Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Australian Gov 2.0 Taskforce publicly releases final report - and most project reports

On Tuesday afternoon the Gov 2.0 Taskforce released its final report, Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0.

As stated in their blog post, the Taskforce handed the report to the responsible Ministers who immediately authorised its public release - a sign of great confidence in the report!

The report generally followed the recommendations and included the content from the draft, released for public comment two weeks ago, with some reorganisation and clarification to improve readability. If you read the draft there are no surprises, however it is worth re-reading for the tighter and clearer language and structure to ensure you understood the original context.

Alongside the report, the Taskforce has publicly released the reports for most of the 19 projects it has contracted out over the last 6 months. This adds up to a lot of reading, which I expect to be wading through over the next few weeks.

As currently the Taskforce site requires people to visit multiple web pages to individually download the project reports, I've provided quick links to download the RTFs and reports below. I also included links to the project pages as they all contain a brief on the project from the authors and allow public comments and feedback on the project reports.

I strongly recommend reading and commenting on the reports that resonate with you.

ProjectProject Brief RTFProject Report
Project 1: Enhancing the discoverability and accessibility of government informationProject 1 Brief RTF (43k)Project 1 Report DOC (643k)
Project 2 and 3: Identify key barriers within agencies to Government 2.0 and survey of Australian Government Web 2.0 practicesProject 2 Brief RTF (45k)
Project 3 Brief RTF (54k)
Project 2 and 3 Final Report DOC (1266k)
Project 4: Copyright Law and Intellectual PropertyProject 4 Brief RTF (55k)Project 4 Report (592k)
Project 5: Early Leadership in Semantic WebProject 5 Brief RTF (48k)Project 5 Final Report (3623k)
Project 6: The value of Public Sector Information for cultural institutionsProject 6 Brief RTF (56k)Project 6 Report DOC (116k)
Project 6 Additional Technical Paper (82k)
Project 7: Whole of Government Information Publication SchemeProject 7 Brief RTF (75k)
Project 7 Report DOC (563k)
Project 8: Online Engagement Guidance and Web 2.0 Toolkit for Australian Government AgenciesProject 8 Brief RTF (92k)Project 8 Guidelines (1726k)
Project 8 Toolkit Blueprint (1389k)
Project 9: Preservation of Web 2.0 ContentProject 9 Brief RTF (79k)Project 9 Report DOC (260k)
Project 10: Framework for Stimulating Information Philanthropy in AustraliaProject 10 Brief RTF (77k)Project 10 Report (743k)
Project 13: Government 2.0 Governance and Institutions: Embedding the 2.0 Agenda in the Australian Public ServiceProject 13 Brief RTF (75k)Project 13 Report DOC (451k)
Project 14: Social Media for Emergency ManagementUnavailableProject 14 Report (6217k)
Project 15: ALRC Family Violence Consultation ProjectUnavailableProject 15 Report (1769)
Project 16: OpinionWatch AnalysisUnavailableProject 16 Report DOC (2461k)
Project 18: Whole of government video service scoping studyUnavailableProject 18 Report (3707k)
Project 19: Online Engagement ReviewUnavailableProject 19 Report DOC (212k)
Project 19 Report PDF (5116k)

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Gov 2.0 in Australia podcast from Gov 2.0 radio now available

I've just finished chatting to Adriel Hampton & Steve Ressler on Gov 2.0 radio about some of the great Gov 2.0 initiatives in Australia.

You can now listen to the discussion online at Gov20Radio.com or get it on iTunes.

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OpenAustralia team launches PlanningAlerts (with financial support from the Gov 2.0 Taskforce)

The team responsible for OpenAustralia has, with the financial assistance of the Gov 2.0 Taskforce (via a Microsoft-backed fund), launched PlanningAlerts.

This free new service allows Australians to sign up to email alerts for planning permission requests in their local area so that they can know what is being requested and lodge their views. It is based on the UK version, PlanningAlerts.com.

PlanningAlerts relies on councils making their information available online - preferably in machine-readable format. Therefore it currently doesn't cover all Australian councils.

It's now up to the Australian councils who do not make this information available online to do so, and I hope we see a wave of them come online soon.

If your council doesn't make this public information available online, perhaps it's worth asking one of your councillors why...

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Telstra publishes staff social media training package

Telstra has publicly released its staff social media training package, making the comic-styled multimedia system available on the web at www.exchange.telstra.com.au/training/flip.html

The package recognises that social media is becoming embedded into normal Australian life - including the lives of Telstra's staff.

The training package reflects how social media management is not the province of an IT or Communications branch, but is an executive level consideration for the entire organisation. It also makes it clear that Telstra has made a top level commitment to supporting staff participation online.

I believe Telstra's package will be a very useful reference for government - and commercial - organisations who are grappling with the question of how to empower their staff to participate in social media within the APSC and appropriate organisational guidelines.

I recommend sharing it with your management and HR teams.

Here's a couple of references to the package.

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Catch me on Gov 2.0 radio next week.

I'll be chatting with Adriel Hampton on Gov 2.0 radio early next week to give US Gov 2.0 people some operational insights into Gov 2.0 happenings in Australia.

Gov 2.0 radio is a weekly podcast on collaborative and transparent government hosted by Adriel, a noted US-based Gov 2.0 and new media strategist.

I expect the discussion will cover topics ranging from current Gov 2.0 initiatives in Australia, the Gov 2.0 Taskforce's report, National Broadband Network and mandatory internet filtering.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dealing with a social media backlash in government

In the last week there's been several Australian government activities or announcements which have lead to large community responses via social media - both good and bad.

Gov 2.0 Taskforce draft report
On 7 December the Gov 2.0 Taskforce released their draft report 'Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0' for public comment.

Over the course of the last week the blog post announcing the release has received 48 comments, including from Andrew McLaughlin the Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer.

There were at least several hundred tweets about the report, 12 other Australian blog posts about the release and five articles in major online sites. The report was also covered on several radio programs and extensively discussed overseas in the US, UK and New Zealand.

Overwhelmingly the view has been that it's a good report and the government (and the independent Taskforce) have received a great deal of positive social media feedback, largely through viral promotion of the report.

Realising our Broadband Future Forum
On the 10th and 11th December the Realising our Broadband Future Forum was held by the Department of Broadband Communication and the Digital Economy, hosted by the Prime Minister and Senator Conroy.

As I've discussed in a previous post, this involved roughly 300-350 physical participants, 120 taking part in remote locations ('nodes') and roughly 380 tweeters, plus other online participants.

The forum made extensive use of online video, twitter and wikis to distribute and collect information from participants in order to build the conversation.

There were over 3,800 tweets using the event's hashtag (#bbfuture) over the two day event and 10,000 words were added to the wiki during the event. A Google Wave was set up with over 20 participants and at least four blogs covered the event.

Internet filter
On Tuesday 15 December Senator Conroy stimulated even more social media discussion with a media announcement that the government intended to proceed to legislate for all ISPs to filter content on a ACMA blacklist (which is to remain secret). A mandatory filter on all Australian internet users, the release indicated that the enabling legislation would be introduced into the parliament before the next election.

Released to the media at approximately 5pm on Tuesday, within five hours there had been over 8,100 tweets on the topic by almost 3,000 people using the hashtag #nocleanfeed - used by those opposed to a mandatory filter based on a secret blacklist.



Image taken at 10PM AEDT from http://wthashtag.com/Nocleanfeed

The level of tweeting has led to it becoming an internationally trending twitter topic, further increasing the level of public and media interest and further increasing online discussion - generating a negative feedback loop.

Over two dozen blogs have posted about the topic (none that I've yet seen supportive of a mandatory internet filter) and several organisations have moved to re-invigorate or establish websites to form the basis of a movement to oppose the plan.


So how should government departments address these different online reactions?

Firstly it is critical to monitor the conversations going on online. If your organisation is unaware of views  expressed online you will be unprepared when they translate into other media and require a high level response. Many reactions now start online and tools like Twitter and Facebook have become effective early warning systems for potential media situations.

Secondly, whether the views being expressed are positive or negative, it is important to engage online through the appropriate channels (those through which the views are being expressed) to manage community sentiment.

As has been demonstrated through a series of corporate incidents in the US, UK and even in Australia, organisation who refuses to engage actively online in response to significant reactions or fast-spreading views are risking losing control of their message and brand. They also lose public credibility and trust in their senior management (or Minister in a public sector context). Essentially an organisation that refuses to engage online is actively 'disrespecting' its customers and the community will respond accordingly.

When an online reaction is positive and supportive, engaging online helps reinforce and build further positive perceptions, building up trust that can be drawn on should the organisation stumble in the future. it also allows an organisation to manage expectations and guard against incorrect perceptions that can lead to future issues.

When an online reaction is negative in tone it becomes even more important to engage to ensure the correct information is getting out to the community and counter any incorrect information with facts. Engagement also builds trust, so even when people agree to disagree, respectfully disagreeing with them online preserves reputations and can build a future positive relationship.

Finally, engaging online is important for building ongoing relationships with online communities. By cultivating working relationships with online 'stakeholder groups', just as they currently do with physical stakeholders, the department is better able to source quality feedback quickly on potential initiatives. This provides an ability to gauge public sentiment before a controversial decision is made and allows organisations to adjust their decisions or communications approach to help communicate the intent of the decision and cut-through any initial resistance.


Who is doing online engagement well?
In my view the Gov 2.0 Taskforce has gotten the online engagement approach right over the last six months and is a fantastic model for government departments to use.

Rather than shying away from conflict or falling back into bureaucratic heavy handiness the Taskforce has treated every comment - good or bad - with respect. They have empowered their community to self-manage while simultaneously stepping in when required to clarify, support or seek a deeper understanding of views expressed on their blog.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

A watershed in Australian Gov 2.0 - Realising our Broadband Future Forum

Last Thursday and Friday I was fortunate enough to be invited to (and have the leave available to attend) the Realising our Broadband Future Forum in Sydney on a personal basis (not representing my Department).

You can see my liveblogs of the forum in the two posts below this one.

The forum targeted senior decision-makers across government, corporate, not-for-profit and academic sectors, bringing them together to discuss the potential benefits and barriers to the National Broadband Network. Attendees attempted to map some of the future services and opportunities for a super-fast broadband network across five streams, Smart infrastructure, Digital education, e-Community, e-Health and e-Business.

Both Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Senator Stephen Conroy spoke live at the forum, with Senator Conroy in particular spending a great deal of time interacting with attendees over the two days.

The event also featured a number of high profile local and international speakers including Vint Cerf, often called the "father of the internet"; Dr Nicholas Gruen, Chairman of the Australian Gov 2.0 Taskforce; Senator Kate Lundy, well known for her pioneering Gov 2.0 public sphere events; and Jeffrey Cole, one of the foremost global experts on media and communication technology policy issues.

At the close of the event Senator Conroy remarked how he had been uncertain whether they would attract sufficient interest in the forum to fill the 250 person venue at the John Niland Scientia Building, University of NSW.

However he said that it had attracted over 1,000 requests to attend, leading to a situation where they were unable to cater for the full demand, being forced to limit the main physical event to roughly 300-350 people (standing room only).

To support others who wished to participate, 'node' events were held simultaneously in Parramatta, Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne (roughly another 120 attendees), connected to the main event via video, audio and web. These were organised with the support of Civictec and the office of Senator Lundy.

I regard the forum as a watershed for Gov 2.0 within Australia because it was the first senior leadership event that made extensive use of Web 2.0 tools to enable open and transparent community participation. Someone sitting in their home or office with a broadband connection was able to view, listen to and contribute to the forum and participate in discussions.

The forum was highly digitally enabled, with live streaming online video of the main auditorium and audio of the breakout rooms for the streams. A Google Moderator system was used to collect and vote on ideas before the event and screens at the event scrolled through live tweets from those participating online. Free wi-fi was available for delegates throughout the venue and, despite a few hiccups and outages, overall the network functioned well enough.

During the event wikis were in place to capture the views and opinions of participants- with Senator Conroy stating in his closing remarks that over 10,000 words had been added to the wiki during the event alone. The wikis remain open for a week for additional comments and scrutiny.

There were 395 Twitter participants over the two days - more than the number of people in the auditorium itself. Over the course of the forum 3,700 tweets (using #bbfuture) were sent, enough to see it trending as the top Australian topic on Twitter.





To get a taste of the forum and the approach it took, I commend to you this speech  by Senator Conroy, which provides both a view of how it reached beyond the physical attendees to engage hundreds (if not thousands) of people across Australia and why high speed broadband is being regarded as so important for Australia's future.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Realising our Broadband Future - Day 2

Hi, I was a little late in today, missing the introduction by Paul Twomey.

However I've taken up the Liveblog from Larry Smarr's presentation this morning.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Realising our Broadband Future - Day 1

I've taken a couple of days off work to attend the Realising our Broadband Future conference on a personal basis.

I am liveblogging it below, contingent on wi-fi availability.

Please feel free to ask questions and I'll try to relay them to speakers.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Managing the future adoption of Gov 2.0 in Australia

We're beginning to see significant activity in the Gov 2.0 space across Australia, and with the impending release of the Gov 2.0 Taskforce's report there's likely to be even more activity in the coming year.

This is definitely not a time for Gov 2.0 proponents to rest on their laurels as there are still many challenges to face before Government 2.0 is firmly embedded within the culture and practice of the public sector.


From discussions I continue to have across agencies and with the private sector there are still many people who aren't quite sure whether Gov 2.0 is simply the latest fad or a fundamental shift in the culture and operations of the public sector.

Last week I attended one external meeting where senior public sector managers were discussing how Web 2.0 worked perfectly well in the laissez-faire world of the internet, but was very difficult to implement successfully within a purposefully structured and highly governed organisation.

Some believed that public sector governance frameworks designed to increase public visibility could limit the use of Gov 2.0 in improving public visibility - making it a more expensive and slower option by requiring costly security and privacy hurdles.

From an ICT and security management perspective some considered Gov 2.0 a 'problem'. In many cases they felt that business teams were still treating Gov 2.0 as a shiny new toy. Experiments lasted only until the first big issue or the driving personality left the agency - at which point ICT had to 'clean up the mess'.

These are understandable viewpoints and reflect some of the issues that will need to be managed as we move to adopt Gov 2.0 approaches. Embedded knowledge and expertise for Gov 2.0 is still low in many agencies and may be confined to specific teams or individual 'experts', although enthusiasm for its use is often more widespread.

The level of buy-in at senior levels also varies. In many cases senior management simply has much bigger fish to fry in meeting the outlined policy goals of the government in an apolitical and diligent fashion with limited resources. Whether and how Gov 2.0 approaches may help them do their jobs more effectively isn't always clearly communicated.

While I know many of these executives would like to experiment with approaches that would improve the cost-effective delivery of their programs, they are limited in their tolerance for experimentation due to the potential social, financial and political consequences of failing to deliver key departmental services. They simply cannot afford the risk.


This discussion is also taking place elsewhere in the world. Federal Computer Week in the US recently wrote Is Gov 2.0 just another passing fad? ...Or do collaborative initiatives represent a true advance in the way government works?

This long and in-depth article considers the topic from a number of perspectives, asking the question,

But is Government 2.0 a true advance in the way government works, or it is just a passing fad? A year from now, will all these initiatives have matured to the point that a government agency could use them to generate useful ideas, streamline operations, improve accountability, deliver services and even save money? Or will agency leaders and their employees revert to the old ways of doing business, muttering the bureaucratic equivalent of, "Who was that masked man?"

The article draws the conclusion that Gov 2.0 may be more than a fad, but hedges its bet by suggesting that the change could be long and will require significant ongoing commitment from heads of state and other political and public sector leadership.

It also highlights the need to build the experience base and move from Gov 2.0 as a project tactic to 'how we do business around here' - a culture.

Whether Gov 2.0 is a fad or not, it is likely to be a bumpy journey. By its nature Gov 2.0 exposes more of the machinery and thinking processes of governance. For example, imagine stepping behind the beautiful vistas of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory where the Oompa Loompas sing as they work, to a 19th century sweatshop where the chocolates are really made.

While this is a deliberately strong contrast, the fact is that all organisations are 'messy' inside to some extent. Exposing how an organisation's actual processes work can shatter public myths and views. For the public sector this can mean damaging the public perceptions of government - previously (and currently) a hanging offense in some organisations.


Another way to consider managing the future adoption of Gov 2.0 in Australia is by using a modelling tool such as the hype cycle, originally developed by Gartner. This is is a technique used to attempt to outline and explain the adoption curve for new technologies, approaches and concepts.

While it is only a model, and there's no reason to assume it will apply for Government 2.0 in Australia, it is useful to reflect on where Gov 2.0 might be currently placed in order to avoid foreseeable pitfalls.




















Drawing from the Wikipedia article,
A hype cycle in Gartner's interpretation comprises five phases:
  1. "Technology Trigger" — The first phase of a hype cycle is the "technology trigger" or breakthrough, product launch or other event that generates significant press and interest.
  2. "Peak of Inflated Expectations" — In the next phase, a frenzy of publicity typically generates over-enthusiasm and unrealistic expectations. There may be some successful applications of a technology, but there are typically more failures.
  3. "Trough of Disillusionment" — Technologies enter the "trough of disillusionment" because they fail to meet expectations and quickly become unfashionable. Consequently, the press usually abandons the topic and the technology.
  4. "Slope of Enlightenment" — Although the press may have stopped covering the technology, some businesses continue through the "slope of enlightenment" and experiment to understand the benefits and practical application of the technology.
  5. "Plateau of Productivity" — A technology reaches the "plateau of productivity" as the benefits of it become widely demonstrated and accepted. The technology becomes increasingly stable and evolves in second and third generations. The final height of the plateau varies according to whether the technology is broadly applicable or benefits only a niche market.


Based on the hype cycle model, I believe Gov 2.0 is still on the initial incline, which means we do need to guard against overstating its importance until the capability is firmly in place across government.

Otherwise we run the risk of fulfilling the prophecies of those who believe it only a fad (whether it is or not), simply by building Gov 2.0 up too high and leaving ourselves open to a fall in confidence when it doesn't reach the stratospheric heights of cost-effectiveness expected.


So, in conclusion, I believe we're still in the very early stages for Gov 2.0 in Australia and it will take a number of years to embed it fully within government processes and build the experience required to manage its integration into agency cultures.

2010 will be a watershed year for Gov 2.0 where many of the first stumbling steps of the last few years will have to demonstrate their value and begin to integrate into normal business processes.

We will also see a great deal more experimentation and hype around Gov 2.0 - including criticism in the media when it doesn't fully live up to the espoused potential.


For everyone working in the Gov 2.0 area, use the holidays at the end of 2009 to regenerate your energy, rekindle your passion and growing a thicker skin.

Next year will require us to work twice as hard and communicate the benefits ten times as well in order to support the government in improving community engagement and agency effectiveness through Government 2.0.

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Monday, December 07, 2009

Gov 2.0 Taskforce draft report out today

I'm reliably informed (via a public tweet and the Taskforce site) that the Gov 2.0 Taskforce draft report should be out at some point today.

The Taskforce Chairman, Dr Nicholas Gruen, says in the announcement linked above that it will be publicly available for comment until at least Wednesday 17 December.

Keep an eye on the Taskforce's website at www.gov2.net.au for the draft report.

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Friday, December 04, 2009

What does it take a government agency to build a successful online community?

I regard creating a sustainable online community as very hard to do. It is almost always easier to join an existing community - although this presents its own challenges.

However at times it will be necessary for government agencies to consider creating their own communities online. This may be as reference groups for specific initiatives or campaigns, as peer communities on particular topics, or to fill a gap where existing online communities are not sustainable or have commercial interests which don't support the needs of everyone involved.

Below are some of my ideas on how to influence the successful development of an online community. Note I'm not an anthropologist or psychologist. However I have participated in the formation (and witnessed the destruction) of a number of online communities over the last 14 years, watching and testing what does and doesn't work. Anyone who has different views is welcome to provide their response in the comments below - or post their own blog post on the topic (and please add a comment linking to it).


The engineering side of building a community is relatively straightforward.

First you must determine the community's goals and how the community will want to interact. Next you need to establish an appropriate technical environment that supports these needs. This may be a forum, blog, social network (using a white label platform such as Ning or Elgg), chat channel or other mechanism.

After this it is important to put in place a framework for community engagement to guide the initial culture and place boundaries on behaviour.

This is essentially a moderation policy, although active moderation may not take place. It should defines what is acceptable behaviour and how transgressions will be treated. If possible the community should be involved in setting these boundaries, just as in society our legal boundaries often reflect the collective views of the community. If set well the community will help you in your role as 'enforcer'.

Finally you invite individuals in and allow them to begin playing and testing the space. Initially there is always some form of testing, with new communities pushing the boundaries to establish what is really acceptable (not simply what is written down).

Voila! Instant community!

Or maybe not.

Communities are not formed simply through infrastructure and boundaries. Nor even through common purpose. They also need a social hierarchy, shared experiences and social investment. Over time these form the social 'glue', the culture allowing communal bonds to form and welding a group of individuals into a community.

While these are 'soft' factors, almost impossible (and undesirable) to engineer, they can be influenced through shrewd planning and ongoing support.

Social hierarchy
In every community there are leaders and followers, talkers and listeners, jokers and admirers and similar groupings of people. Some provide content and advice, giving of themselves for the joy of sharing or for some form of social capital. Others are avid listeners, sucking in information but only participating to ask questions. Some people will want to break community rules, innovating or disrupting. Others will happily stay within the community guidelines at all times. Some people will network broadly, forming wide circles of peers, others communicate exclusively with only one or two others.

All of these types of people bring something to a community. They either provide content, an audience for content, force people to think outside the box and grow or bond people together and attract more people to the group.

When forming a community it is important to involve people of different types.

In particular you need to have several people willing to actively contribute and participate and a few who will network widely and draw in their colleagues from other communities. To support them you need an adequately sized audience. Just like regular speakers are stimulated and energised by their audience, to keep your content contributors feeling that they are adding value you must give them an audience who appreciates their contributions.

Finally, you will need a few rule breakers to 'keep the community honest' - to occasionally question some of the community's core values and make them rethink whether they are still valid. This is one of the hardest groups to 'manage' as they will follow their own thoughts. If there are too many, or individuals are too disruptive, they can blast apart a newly-forming community and destroy it before it gets its legs. However if you don't allow people to test and press the community 'rules', a community can stagnate and grow so boring and predictable that most of the participants leave for other groups.

If talking numbers, for every 50 participants I would suggest you need at least 5 people willing to contribute content and actively discuss topics (Leaders) and 1-2 disruptive people willing to question the status quo (Disrupters). Most of the rest can be passively involved (Audience), though having another 10 willing to contribute questions and comments (Commenters) will help lubricate the community and keep the most active members involved. You will also need at least 2-3 people involved who form wide circles of friends (Networkers), both bonding others together and attracting additional members.

The breakdown for a 50 person community is as follows:

Leaders: 5
Networkers: 2-3
Disrupters: 1-2
Commenters: 10
Audience: Everyone else

Note that people may perform multiple roles. Leaders are often Networkers and may be Disrupters. Commenters may also be Networkers or Disrupters and are also part of the Audience.

If when forming the initial community you're able to identify people who fill the top three roles and specifically invite and support them you will increase the chance of the community succeeding.

Shared experience
An online community will, over time, share certain online experiences which bond it more tightly together. These are often based around 'defending' the community from outside forces such as technical issues, roving spammers or other unwanted influences.

However when first forming a community any of these perils can be fatal. In any case they are 'natural events' and should not be deliberately engineered.

To create an initial shared experience the best approach, in my view, is to get as many of the group as possible together physically and share a common offline experience. This can be as simple as a launch party or casual drinks, or can be a more elaborate conversation starter related to the initial theme of the community. For example, if the community is about driving, take them out to a race track and give them a turn behind the wheel of a performance car.

This helps creates an initial bond, giving the participants a shared feeling of community. It also makes it clear that you want the community to succeed, overcoming any initial views that it may be only a fake community to meet a bureaucratic tick-box.

As the community begins to solidify online it is important to maintain infrequent physical contact or, at worst, live events via phone or chat, to keep the bonds alive. It is also important to not coddle the community too much. If you're in the role of an 'enforcer', ensuring that the community's rules are obeyed, it is important to step back occasionally and allow the community to itself deal with disruptive influences. These shared experiences bond the community together more tightly and give them a sense of self-reliance.

Social investment
This is the great 'secret' that makes services such as Facebook successful. As people spend more time in a community, building friendships and sharing experiences, they increase their social investment in it.

Past a certain point it becomes difficult for people to simply walk away from a community because it is where they connect with others. They have a significant investment in tje community's ongoing success.

When forming a new online community it is valuable to build an understanding of what people want to get out of it. Do they want to learn more, meet new friends and peers, be in the 'in' crowd or have a readily accessible network they can access to solve issues?

There are many other reasons people may have for joining and it is important to uncover them, where possible, and support the community in fulfilling these needs.

If you are able to reconfigure a community to better meet these individual needs it has a better chance of being 'sticky'. This helps ensure that people hang around long enough to build the lasting relationships that bond a community together.

This reconfiguration could be as simple as providing technical tools for certain purposes, such as sharing documents; or adjusting community guidelines, such as how moderation works. It can also involve more complex steps such as inviting 'guest presenters' into the community or providing exclusive content.

You must, of course, balance the level of effort required to fulfil individual needs against the level of need in the community. However it is particularly important to support the most active participants (Leaders), as they are providing a great deal of the content required to draw in broader audiences. It is also important to support people with broad networks (Networkers) as they are important influencers of whether people join or leave. However neither group should be coddled to the detriment of other community members.


Influence not control
As a final point, all of the above ideas can influence a new community towards success. None of them guarantee a community will work or that it will develop in a way you find acceptable.

You may find that your initial reason for the community is not strong enough, that there aren't enough potential participants to make a community viable or that external factors, competing communities or internal changes in your organisation stunt or prohibit growth.

However if you're serious about establishing and growing an online community I believe the suggestions above will help.

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

New quick start beginners guide for government Twitter use released

Dave Briggs of Learning Pool in the UK has written a quick start guide to Twitter for those working in and around government (although it's equally applicable for other people as well).

The guide particularly targets Twitter newcomers and is written in a very readable and conversational style.

David spent more than five years working in government and has a good understanding of how to approach the topic in order to make this guide useful.

I see this guide as a companion guide to the UK Government's Template Twitter Strategy. Like the Template Strategy, just about all of this guide is immediately usable in an Australian context.

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Getting serious about web analytics in Australian government - join the new group

Last week the Australian Bureau of Statistics ran a free event for government website managers to discuss web analytics - how different agencies were doing it and what, collectively, we would like to see happen in the area.

There were a number of excellent presentations and plenty of time for group discussion. In fact it's the best such event I've seen run to-date within government and was better than many of the (more costly) commercial conferences.

Some of the outcomes of the day included a recognition that while there are many different tools and reasons for measuring public websites, there are some standards we should have in place across government to define and agree on appropriate metrics - beginning with the basics like page-views, visits and unique visitors.

There was also a good discussion around the prospect of a whole-of-government web reporting system which would allow agencies to directly benchmark and compare against appropriate peers. The Victorian government has made great strides towards this already, as has the NSW government.

To continue the conversation, and begin to recommend some firm ideas for how to proceed in the web analytics space at all levels of Australian government, a Web Analytics For Australian Government group was established at Google at the end of last week, and is already beginning to see some discussion of the topic.

If you're involved or interested in website management and measurement - or simply wish to understand how to measure the effectiveness of websites alongside other communications channels - please join the Web Analytics For Australian Government group.

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Getting started in the social web - presentation from Canada's

I came across this presentation from Tamera Kremer while reviewing the outcomes of Canada's recent Government 2.0 conference in Ottawa.

Canadian governments - like others across the world - are addressing similar, if not identical, issues and dilemmas in implementing Government 2.0 and this presentation resonated with a number of the challenges we face in Australia.

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