Finding free and legal images

2014-03-29 Outis on the Ice

Otis on ice. Personal photo.

This post is for marketing communications students and anyone looking to use free and legal images online.

With Google’s advanced image search  you can filter by licence to find images tagged as free to share, use and modify. Flickr will also let you search for images where Commercial use and mods are allowed.

The creative commons search tool will help you find images and other resources from a number of search services. Be sure to confirm the resource has a Creative Commons licence.

Pixabay is a service that provides images and videos that are free to use without attribution. Unsplash is a similar site offering free high resolution photography.

Library of Congress photograph collection provides free images for non-commercial Wikimedia Commons is another good source.

Of course you can always take your photo, or you can stylize text with a tool like Notegraphy

If you are looking for icons, one of the best sites I have found is the Noun Project.

Remember even though an image may be free for use and modification many licences require attribution.

I am sure there are many other sources out there, what have you found?


Posted in Learning | 4 Comments

No one cares about open government

Open government is one of those terms that has different meanings depending upon your perspective.You might feel it is mostly about open data, or making information freely available, or you might think it is about engaging with constituents.

In 2014 and 2016 I had the opportunity to ask a lot of folks (mostly academics, civil society and public servants) why they thought open government was important. No one talked about open government as something inherently good, they talked about:

  • solving complex problems and creating social opportunity
  • fairness, objective knowledge and opportunity for positive change
  • understanding measuring, and connecting government
  • learning from the past and financial transparency
  • growing a healthy democracy
  • improving government
  • economic opportunity
  • citizen empowerment

They do care about Open Government they just don’t call it that.

p.s. For me, that healthy democracy item is flashing in my mind these days.

Posted in Culture, Open Data, Open Government | Leave a comment

So what’s with the ducks?


Several different colors of rubber ducks. Could be a symbol of diversity or cooperation

Those of you that have been to my office know that I seem to have an obsession with ducks, particularly the bathtub kind. My collection of rubber, plastic, glass and paper ducks was mostly accumulated a few years ago when I was working to sell the concept of enterprise architecture. Many of the ducks in my collection are gifts from that period. This post explains the story behind the ducks.

Problem: How to communicate the benefits of Enterprise Architecture.

In the summer of 2007 the Enterprise Architecture and Standards Division, of CIOB TBS GC, faced a dilemma. Over the previous three years they had invested heavily in creating a robust and comprehensive approach to business transformation. Called BTEP for Business Transformation Enablement Program, this approach integrated business architecture and project management concepts into a disciplined method for horizontal change. After several successful implementations it had begun to attract attention and communications with potential adopters became important.

Unfortunately, the brilliant scientists that created the method responded to this interest using the sometimes arcane language of the discipline and simply overwhelmed business people with detailed descriptions of what they had done. A few like-minded individuals got the message and were enthusiastic, however, most business people simply didn’t get it.

In early 2008 the most senior levels of management in the Public Service began to ask questions around alignment. They wanted to know if projects they were being asked to fund were aligned, that is did they follow strategy, use compatible technology, comply with policy, and not duplicate one another? Alignment is a key goal for Enterprise Architecture and the division had been working on ways to measure (and create) alignment as part of its efforts to stimulate coherence. What interests our bosses, fascinates us, so naturally the division wanted to bring its alignment work to the forefront.

The division knew it had important knowledge and useful tools that could help. But they also had learned that selling Enterprise Architecture using the language of the discipline only worked with other architects. Strategically they understood that they needed to change their approach to communications and had hired myself as a senior communications person. I was a recent convert to the idea of Enterprise Architecture and was not steeped in the language of the discipline. Knowing the power of images and metaphor I stumbled upon the idea of ducks in a row and added it to the spider web, gear images, and railroad metaphors as things to try out.

Having previously worked in advertising, I sought to obtain a visual to go along with the words coherent government by design. In order to cut through the visual clutter and get noticed, the image had to be different than what people were used to seeing. The concept of ducks in a row seemed to resonate. The brightly colored ducks were nothing like the complex diagrams and charts that populated most of the decks in the division. There was no question they got attention.

We added the slide to an executive presentation the CIO was giving and while talking to the slide he associated the different color of each duck with the unique personalities of the departments in the federation that makes up the Government of Canada. The argument being that they did not have to give up their autonomy to move in the same direction.

The ducks turned out to be an excellent metaphor, not only because they communicate the central message of alignment, but because they are well suited to an extension into the physical world. The division even gave out rubber ducks as instant achievement awards. These ducks sit on desks and bookcases, as a means of drawing attention and reminding us of the importance of alignment.

As the program rolled out and ducks began to propagate, people started to give me ducks that they collected from their travels. I now have ducks from all around the world, drop by my office sometime and I will show you a few.

The book chapter can be found on the Enterprise Architecture Marketing page.

This post is an excerpt from the marketing communications chapter of Coherency Management: Architecting the Enterprise for  Alignment, Agility and Assurance Edited by: Gary Doucet, John Gøtze, Pallab Saha, and Scott Bernard

Posted in Culture, Marketing & Communication | 1 Comment

Guest Speakers Wanted 2017


As many of you know, in addition to working in Open Government, I teach a course entitled Professional Practice,which is part of the Advertising and Marketing Communications Management Program at Algonquin College. A program that I graduated from when typewriters were the norm, and which I eventually led in the nineties—until the internet lured me away.

The course is for graduating students and helps students transition from school to the workplace, the blurb from the program outline reads:

“Attitude, communication, and human relations are the key to surviving in the ever-changing world of advertising. This course helps you prepare for workplace success by providing practical expectations and useful tools to make a successful transition from school to workplace. The course discusses self-management, workplace politics and etiquette, building relationships, and tools for the future.”

A key part of the course is the speakers program where professionals just like you come in for an hour to share their wisdom and insights into the real world.

The main themes of the course are  personal brand, networking, and finance with an emphasis on the first two.  I try to bring in a variety of people, and not every speaker is from the communications industry. Some speakers dive deep into relevant topics while others simply tell their career story and engage in conversation.  Self awareness and career success are two common themes we explore, usually within a marketing context.

If you have some insight to share or an interesting (and motivating) story to tell, I would like to hear from you. This year there are potentially 18, 45 minute speaking spots available on Thursdays from January 12 to March 16.  The detailed schedule and other information is available in this google document.

Thanks, I hope the new year is good to you.

Posted in ADV1691 PP, Learning, Marketing & Communication | 1 Comment

Government as a platform eh?

I came across this draft post from when I attended the 2009 Gov2.0 Summit in Washington.  It was just after Obama became President and the excitement in the air was like that in Ottawa recently with our new Prime Minister. 

Reading it again, it occurred to me that it might be useful input into the conversation about what digital means to the governments of Canada.
Gov20summitThere was lots of talk about government as
a platform on the first day of the summit and I must admit that I came to Washington a little unclear on the topic. There are multiple “layers of abstraction” and no doubt those who build hardware and software have a more detailed understanding, nonetheless I will share with you what I took away about one of the big themes of the conference.

platform for change

  • A data platform for services
    By sharing data in open machine readable ways, the government can enable industry to create social and financial value by building services on top of that data. The dominate examples had to do with GPS and GIS data, (location, maps and details). There were impressive examples from the battlefront in Afghanistan to the streets of LA. The Obama administration has taken a bold step towards embedding this behavior in the bureaucracy with its Open GOvernment Directive.
  • A social platform
    With its power to convene and consult with groups of citizens the government can be a powerful catalyst for civic action. With much of the credit of Obama’s election win going to the power of the internet to mobilize voters, the administration is very interested in how to involve Americans in taking action to solve their problems. By using modern internet tools the government could fulfill the promise of Jeffersonian Democracy it seems.
  • An economic platform
    Finally with its power to invest the government can initiate market moves and affect the direction of the economy. The feeling in the room was that if government investments in infrastructure good things will happen.

There are probably many more ways you could describe Government as a platform. Gosh, I even heard a sidewalk referred to as a platform for social interaction. (Depending upon how you design and build it, you will get different behaviors. Add a bench and people sit down. Make it narrow and people walk on by.)

The thing about Government as a platform is that it provides a new perspective on the old problem of making government more effective. As I believe that genus with the funny hair said:

 ” you can’t solve old problems with the same thinking that created them”  

New perspectives are a good thing.

There are many ways you can think of Government as a platform. The take away for public servants is to use this perspective to create new forces for good.  To create policy and programs that will address the real problems the world faces today.

There you have it. My thoughts, such as they are. Feel free to comment, correct or elaborate, express whatever you want, just be polite about it ok?

Posted in Conference, Gov 2.0, Open Data, Positive Change | Leave a comment

A visit from the open data bunny

Easter bunny crop 600p

Can you find any easter eggs?

In 2014 I had the privilege of traveling across Canada in a jet plane, as well as on the internet, to listen to what some Canadians had to say about Canada’s Action Plan on Open Government.

The purpose of this post is to introduce you to one of the outputs of that exercise; the release of all the consultation comments collected as open data. Some of this data might be relevant to the conversation on principles for engagement between governments and citizens. Part of that conversation is taking place at the Canadian Open Dialogue Forum next week in Ottawa.

This dataset is the same one I used to perform some high level qualitative analysis that informed the development of the action plan for 2014-16. That analysis is described in the what we heard report. My thinking is that the data may contain some undiscovered insights, some easter eggs if you will. Easter eggs you might be able to find.

The data contains the actual text of comments collected, as well as metadata and the codes we applied during the analysis. One of these is the “core code” (data, info, or dialogue). Filter the comments by the dialogue core code and you end up with 322 comments that might be fun to analyze in the context of the conversation around principles. These comments have location, theme, subthemes and other metadata to play with.

Here is a link to the data and release notes on the open.canada web site.  If you are up for a little easter egg hunt, please explore.

Be sure to share your discoveries using the hashtags #CODF16 and #OpenGovCan, or leave a comment here.

Hoppy easter everybody!



Posted in Open Data, Open Government | Leave a comment

March 2016 Update

This is my annual(ish) update where I send you a few words on my recent experience, and then a few more about an event that you might like to attend.

As you might know, I have been working in Open Dialogue at the Open Government Secretariat, which is part of the Chief Information Officer’s Branch, at the Treasury Board Secretariat in the Government of Canada. What that means is that I have had the opportunity to design and practice high calibre citizen engagement, and perhaps provide a nudge towards better engagement across the enterprise. It has been a most interesting 18 months, and I am hoping for an opportunity to help implement some of the new government’s commitments to openness and collaboration.

In addition to being an advocate for transparency and collaboration in the Government of Canada, I am also addicted to teaching, mostly at Algonquin’s Advertising and Marketing Communication Management Program. For the last few years I have been conducting two courses:

  1. For graduating students I curate and deliver a Professional Practice speaker’s series designed to help them develop self awareness and networking skills. If you have a story to that you think would be insightful to a marketing communications student about to graduate, I would be happy to chat about you speaking to the class.
  2. I also teach first year students a course about why consumers do what they do, and how you can sometimes influence behaviour through clever messaging.

I learn a lot from teaching, much of which is applicable to a changing public service, and I am happy to share, so feel free to connect if you think I might know something of use to you in your work.

The event of interest is about policy making in the digital age. This year promises to be an exciting one for citizen engagement in Canada, and this conference just might mark a pivotal moment in our democracy. Taking place in Ottawa, March 31-April 1, the Canadian Open Dialogue Forum (Open 2016), aims to “bring together 300 participants for conversations about the untapped potential of open dialogue, and how the convergence of data, information and dialogue could create new opportunities for prosperity.” I understand there is a buy 2 tickets and get 3 offer in place until March 13. Simply email with the names of your two paid registrants and the name and email of your free registration.

I’m pretty excited about the potential of this gathering and hope to see you there.

Thanks for taking the time to read this message, I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to.

All the best for 2016,


Posted in About, Conference | Leave a comment