Ministers are pretty chatty on average

Visualisation of ministerial webchat replies
Visualisation of ministerial webchat replies

I’ve managed and evaluated a few ministerial webchats in my time, and I’m expecting to run a few more.

When organising a webchat two questions always pop up.

One, how many questions will be received? The answer has to be: how long is a piece of string, or more accurately, how interesting is a piece of string. Sometimes you get 50, sometimes 5000.

Two, how many questions can the Minister expect to answer in the time (usually 60 minutes)? That’s an easier question to answer with an inclination, but recently I’ve been wanting to give a more precise answer. So, I thought I’d try to get one.

The aim was to get an average number, not produce a league table. A league table is pointless because each webchat attracts different questions requiring different answers that take different lengths of time to satisfy.

I restricted myself to ministerial webchats (no senior civil servants) and those run on departmental websites or channels. All webchats were text-based (practically all are) and run after 2005. Some ministers appear more than once, because they’ve done more than one webchat (dates available if you want). All the webchats had to be public-facing to count.

I found the transcripts through site archives and allowed myself to search back as far as three pages into a Google search. I think it was a pretty exhaustive search, but please let me know if I’ve missed any. I then counted the ‘replies’, which in webchat parlance count as answers. I did the count manually but thoroughly, though I accept there may be a reply missed or added here and there.

The answer: on average a minister manages to answer 21 questions in a webchat.

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Commons in Cyberspace – coming to pass?

Back in 2006 (when we were still going about in horse-drawn carts and every man wore a hat)  I wrote a think-piece (as we called them) about ‘Commons in Cyberspace‘, building on some academic work written by Jay Blumler and Stephen Coleman in 2001 (probably in a cave over a dinner of mammoth and sabre-tooth cat).

We called it ‘edemocracy’ back then. Oh, how they laughed.

:)

New Opportunities

Had a look at the New Opportunities White Paper consultation site?

It does a lot right.

A basic, but good to see the use of social bookmarks.

Really pleased to see resource materials offered to online community managers and bloggers.

Like the fact that you are encouraged to go out into the ‘civic commons’ to deliberate (see the right-hand column on the homepage).  But when you click through to the TUC’s Touchstone blog or CommunityCare’s CareSpace forum the relevant discussion is well-flagged, while on the other sites it’s a struggle to find where the New Opportunities activity is – not so good.

And the copy is a bit heavy in places. Could do with some more formatting.

Will it all work? Will it get people talking? And responding?

Simon Dickson is in two minds.

Emma Mulqueeny seems to be into it.

UPDATE: Steph Gray – who advised on the development – has a done a write up.

What do you think?

Putting all your vids in one basket?

Is it ‘risky’ to put all your video content on one site? Particularly if you are ‘government’?

See – www.readwriteweb.com/archives/the_youtube_government.php.

Other decent options?

www.vimeo.com
www.blip.tv
www.flickr.com

In doubt? Check:

– Audience size and type
– Cost
– Copyright
– Commenting
– Statistics

Being in more places, means more eyeballs. But it also means more management and tracking. The ol’ cost:benefit analysis.