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.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

How LOST and toronto.ca are similar

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 an admission here ... I'm still watching LOST but wishing we would just get the thing over with. The only reason I'm still hanging in is because of all the time invested in the program over its run.  So, I'm a bit hostile to it.  That being out-of-the-way, here's what I was thinking this week after viewing the Adam and Eve episode:

I thought of our website and the road we've been on for the last few years getting up to speed on making changes etc.  Like the main characters on LOST, we've encountered some similar obstacles.
Our city is sometimes called the "Big Smoke" , LOST has the Black Smoke.    

You could say we (toronto.ca) were lost for a time.  Stuck in the early 2000's web, not using CSS, providing a department centric version of services vs. a user centric approach.  When we landed on our island back when amalgamation hit in 1998, we took the former city websites, put the info out there and hit the ground running. When we reshaped the web in 2001, we took web thinking back then, came out with our 4 gateways (Living, Business, Visiting and Accessing City Hall), dropped in the existing content and continued running.

So, let's make an analogy between us and the LOSTies. You might say the toronto.ca teams have been existing on an island for the last several years just punching in those numbers (content) every 108 minutes.  I think what changed for us, much like when Locke refused to enter the numbers many episodes ago, is the coming of Social Media.  All of a sudden, there was this huge groundswell of interaction possibilities that released the Genie out of its bottle.

Suddenly people were using Social Media and talking about the City.  Our website did not come through unscathed.  In our little world here, we thought that was a good thing and it gave us ammunition to push for making changes.

I think what frustrates me with the TV show is that their goal of leaving the island keeps changing - especially with Jack.  He promises to get everyone off, he does (more or less) and then he's got to go back. And then he wants to leave, no stay ... make up your mind!!!!  If it's some kind of fate set to determine what happens, get on with it already!

Are we in a similar state of flux?  Perhaps.We're moving forward but it's slow. Unlike the show we haven't got a parallel time line on the go, where toronto.ca exists in a different form already and everything is stable. At least I don't think so!  If we did, I would think Desmond is Social Media trying to wake us up.

All this crystallized in my mind yesterday after attending a presentation on SharePoint.  One of the presenters (thanks to Alber Hanna from the City of Brampton) had some quotes I found interesting referring to collaboration tools:
It's a transformation of a mindset of a management style. 
Taking risks is the norm for the web. 
I would add:
taking risks is not the norm for governments and you have to push us.


The people on LOST have been taking risks all along.  For us, any change is risky. No matter what choices we make, we're gong to get some dissonance. There is no pleasing everyone.  But, one way or another, something is going to happen and it will be a change from the current toronto.ca.

I'm willing to predict, we'll see lots of interactions happening from a "My Account" or "My Toronto" one entry gateway for payments, registrations and the like to community blogs written by users of toronto.ca.   Everything is on the table and we are seeing other governments taking similar steps.  Open Data is a prime example of what I mean.

I'm not sure how LOST is going to turn out but I think our writers and creators for toronto.ca have a lot less explaining to do.

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