It’s a matter of perspective – Bear with me!

A few weeks back i attended a Speed Awareness Course, and learnt huge amounts about Road Safety and will certainly mind my speed from now on. After all there is no excuse i can think of that i would be happy to hear if someone hit my kids or my family through speeding.

Anyway, as a group we watched a very good video, which i am going to share with you. BUT i want you to consider the topic of usability or websites and services – i know a big change from road safety but the video will highlight some interesting points.

Now you must follow the instructions on the video for the effect to be realised.

The great thing about this for me is that, it just goes to show that even a few extra people to view your site, services or product, will benefit the usability. If you are measuring or testing your own stuff, without any external perspective even from other people in your organisation – you will – like the video only be looking at the white team. You will miss the Bear.

If you are interested in finding out more about usability for public sector websites then i suggest you check out – Public Sector Web Usability Boot Camp: One Day to Better Usability. I am unable to attend, but it looks like such a great day and i look forward to catching up via the #psfbuzz tag on twitter.

PLEASE NOTE: I am not on commission, I just think this is a good event about usability, there are other events and organisations who provide usability training and awareness and a search in google will provide you with many options.

1 rule and 6 steps to embracing Social Media in Local Government

I thought it would be useful to share my thoughts about how local government can start to embrace Social Media.

Rule Number One:

Don’t focus on the technology, technology itself doesn’t do anything, their is a saying that we use in my council “there is no such thing as an IT project, their are only business projects”. The key message here is YOU need to focus on business problems and issues and if social media tools are part of the solution then great. But don’t force social media where it isn’t needed or wanted. To put it another way, try using a social media tool that offers you no value for me something like friendfeed is that tool, i don’t get it or understand it, so i don’t use it, at this point in time it doesn’t solve any problem i have.

Step One: Listen:

A simple but yet fundamental concept in social media terms and one which is often overlooked, but in my opinion should be the first thing on any ones list of social media steps.

There are many tools you can use for this, Twitter, Google Alerts, RSS etc, find one that fits your need and use it and start listening to the conversations that are happening about your organisation right now.

Step Two: Identify:

In my opinion why try to reinvent communities online that already exist. One of the benefits of listening is that you can start to identify communities which exist that are related or talking about your organisation.

It is important to try and ascertain what the group or communities purpose is and why your role might be, if any at all..The main benefit is that you have now identified a new or multiple communities of interest.

Step Three: Participate:

Starting to participate to one step that requires some thought and should not be approached without have a clear purpose as to why you would want to participate in a community. What value will you add and or will your approach just be to understand how you can develop a relationship with the new community.

Step Four: Empower:

This is something that local government needs to understand and appreciate that this requires letting go, relinquishing control to communities to create or co-create content with you as an organisation. It is also about allowing staff across organisations to manage the relationships with the communities they link with. After all they understand what the issues are and how the organisation might be able to help solve those problems

Step Five: Engage:

It my view this is the the step most people focus on and this is the step that disengages people in the organisation as it is scary. This requires real thought and a clear focus on what you want to achieve and how the online approach will fit into the existing channels of engagement. Again look at Rule One – focus on the problem and understand what people need to do, then you’ll understand locally how these tools can support your approach.

Step Six: Nurture:

This is less about social media and more about culture and leadership, but is in my opinion the most important step.  As local authorities we need to be able support, encourage, recognise and acknowledge that communities will come together on their own, but we can do more to support this. We can nurture communities to use tools (resources of all kinds) to support the development of their own relationships and we can provide recognition that these communities are valued and acknowledged in our business planning processes.

We want to avoid online town councils and nurture online community cafe’s where people discuss local issues.

We need to be able to allow our communities to gain a true sense of ownership, after all they pay for us.

Final Draft – Social Media and Online Participation – Supplementary Guidance

Guidelines for Blogging/Bloggers

  1. If you already have a personal blog or website which indicates in any way that you work at DCC you should tell your manager.
  2. If you want to start blogging, and your blog/website will say that you work for DCC you should tell your manager.
  3. If your blog makes it clear that you work for DCC, it should include a simple and visible disclaimer such as “The views expressed here are my own and don’t necessarily represent the views of the County Council.””.
  4. Find out who else is blogging or publishing on the topic, and cite them.
  5. Don’t reveal confidential information. This might include aspects of DCC policy or details of internal DCC discussions. Again, consult your manager if you are unclear about what might be confidential.
  6. You should not use your blogs to attack or abuse colleagues. You should respect the privacy and the feelings of others. Remember that if you break the law on your blog (for example by posting something defamatory), you will be personally responsible.
  7. If you think something on your blog or website gives rise to concerns about a conflict of interest and in particular concerns about impartiality or confidentiality this must be discussed with your manager.
  8. If someone offers to pay you for blogging this could constitute a conflict of interest and you must consult your manager.
  9. If someone from the media or press contacts you about posts on your blog that relate to the DCC you should talk to your manager before responding. The relevant DCC press office must be consulted.
  10. You are allowed to update your personal blog from a DCC computer at work, [ added 4th June] but should be in your own time under the DCC Social Media and Online Participation Policy.

Guidelines for Managers

  1. Under these guidelines managers in each area will decide what is appropriate. They should not adopt an unnecessarily restrictive approach. Managers should ensure that any special instructions on blogging are reasonable and explained clearly to staff.
  2. Managers should bear in mind concerns about impartiality, confidentiality, conflicts of interest or commercial sensitivity. In some cases individuals may be dealing with matters which are so sensitive that rules may have to be set on what they can and cannot talk about on their personal blog.
  3. Those involved in media relations must take particular care to ensure that they do not undermine the integrity or impartiality of DCC or its output on their blogs. For example those involved in factual areas should not advocate a particular position on high profile controversial subjects relevant to their areas.
  4. Use the privacy settings available – background information you choose to share about yourself, such as information about your family or personal interests, may be useful in helping establish a relationship between you and your readers, but it is entirely your choice whether to share this information.
  5. Ask permission before posting someone’s picture in a social network or a conversation that was meant to be private
  6. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, but do so respectfully. This includes not only the obvious (no ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity, etc.) but also proper consideration of privacy and of topics that may be considered objectionable or inflammatory—such as politics and religion
  7. This may amount to cyber-bullying and could be deemed a disciplinary offence.
  8. It is not advisable to invite customers to become your friends in social networking sites for business purposes. There maybe a conflict of interest and security and privacy issues (see notes)
  9. Use your best judgment. Remember that there are always consequences to what you publish. If you’re about to publish something that makes you even the slightest bit uncomfortable, review the suggestions above and think about why that is
  10. Ensure that your entries, articles or comments are neutral in tone, factual and verifiable. In addition, there are usually guidelines in sites such as wikipedia on adding links. Read the guidelines carefully before submitting or editing an article.
  11. DCC staff should therefore act in a manner that does not bring DCC into disrepute and should not post derogatory or offensive comments on any online encyclopedias
  12. We should not remove derogatory or offensive comments but must report them to the relevant administrators for them to take action.
  13. They may also need to seek advice from their line manager.


Guidelines for Social Networks, Discussions forums, wikis etc

NOTES: If you wish to use these platforms for business purposes such as participation, engagement and consultation with young people please refer to the “youth participation supplementary policy and guidance” on the source (intranet).

Guidelines for Video and Media sharing

  1. Ensure that all video and media (including presentations) are safe to share and do not contain any confidential or derogatory information.
  2. If the content is official and corporate DCC content then it must be labelled and tagged as such and must not be affiliated with an individual.
  3. Individual work must be labelled and tagged as such and where appropriate a disclaimer used.

Excellent example of the potential of Twitter – Simon Wakeman

At yesterday’s PSF web 2.0 event, Simon Wakeman gave an excellent presentation on Social Media in Medway Council. However for me one of the most illumating bits of his presentation was when he showed how a single council tweet was picked up and retweeted to gain positive reputation within the local area.

Simon’s slides are on his website and the particular section on twitter starts on slide 19. The rest of the presentation is also very interesting but i very much liked the twitter network diagram.

If you need to demonstrate how twitter can work then use these slides. BEWARE however that good news and b ad news travels through twitter.

Effective Social Media & Web 2.0 Strategies for Local Authorities on April 30th, 2009.

Yesterday (30th April) i attended as a delegate the PSF event “Effective Social media and Web 2.0 strategies” at Old Trafford, Manchester.

The event was really good and i always seem to gain insights at PSF events and meet good people trying to get stuff done and others who have made some really good progress.

The great thing about the event was that they captured the twitter conversations, slides, photos etc on a website “live” throughout the day.

The website “PSF Buzz” is an excellent model and one which other conference organisers could and should start doing as well as a way of sharing the collective knowledge of the day and the insights people have as the day develops.

I recommend checking the site out and participating where you can in future conversations via twitter or via blogs.

You could also check out the vox pops that were done during the day.

Looking at twitter search for #psfbuzz – you need not worry about taking comprehensive notes as the conversations provide great views from the  many different perspectives and are enough to remind those who were there and to stimulate those who weren’t.

Well done to the speakers and the organisers for a good day.