite apps for a while and this seems like the time to do it. I use loads of apps on my iPhone, for different things from productivity to gaming, and will quite often download 5 or 10 free apps in one go and play with them all, keeping the useful ones. Here is my brief roundup of some of the keepers from 2011:

Instagram (Photography, FREE)

Instagram iPhone Screenshot

I’ve had Instagram for a while, but it’s only in the last year that I’ve really started to use it. The concept is very simple – you take a picture, add a vintage-camera-style filter to it, and upload. The reason I’ve taken to it so well is the micro-community that exists within the app. There is no web-based version, so you have to use the app to interact with other users’ pictures. Hashtags connect similar images, and are the way to enter daily competitions, and there are veritable Instagram ‘celebrities’ who will never be heard of outside of the app.

iMovie (Video, £2.99)

iMovie iPhone Screenshot

I reviewed this app earlier in the year in some detail so I’ll stay brief here. I like iMovie on my Mac but with a 13″ screen size it can be a bit tricky to manage and see everything clearly. The re-designed interface for iPhone, especially when coupled with the iPhone 4S’s fantastic camera, is really easy to use and can help you produce a great-quality video in no time.

Diptic (Photography, £0.69)

Diptic app screenshot

Another great little photo app which allows you to create a photo collage of up to 5 images with an easy-to-use interface. Just add the images, zoom in or out and off it goes. This works very well when combined with Instagram too. There is also a Diptic community on Flickr.

Plants vs Zombies (Games, £1.99)

Plants vs Zombies iPhone screenshot

This game began life on PCs but the iPhone version scales down remarkably well. It has a wonderful interface, and some extremely cute cartoon plants and zombies. The attention to detail is brilliant – every plant has a face and they bob around in a truly charming fashion. The gameplay itself involves attacking zombies with various plant life (pea-shooters, cabbage-putts and cherry bombs, for example) before the zombies reach your front door and eat your brains.

Amazon Mobile (Shopping, FREE)

Amazon Mobile iPhone Screenshot

I shop quite a lot on Amazon, send my Wishlist to my family when they ask what I want for Christmas, and research prices and products, so it was only natural that I’d download the app at some point. Its previous incarnation was satisfactory – you could shop, filter your search results and purchase within the app – but the recent updates have made it brilliant. You can now scan the barcode of any physical item anywhere and Amazon will find it (thus giving you an instant price comparison), add to (or purchase from) any of your Wishlists and use a new feature called Amazon Remembers, which allows you to take a photo of something you want to remember, saves it on your Amazon account and tries to match it with a product available on the site. Genius.

Roundup of 2011 Part 1: QR Codes

I haven’t been amazing at updating this blog and one of my New Year’s resolutions is to be a bit better at it. For now, here’s the first of a few little roundups of some things that happened in 2011.

QR About Me

Part 1: We all talked about QR codes. A lot.

And I sort of got bored of it. The main points made were as follows:

  • They’re quite cool and we think people scan them because they’re interesting
  • Very few people are actually backing up (or disproving) the above with analytics data
  • They’re not as pretty as we’d like them to be
  • A lot of people are using them very badly (for example to link to a non-mobile-optimised homepage)
  • We can do more with them. But we’re not.

So what can we learn from this? Well, I’m steering clear of any “2012 is the year of the QR code” nonsense, but I can do think that they are a useful and interesting way to provide creative extra content as part of a communications strategy.

Here, then, are my top tips and thinking points for using QR codes in your marketing:

  • Be absolutely certain that whichever URL your QR directs to is mobile optimised. Test it.
  • Try directing QRs to other places. It doesn’t just have to be a URL. What about using it on your gig poster to add the event to the user’s calendar? Or use one on your business cards to add your details to the user’s address book. You get the idea, and there’s a helpful list of possibilities here.
  • If you are going to use a URL, make it a good one. An exclusive behind-the-scenes video, a wallpaper or song download you can’t access any other way, for example.
  • Use Google Analytics (or or other web analytics system) to find out how many people are using your codes and arriving at your site by scanning them. If nobody is, re-think where they are and what they do.
  • Make sure it’s scannable. It needs to be large enough, clear enough and situated somewhere with mobile internet signal. Don’t become one of Mashable’s Top QR Code Fails.

Check back for part 2 later in the week!


An Art Gallery in your Hand

Poolga have been curating illustration, typography and graphic design work since 2007, with the specific intention of providing high-quality wallpaper for the iPhone. The work included is digital art, sized specifically for iPhone or iPad, and created by established and up and coming illustrators.

They have been offering these wallpapers on their website since 2007 but have recently created their first app. It includes a selection of work by 15 of their favourite artists. It has a great interface and you can save the images quickly and easily to your photo album to set as wallpaper, or Tweet a link to the images for your community to see.

What they are really doing is bringing an art gallery to handheld devices. The Google Art Project is working on a similar basis. Art galleries are wonderful places but you have to have been to one to know that. Online and iPhone galleries are a brilliant way to introduce new audiences to the concept of an art gallery. Whether it’s digital illustration or the inside of the Prado gallery it is an easy way to be exposed to art on your own terms.

Poolga’s ‘share’ function is where the real strength lies. The fact that when I like one of the pieces I can post a link straight to Twitter involves me and my online community straight away in the work.

I don’t see why ‘real live’ art galleries don’t have this function yet. Surely it wouldn’t be so difficult for the Tate to put a QR code next to every work, taking you to a microsite which would share it across your social platforms? I can see this setting off quite a buzz but also continuing to work way down the line when people are still getting excited by the things they see.

© 2018 Jen Thornton

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑