Hyperlocal encouragement

September 4, 2012

The bizarrely named Streetfight website has a great post on the 29 August 2012 by Stephanie Miles which I can see having relevance further than the hyperlocal web sites it is focused on. Entitled “6 Ways to Encourage User Contributions on Hyperlocal Sites” the advice echoed for me across many recent Internet experiences.

Tip one is give a dedicated phone number. In my personal case a recent need to make a doctor’s appointment had me Googling for the sake of ease their reception number and guess what? In all those lovely personal friendly personal words littering page after page I couldn’t see a telephone number. Luckily Google presented it elsewhere…

Tip two is to respond personally to inquiries. In my years of local government I had to repeat this time after time to service providers to respond usefully and quickly to inquiries – so this is not just hyperlocal!

The third tip is to take the conversation onto Facebook, which may be correct in some circumstances in the broader context but highly likely in hyperlocal.

As a fourth tip there is the need to draw in content, not just wait for it and for the fifth let your readers know that you are wanting material and finally show appreciation when you get it. This last one is for me an important one. As with consultation the recipient must publish what has been received with any necessary response within a reasonable time in order to create a full loop and the potential for a broader conversation. If you have no intention of holding that conversation stop before you create the site – it’s only window dressing  or brochureware of the sort favoured by traditional politicians.

Six useful tips for any website, but especially the hyperlocal.


September 2, 2012

Policing is a public service that doesn’t often get viewed as a system or as a system of parts in the same way that health or government are. That was until Simon Guilfoyle, John Seddon and others looked at it. Simon is a serving officer with an interest in systems thinking and I had the pleasure of seeing a presentation by him earlier this year at a NET2 meeting. Following the meeting he kindly forwarded me a recent paper he’d had published entitled “On target? – Public Sector Performance Management: Recurrent Themes, Consequences and Questions“, Policing (2012).

As the paper’s title infers it puts policing performance management into the same context as the rest of the public sector with all the bad practices that are frequently pointed out there. In line with the theme of this blog there is the notion that public satisfaction rates are a potential indicator, although some refining may be required to gain understanding in context i.e. cold feedback won’t do on its own. The paper also warns of the likely effect of  gaming when employing emotive targets, something that Simon went into some detail in during his presentation.

In this context John Seddon is just starting his “The Evidence Tour” and launching the second volume of “Delivering Public Services That Work”. The presentations are free and I recommend those involved in public services give him a listen and ask questions. With the introduction of elected police commissioners later this year the whole matter of police performance targets is likely to take on added weight as pre and post election gaming occurs.

Listen to customers not big data

August 28, 2012

A report from The Register  on 22 August 2012 covers one of the Directors of the dominant telco in Australia stating that “Insights won’t come from data, they’ll come from observation”, in other words which business processes the customers complain about offer more direction than sifting about in the data. Michael Ossipoff, the Director of Capability and Innovation [sic] at Telstra, does however not rule out big data, wanting to have his cake and eat it, but does also report that over 70% of their support calls are the result of customer expectations being incorrectly set.

Having read me quoting the mantra to listen to customers for many years, this approach will come as nothing new to readers of this blog but what it does provide is further evidence that the private sector has been doing it, so government needs to stopping flushing money down the drain on big data projects and instead ensure the mechanisms are in place to capture citizen feedback at the point of service delivery.

Generation Y e-government

August 22, 2012

In a recent article on IT Use for Australian Business it is revealed that the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) deputy secretary Abul Rizvi had identified a “worrying” drop in the use of online government services between 2009 and 2011 and the department were investigating the use of video to deal with Generation Y. The drop in usage is identified in a report from AGIMO that is linked to (PDF, 96 pp, 3.24 Mb) but in my view this is not a surprise since the same experience was reported from Canada some while ago, and is probably only the fallback from the initial surge in trying new technologies and finding the experience less than ideal

Rather than throwing money at new technologies to resolve the issues around service, the solution is to examine the process, online and offline, and find what the problems are from the citizens’ view, and then sort out that process – be that caused by legislation (overly complex) or waste.

Social local

August 19, 2012

Thanks to Steven Clift at e-democracy.org for being there to enable Karen Purser from the Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government (ACELG) to post the link to their new report on “Using Social Media in Local Government: 2011 Survey Report” (PDF, 1.16 Mb, 34 pages) published  27th June 2012. The report, as its title infers, is the product of a survey of Australian local government and the conclusions are quite clear that there can be benefits to the use of social media, particularly in the event of an emergency. However, it is acknowledged that there are a number of concerns surrounding its use – it being resource intensive, possibilities of issues around record keeping, other legal concerns and a general lack of understanding of the field. The author suggests that these might be overcome by some sector-wide training and documentation.

I sympathise with both sides on this. There are a range of opportunities for using social media well – and I emphasise the ‘well’ – from dealing with all types of civil emergencies, to broadcasting important information, but I suspect Australian public sector staff are under the same pressures as those in the UK where due to redundancy and target-focused changes they have little time to learn the new skills or confidently apply them. The solution is then down to their political leaders to create the space for staff to experiment with and use new media and technologies or see the electorate pull the rug from under their feet as they are used to their detriment.

Whilst a revolution may not be Tweeted, mass (or even small) movements will and should make use of every opportunity to grab back some power from politicians and bureaucrats who hide behind words like ‘open’ or ‘transparency’ whilst failing to be either.