Tuesday, May 29, 2012

GovCamp Canberra – one week away!

GovCamp Canberra looks like it will be a fantastic event (I'll confirm afterwards as I'm attending).

If you've not registered to attend, it's probably too late to be there in person - though if you're on the waiting list you may get a spot at short notice if anyone pulls out.

However GovCamp will be livestreamed (if your organisation lets you stream video), liveblogged (if your organisation doesn't block blogs) and tweeted (if you're allowed access to Twitter). Keep an eye on the GovCamp Canberra site for details.

It's also not the only event on during APS Innovation Week 2012. Look at the full list of events at the APS Innovation blog.

I've included the GovCamp media release below, which provides more information.


GovCamp Canberra is coming up on the 5th June and event organisers anticipate a lively day of discussions, leadership, case studies and workshops, with attendees invited to share their ideas and find new opportunities to collaborate and innovate in the public service.

The sold out free event provides a platform for public servants to share and identify ideas on how government can better achieve its goals, promote transparency and support initiatives which encourage greater particpation by citizens with government.

Spokesperson Pia Waugh said “times have changed, public servants now understand the importance of change and innovative ideas in delivering a public service, particularly to meet fiscal pressures. It is critical for public servants to continually adapt to changing Australian citizen’s needs and this event is a great way to share how people have been doing just that”.

“Having GovCamp as part of 2012 Innovation week has really cemented the idea that we need free flowing conversations like this on a regular occasion. The fact we can do it as a free event, with the support of some wonderful sponsors, means it’s a good choice for government agencies to have their staff attend”.

This years GovCamp will cover a number of areas around innovation within the APS and the implementation and progress of Gov 2.0 projects. Speakers will also look at how government can better deliver services into the future.

“We are fortunate that this year we have some very senior level staff coming along to talk about innovation, technology and change at a strategy level and how they think government needs to evolve. We are hoping this type of direct interaction between a range of different leveled staff from within the public service will generate some very frank discussion”, Waugh said.

GovCamp speakers include the Australian Information Commissioner, John Macmillan AO, an Academic Forum with leading research on Public Sector Innovation chaired by Sandford Borins, a case studies panel showcasing leading examples of innovation in practice, a Senior Leaders Panel and the closing speech by Andrea Di Maio, a public sector innovation and Gov 2.0 expert from Gartner.

The lunch time address is a specially recorded speech from Mike Bracken from the Government Digital Service, UK Government Cabinet Office.

You can view the event information, including the schedule and speakers at www.govcampau.org. The event will be live streamed so check the website for video details closer to the date or register on the waitlist to be advised about the live stream details.

Organisers: #Gov2au, Rewired State, eGovernment Technology Cluster
Gold Sponsors: Adobe, MailChimp, Palantir
Silver Sponsors: Cisco, Google, Ninefold, eGovernment Technology Cluster, CSIRO, AGIMO
In-kind Sponsors: Link Digital, Newcast, Salesforce, University of Canberra

Contact Pia Waugh on 0400 966 453 for any other media enquiries.

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Modelling open data - new visualisation from recently released BOM data

The Bureau of Meteorology has released new data for reuse under Creative Commons licensing, ahead of the upcoming GovHack in Canberra next week, and Mark Hatcher has used it to model 153 years of Sydney weather in a short video (image to right).

The higher the temperatures, the warmer the colours.

This is a good example of how data can be reused by the public to provide different insights or perspectives into topics - providing evidence to inform different viewpoints.

These public mashups could then potentially be re-adopted (crowdsourced) and shared by governments, where they offer new insights, to better communicate with and engage the community or staff.

Of course there are technical smarts involved in this type of modelling, however tools such as ManyEyes, Visual.ly, Infogr.am and Piktochart make it easy for individuals with no technical training to create interesting views from raw data.

These tools can even be used by government agencies to model their own data - useful both for public engagement and internal engagement with staff or management. Though note it is important to only create infographics from publicly available data as the processing may be done in the cloud!

Mark's complete (41 second) video of his visualisation is below. If viewing it at work I suggest turning down the sound so as to not distract colleagues.

I've received a clarification as to what data was new - and it's actually new functionality.  You can now download 'all years of data' in a single file, for daily rainfall, temp and solar exposure - hat tip to Jim Birch.

This improvement makes it much easier to produce mashups like Mark's above.

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Friday, May 25, 2012

CFA report on their Facebook account

The Country Fire Authority in Victoria has released a infographic on their Facebook account, providing a view of the traffic and interactions on their page.

Note that any organisation or individual can do this, using the free data visualisation tools at Visual.ly.

I've taken the standard report (which is very long), cut it in half and placed the pieces side by side for easier viewing (below).

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National Library catalogue goes mobile and also launches mobile strategy

The National Library of Australia has taken a major step forward in the adoption of mobile internet in announcing the launch of its mobile strategy and mobile apps for both iOS and Android providing access to their complete catalogue.

In particular the Library's mobile strategy (released under a Creative Commons license) is the most visionary and far-reaching I have seen in Australia, setting out to,
  • improve access to the Library's collection and services for audiences, wherever they are, whether on-site or anywhere else in the world,
  • equip staff to champion and drive the development of mobile services to improve access and productivity,
  • adopt an evidence-based approach to service development and delivery,
  • modernise the Library brand to reflect relevance, accessibility and innovation,
  • create opportunities for learning, and
  • facilitate connections, conversation and overall engagement with national collection material.
Through a series of tactics including,
  • establishing and expanding the infrastructure and back-end systems required to support mobile initiatives, products and services,
  • adopting standards and best practices for interoperable mobile content and cross-platform data management,
  • seeking out and engaging new technologies to achieve marketing and communications goals, and,
  • building, consolidating and sharing expertise.
Learn more about the Library's new mobile resources at www.nla.gov.au/mobile-resources

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mapping Australian Twitter discussions

Associate Professor Axel Bruns, who has previously done marvelous work mapping Australian blogs and tracking social media activity around the Queensland bushfires, has released his team's latest research on mapping the Australian Twittersphere.

Drawing (slightly paraphrased) from the joint CCI and Queensland University of Technology media release:
With as many as two million Australians now using Twitter to exchange news, views and information, the internet phenomenon has become a focal element in the nation’s social discourse, say Axel and Dr Jean Burgess.

By analysing topics of interest and concern to Australians the researchers built a ‘network map’ showing the connections between different issues and areas. “Just as newspapers have circulation reports and TV has its ratings, it is important to understand the role which new media are playing in our society,” they say.
“The map offers us a completely different way to view Australian society – not by where people live or what job they do, but by how they connect to each other through Twitter,” said Professor Bruns.
“You can use the map to study developments in Australian politics, natural disasters or trends in public thought and opinion,” Dr Burgess says. “It offers us a completely fresh way to view the discourse that is taking place between Australians or different groups.

“It shows there are multiple, overlapping publics, interacting and interweaving in time and space across Australia.”

The map also revealed which Twitter networks are isolated from the Australian ‘mainland’ tending to connect among themselves more than with other networks. These include evangelical groups, cities like Adelaide and Perth, followers of pop stars, and various sports and beer lovers.

The researchers based their map on data from 950,000 Australian Twitter accounts, but say that the national Twitter population is estimated to be as high as 1.8-2 million. The world Twitter population is now thought to be around 200 million – about a quarter that of rival social medium Facebook.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Chrome beats Internet Explore in browser stakes

There was surprising news from StatCounter earlier this month when Chrome topped Internet Explorer as the most popular web browser for the week of 14-20 May.

Sourced from CNET: Chrome now world's top browser, but beware the math

While this is only one of the services reporting browser use, represents only one week and is a global figure - so may not represent the situation in specific countries (such as Australia) - it is indicative of the changes underway in the web browsing habits of people around the world.

All major international reports on web browser usage have reported that Internet Explorer has been on a downward slide for several years, with Chrome or Safari picking up most of the market share shift and Firefox and Opera being limited beneficiaries.

While this reflects the growth of mobile browsing (Apple iOS uses Safari, Android devices use Chrome), it also represents a significant change in desktop and laptop computer use.

While corporate and government organisations remain major uses of Internet Explorer due to its lead in corporate management features (though Firefox and Chrome have moved to match these), households are choosing their main web browser based on speed, usability and usefulness.

Reliable Australian web browsing figures are harder to find - it would be very useful if organisations such as Google or Facebook (the top sites visited by Australians) released their figures.

However I can say that, from Microsoft's figures, Internet Explorer 6 use in Australia has fallen to 1.2% of the browsing public. This is a GOOD THING as IE6 is an 11 year old vendor-unsupported, insecure and standards non-compliant web browser, unsupported by many major websites and which adds, in my experience, 20-30% on the costs of any web development project.

I should note that Microsoft is trying to end the use of Internet Explorer 6 and has even begun taken steps to automatically upgrade people to more modern versions (beginning with Australia and Brazil).

You can learn more about Microsoft's campaign to end IE6 at their website, The IE6 Countdown.

Sorry if you are one of the remaining organisations using IE6, however my FOI request on web browsing and social media use across government has revealed that largely agencies have made or are making the move to upgrade.

From the now 65 responses I've been able to analyse, only 7 (11%) indicated they still used IE6 on desktop computers. While this is quite a bit higher than the national rate (1.2%), it is much smaller than I had anticipated. Of course if this includes large agencies the percentage of APS staff using IE6 may be significantly higher.

I've provided a breakdown below of the browsers that government agencies indicated they used.

Notes and caveats
  • this represents 65 agencies, large and small, of 166 approached - so is representative but not population data
  • many agencies used more than one web browser, so the figures don't add up to 65. 
  • I've excluded browsers that no agency indicated they used (and I asked about all major browsers back to the time of Internet Explorer 6's release). 
  • I forgot to ask about the use of Blackberry's browser on mobile phones - essentially every agency using Blackberries use this browser.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Standardising content across government (or why does every agency have a different privacy policy?)

Every government website serves a different purpose and a different audience, however there are also standard content every site must have and legislation and standardised policies they must follow.

This includes content such as a privacy policy, legal disclaimer,  terms of use, accessibility statement, copyright, social media channels, contact page, information publication (FOI) pages and so on. It also includes the navigational structure and internal ordering of pages and the web addresses to access this content (such as for 'about us' pages).

So is there a case to standardise the templates and/or content of these pages and where to find them in websites across government?

I think so.

From an audience perspective, there is a strong case to do so. Citizens often use multiple government websites and it makes their experience more streamlined and efficient if they can find what they need in a consistent place (such as www.agency.gov.au/privacy), written in a consistent format and, where possible, using identical or near identical language.

It would also save money and time. Rather than having to write and seek legal approval for the full page content (such as for privacy information), only agency-specific parts would need writing or approval. Websites could be established more rapidly using the standard content pages and lawyers could focus on higher value tasks.

To put a number on the current cost of individually creating standard, if you assume it cost, in time and effort, around $500 to develop a privacy policy and that there are around 941 government websites (according to Government's online info offensive a flop), it would have cost up to $470,500 for individual privacy policies for all sites. Multiple this by the number of potentially standardisable pages and the millions begin adding up.

Standardisation could even minimise legal risks. It removes a potential point of failure from agencies who are not resourced or have the expertise to create appropriate policies and expose themselves to greater risks - such as over poorly written legal disclaimers which leave them open to being sued by citizens.

In some cases it may be possible to use the same standard text, with a few optional inclusions or agency-specific variations - such as for privacy policies, disclaimers, accessibility statements, terms of use, and similar standard pages.

In other cases it won't be possible to use the same content (such as for 'about us' pages), however the location and structure of the page can be similar - still providing public benefits.

Let's take privacy policies specifically for a moment.There's incredible diversity of privacy policies across Australian Government websites, although they are all subject to the same legislation (the Privacy Act 1988) and largely cover the same topics (with some variation in detail).

While this is good for lawyers, who get to write or review these policies, it may not be as good for citizens - who need to contend with different policies when they seek to register for updates or services.

Many government privacy policies are reviewed rarely, due to time and resource constraints, which may place agencies at risk where the use of new tools (such as Youtube, Slideshare and Scribd) to embed or manipulate content within agency sites can expose users unknowingly to the privacy conditions of third party sites (see how we handled these in myregion's privacy policy with an extendable third party section).

So, how would government go about standardisation? Although effectively a single entity, the government functions as a group of agencies who set their own policies and manage their own risks.

With the existence and role of AGIMO, and the WebGuide, there is a central forum for providing model content to reflect the minimum standard agencies must meet. There are mandatory guidelines for agencies, such as for privacy, however limited guidance on how to meet it. A standard privacy policy could be included and promoted as a base for other agencies to work from, or even provided as an inclusion for sites who wanted to have a policy which was centrally maintained and auto-updated.

Alternatively web managers across government could work together, through a service such as GovDex, to create and maintain standard pages using a wiki-based approach. This would allow for a consistently improving standard and garner grassroots buy-in, plus leverage the skills of the most experienced web masters.

There's undoubtably other ways to move towards standardised pages, even simply within an agency, which itself can be a struggle for those with many websites and decentralised web management.

Regardless of the method selected, the case should receive consideration. Does government really need hundreds of versions of what is standard content, or only a few?

Examples of government privacy policies (spot the similarities and differences):

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Can social media make a genuine impact on the democratic process?

While in the UK last week I was involved in a number of discussions about whether social media can make a genuine impact on the democratic process.

This reflects similar conversations I've witnessed or been involved with in Australia and in other countries.

This conversation is very important - it helps people involved in the Gov 2.0 space to define, refine and share their ideas and helps people outside the space gain a broader appreciation of the topic.

To encourage further conversation, Delib has set up a global online discussion about social media's impact on democracy.

You can participate - or watch this discussion at: http://www.dialogue-app.com/600

It will remain open for commenting until the end of May and visible after this for people to read and think about.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Final chance to participate in the Online Community / Social Media Management survey for Australia and New Zealand

Complete the Community Manager survey
This is the final week to participate in the Online Community / Social Media Management survey for Australia and New Zealand, which closes on 19 May.

If you're an online community or social media manager or advisor, please complete the survey using the button at right.

To provide some quick background...

The survey aims to help local organisations and individuals better understand the skills required to work in these professions, help uncover role challenges, training and support needs and the actual work and salaries that online community management and social media management professionals can expect.

The results of the survey will be presented at Swarm later this year and then released online as a free report.

The survey is being co-sponsored by Quiip and Delib Australia and was inspired by The Community Roundtable's 2012 State of Community Management report, which drew from a largely US audience and asked a limited set of questions.

For more information visit Quiip's site at http://quiip.com.au/online-community-management-2012-survey.

To complete the survey go to www.citizenspace.com/app/delib-au/cmsurvey or click on the button above.

Note: I'm involved in the design and management and will be involved in the analysis and reporting for this survey. The goal is to provide information that organisations can use to design community management and social media management roles and to help identify the training and support individuals working in these professions require to be most effective.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Accessibility - a great video from FaHCSIA to educate staff & management

Last week FaHCSIA released a great video on accessibility that they're using to educate staff and management on its importance, who it affects and the basics of what to do.

I think it is an awesome resource for all organisations (not just government) to help them understand their legal obligation and how to meet it.

We need more resources like this for government, tools that use video, pictures and sound to help educate and influence, not simply more PDF manuals like this.

I've embedded the video below and it is also available directly from its YouTube link or as a MP3 from FAHCSIA's resources section.

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Last day to contribute to NSW State Archive's Web 2.0 Recordkeeping Survey

The NSW State Archives has been holding a survey on social media use by NSW government organisations to inform the development of an online training course on social media recordkeeping.

Your feedback will also help the NSW State Archives to "recommend some specific recordkeeping strategies that will work with both the social media tools that are being used in NSW government and the business needs that are driving these different forms of social media use."
The survey is due to close on Friday 11 May, so if you've not yet responded this is your last chance!

To learn more or to participate in the survey visit the Future proof website at: http://futureproof.records.nsw.gov.au/state-records-survey-on-social-media-use-in-nsw-government/.

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eDemocracy report from Lowey - US striding ahead

If I were the leader of a nation that wasn't friends with the US I would be very concerned with the successes of their eDiplomacy program and looking to counter it with my own.

And if I was the leader of a friendly nation, I'd still be seeking to carve out my own eDiplomacy space, to retain some element of influence in the future.

The UK has realised this, Canada has realised it, though I'm not as sure Australia has woken up to it as well.

The Lowey Institute has released an excellent report on the state of US eDiplomacy by Fergus Hanson, which may help as a wake up call.

Brought to my attention by Peter Timmin, who writes the Open and Shut FOI blog, Fergus's report, the result of four months spent in the US with the State Department, found that there are now 25 separate ediplomacy nodes operating at State’s Washington DC Headquarters employing over 150 full-time equivalent staff.

Additionally (the report says) a recent internal study of US missions abroad found 935 overseas staff employing ediplomacy communications tools to some degree, or the equivalent of 175 full-time

The report states very clearly that, in some areas ediplomacy is changing the way State does business. For example,
In Public Diplomacy, State now operates what is effectively a global media empire, reaching a larger direct audience than the paid circulation of the ten largest US dailies and employing an army of diplomat-journalists to feed its 600-plus platforms.
In other areas, like Knowledge Management, ediplomacy is finding solutions to problems that have plagued foreign ministries for centuries.
One of the key changes that Fergus noted was how the organisation functioned as a start-up, not as a staid old-fashioned bureaucracy. For example,
In interviews with office staff, conversation quickly turns from notional duties to ‘passion projects’ – the new ideas and platforms staff work on in their spare time. And there are plenty in the works. The Inspector General, whose recent report on the office made it sound like a review of a Silicon Valley start-up, noted over 40 underway.
Other employees also seem to have got a message regularly repeated at the Office of eDiplomacy; Experiment. It’s okay to fail. One enterprising official working on US library spaces abroad realised how costly and pointless it was sending physical books across the globe and cut a deal with Amazon to get discounted Kindles delivered instead.
And in Zimbabwe, the greying US Ambassador, Charles A Ray, has embraced Facebook as a way of circumventing the iron grip Robert Mugabe exercises over freedom of the press. He engages in an active and animated discussion with Zimbabweans about how they view the world.
In my view this report doesn't only highlight the new world of diplomacy, but also the new world of the public service.

The approach taken to engage foreign citizens could be transferred to domestic agencies and used to engage US citizens as well.

Is State the future of public services around the world? Time - and good leadership will tell.

However just as nations who fail to remain commercially competitive find it increasingly difficult to maintain incomes, education levels, lifestyles and services, countries that fail to be competitive in their public governance are likely to be at significant disadvantage in international relations.

eDiplomacy is already here and working. The challenge has been laid down. Can Australia's present public sector and political leaders take it up?

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Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Which social networks should you use when? Great infogram from Mashable

I thought this infogram had huge relevance to governments, as well as to corporations, so have posted it to ensure it doesn't get missed by people in the daily hurley-burley.

The infogram provides some excellent suggestions on the strengths and weaknesses of various social media services and when to use each.

Find out more at Mashable: http://mashable.com/2012/04/16/social-networks-tips-infographic/

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Tuesday, May 08, 2012

2012 FaHCSIA Information Awareness Series: Social media in action – what’s happening in Australian Government, 24th May 2012

If you've interested or involved with social media in government and have some free time on 24 May, a useful way to spend it might be attending the 2012 FaHCSIA Information Awareness Series forum - Social media in action – what’s happening in Australian Government

I will be giving an updated chat on Gov 2.0 adoption across government and other speakers will include:
  • Communication and media expert, Madeleine Clifford, on the successful campaign, The Line; and
  • Government digital records management leader, Katharine Stuart, on the responsibilities and challenges for Government record keeping with social media

Details for the forum are below:

10.00 – 12.30, Thursday 24th May 2012

FaHCSIA Auditorium,
B Block Tuggeranong Office Park
Cnr Atthlon Drive and Soward Way,

RSVP to the 2012 Information Awareness Committee

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Participate in Melbourne Knowledge Week 2012

The City of Melbourne was recognised in 2012 as ‘Most Admired Knowledge City’ in an award from the World Capital Institute and Teleos, an independent management research firm.

The city is building on this with the annual Melbourne Knowledge Week, designed to engage both the knowledge community and the wider public in a range of events and opportunities that help promote Melbourne's identity as global knowledge city.

I reckon there has to be a place for Gov 2.0 in this mix and wanted to flag to all my Victorian readers that an expression of interest is now open to businesses, organisations, educational institutions, networking groups, community groups and individuals who wish to showcase knowledge-related projects, thinkers and capabilities as part of this year's event.

Melbourne Knowledge Week runs from 26 November to 1 December. More details on the event, and the expression of interest, are at http://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/enterprisemelbourne/events/KnowledgeWeek/Pages/KnowledgeWeek.aspx

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Monday, May 07, 2012

Guest post: Request for Participation in Research Survey - Current Government use of Twitter in Australia

I've published the following guest post because I think the research Aletha is doing is important and useful for agencies.

Please let the right people in your agency know about it.

Guest post

My name is Aletha and I am a Communications Master's student currently completing a short research project as part of my personal study through Griffith University about the current use of Australian Government Twitter Accounts.

The objectives of this project are to determine how Federal, State and Local governments/agencies within Australia are currently using Twitter to communicate with the Australian public. Mainly the project will focus on:
  • determining the reasons governments/agencies are engaging with this new media;
  • determining what information government/agencies are using this communication mechanism to display;
  • outlining the differences in use between various types of departments/agencies;
  • determining to what extent governments/agencies believe it is an effective communication method; and
  • discovering what tools governments/agencies are using to measure its effectiveness.
The project will consist of a short survey of approximately 20 short questions relating to the above objectives.

If you manage a Federal/State/Local government/agency Twitter account I would love to hear from you!

Before commencing the survey you must have completed the Informed Consent Template as the results of this survey will be distributed with participants in the hope that the findings may inform government departments and agencies about how others are using Twitter as a communication tool and whether it is effective.

Please contact me at aletha.nightingale@gmail.com if you have not been provided with this form and I can email this to you.

If you have completed this form then please go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/useoftwitterausgov to complete the survey.

Data collected via the survey will be de-identified. The only identifiable section of the survey will be an indication of what type of department/agency and whether this is at State or local level. The survey will not identify any specific local areas or states/territories.

If you have any further questions or comments that you wish to raise with me individually please contact me at aletha.nightingale@gmail.com

Thanks again for your time!

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Share in over $30,000 worth of prizes by participating in GovHack 2012

With a strong focus on government data, GovHack is inviting teams of programmers and designers to invent new and better ways of delivering government data to Australians and will be rewarding the best apps, data mash-ups, and data visualisations with a share of $30,000 in prize money.

The event, being held in Canberra and Sydney from 1st - 3rd June, will challenge teams to answer the question and develop solutions for 'how can government data be better used to benefit Australians?'

The organisers have secured over thirty thousand dollars in prize money through sponsorships, although Pia Waugh, the chief organiser is tight-lipped about the prize categories, "We want people to come with fresh ideas and concepts and to build them at GovHack using publicly released data from government agencies. To keep the playing field level, we won’t tell anyone the prize categories until the event."

In previous years GovHack winners have found ways to compare government lobbying with the results of successful tenders, and designed mobile apps to help people find the nearest public toilet.

"This is a unique opportunity to be a part of generating ideas for how government can better use and re-use the wealth of information hidden away in its databases. By being a part of this event the participants get to, in a small way, directly influence how government data managers will look at and manage their data stores" Pia said.

GovHack is being supported by organisations including Adobe, MailChimp, Palantir and some of the biggest data holders in the Australian Government are providing prize money and data, including the National Archives of Australia, the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO), and the Bureau of Meteorology.

GovHack is an official part of 2012 APS Innovation week, with the support of the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education.

You can now register to participate, review the competition rules, or see an outline of the data to be made available on the GovHack site (http://www.govhack.org).

Prize categories will be announced at the event's opening on Friday 1st June.

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Saturday, May 05, 2012

GovChat transcript now available

If you missed #GovChat last week (where I was the guest), @PSLeader now has put the transcript online at http://www.psleader.org/wp-content/uploads/CraigThomlerGovChatChangingTheWorldWithGov20.html

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Friday, May 04, 2012

Is it theft if you personalise & retain an official social media account when you leave an organisation?

One of the legal and ethical dilemmas organisations are beginning to struggle with is the ownership of social media accounts.

When a staff member creates and uses a social media account solely or mainly for official organisational purposes they can build a large following over months or years based entirely on their paid work activities.

However are they entitled to take that account, and the accumulated goodwill it holds, with them when they leave?

This might seem like a trivial question, however the followers and reputation built by a social media account may be no different to the brand name value that organisations such as Google and Coca-Cola count on their balance sheets.

Almost every organisation that deals with the public values its name and reputation with the public as an asset alongside the physical property of the business.

Whether you think of Starbucks, Microsoft, Ford or Joe's Mowing Service, the name and reputation of the business, as well as its contact list (like followers or Likes), has an asset value.

I believe this is also true for digital accounts, and there are cases going to court at the moment around the world where individuals who took an official social media account with them are being sued for the asset value by their employers.

One such case last year, as reported in Sean Clark's blog, involved a company called Phonedog, where a former employee, Noah Kravitz, tried to take a Twitter account with him by changing the name of the account from @Phonedog_Noah to @NoahKravitz.

The account had 17,000 followers and Phonedog took him to court for the value of $2.50 per follower per month ($42,500/mth), calling the followers a customer list, with the value attributed to the cost associated with growing and maintaining the list.

You can read more about this at What's a Twitter follower really worth.

So let's consider this in an Australian context. There are several senior public servants who use Twitter for official purposes - using their actual name in the account.

In particular Hank Jongen (@HankJongen) from the Department of Human Services and Sandi Logan (@Sandihlogan) from the Department of Immigration, whose accounts were primarily established and are operated as official communications channels for their agencies.

Besides these is another senior public servant, John Sheridan from AGIMO in the Department of Finance, whose Twitter account (@sherro58) is used for official purposes, but also for personal use - it was not primarily established or is operated mainly as an official communications channel.

My view would be that both Hank and Sandi's accounts are organisational assets, whereas John's account is his personal asset that he lends to the agency - similar to how, when I worked in government, I occasionally retweeted official agency tweets to bring them to the attention of a wider audience (my larger follower base), but my account was never an official agency channel.

Based on the model used by PhoneDog ($2.50 per follower per month), the value of Hank and Sandi's accounts are as follows:

Account Followers Value/month Value/year
@HankJongen 807 $2,017 $24,210
@SandiHLogan 3,912 $9,780 $117,360

Now the values are based on the number of followers remaining static, which is unlikely, and the actual value of a follower may vary based on the customer relationship. However there is a real value for these relationships, which is a real asset for their organisations - particularly when trying to communicate or defend complex positions.

In all the cases I've illustrated above the public servants behave very ethically, and I would not expect this to change, so I don't see them as risks to their organisations of leaving and taking their followers with them.

However this will not always be the case for all social media accounts.

In fact there is a recent example I can think of where I think the ethics are much grayer and which may even require an investigation.

This is in relation to the former QLD Labor Premier, Anna Bligh.

Anna was an enthusiastic adopter of social media for engaging citizens - and I applaud her for this - however I don't know if there has been much consideration of the asset value of the account she used to Tweet as the QLD Premier, or whether she had the right to rename this as '@AnnaMBligh' and take it with her when she resigned from politics.

Let's run through the history....

Anna became premier in 2007 and continued to use the Twitter account she'd been using up to that point, renaming it ''.

My view is that the language and manner of the launch of this account makes it clear that it was to be the property of the Government of Queensland. An official Twitter account to be used by Anna and all Queensland Premiers following her. It was not to be the personal account of Anna Bligh (who already had one) or the property of the QLD Labor party.

However, following the recent Queensland election, where the Labor party lost government and Anna, while retaining her seat decided to resign from the QLD parliament, Anna did not hand this account over to the incoming Premier, Campbell Newman.

Instead she renamed the account to @AnnaMBligh and has continued to use it as her personal account since the election.

Meanwhile her former personal account (currently named @Premier_Bligh) has remained inactive since May 2009.

The incoming Premier has repeated the initial and, in my view, quite legitimate steps taken by Anna Bligh. His personal account @Campbell_Newman is now inactive, and he created a new Twitter account on March 26, naming it the same as former official QLD Premier account @theqldpremier.

So it all balances out - or does it?

The Twitter account that Anna Bligh designated the "official Queensland Premier's twitter account", that she now operates as a personal Twitter account, currently has 30,773 followers.

The new official Twitter account that Campbell Newman has designated for the Premier has only 4,496 followers.

That's a difference of 26,277 followers that Anna accumulated over three years while tweeting officially on behalf of the government.

Let's go back to the Phonedog case... If we consider these Twitter followers as a 'customer list' (for the purposes of official government engagement), we can attribute a lost value to the QLD Government - and thereby QLD citizens - associated with the costs of growing and maintaining the list.

Let's use that $2.50 value per month again - noting that a court would have to test whether this is the right value for each follower of any particular official Twitter account.

On this basis the difference of 26,277 followers is worth  $65,692 per month to the QLD Government.

Ergo, the cost to Queensland of Anna Bligh taking the official Premier's Twitter account home with her for personal use, and denying its use to the Government of Queensland, is currently running at a rate of $65,692 per month.

The maximum potential cost to Queensland to-date, assuming the official QLD Premier account has had the same level of followers since start of May 2009 to end of April 2012 (36 months), would be $2,364,930.

I estimate a more reasonable cost would be in the $1-$1.5 million range - based on $2.50 per follower per month.

So is this actually theft?

Should it be considered similar to a Minister taking home their office furniture for personal use after they lost office?

That's for governments and courts to decide for certain.

However it is undeniable that the 'official Queensland Premier's twitter account', its followers and their relationship with the Government have been removed from Government control and now reside in the hands of a private citizen, to do with as they will.

Other organisations, both public and private sector organisations really do need to think about this example in their own context:
  • Are your official social media accounts assets?
  • What asset/brand value should you place on them?
  • What should you do if a staff member leaves and takes one, or more, accounts with them?
  • What guidance or policies do you need in place to prevent and manage this?

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Canberra event: Public interest journalism and its digital future

Organised by the Public Interest Journalism Foundation, as part of the New News public events program, Public interest journalism and its digital future is a public event in Canberra on the evening of 29 May.

I'm taking part in the discussion, alongside Mr Denmore and Professor Matthew Ricketson.

It should be a very interesting evening!


Those with an interest in the future of public interest journalism in the digital age are invited to attend a Meetup event in Canberra on May 29.

At: Tilly’s Pub, corner of Brigalow and Wattle Sts, Lyneham, Canberra
From: 7pm
On: Tuesday, May 29

Discuss your ideas and questions about public interest journalism in the digital age with:
  • Well known blogger and media analyst, Mr Denmore, of the blog, The Failed Estate: rejuvenating journalism in a jaded age. Mr Denmore was a journalist for 26 years. He has worked in radio, television, newspapers and online media. He now works in the corporate sector. His blog is a finalist in the Best Australian Blogs 2012 competition. Follow him on Twitter: @MrDenmore
  • Professor Matthew Ricketson, who assisted Ray Finkelstein QC with his inquiry into media regulation, and is a journalist and the inaugural Professor of Journalism at the University of Canberra. His PhD was titled “Ethical Issues in the Practice of Book-length Journalism”. Follow him on Twitter: @MRicketson
  • Craig Thomler, Managing Director of digital democracy company Delib Australia, and a Gov 2.0 advocate who spent five years in the APS leading and supporting online initiatives. An author and former freelance journalist, he was awarded the Individual Gov 2.0 Innovator Award by the Gov 2.0 Taskforce and was awarded as one of the ‘Top ten changing the face of the Internet and Politics’ by PoliticsOnline and the World eDemocracy Forum in Paris. Follow him on Twitter: @CraigThomler

Please register via: http://www.meetup.com/Public-Interest-Journalism/

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Thursday, May 03, 2012

Guesting on #GovChat today

This week I am the guest on #GovChat, a Canadian operated weekly Twitter chat through PSLeader, featuring high profile public service and thought leaders from around the world.

The chat starts at 10:00AM today for Aussie east coasters, 9:30AM in the middle and at 8:00AM if you're in the west.

For participants around the world:
  • New Zealand - 12:00 midday Thursday 3rd May
  • UK - 1:00AM Thursday 3rd May
  • US/Canada east - 8:00PM Wednesday 2nd May
  • US/Canada west - 5:00PM Wednesday 2nd May
It lasts an hour and, like most Twitter chats, you can drop in and out as you please.

You can participate or watch the chat via your favourite Twitter client, or using http://tweetchat.com/room/GovChat

I'll post a transcript following the event.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2012

From talking at citizens to talking with them

Rather than writing a blog post today, I've linked to an article I wrote for the Public Informant last week that was published today: From talking at citizens to talking with them

Please feel free to leave your comments below.

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