Dreams have always intrigued mankind. For some they are a window into the deepest recesses of the human soul, to others they are a source of obscure portents and signs, and for some they are just noise – the sleeping mind seeking to make sense of stray synapses firing at random.

Often dreams have been associated with mystical or religious experiences, so closely linked with visions are they.

During Tsarist times Siberia was first used as a place of internal exile. The surviving Decembrists and many others were sent east into the eternal taiga.

Over time communities of the exiles mixed with the native inhabitants of Siberia and through a process of syncretism Christianity and the shamanism of the natives at times blurred and odd new heresies and beliefs were born.

Someway north of Irkutsk one such community, isolated by distance and winter, became lost in dream.

An innocent question started it; “Did Adam and Eve dream?” The people of the community had little to do while winter gripped their world other than to sleep and talk. So they considered this issue while doing the slow things that occupied the winter such as stoking the fire or making cups of birch bark tea.

In Genesis, Adam did not sleep until the Lord put him into a deep sleep to remove his rib to create Eve. So Adam neither slept or dreamt.

But we sleep, we dream. Then sleep is something that must have come with the Fall, and so dreams too must be a result of that Original Sin.

One group proposed that dreams were sent by God to remind us of what we had lost. Others, quoting nightmares and dreams of lust, said that dreams must be sent by the Devil to tempt and taunt us.

The debate might have remained a winter fancy had not a child dreamed of gold.

In the dream, the child had been deep in the taiga. There, under a white sky in a white landscape it had met a white fox and the fox had told the child that there was gold buried near the village.

The adults smiled and ignored the child. Until the next morning when another child spoke of the fox and its message about the buried gold. People shook their heads, laughing softly but in their eyes a question was forming.

No one spoke of the dreams but adults started to seem to seek out sleep. Gradually more and more of the villagers spent their time asleep, seeking the fox.

To speak of such a thing would seem ludicrous, so people kept their own counsel. Even within families no one would admit to the dream hunt so over time the word “fox” began to disappear from conversation.

Then one night, a dreamer found themselves out in the taiga, and there about them were other villagers. Were they just figures in a dream or were they too after the fox?

Sheepishly at first, people began to sleep with tools. Perhaps with some distant part of the mind they rationalised that to hold a shovel in your sleep might mean that you held a shovel in your dreams.

Slowly, imperceptibly the balance of life began to shift. Dream became the priority, the waking hours were an imposition. The winter had always been a quiet time and so no one remarked on the gradual transition.

Some years back, I found myself deep in Siberia in the deep winter. I had left Irkutsk and was heading to Khabarovsk. Having time to spare and being awestruck by the deep silence and beauty of the taiga I broke my journey to explore the landscape.

One day I found myself in a long abandoned village. The houses were derelict, quite literally frozen in time. Possessions were still on shelves, wood neatly piled by doors. The village was here but the people were gone.

As I walked away, a flicker of movement caught my eye. I stopped and looked across the village to the edge of the trees.

It was a fox.


You’re quite sure you want to come in?… Very well

Jeremy Gould’s very interesting exploration of social media adoption has just reached part 5 – Experiment.

I am very keen on experimentation, my whole vague concept of entrepreneurial government relies on experimentation.

The problem is that my world is deeply averse to anything which might lead to blame or which has any connection to the concept of “risk”. Problematic when you are experimenting!

So some hints on how to get your experiment through the dread CIO challenge, which is like Dragon’s Den only with real dragons, and they have guns, and ADH*bang!*


What, if any, data do you propose to collect or share? Who owns it? Is it personal data either in DPA terms or Hannigan? How valuable is it? If we lost it which page would it appear on in the paper? If your proposed host is offshore then are there any implications? Do you even know where the site will be hosted?


How do you propose buying the service? Is it below single tender level? Is it on a framework? Whose? Why this company? SME? How is the service priced? What does it look like if we have 100 users, 1,000, 1,000,000?  How much is the fish!? How much is the chips!? Does the fish have chips!


Who is the audience for this site? Does the site need to be accessible? (the default answer is always yes) Multilingual? Global? Moderated? Will they expect a reply?


Is it new tech? Have we or someone we know used it before? Is it tech trial or a product trial? Are we locked in if we use it? How much training is needed to use it? To support it?


The most important question of all – “What does success look like?” If you cannot answer that then give up now. I am always depressed at the number of events/projects I attend where people find that question hard to answer.

This list is not exhaustive and nor am I trying to put people off experimenting. We need to try and yes, we need sometimes to fail, if we are to learn. But I am well aware of my own failings around bright shiny baubles to recognise the need for an appropriate degree of rigour.

And now to get back to my own experimenting. Now, where did I leave that account manager?…

Spreading tales like coffin nails

And no birds do sing

Someone asked me the other day why I was not on Twitter? I mumbled something about the fact that the last thing a fox needs is more sources of distraction.

But sitting in the Japanese takeaway waiting for my order I have had time to reflect.

As an outsider Twitter seems to do 4 things – it helps reduce the essential loneliness of existence and connects us with the rest of our species (which reminds me of Italo Calvino and Mr Palomar but that’s a fox distraction); it is a quick and easy way of broadcasting news and status to friends, assuming we have either news or friends; related to that it helps us socialise by allowing us to tell people which bar we are in; finally it acts as a web of connections, hares sit up and dart hither and thither and sometimes it’s a hare worth following.

All good things but again, as a fox, is the upside greater than the risk of vastly more shiny baubles cluttering my view and distracting me still further?

Hmm perhaps I should join but just go for a 140 character name?