It was an absolute pleasure to talk with Neil Lawrence from Dorset Council about the research project he led, using Local Digital funding to find out what the user needs are that using a chatbot might meet. You can watch the video on YouTube.
It turns out that if you want to know whether a chatbot is a good idea or not, it’s not as simple as a yes or no. There are a number of factors to bear in mind, such as the complexity of a service, how transactional it is, and what the emotional state of the service user might be.
Add on top of that the fact is that you need to train the chatbots with the good content and provide access to back office data via APIs. Anyone thinking chatbots are a shortcut are very much under the wrong impression!
Check out the project’s website to download the various outputs, so you can benefit from this research too.
I’ve been doing work with local councillors for some time now – helping them see how they can use the internet to better engage with citizens, and communicate with them too.
This takes the form of running training workshops usually. There’s probably a better way of doing it, but they are probably a bit tricky to procure.
Anyway, I’m interested in finding out where we are up to with digitally savvy elected local representatives, so I have thrown together a quick survey. The main aim to to find out what councillors are doing on the internet, and try and spread the word to their less keen colleagues about how it’s working.
So, if you are a councillor, or you know one, spread the word about the survey. Here’s the link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/digitalcllr – I’ll be blogging about the results, so we can all benefit.
I don’t understand how this is even possible but… wow.
Rob Dale at LGIU blogs about some research being done in collaboration with Networked Neighbourhoods about the impact of online local community activity.
You can take part:
If you are a councillor, complete this survey.
If you are an officer in local government, take this one.
Should be interesting to see the results!
I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.
You can find all my bookmarks on Pinboard.
One of the things that comes out of the training we do is that evaluating online engagement is hard. What’s more, just finding out whether you are doing the right things is tricky too.
Looking at other people’s good practice can help, but unless you have a couple of days spare, finding the time is tricky.
So, we’d like to present our Digital Engagement Audits as a nice quick solution to this problem.
What we’ll do is do some research into your current online engagement efforts and provide some feedbeck. We’ll also take a look around your local area and tell you about the communities, blogs and tweeters already active nearby. Finally, you get an action plan of some quick tasks that will help improve your efforts.
You get a report, and a web conference that goes through all the findings. The process shouldn’t take longer than a week, and it aims to be practical, quick and lightweight.
The cost is £1,500 + VAT and you can get one now by simply getting in touch and asking for one.
More details on the dedicated page, or here’s a PDF flyer you can download, print and show to your boss.
Cross posted from the Kind of Digital blog.
Simon writes a nice post celebrating the existence of the new official BIS blog, and provides a handy list of existing Whitehall “formal, properly-designated corporate ‘blogs'”.
Here they are – I’ve also added UKTI’s blog to the list, which I’m sure Simon will do too on his when he gets a moment:
I’m pleased, because as I have written on many occasions, I think blogging is a fantastic way for organisations to tell their stories, unhindered by having to go through third parties, media organisations and that sort of thing.
As Simon makes clear, these are public, official blogs, corporately branded and not the personal blogs of civil servants or politicians, which is a quite different thing. So what makes a blog an official one like this? I’d say some, not necessarily all, of these are factors:
- Use of corporate departmental or organisational branding
- Sitting on the official domain of that organisation
- Linked to (reasonably) prominently on the standard corporate homepage
- Written by a group of people rather than an individual (or a collection of individuals’ blogs, like in the FCO case)
There probably are others too – please do suggest them in the comments.
I’d like to start looking at which local councils are blogging officially, like the central government examples above. At the bottom of this post, you should find a form to complete if you have any to submit. If you can’t see it, that might be because you are looking at this in an email or your feed reader. Viewing the original post is your best bet.
My next post on this topic will be on how we can get more blogging happening in this way, and perhaps what Kind of Digital can do to help! 😉
I’m delighted to publish this – a guest post from Emer Coleman, Director of Digital Projects at the GLA, sharing her dissertation with us.
Anyone who has been following me on Twitter for the past year will know my struggles with “the dreaded dissertation” so it might be worth putting its origins in context.
In a previous life as Director of Strategy for Barnet Council I disagreed with a very deeply held belief in Local Government that the holy grail of resident satisfaction was how much you communicated with your residents. There was a correlation in Best Value surveys carried out every three years between “how informed” residents were and their satisfaction levels. But of course correlation does not imply causality. The simple edict went as follows Council Magazine + A to Z of Council Services + Managing Local News = Satisfied Residents.
Our corporate management team therefore wanted to do a huge communications campaign in advance of one of these surveys to ensure that residents knew exactly what their council did for them. The logic being that when they filled out their surveys on council performance they would recognize the council’s work. If only.
My Chief Executive at the time in response to my doubts said – “well if you want to change their minds you better put up a well argued case”. My dissertation is my attempt to do that.
In a nutshell it draws on the work of the German philosopher Jurgen Habermas who draws the distinction between the System and the Lifeworld. In the system where government lives we believe in these simplistic correlations but in the messy and complex Lifeworld we know that human beings don’t act in rational or predictable ways.
My belief is that open data, open government and the open conversations that take place in public in the social web offer great opportunities to move from the rational ordered public sector way of doing things to a more humanized, communicative form of governance. I tried to example that in the case study on the London Datastore and by including contributions by so many people in the open data movement that have helped me in developing my public policy work around open data.
My work and practice has been incredibly energized by the interactions that happen on the web and through my engagement with developers and innovators committed to the public realm. Mark Drapeau (@cheeky_geeky) calls them The Goverati (though my tutor didn’t like the name much) but I do. So a big thank you to all of you (you know who you are).
Download From New Public Management to Open Governance (PDF 2.3mb)
Continuing the posts about local digital communities, here are a couple of links to interesting research and publications on the subject, which I’ve been giving a re-read recently.
Of course, there has recently been a very interesting move in this space with the announcement of the Big Lottery funded Your Square Mile project, which has very close links with the wider Big Society agenda, and which involves some kind of relationship with the social networking platform SocialGo. David Wilcox blogs comprehensively here.
I’m not sure anyone has access to enough information about this to make a proper judgement, however, some alarm bells are ringing in my mind:
- As per the comments from Will and Manny highlighted in this post, government sponsored online community development does not have a great track record. I appreciate this is at arms length – but Your Square Mile is heavily linked with the Big Society Network, and therefore the current government
- People will drift towards the funded option, and if (and I emphasise if) SocialGo is the mandated or preferred solution from those with the cash, we are going to be in a one platform fits all situation, which doesn’t really work
- Objectives are important. Right now, I don’t fully understand Your Square Mile or what it is setting out to do. Hopefully internally they know exactly what they aim to achieve – because if it’s just a vague ‘we’ll get people to talk to each other on the internet and they’ll self organise themselves to do wonderful things’ then that might not work so well
- What about those organisations that have being doing this stuff for the last few years? Are they just going to be steamrollered by the beast?
I think my real worry is that the one thing that has become apparent, from conversations I have had with people about this stuff, is that with online local communities, in the majority of cases, you need the community before the online. It’s what brings sustainability to the online effort.
Online elements certainly bring visibility to the community’s activities and spread reach, and enable more people to be involved. But a square mile, online or off, is going to be pretty empty if there isn’t the desire or will to keep it going.
Update: just seen this post from Kevin Harris, featuring this lovely line:
There is a study to be done of the damage caused by highly persuasive people who seem to feel compelled to impose template social ‘solutions’ on others.
I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.
You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.
You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.