All posts by ChrisQ

Practical Democracy Project

Practical Democracy Project: designing the ultimate democracy user-journey

The Practical Democracy Project is a series of events dedicated to looking at how technology can best be used to make every-day improvements to the democratic process – with a particular focus on policy-making at local and central government levels.

The overall aim of the Practical Democracy Project is to design the ‘ultimate democracy user-journey’.  On one side, we’ll be mapping out in practical terms how to create the best democratic user-journey for citizens, using technologies that dominate people’s everyday lives; on the other side, we’ll be mapping out the optimal user-journey for government officials/policy makers/elected officials.  The key point being that democratic processes are a two-sided affair, which need to be optimised for both citizens and government if they’re to work.

We’ll be running the Practical Democracy Project as an ongoing series of events held around the UK – with off-shoots (hopefully, if anyone’s interested!) in the US, Australia and New Zealand too.

Event topic ideas

  • Well-designed democracy: UX design in policy-making
  • Scale or no scale: how to scale public participation using technology
  • Security and identity in democratic processes: when to care the user isn’t really a dog
  • Process management: tips on running a rock solid policy consultation management process and how to avoid judicial review
  • Designing the ultimate democracy user-journey
  • Others??? (suggestions welcome!)

Event schedule

The first of the events in the series will take place on the morning of Tuesday 27th June (2017) at Newspeak House (London) – from 8.30am to 10.30am.

More event dates to come.

How to get involved

The Practical Democracy Project is very much a civic tech community project, and we’re looking for others to get involved.

Ways you can participate include:
  • Suggesting topics to run events around
  • Suggesting speakers
  • Participating in the events yourself

For more info or to kick in ideas, drop us a line on Twitter @delibthinks.
You can sign up and join us via Eventbrite

Adventures in Victoria – Mornington Peninsula

When I’m travelling around the world on one of our Delib Tours I’m like a dog, obediently following the directions of my colleagues and going wherever I’m told.

What this means is that I normally don’t know where I’m going, and certainly never know what to expect when I get there. The surprises normally come in the form of travel (e.g. finding out that the only way to get somewhere is by boat-plane), in the form of location (e.g. discovering the place has an amazing beach metres from the meeting location) or in the form of weather (e.g. discovering it’s so cold you can skate to your meeting!).

Today’s excitement has involved mostly the middle of those 3 surprises – i.e. discovering an amazing meeting location. In this case the amazing location was *Mornington Peninsula*, an amazingly beautiful Coastal Shire about 45kms North East of Melbourne.

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Mornington’s very much a bit of a *not so well kept secret* of a place, where (apparently) wealthy Melbourne-ites decamp at weekends for sea-related activities (surfing or sailing) – and has similarities to parts of Cornwall in the UK, with its natural coastal beauty.

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Beyond Mornington being a super beautiful place, it also has a pretty progressive Council who are interested in how the internet and wider Gov20 technologies can be used to better engage their widely dispersed and (partly) transient population.

Very kindly Jenni and the comms team had organised a big group of Council staff to come and listen to me talk about our varied work in the *digital democracy space*. Possibly the most interest aspect of the talk (for me at least) was the audience, who consisted of a wide range of people involved in the Council – from the Mayor, the CEO, Councillors and a wide breadth of Council staff – all of whom seemed interested in ways to help improve their engagement processes online.

Anyway, huge thanks to Jenni and her Mornington colleagues for organising the meeting, and I look forward to visiting the Peninsula in the near future! (Hope you enjoy the photos – if you look closely at the photo below you’ll see the skyline of Melbourne in the distance, 40kms away!)

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Testing Delib’s new Perth office(s)

Technically Delib Australia’s head office is in Canberra – as this is where Craig, our new Delib Australia MD is based. However, as a software company with clients across the country our *HQ* is pretty much wherever does a great coffee and has good internet access.

Here’s a selection of potential new office locations we trialled whilst meeting lots of great government people across Perth and WA . . .

Burford Lunch Bar. Strengths: great sausage sandwich. Weaknesses: poor internet.
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VANS cafe, Cottesloe. Strengths: great coffee. Weaknesses: (too) good chocolate brownies.
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St Georges Terrace (the street). Strengths: mobility. Weaknesses: high chance of collision.
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Beach front at Cottesloe. Strengths: great view. Weaknesses: no coffee.
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Beach on Rottness Island. Strengths: sun. Weaknesses: none.
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We’re still deciding which one we prefer best – though I know which I’ll be voting for . . .
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An interview with Craig Thomler – new Delib Australia MD

Being a super social company we’re always keen to be as open as possible, and share as much information about us as a company, us as individuals and all the great stuff we do. So we thought the best way to start introducing Craig Thomler – our new Australia MD – to the world was via a quick interview. We did a couple a few months ago with Alison and Verne in Australia, so thought we’d use the same format (and questions).

So, here you go – first question . . .

When did you first use the internet, and what did you use it for?

I was using bulletin boards back in the 1980s before there was a publicly available internet in Australia, using a 900 baud modem, using it for games and chatting.

In 1995 I could see the potential of the internet – even though there were only a few thousand Australian users and I went to work at one of the first five commercial ISPs, running their customer service section for a few months before a group of us took off to found Australia’s first web content development and community management company.

What’s the most awesome online engagement project you’ve worked on?

Hard to pick one, but my heart always goes back to the work I did helping Telstra manage online engagement for the Wireplay gaming service in the mid-90s.

When it launched the service struggled technically to achieve smooth gameplay and there was an extremely vocal bunch of gamers criticising both it and Telstra. Though continuous community engagement and demonstrating how the community was being listened to, via online forums, we managed to turn views around. Some of their biggest critics even ended up working for Telstra!

What’s your top community engagement tip?

Listen to the community with an open heart and mind. Your community will almost always see things differently to you, have different concerns, wishes, perceptions and fears. Unless you listen actively you will never hear the true issues and will spend your time addressing symptoms – a more time-consuming, inefficient process that doesn’t deliver long-term outcomes.

Who’s your hero [and why]?

I prefer ‘small heroes’ to large heroes – there’s no-one I really look to as a perfect rolemodel, but there are tens of people who have one to two characteristics or skills I’d like to have. So here’s a list of a few people who have been heroes to me in various ways:

My wife Madeleine Clifford, who is one of the deepest thinkers and most effective strategists I know, who understands intuitively how to engage stakeholders, win and maintain their trust and deliver win-win outcomes

Pia Waugh, whose energy, enthusiasm and ability to build community and support is legendary

Rose Holley, whose vision for digitalising newspapers through crowdsourcing at the National Library is one of the most enduring and successful open government initiatives in Australia

Bernard De Broglio, who has almost single-handedly put Mosman Council on the global map as a Gov 2.0 leader

James Kliemt and Kim Charlton from Queensland Police, who have changed the game for emergency public engagement in Australia through the QPS Facebook and Twitter pages.

So there you go. I hope you now feel you know Craig a little better. If you want to get to know him even more, then follow him on Twitter @CraigThomler or drop him a mail craig@delib.net

Chris and Craig’s April Australia adventure – dates

We’re big fans of alliteration at Delib. We’re also big fans of Australia. So, to celebrate the *official launch of Delib Australia* and the appointment of our new Australian MD Craig Thomler, we’re pleased to announce the dates for *Chris and Craig’s April Australia Adventure* – a tour of Australia by Chris and Craig in April.

[Australia image – thanks to FridayMash.com]

The idea behind the tour is for us to do some *showing and telling* of the new look Delib Australia headed up by Craig, and give insights into our visions of citizen engagement 2.0 from an Australian and Global perspective; having worked doing Gov2.0 stuff for Australian Federal Government for the last 5 years, Craig’s got some great insights to share from an Australian perspective, and I (Chris) have a whole bunch of interesting global insights from my travels around the world.

If you’re interested in us dropping by to say hi + doing a *show and tell session* we’d be happy to – just drop Craig a note – Craig AT Delib.net. Here are the rough dates we’ll be visiting the different Australian States:

  • Perth / WA – Wednesday 11th to Friday 13th
  • Sydney / NSW – Monday 16th to Wednesday 18th
  • Brisbane / QLD – Thursday 19th to Friday 20th
  • Canberra / ACT – Monday 23rd
  • Adelaide / SA – Tuesday 24th
  • Melbourne / Victoria – Wednesday 25th to Friday 27th

The Psychology of web design – tips for app UX design from SXSW

We’re dedicated to constantly developing and improving our web apps, so they provide the best experience for citizens and provide the most friction free interaction with government as possible.

One of the key aspects of creating a friction free citizen experience is UX design – making the way users interact as easy and engaging as possible.

So it was great to get to listen to Jason Hreha, co-founder of West Coast Behaviour design company Dopamine, who’s a real UX fiend. Here’s what I learnt – which I’m hoping we can embrace more to improve our apps (even more).

The key thing Jason discussed was the *Fogg Behaviour Model* which states that 3 things need to coincide for behaviour to change:

  1. Ability: what can someone do on a website
  2. Motivation: how you can drive people to do the things you want them to
  3. Trigger: when do you get them to do whatever you want them to do

1) ABILITY

When looking at the *ability factors*, the key question is: *are we asking too much?*:

  • Time e.g. proxy for how hard / streamlined the expected experience is.
  • Money e.g. payment plans (freemium)
  • Physical effort e.g. text. Is there too much copy? Twitter is a great example – by limiting copy.
  • Mental effort e.g. are we asking for too much information? Is it difficult to understand?

And following this, the core question is *what is absolutely necessary*, and the key response is to get rid of everything else. The Power of Simplification rules.

2) MOTIVATION

When it comes motivation there’s two areas to consider 1) motivation driven by the product, and 2) motivation driven in screen.

  • Product motivation comes down to the basic questions *does the product provide users with value?* and *Does the product solve a pain point?* If you’re not solving a true problem, then app may be treated like a game and once the user’s finished playing there’s no driver to return. Jason pointed out that in his mind Turntable.fm has this characteristic.
  • In-screen motivation comes down to providing constant positive feedback to users, so that they’re constantly rewarded for their behaviour encouraging further interaction and engagement. A simple example of this kind of positive feedback are progress charts in surveys (like in Quick Consult).

3.TRIGGER

The basic reality is that people are probably going to forget your product / app, so you need to provide triggers to remind them to interact with it. A basic example of this is sending emails. Jason pointed out that there are 2 main triggers, onsite triggers and offsite triggers.

  • Onsite triggers are mainly based around calls to action (CTA). Calls to actions may have varied levels of ability thresholds – an example of a high threshold trigger is asking people to *make a post*; an example of a low threshold trigger is asking someone to heart / like something.
  • Offsite triggers are mainly based around *push messaging* like emails and text messages. So for example, you may provide users with the ability to sign up for weekly email alerts. Jason pointed out that ensuring you provide ways to opt out and control this messaging, then you won’t disengage a user.

So there you go. Some simple tips on how to improve UX design for your app courtesy of the nice people at SXSW.

 

Can laughter change the world? (notes from SXSW)

Baratunde Thurston is a very funny black man, and the online editor of the Onion. I point out the colour thing as it’s something that he indulges and has written hilariously about in his new book titled How to be Black (with the subtitle *if you don’t buy this book you’re a racist*)!

Anyway, the most interesting thing about Baratunda isn’t the fact he’s black, or the fact that he’s funny (and a very good speaker), but the fact that he believes comedy, and in particular satire, is a force for good and can help change the world.

In Baratunda’s SXSW keynote speech today in Austin, he interestingly talked through how satire sites (similar to the Onion) around the world have been keeping governments in check with a little wit and cheek. My favourites from his talk included:

The Ministry – from Afghanistan

Billed as the Afghan answer to The Office, The Ministry is a satire on the bribe-ridden and sexist world of Afghan government:

Praazit – Iran

Parazit (translated from Iranian as TV static) satirises the tight state media control in Iran, highlighting in particular the state government’s practice of blocking the TV signal and military crack down on home satellite dishes):

Laughter against the machine – US

Laughter against the machine are a US comedy group who are particularly active in the political satire space doing both stand-up tours and also online videos:

The whole role of satire is something that’s always been very close to us at Delib, as the first thing we (the Delib founders) ever did was run a political satire website called Spinon, during the 2001 General election in the UK. Now, comedy isn’t really part of the Delib mix, however the fundamentals of *trying to engage people as effectively as possible* is, and the rules of comedy can be usefully applied in the citizen engagement space.

The most epic commute in the world: Vancouver to Victoria

Back in December I wrote about the most awesome commute in the world (in Sydney). I’m pleased to say I’ve just gone one better – with a commute from Vancouver to Victoria by sea-plane.

So, flying to work is fairly epic in itself, but mix that with the fact that the runway is the sea, I got to ride alongside the pilot in the cockpit (every boy’s dream!) and the pilot’s playing jazz to keep himself (and me) chilled whilst flying through some epicly sea-soupy weather at 300 feet (which is frisking low BTW) – then all this tots up to be off-the-scale-awesome 😉

Here’s some snippets of my sea-plane adventures from earlier today . . .

We board the plane at the end of a pier (obviously)

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I get to ride up front with the pilot (whoop!)

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The pilot turns on the jazz, and we reduce our height from 1500 feet to 300 feet to keep below the cloud

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We approach a murky and rainy Vancouver

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After we land, the pilot proudly shows me his calming jazz CD that got us safely home

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Parked up, we all head home to a wet downtown Vancouver

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Angry Vancouver and how not to do mass-scale crowd sourcing ;-)

Vancouver’s been very good to me today. Not only did I wake up to find a massive snowy mountain staring at me from across the water, but I also ended up chatting to some really interesting people – largely thanks to the lovely (and heavily pregnant) Susannah Haas Lyons, who did an amazing job of pulling in a nice and surprisingly large crowd to a digital democracy seminar to hear me chunter on about Angry Birds and doing mass scale crowd-sourcing (badly).

Vancouver talk

For those who missed my spiel, it basically mixed lessons from running one of the biggest online crowd-sourcing processes in the world (involving 500,000 people, and 10,000’s of ideas), with thoughts about how Angry Birds can help save democracy.

Here’s pretty much all the insights I shared about mass-scale crowd-sourcing, from the work we ran with the UK Coalition 18 months back:

Adventures in digital democracy

And here’s my Angry Birds inspired thoughts on how gaming (and throwing birds at pigs) can save democracy:

Angry Government

And it seemed it was the Angry Government part of my talk that inspired the most interest, as it set people’s minds flowing as to how they could improve their consultation processes in a fairly simple but fundamental way by thinking about how they can *gamify* their process a little, and make the whole thing more engaging.

In particular, there seemed to be a real interest in our My2050 project and also for the Budget Simulator app that British Columbia have been using to consult on their 2012 budget setting process.

Throughout the session there was a whole range of different questions asked, but I’d say for the most part they were linked to the practicalities of running consultations online, which was encouraging as it showed a real willing to start doing more online. So I ended my talk by pointing out that the best thing to get into digital engagement is to try it – and luckily all our apps are v.low cost to use (and some are free, like the Dialogue App) allowing people to give it a go and themselves iteratively improve their own process over time, just as we’ve iteratively improved our suite of apps over time with experience.

As a quick flag for all engagement professionals in Canada, we’ve now installed servers in Canada (they’re based in BC) so you can be sure that your data will be safely stored on Canadian soil. Additionally, we’re in the process of setting up privacy and data policies to ensure they adhere to Canadian guidelines too. These are just some of the small but significant steps we’re taking to make sure that it’s safe and easy for Canadian government to do more online consultation, better.

Huge thanks to Susannah for organising the event, along with the guys from Simon Fraser University’s Community Education Program for hosting.

@DelibThinks

Garbage 2.0 – thoughts from Vancouver #1

Garbage (or rubbish as we Brits like to refer to it) is not the most obvious area of innovation in the Gov20 space, however following a coffee and chat with David Eaves this morning in downtown Vancouver my view has changed a little.

As David and his team have created a neat little app called *ReCollect* designed to remind you when Garbage day is – by sending you an SMS or email reminder. The great thing about David’s app is that it’s undoubtedly *life improving*, which is the base metric for all government innovation.

Recollect app - screenshot

Chatting more widely to David, he pointed out that from a Gov20 perspective the most interesting bit for him was how Gov20, and in particular open data, effects and works *internally* – within government. Linked to this, he also discussed the need to promote more effective data standards. Our discussion here moved into the work we’ve been doing recently around British Columbia’s budget consultation, as we discussed the effect of creating some kind of common schema around government budget data – similar to how the SCC in the US has mandated XBRL for all corporates to report in. The effect of standardised budget data taxonomies would result in greater usefulness of processes like Budget Simulator, as the data could be extracted and remixed in a number of different ways. Examples include:

  • State / City comparisons: budget data and budget allocation intentions could be compared cross cities / states / countries.
  • Historic comparisons: data could be more accurately compared over time.
  • Detail digging and analysis: it would be more easy to dig down into the detail of specific areas of the data, enabling more detailed insight.

These are all particularly timely points from our perspective, as we’re about to start a full overhaul of our Budget Simulator app, and I think beyond cosmetic changes the whole *standardised data* and open data needs to underpin how Budget Simulator is structured and powered from a data perspective.