I’m very excited to announce that from the end of this month (w/b 27th February 2012) I will be working 2 days a week for a fixed period of 6 months with the lovely folks at Public i as the Citizenscape product manager.
Why am I doing this?
Well that is a good question, I didn’t need to look for additional work, nor was I actively seeking to leave the council, in fact I’m very happy working at the council and we have lots of work to do and push forward as well as some of the additional things that I’m trying to push forward with Sarah Lay like the new Content Strategy Community, all of that will still happen as I’m not working alone and have lots of amazing people to work with to help make these things happen.
But I see this as an opportunity to experience a different culture, different ethos and working with people who are trying to solve a problem I care deeply about – the impact and opportunity of social technologies on democracy.
I’m already doing lots of things in my spare time so volunteering wasn’t ever an option here and I do love working on a variety of topics which are actually at their core linked around a set of common issues: empowerment, engagement, social capital, participation and of course “digitalness”.
What will I be doing?
First and foremost I’ll be working with the development team and the rest of the good folk at Public I on helping them improve the overall user experience and focus of the Citizenscape product.
I’ll be providing constructive disruption and challenge and hopefully help make it a solution which helps the democratic process evolve. Obviously 2 days a week is limiting so it will be a challenge but one that will also be a great learning curve for me as well.
The CitizenScape pages state a set of assumptions which I feel are a good starting point to focus my thinking around the product – are these assumptions still correct for example.
The assumptions behind Citizenscape are simple:
Council’s should not be building social networking sites themselves – there is already a lot of activity online. Local Authorities need to connect to that rather than starting from scratch
You need tools that reach out and exist on the sites that people are already visiting – not waste your time trying to get them to visit you
The social web encourages co-creation and participation – this makes it the right place to start to engage people in democratic debate
On the whole they are still valid..but how does this actually translate into real life…
It is important for me to state up front that the product doesn’t quite work yet, I mean it does work technically, but in terms of the real opportunities I think it has some way to go.
The current version does make me think whether or not I could achieve perhaps 70-80% of the output within some free products like pageflakes or netvibes…that isn’t to say the existing product is poorly made or developed because it isn’t but the challenge is trying to build or create something that is actually still hard to articulate and explain even with the assumptions listed above.
In addition to that another challenge will be to either accept that aspects can be replicated on free platforms and move onto understanding the real value of the remaining 20-30% or increasing the opportunity of the whole product. I’m not sure what the answer is yet but that is something I’m looking forward to working on over the coming months – whatever the answer, it has to be sustainable.
Will I succeed?
Who knows, I’m lucky to have such an opportunity and to be able to explore this in such a “low risk” environment…I won’t know until I try, It may not work out, or it may work really well…
I want to thank Catherine Howe for allowing me this opportunity to start with and for believing in me enough to allow me to temporarily adopt one of her projects and help steer it forward…that in itself is an honour and a privilege.
All I know is that along the way I’ll be learning, sharing my thoughts and thinking here on my blog.