Communicosm

A short while ago, I wrote a little piece about a possible idea to enter into the Building Democracy competition, which was to create a social ‘directory’ of online community groups. I put directory in inverted comments because that isn’t really what it is, but I could think of a better word. Anyway, I’ve come up with a working title for the project: Communicosm – it’s like a microcosm of communities. Or something. I dunno.

Anyway, for the Building Democracy site, I need to answer some questions about the project. Here’s my draft responses, which will hopefully give more detail on how this thing might just work. Once again, all feedback gratefully received! I need to get this up on the site next week really, so chop chop people.

What is your idea’s name?

Communicosm.

A short description of your idea (in twenty words or less)

A socially generated directory of online communities, tagged by areas of interest, that organisations can use to find people to talk to. (This is 22 words. Dammit.)

Describe your idea. What will you do?

Create a wiki based site which will contain details of online communities, which organisations such as central and local government can use to find the people they need to get in touch with for consultations, etc. Each community will have a page describing it and its interests, with tags describing it with keywords, which can then be used by organisations to find the right communities quickly whether through a search engine or a tag cloud. Time will be spent at the beginning researching and finding communities and adding them to the site so that when it launches, it is full of content for people to get their teeth into. After this initial burst of activity, it will be a community generated job. Further additions to functionality might be for people to make lists of communities that they have found on the site, which can be emailed to them or shared on the site.

What will the benefits be?

The site will save time for those searching for groups to contact and engage with. Searching online for communities is a time consuming business, not least because some human research element is required to judge activity levels and how relevant the community is to a project.

Who will you target?

Online community groups will be targetted and encouraged to add themselves to the site. Non-online community group could also be added, though if they have no online presence this could be tricky. It will also be publicised amongst government and other organisations to encourage use.

Is your idea linked to a particular town or region? If so, where?

No, it’s a national thing. A local version already kind of exists with GroupsNearYou.

What kind of assistance would you like from others?

Help in identifying, adding and tagging communities on the site once up and running. Encouragement of organisations to make use of the site’s content.

My Building Democracy idea

I just had a request from someone asking what the best community sites are for a certain – fairly specific – group of people. A little digging, partly Google, partly ‘I know I’ve seen something like this somewhere…’, soon produced some good results. I emailed them off and my contact was a happy chappy (hopefully).

This set me off thinking, that some kind of online resource for government, both central and local, and other organisations, could use to identify where the places are that people are talking about certain topics. It could be community maintained and updated, but would need some seriously work in the first place to firstly identify key target groups that would be good places to start, and secondly do the grunt work to track down the most popular communities and forums, and then list them on the site.

A further development could then be to add other communities which aren’t necessarily online based – though if they have no web presence at all, that might be tricky.

So, some time is required to get it up and running, which if I were to do it (and why not?) I’d probably like to be paid for. Which made me think of Building Democracy, the competition to identify projects which help ‘stimulate public discussion’. I reckon this idea suits that remit pretty well. I need to do some maths around how much time it would take to scope and do the initial work, but I doubt it will use up very much of the available £150,000 at all.

Before I post it up to the site, though, I’d like some initial feedback:

  • Is it a good idea?
  • Does something like this already exist?
  • Can you see any problems at this early stage of the idea’s development?

Any thoughts welcomed! Oh, and please don’t steal my idea!

Building democracy with a bug tracker

Tim Davies is a busy boy right now. As well as organising the upcoming UKYouthOnline unconference, he is also flinging his ideas into Building Democracy, the new competition to fund exciting ideas to revitalise people’ interest in participating in UK democracy.

Tim’s idea is for keeping ‘Engagement on Track‘:

Drawing on ideas from bug tracking software and open source software projects this project would look to work with a local authority or public institution to help track the progress of ideas and input from the public through the policy process.

Input from consultations and direct from the public would be logged on the system, with every time ideas are discussed, aggregated, discarded or turned into policy proposals and actions logged – so that the people who provided the input in the first place can come back at any time (or get e-mail updates) to let them know how their input has fed into policy making and change making at the local level.

Great idea! As Tim says, bug tracking works just fine on open source software development projects, so why not with local service related issues?

One point I would make is that just using a current open source bug tracker won’t be much use without a lot of work being done on usability, as they can be really complicated things!