Things that tweet… Robots, evaluation and sales

In the course of this week I have come across three things that so impressed me that I tweeted them.

Chances are, if you know my blog, then you also know my tweets, but if not:

  • Introducing the ‘voicebot’

An installation in Parliament from Vinspired.com. Part of the Voicebox initiative – ‘a data visualisation project, curating young people’s views on issues that matter, visualising the findings, and then setting the data free for you to do the same.’

  • Innovation and evaluation are inseparable

GOOD Magazine is hosting a blog-based conversation for participants from across the globe to explore innovative approaches to evaluation. Not surprisingly, it is good – very good.

  • How to sell me stuff

Steph Gray is a digital specialist in the Civil Service and a patient man. But even he has his limits. Tired of cold calls and clumsy pitches, @lesteph has posted eight tips on how to sell him right. I’m ditto on all 8.

On my desktop this week… ‘bus windaes’ by Ross Ferguson

bus windaes by Ross ferguson
'bus windaes' by Ross ferguson

Nothing in my usual sources caught my eye, so this week it’s one of mine from a photo collection called ‘My Hood‘.

I took the shot from the top of the #26 bus just outside of Liverpool Street Station. It was one of those freezing cold sunny days. I don’t live in the East End anymore; I lived there for 6 years but I only miss the photography.

You can see more of my photos at www.flickr.com/photos/fergaloid.

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.

:)

‘Digital Democracy’ Predictions for 2009

I’m into my second year of blogging, and this year is almost done. So I thought I’d celebrate and sign off for 2008 with a few ‘digital democracy’ predictions for 2009.

I can’t emphasise enough that none of these predictions are based on inside knowledge of existing plans. I just thought it would be fun to reflect and have a go at judging the way the digital wind is blowing into the year to come.

Here goes…

  1. A ‘household name’ government department will launch a large-scale crowd-sourcing site for the purposes of problem-solving. Not a one-off PR exercise; it’ll be something more like what we are used to from the likes of Dell and InnoCentive but it will have to be even more efficient and incisive. It will go through a bunch of phases before the department gets it right.
  2. Two states will be at loggerheads over the way one of them has been using the web to engage the citizens of the other. It won’t be cyber-warfare, more a gentlemanly disagreement, but it will spark a debate that’s been long overdue.
  3. A local government will fall head-over-heels in love with the promise of eDemocracy and launch into an ambitious project to put digital front-and-centre of its democratic processes and service provision. It will be facilitated with next-generation municipal ICT and it will capture our imaginations but it will come at a price.
  4. We’ll all be fascinated with what Obama does in office, but he’s going to have to work hard to live up to the standards we became accustomed to over the course of the presidential campaign. I reckon he will pull it off.
  5. The UK Parliament will launch a virtual-version of Westminster Hall debates. The MPs will love it, the officials will be tearing their hair out.
  6. The ‘digerati’ will freak at all this good stuff coming out of political institutions because it takes away the founding basis of their books, lectures, sites and films – that institutions and elected representatives don’t get people and they sure as hell don’t get digital. It will take them a while to get their heads round it, there will be a lot of foot-stamping and door-slamming, but then there will always be consultancies.
  7. A government department will move away from a standard homepage to a drag-and-drop dashboard model. Others will quickly follow.
  8. Sadly there will be a disaster somewhere in the developed world but digital communications infrastructure will be sufficiently intact to play a pivotal role in dealing with the emergency and speeding up the rescue and rebuilding effort. The integrity and quality of digital infrastructure will race up the political agenda overnight.
  9. As more and more citizens come online to access services and hold their representatives to account, efforts to to promote political literacy will have to be redoubled and the volume will have to be turned up on the participative opportunities inherent in representative democracy.
  10. I will blog a lot less about digital democracy and turn to some of the other things in life that interest me.

I reckon these are all good bets – bar number 10.

What do you think?

Moving On

It’s been an enjoyable 12 months at Dog Digital. I’ve really appreciated the time back in Scotland, personally and professionally.

But new opportunities have presented themselves, and I’m very excited to say that as of November 17th I am going to be joining the Central Office of Information as Interactive Services Manager.

It heralds big change. A change in location. A change in the pace of work. A change in the pace of life too.

I am also going to making some changes to my blog and blogging.

I’ll keep you updated.

Democracy 2.0 – Event Presentation Slides

Last Thursday I gave a presentation on eDemocracy in Scotland for Urban Learning Space in Glasgow’s Lighthouse. This is the first opportunity that I’ve had since then to post about it – things have been pretty busy (that’ll be obvious from the irregularity of the posts on this blog).

It was first public-speaking gig since November last year. I had quite enjoyed the lay-off (for a while there it felt like I was doing one every week) but I really enjoyed getting back into it – although there was definitely a bit of rust. What felt particularly good was the chance to speak about Scotland, its experience of eDemocracy and what might happen in years to come. It’s a subject that is never far from my mind but I’ve had few opportunities to present on before this.
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Democracy 2.0: Bringing innovation and the social web to the heart of governance in Scotland

Back in February I jotted down some reflections on eDemocracy in Scotland. I’d been back for a few months and was fairly disappointed by the progress the Scottish polity had made online.

First step to putting things right is a good diagnosis, and I hope you’ll participate (whether you’re kilted or not).

On September 25th I will be opening a seminar organised by the fantastic team at Urban Learning Space in Glasgow’s Lighthouse.

Democracy 2.0 – bringing innovation and the social web to the heart of governance in Scotland‘ will be an opportunity to reflect on Scotland’s experience of eDemocracy and discuss where it goes from here. I’m really excited to be joined on the panel by Sarah Davidson, Director of Communications at the Scottish Government) and Iain Bruce (of Sunday Herald fame).

Continue reading “Democracy 2.0: Bringing innovation and the social web to the heart of governance in Scotland”