I quite like Transport for London’s ‘Together for London‘ network site.
The idea instinctively appeals to me. I used to live in London and, when I moved there, I was surprised by the lack the manners on public transport and the reticence of passengers and staff to intervene. Now, I’m moving there again and I’m not looking forward to the commuting; any campaign to improve the experience of using London’s transport system would be warmly welcomed.
First off it’s a OK looking site, with a decent, if conventional architecture. There are some general styling/display issues that will get sorted in time, no doubt. I’ve got a bigger problem with the avatars. I wonder if people aren’t just a bit tired of creating avatars. I can see what they are trying to do, and I like the idea of the avatars and campaigns being brought out of the site and on to the bus, train or bike lane, but the quality is too low and I don’t think there will be many people rushing out to wear their avatar t-shirt. ‘Naf’ is the word that comes to mind when I see the avatars and the design concept – looks a bit like kids were forced to design the site for a school competition.
I think I will use this site. I intend to follow an contribute to some discussions and campaigns, I may even start my own. But I will be on the watch for this descending into an all-out grieving-post. Two things will stop that happening, responsibility for both falls to TfL.
Firstly, TfL will need to do something with the qualitative, experiential data that they generate. I don’t think anyone will be surprised by the nature of the complaints on this site; what would capture people’s attention is if something happens with their comments. So, I would expect TfL to use the site to design and refine initiatives with users, and I would look for policy changes and practical steps taken by TfL to be attributed at least in part to ‘Together for London’. I think TfL should also run ‘master campaigns’ on the site on the basis that they had a ‘groundswell from the grassroots’. These would be campaigns that stand out from the rest and that people can sign up to in the knowledge that they will be noticed and actioned.
Secondly, TfL should offer practical guidance – that it stands by – to users of this site on how to deal with the sorts of incidents and issues people experience on public transport. In my experience, it is not that people don’t want to take a stand, it is that they do not know how to do it in a civilised and effective manner – it certainly doesn’t happen like it is portrayed in the campaign video. There are thousands of sites where we can go out and complain about stuff; what we lack is advice. If ‘Together for London’ can plug that gap, then it truly will be a useful, valuable website.
I have high hopes for ‘Together for London’; I believe in the promise of community-building sites like it. Let’s see how it develops and stay safe out there :)