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.

Continue reading “Ministers are pretty chatty on average”

You gave us your money, now give us your feedback

Was part of a good discussion today about 1) highs-and-lows of the digital year [almost] gone and 2) hopes and fears for the year to come.

Barack Obama’s use of digital media featured highly in both. We spoke about our shared admiration for the election campaign, and our shared aspirations for what might happen after January 20th 2009.

What excites someone in my sort of role about what the new US Administration might do with digital, is how it might excite other leaders around the world and encourage them to keep pace.

Only time will tell if the adventurous, inclusive and integrated approach to digital we witnessed during the presidential campaign will translate to an average day in the White House. But I think the portents are positive.

Continue reading “You gave us your money, now give us your feedback”

See you there, there and there

I hooked up with Urban Learning Spaces to organise the Democracy 2.0 on Thursday 25th September in response to a lack of debate – and action – in Scotland around the contribution of digital media to democratic engagement and participation. I’m looking forward to presenting, and my co-panelists Sarah Davidson (representing the Scottish Government) and Iain Bruce (from the Sunday Herald) are key players and not to be missed.

Then Alex Stobart got the ScotWeb2 Unconference together, which will be taking place at Edinburgh University on October 31st and looks set to be a great opportunity to discuss and network with those who have designed and are managing the next generation of political sites, applications and campaigns.

And now the Hansard Society has organised a seminar on online citizen engagement in the Scottish Parliament on October 29th.

Talk about waiting on a bus and then…

Unlike the bus analogy there is every reason to welcome this clustering of events. I intend to make all three – have to make two for sure because I’m speaking at them – and I hope that anyone who is even a passing interest will be at all three.

This is a kickstart moment – it needs people with motivation, ideas and the ability to act.

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”