Govcamp is where avatars come to take on human form and change their names. That is one of its great pleasures and – for me – one of its great frustrations. There are some people who come to govcamp whom I know in the human world. There are many more whom I know in the virtual world and who transmogrify into humans as they walk through the door. And there are more again whom I don’t know either way. It’s the second group I find most frustrating. I am never good with names and faces at the best of times, but when people I know (or perhaps ‘know’) from twitter turn up with actual faces and bodies and with names sometimes vaguely like their twitter handles and sometimes not like at all, I am easily and comprehensively confused.

Every govcamp, a little group of people step into the third dimension and become corporeal, and that’s one of the best bits of the whole thing. Every govcamp, there is a group of people I did not know even in disembodied form from whom I learn interesting things. And every govcamp, there is a sea of people whom I know I know on twitter and I know are in the room but I can’t connect one with the other.

When I tweet at events, it’s usually a mix of comments from others which catch the essence of a discussion and my own thoughts and reflections on what I am seeing and hearing. In a conventional broadcast-mode event, it’s fairly easy to distinguish the two and to give attribution to the first. In an unconference, the wisdom comes from all sides and attribution isn’t easy.

Yesterday two of my tweets got heavily retweeted. One was my thought the other was (indistinguishably) somebody else’s. The chances are high – from the context of the conversation -that the somebody else is on my twitter list and I on his, but I can’t make the link to give an attribution.

Even more importantly, I would like to know that I am making a connection which may well have begun long before govcamp, and which has the potential to stretch out well beyond. So for next year’s govcamp, what I want is a a virtual reality app which makes people’s twitter names glow gently over their heads in large friendly letters. I hope that’s not too much to ask.

Name badges picture by Ann Kempster

Originally posted on a now archived posterous site of reflections on UKGC12.