Which Pro Should Go?

Been having an on-going chat with a colleague that you might find quite interesting. It’s about a ‘grey protocol’, meaning we both agree on an action but not who should lead the action.

The hypothetical scenario we are throwing around is a state of an emergency in the UK. It’s in an advanced stage; it’s dangerous out there. But don’t worry, we’ve anticipated this might happen and there’s been years of planning put in.

The web plays a major part in the government’s response [duh!] in getting information out there – good quality information, timely information and, crucially, well-placed information. Getting info into the [non-state sanctioned] places online that people are already using to monitor and discuss what’s going on is thus a top priority.

Herein lies a ‘grey protocol’: who goes in? A trained government official with communications or policy specialism, or a commercial contractor with an extensive social media portfolio?

Continue reading “Which Pro Should Go?”

Government’s Principles for participation – the early sessions

After a long slog, the Cabinet Office has released its ‘Principles for participation online‘.

These principles formed one small part of a larger piece of guidance I researched and wrote with the COI at the end of 2007. I really enjoyed working on it and have been eagerly waiting to see how it would turn out after coming through the necessary bureaucracy.

They went through a number of drafts but I think that the 5 that ‘made the grade’ are sensible.

For curiosity/reference, the following are the original 10 principles as they stood when I passed over the completed guidance. They are written with civil servants in mind, but I think they’re good advice for anybody finding/sharing/collaborating via social media:

General

1. Be involved… The lifeblood of social media is information and interaction. You will get as much out of it as you put in.

2. Be versatile… Social media needs facilitation and leadership, but there is also a lot of value in participating and spectating as a community member.

3. Be credible… Trust is an important currency in a social media space. Trust can be developed through consistency, thoroughness, accuracy, fairness and transparency.

4. Be constructive… A positive contribution to social media can be made through the provision of facts and figures, and by encouraging constructive criticism and deliberation.

5. Be responsive… The social media space is often informal and conversational. Be cordial, honest and professional at all times. Avoid jargon where possible.

Specific

1. Be official… You should not make commitments or engage in activities on behalf of HM Government unless you are explicitly authorised to do so and have management approval and/or delegations.

2. Be legal… Do not post anything on your blog online that you would not say in public. Standard Civil Service proprietary and ethics apply. Be aware of libel, defamation, copyright and data protection (for more information on legal issues refer to ‘Appendix 1’).

3. Be a representative… Always disclose your position and interest as a representative of the Government. Unless a site demands anonymity, use your real name and provide basic details about your role, team and agency/department/office. Never give out personal details (such as date of birth, home address, home telephone number, etc.).

4. Be realistic… Don’t over-stretch. Social media is more effective and manageable as a team-based activity than an individual pursuit.

5. Be integrated… Wherever possible, social media activity should be should be integrated and aligned with other online communications and offline activity.

Now that we have these principles, let’s now have some action. And that’s where the rest of the guidance – the big bit – comes into play…

Fixing Up My Street

A friend of mine sent me an article by Stephen F. King in eGov Monitor. It’s a balanced, insightful review of FixMyStreet, a website produced by data-fiddlers, MySociety.

Funny coincidence, because I’d been getting increasingly pissed off by fly-tipping on my street and the failure of the local council to clear it (despite the fact that street cleaning staff pass it daily). Glasgow City Council’s own online reporting service is so very flat, form-based and practically impossible to find that my mind turned to alternatives.

FixMyStreet is one such ‘community problem reporter’ service. And I heard about another called Community Fix, offered up by Dial Media Group.

The big difference between them is in the looks department – Community Fix has a far better user interface and uses Google Maps which helps, whereas FixMyStreet is simple and functional but very brown and seems to be using quite outdated maps.

The big similarity between them is that neither service can guarantee that the problem will get fixed.

I think this is the fundamental flaw in both. Both sites have good technology going on, but they haven’t thought through the process as well as they could. Continue reading “Fixing Up My Street”

Technology, government and the invisible hand

Another shout from this blog to the Economist, this time for its special edition on technology and government.

On the whole a well-written feature which takes in a range of international case studies; the real value of which is to be found in its brevity amidst otherwise verbose analysis.

One aspect I liked was this idea of ‘government in competition’ or, more accurately, government lacking competition that would make it strive for better effectiveness and efficiencies. In the nearby blogosphere, Simon Dickson also raises this facet of the feature and goes along with its conclusions.

I also appreciated this ‘government in competition’ thesis, but was surprised that the author of the feature (or the usually very savvy editors) didn’t take it in a different direction. Continue reading “Technology, government and the invisible hand”