Ideas for 2013

Things will be tight in the public sector – and local government especially – in 2013. So far, so Mystic Meg.

I don’t underestimate the effort required by the brave souls who, unlike me, are still in public service, just to keep the lights on next year. But it’s not a question of martyrdom: a lot of folk I meet are rather enjoying the challenge and the opportunity that some of that disruption has created. Digital channels look suddenly rather appealing, and as GDS begins to solve age-old headaches of corporate web publishing in central government, more interesting ways to apply digital tools start to emerge.

So without making predictions, here’s a suggestion from me for 2013: try something a bit wackier for 2013. Eschew that new Pinterest board, tell the boss you won’t film them for YouTube this time, and don’t set up that Facebook page right now. Try something that sounds a bit odd, see what happens, and share what you find – like the guys at BIS did with their Instagram Your Policy idea (whose time will come, I say). In fact, here’s five wacky things you could try:

  1. Schedule a massively multiplayer teleconference: the Autumn Statement saw an interesting pilot by Politicshome to arrange and run a large-scale teleconference with an interested audience – similar to the earnings calls CEOs and CFOs have with analysts. Keeping it punchy, human, authentic – that’s what phone calls can do well.
  2. Write the FAQ live with your stakeholders: try out a tool like HackPad or Google Docs to open up a document not just for comment, but for actual writing together over a few days. Answer the questions people really raise, or throw things out for others to fill in the blanks.
  3. Open mic a corporate channel: ‘a new Swede every week’ promises @sweden, which has attracted its fair share of controversy. But with the right caveats and a decent following, could @InsideAnywhereshireCouncil, with a guest tweeter each week, get some internal buzz going and start a few passionate staff members on their own social media journeys?
  4. Make mobile your primary response channel for a campaign: there are work things I’ll peruse on my phone on a bus or train that I wouldn’t have time for at my desk, and I don’t think I’m alone. Pick the right project, and reach some of the folk (like me) who’ll rarely come to an evening meeting or daytime webchat, with something intended for the mobile UX: low bandwidth, big buttons and text – get us choosing, liking, voting, sharing, snapping, installing and texting.
  5. Publish your next big document as an eBook: Web pages are still usually a rubbish way to read the long documents that policy will always come in, but we can do better than PDFs printed out to be scribbled over on the train. I know Matt Jukes at the MRC recently managed to get their annual report published in a couple of mainstream e-reader formats, albeit with some bumps on the way. It’s worth persevering.

Wacky for wackiness’ sake? Not intentionally I promise. In fact, here’s a test to apply to any proposal before you sprinkle the wacky dust on it.

  • Does it help someone understand this issue better, and take the next step more easily?
  • Does it make any feedback we’ll receive more useful, and manageable?
  • Does it strengthen, rather than weaken, the trust in the relationship between our organisation and its audience?

Be confident saying ‘yes’ to all three before sprinkling. And have a wacky 2013.

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I like your thinking sir, but thanks to the likes of your good self, this sort of stuff isn’t really ‘wacky’ in government any more.

Re ebooks, the Scottish Government has been doing a bit of dabbling in that area, see eg And ePub is a fairly standard format for our publications now.
We also now have a Scottish version of @Sweden – @Scotvoices – although the Scottish Government can’t take credit for that one 🙂

There are some great tools and products out there which are a little more off the beaten track than the regular Facebook/Twitter/YouTube trifecta.

Actually, Steph, when you said “tell the boss you won’t film them for YouTube this time” I immediately thought of what the Met Police did with Bambuser during the Occupy protests:

And as far as the rapidly emerging field of crisis simulation goes I had the pleasure of testing out eModeration’s Social Media Crisis Simulation tool, which gives your own a real run for its money.

For a bit of nostalgic wackiness I think back to the days of tweeting the Budget Day speech live and syndicating the stream out to national media through a custom widget That doesn’t seem quite so out there anymore but I don’t see anyone else really having a stab at turning unique content into a consumable service right now.

All the best at UKGC13 this year, your social simulator and Hadley’s LinkedGov alpha were the only two things that picqued my interest last year.