Loomio looks like a neat tool for groups to discuss a topic and to come to decisions. Often online discussions just go nowhere and don’t result in specific actions. Maybe this is a solution to that problem?
Six weeks ago, Dave kicked off a little project which he described as follows:
I’m rather interested in the referendum that we are going get get next May in the UK about changing our voting system.
It occurs to me that it isn’t an issue I have a particularly strong understanding of, and I’m sure that’s the case for a few other people as well.
So, with the help of friends like Anthony and Catherine, I’ve kicked off AVdebate – which will be an online space for constructive, deliberative debate and learning about voting reform, which will hopefully help folk make up their minds.
For now, AVdebate is a Google Group with a dozen or so people on it, but there’s already been some interesting activity:
- Anthony listed out some ‘use cases’, identifying the kinds of people who might come to this kind of site, from interested but undecided voters, through to journalists and campaigners
- Catherine came up with a list of the kinds of content the site might offer, combining factual editorial content with ways for people to contribute their own points of view or arguments
My small recent contribution was to start thinking about how the site might be organised, and how you might start to visualise a debate of this kind online. A timeline? A mind map? The pros and cons? Or something else?
There’s great potential in this kind of site, that takes the work of pioneers like Debategraph and uses a combination of curated and original content, social media aggregation, and a really good interface to help host and stimulate an intelligent discussion about a tricky question. The AV referendum feels like a great testing ground, but I see potentially much wider application to help explore the big policy questions of our time. What’s the economic case for cuts vs stimulus? Why is tackling climate change difficult? How can we improve the lot of people in the developing world? What would it take to make our society more socially mobile?
It would be great to have some more minds and ideas on the job. If you’re interested in this stuff – whether it’s the content, the aggregation, the user interface or the sociology of it all – then it would be great to have you on board the Google Group. It feels like we could build something really quite clever if we put our collective minds to it.
I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.
- Should the Public Sector pay for Content Management Systems? « Carl’s Notepad – [with open source] "You will still need to consider the integration aspects but open source products are far more likely to integrate (openness is key) then the big supplier products (no motivation to integrate)."
- Office 2010: the SharePoint factor – "The simple conclusion then is that to make sense of Office 2010 you need SharePoint 2010. The snag is that SharePoint is not something to roll out casually. Although it has a huge number of interesting features, it is also complex and easy to break. "
- No Overall Control – a Future State of ICT – "To really address the gap between people in ICT and people who work in the Business (people outside of ICT) you actually need to start moving the competencies that IT Professionals have into the Business."
- The Fate of the Semantic Web – "While many survey participants noted that current and emerging technologies are being leveraged toward positive web evolution in regard to linking data, there was no consensus on the technical mechanisms and human actions that might lead to the next wave of improvements – nor how extensive the changes might be."
- tecosystems » I Love WordPress But… – "the reasons we self-host our WordPress instances are being eliminated at an accelerating rate"
- Meatball Wiki – "Meatball is a community of active practitioners striving to teach each other how to organize people using online tools."
- Amazon Pursues The Feds and the Potential Billions in Cloud Computing Services – ReadWriteCloud – "Amazon is quietly pursuing the multi-billion dollar federal cloud computing market, intensifying an already fast accelerating sales and marketing effort by Google, Microsoft and a host of others."
- What’s Wrong With CSS – "Most of all, what I've learned from this exercise in site theming is that CSS is kind of painful. I fully support CSS as a (mostly) functional user interface Model-View-Controller. But even if you have extreme HTML hygiene and Austrian levels of discipline, CSS has some serious limitations in practice."
- WordPress-to-lead for Salesforce CRM – "People can enter a contact form on your site, and the lead goes straight into Salesforce CRM: no more copy pasting lead info, no more missing leads: each and every one of them is in Salesforce.com for you to follow up."
- A Collection of 50+ Enterprise 2.0 Case Studies and Examples – Nice resource. Some great examples in here.
- Headshift Projects: Projects by Sector – Nice collection of social software case studies.
You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.
I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.
- Open innovation, why bother? – 100% Open – "…if open innovation is to deliver sustainable business advantage then we need a better understanding of what motivates contributors to these initiatives, else there is a risk of a backlash against them…"
- Docs.com – MS Office + Facebook beats Google Docs? Am not convinced!
- TALKI – The easiest way to embed a forum – Embed a forum on your website – just like that! Users can sign in with Facebook, Twitter or Google accounts.
- Government 2.0 Can and Must Save Money – "I think that the current shortage of resources and a sometimes dramatic budgetary situation can be a powerful incentive to make this change happen, to tap into the creativity of employees as well as external resources." YES!!!
- Red Sweater Blog – Apple Downloads – VERY interesting – is Apple going to go down the App Store route for vetting Mac software now, too?
- HTML5 presentation – "Slideshow-style presentation on HTML5 made using HTML5."
- CDC Provides a Great Example of What Social Media Is About – "CDC’s strategy puts them in a better position to identify patterns where trust may be shifting elsewhere early enough to take action: many other agencies worldwide, which just care about publishing data and creating their Facebook pages, will be taken by surprise."
- data.lincoln.gov.uk (beta) – Lincoln City Council start publishing data publicly – great work, and props to Andrew Beeken who must have driven this through.
- Simplifying the social web with XAuth – "We think that XAuth can simplify and improve the social web, while keeping your private information safe. This is just one of many steps that Google is taking, along with others in the industry, to make the social web easier and more personalized."
- Open Government and the Future of Public Sector IT – Great talk from Microsoft's Dave Coplin.
You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.
As a follow up to my post on the UK .gov blogosphere, a small session was run at the recent govcamp on the state of blogging in the public sector in the UK.
The discussion was an interesting one and Al Reid took down some great notes that cover most of what was said. Pubstrat wrote a great post before the event which summed up most of the stuff we talked about anyway.
Here’s my take: I was wrong to mention blogs. A lot of the resultant discussion in the comments of that post and other chats have focused on blogging, which is of course just the medium. It’s the content I am interested in.
What we seem to lack is an ecosystem of ideas in public services. Discussions about new ways of doing things, how to change the way things are, how ideas get progressed into prototypes and then into actual delivered services or ways of working. Whether this happens on a blog, in a social network, on a wiki or over a cup of tea is neither here nor there.
This ties in with the discussion sparked by Dom on Twitter about the lack of challenge in evidence at the govcamp, and that it was a pretty homogenous group of people in attendance. The question was posed, how do we get everyone else to these events, or at least having these sorts of conversations?
I’ve no idea, frankly.
I believe a couple of things are pretty evident though:
- Government at all levels has to improve its attitiude to ideas and thus to innovation
- Structures and processes will help the behaviour required for an ideas ecosystem become embedded and accepted
- People within organisations have to start getting better at talking to each other for any of this to actually work
The unconference format works very nicely in providing the space for people to have conversations about stuff. The blank canvas that is the agenda can be daunting, but with the right preparation, everyone can arrive at the event primed and ready to say things. I’m having chats with Jeremy and others about how this might be applied to individual organisations. Watch this space.
All of this ties in with what I started to think about in several post over the last couple of months, which seems to be coalescing in my mind around the notion of learning organisations – familiar to anyone that has read the work of Peter Senge but which for me focuses on the ability for organisations to have meaningful conversations, both internally and externally, and to have a grown up attitude to change and new ideas.
I’ll be talking about this on Thursday at the Cllr.10 event, with some focus on the shift in leadership that this stuff necessitates.
Also worth reading around these ideas is the work Lloyd Davis is doing, as social artist in residence at the Centre for Creative Collaboration. David Wilcox has covered social artistry before too. I’m not sure we’ll ever see civil servants or local government officers with that job title anytime soon, but the skills of convening and facilitation are vital for anyone who wants to succeed within a learning organisation.
The web is fundamental to the development of this thinking and the conversations around it. Firstly, because the web is the domain where the ideas are being kicked about and refined. Secondly, because these ideas are the by-products of using the web and social tools. As I keep saying these days, what makes social software interesting is not the software, but the implications of using it.
Formspring seems a neat little service.
It creates a profile for you on which people can ask questions, either anonymously or by logging in.
Questions don’t become publicly published though until you decide they are worth answering, so there is the possibility for a bit of quality control there.
Also what’s neat is that you can integrate it with a few different social networking sites, like Twitter and Facebook, so you can ensure people in those spaces get to see your answers.
What’s more, you can grab some embed code so people can submit questions to you from any website or blog.
I can see a potential use for this simple technology for politicians to answer questions in public from citizens. Am sure there are plenty of others too – any ideas?
Here’s my profile. Feel free to try out asking a question on it. I might answer, if you aren’t too rude 😉
You may not have heard of Zoho, but they are one of the leading providers of cloud-based applications on the web. If you are looking for an alternative to the likes of Google Docs, you might not go too far wrong with Zoho.
They have just released a new service, called Discussions which allows you to run internal or external discussion forums, and includes loads of functionality like rating posts, creating idea style forums – a bit like UserVoice or IdeaScale – and a bunch of other stuff.
Well worth looking into, and this video explains more:
Much planning is afoot for LocalGovCamp, the unconference for local government which is taking place on 20th June in Birmingham. All tickets are technically sold out, but if you are desperate to come, email me.
I took a wander around the venue – Fazeley Studios – last Friday and have to say I am really, really impressed. Plenty of space, light and airy and lots of blank white walls for projectors or post-it notes!
Remember – what is keeping this event free, and ensuring it is happening at all, is the terrific sponsorship we have received from a variety of sources. Check out the supporters page for more information on who is involved.
Anyone wanting local information about where to go and where to stay can find it on Jon Bounds’ excellent post.
To get some more discussions going around various issues at the event – including people putting forward ideas for sessions – I’ve created a Google Group for email based conversations.
All those with a ticket should have received an email invite. If you would like to join in the group – even if you can’t make the event – sign up below. Everyone is welcome. Well, not everyone. But you know what I mean.
|Subscribe to LocalGovCamp|
|Visit this group|
Even if you don’t fancy joining this group, I’ll still be pinging the odd email to the attendees list on Eventbrite and adding updates to the main blog, so don’t worry!