More visualisations

Providing an understanding of data by the creative use of graphics is a great way of improving the quality of public deliberation.

Here’s a load of graphics that show the way that we consume media has changed.


Click on the image for more.

Click on the image for more.

Look what is forcast for 2015.

(hat tip: Kathryn on Facebook)


The straight choice

oxford labourRichard Pope, Francis Irving and Julian Todd have developed a site – The Straight Choice – that allows you to upload election leaflets as they come through your door – with the intention of promoting consistency and honesty.

It’s an interesting idea. And – as you come here partly because you often get unpopular arguments, let me suggest another one:

That the demand for consistency from political parties often has the unintended consequence of promoting political centralisation. Surely it’s a good thing if Lib-Dems in Truro are saying something different to Lib-Dems in Anglesey?

(hat tip: Kathryn on Facebook).

Innovating on the cheap for better democracy

When it comes to technology start-ups there’s a nine out of ten chance that the idea will fail. Far from being considered a problem it’s recognised that doing something different is a risky strategy. But it is also one that can lead to enormous rewards if you get it right.

True failure only happens when the lessons learned aren’t carried forward into future projects.

Although itself notoriously risk averse, central government is starting to heed the message. Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell told the civil service to become innovators because,  “we have no choice but to innovate.”

So what of local government? The barriers are high; accountability and the use of public money stifle an innovation culture but, countering this, innovating online with new social media tools is fast and, above all, cheap. Working with the tools that citizens are already comfortable with makes sense too.

From Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

From 'Waiting for Godot' by Samuel Beckett

Continue reading

How to get techies to give you what you want (while Doing The Right Thing at the same time)

Here’s a bit of music made using assistive technology to cheer you up. It was sent to me by my old mate and colleague Amanda – the best usability consultant and website project manager that I’ve ever worked with.

What’s this got to do with local democracy? Well, I’ve worked with a large number of local authorities / voluntary sector / membership organisations that aim to promote a greater standard of inclusive policymaking / responsive communications / organisational interactivity.

A well designed set of interfaces is fairly critical to the success of projects like this. Un-useable interfaces … well … don’t get used.

If you are a non-techie, and you are going to work with techies on a web-project in this area, you have to understand the very basics about accessibility. It helps you to avoid the classic cause for IT project management failure: You tell the IT department what you want. They don’t understand you properly and give you something that they think will do, without disrupting their wider set of objectives. They are behaving rationally in doing this – it usually means that they get a slice of your budget to put towards their pet-project.

Even when they do understand what you want, it’s often not good enough…

Left to their own devices, they will give you something that they can deliver saying “I think this will just about do the job.”

For this reason, I’ve found that a discussion of web accessibility between the technical staff (who are often – unnecessarily – the gatekeepers on projects such as this) and the people who are doing the including / communicating / interacting is usually a very valuable way of getting everyone on the same page for the following reasons: Continue reading

Two things noticed elsewhere

Firstly, this is a lovely idea about how design can be used to improve the quality of communication at a local level. Here’s the original site, and here’s an image to whet your whistle:

And secondly, totally unrelated, here’s a list of the petitions that have gone before the EU petittions committee.

Just for the avoidance of doubt, visitors to this blog will routinely get ‘ignore petitions / discrourage petitions’ posts on a fairly regular basis.