Gone But Not Forgotten

Hello, you've landed on DATA eh? - Open Data Toronto's original blog space for data discussions. This is not an active blog at the moment but legacy posts are still here. Have a read ... you can still provide comments.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Going for Gold at the web Olympics

NOTE: This is content from the web re:Brand posts going back to November 2010. We have kept the re:Brand posts as a legacy archive but, on a go forward basis as of October, 2011, the new DATA eh? content takes over this space.

OK, so I can't resist writing about the Olympics and making an analogy between the event and what we are trying to do with the web re:Brand of toronto.ca.

You might think I'm going to say we're going for gold and we want to "own the podium". But that's not exactly where I'm headed in this post.

But first, let me say 'way to go Canada!' I can only imagine the rush the athletes are getting.  Clearly, victory is sweet.  Aren't you absolutely lovin' the interviews with our Gold medalists? That being said, medal winner or non-medal winner, it must be pretty cool to just be there.  And, considering how much effort it took to get there, congratulations just for doing that.

The re:Brand isn't the "athlete"
At first I thought you could make an analogy between the Olympic athletes and the web re:Brand but, the more I thought about it, the analogy isn't with the athlete winning Gold as it is with the infrastructure surrounding the competition. The "website" is the facilities part of the concept - providing the course (site) for the skier (user) to run.  So actually you're the person who's got to win the medal not us.

If we take this further, the infrastructure for the games wasn't complete when Vancouver got the winning bid - the City took several years to get everything ready for show time.

So, the building process is appropriate to the analogy too and toronto.ca is in the building process now. With time and enough input we should be ready to present a world ready place where you can do your thing.

Ongoing Beta
I'm not saying it's going to take us 7 years to finish the place but there is a line of thought that says a web site is never done anyway.  Users can always contribute reactions and needs will ebb and flow.  So the idea of a big finish just isn't a good one.

Joshua Errett wrote in NOW Magazine last summer that Toronto - not just us the municipal government but the city as a whole - is in a "perpetual state of beta" or "stuck in "version 1.0". The article is interesting and though I have some disagreement with "perpetual beta" being a bad thing, I do think Errett's piece challenges everyone to do better.  Challenge, too, is in the spirit of Olympic competition.

And, when it comes to doing anything (including the web), you will always have a certain amount of obstacles in the way.  Insert your own analogy here for the equivalent of bad ice or no snow.  Yet you do have to run the race at some point. Right now, we're asking users to run a race with some rather poor conditions. We do want to change that.

All this just further defines my sense of urgency to hear from anyone landing here (YOU) about toronto.ca experiences.  Absent of more concrete examples of user issues, we won't have any alternative but to go on assumptions of user issues. And that isn't what we want to do.

So I'm putting some pressure on you to take five more minutes (maybe less) and let me know what you find easy or hard about toronto.ca.  Just comment here.

Bullet points are cool as is a full scale diatribe. Either way, and no matter how long or short you write, it won't be nearly as hard as having to jump off a mountain with a couple of ski poles in your hands and have a whole bunch of people chase after you to the finish line.  But I wish you good luck and a good finish all the same.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

You're only as good as your last bit of customer service - extrapolating from the Randy Bachman

NOTE: This is content from the web re:Brand posts going back to November 2010. We have kept the re:Brand posts as a legacy archive but, on a go forward basis as of October, 2011, the new DATA eh? content takes over this space.

I guess listening to music has triggered some extra thoughts in my head when it comes to material for this blog.  This time, I was listening to Randy Bachman (from his days in BTO) and the song "Rock Is My Life and This Is My Song".  The line that's stuck in my head is:

"you're only as good as your last record ..."

Got me thinking about the expectations and assumptions for responses via social media tools like twitter. Case in point, the 311 Office has been using twitter (@311Toronto) to provide a place for feedback about user experiences to the call line. Reading the twitter feed demonstrates how valuable an outlet this is.  But it occurs to me how challenging it is to satisfy everyone and, to paraphrase the Randy, maybe "you're only as good as you're last bit of customer service". Would you agree? Can one bad experience destroy the goodwill of many good experiences?

It's something we talk about when staff ask our team about using social media tools.  (Part of our role is to evangelize social media use at the City.) When the talk turns to resourcing a twitter (or other) account, some prospective users are surprised when we say they will need to devote regular (perhaps daily, hourly or more) attention to it. It all depends on what you are trying to do.  @311Toronto is way busier than @TOWebRebrand for example (he says as he inserts shameless plug for the web re:Brand twitter feed).

Honest effort
I've heard a number of SM gurus say, at the very least, you must always be demonstrating to customers that you are trying.  Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) speaking at DemoCamp24 in Toronto, was asked about his take on this issue relating to scale.  The question was framed as "the bigger you are (more volume of messages) the harder  it is to respond immediately, so what do you do?" Vaynerchuk said he used to answer every e-mail he received immediately. Now that he has become extremely well known, the scale has magnified to the point where he has had to start using an auto response tool.  But, and he states this emphatically, he still responds to every e-mail he gets. He maintains that part of his reputation albeit with a delay.

Note, his twitter page says he "never checks DMs". That's cool, I now know I can't expect an answer if I send him one. With some 847,829 followers - clearly the dude is doing something right!

Is Gary's challenge the same, worse or better than ours? Let me know how much slack you give a city government over an individual.I'm really interested in what you have to say regarding your expectations.

Here's the "full Gary" from DemoCamp24 for those who want to hear more of his perspective (alert Gary uses profanities).

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Extrapolating from the Neil Young (early adopters)

NOTE: This is content from the web re:Brand posts going back to November 2010. We have kept the re:Brand posts as a legacy archive but, on a go forward basis as of October, 2011, the new DATA eh? content takes over this space.

I was reading this article sent to me by a colleague here at work (thanks Matt): Getting over the barriers to wiki adoption. It got me thinking about early adopters.

Clearly we've seen some early adopters using our wikis and webbook tool here at the City. But, we also have a long way to go before anyone could say either of the tools are being widely used. Really, all the points raised in the article are so very  true with, I think, one exception.