Archive for the ‘uncategorized’ Category

If your government department or agency is anything like mine it’s a fairly decentralized place. Oh there’s an org chart that’s roughly pyramid shaped, giving the impression that there’s a neat and tidy hierarchy, but in reality, the various teams and units basically do their own thing. People are funny that way.

This makes the ideal of a centralized or stand-alone web unit something that’s really hard to achieve.

Enter the hub and spoke. Jeremiah Owyang writes persuasively of using hub and spoke models to establish organizational discipline for social media, but I would argue that this model can work for managing the traditional website too. All forms of digital in fact – whether mobile, web, data feeds, email, search, social… and whatever is coming down the pipe next.


So what is this hub and spoke? As I see it, the hub is where the digital effort is enabled, while the spokes are the business units that need to accomplish their objectives using digital media.

In the hub sits the underlying functions that allow for efficient and effective digital delivery — where I work this is where overall responsibility for IA/UX, strategy, editorial planning, publishing standards, content governance, measurement and evaluation would be housed, ready to be provided to various business units to draw on. But really, the mix will differ in different organizations.

In turn, the business units which comprise the spokes are the homes for in-depth subject matter expertise and direct responsibility for delivering specific services. Whether its a policy shop that wants to run a consultation, or a program area that’s launching a new round of funding, or any other of a multitude of situations, these teams draw on the hub’s resources to help them succeed online.

This model presupposes a strong hub that can actually bring resources to the table. And also an organizational willingness to act in a coordinated manner. From what I’ve seen this is rarer than you might imagine, often stemming from a lack of appreciation of the strategic value of digital. But hopefully the tide is turning.


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Content Strategy?

“Content strategy…” hmm, what’s that?

@halvorson‘s definition (yes, I am in the midst of reading Content Strategy for the Web):

Content strategy is the practice of planning for the creation, delivery and governance of useful, usable content.

Which sounds great, but deceptively simple.

Anyhow, content strategy is something that I have been thinking about a lot lately. And will be a lot more, since “content” became my responsibility in the shuffle at work.

See, we’ve got a ton of it (about 100M web pages on the gc.ca domain, last I heard). And a lot of it’s out of control.

  • ROT: redundant, out-of-date, trivial – think of all those forgotten web pages hiding on your servers that have been sitting around since the 90s.
  • Ineffectively presented for the web – think of publications and brochures converted to HTML, with no thought to whether this makes sense.
  • Endlessly proliferating – as every “bright” idea from every corner of the org seems to make its way online…

And it’s about to get a whole lot worse, as gov content moves beyond our websites and into mobile apps, social networks, open data, etc.

Yup. Time for a plan. (& it better be a better one than this).

So the first question: Where to start?

More to come…

Update: In the original version of this post, I cited the wrong number of GoC web pages — there’s 100M rather than 1M. Thanks to @spydergrrl for flagging this!

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Recent data from Twitter showing the plethora of devices and apps used to access the service

Twitter released data last week showing an explosion of mobile use of their service:

Total mobile users has jumped 62 percent since mid-April, and, remarkably, 16 percent of all new users to Twitter start on mobile now, as opposed to the five percent before we launched our first Twitter-branded mobile client. As we had hoped in April, these clients are bringing more people into Twitter, and, even better, they are attracting and retaining active users. Indeed, 46 percent of active users make mobile a regular part of their Twitter experience. [Official Twitter Blog: The Evolving Ecosystem]

That’s a lot of different numbers,  but basically it boils down to this: the Twitter experience is transforming into a mobile one.

How I tweet. Mobile clients highlighted.

This certainly rings true for me personally — For example, my TweetStats shows that since staring on Twitter, mobile has been a very common part of how I tweet — I’ve highlighted the mobile clients in the graph at right, which shows the breakdown in clients used for 4029 of my tweets since I started using Twitter. Combined, my mobile apps — UberTwitter, Dabr, the official Blackberry app and TwitterBerry — accounted for 1709 of my tweets. If I were able to look at amore recent slice of this data, I’m sure it would show that mobile clients account for the majority of my tweeting. (And that’s just my output, rather than looking at how I consume others’ tweets. I often start my day by grabbing my ‘Berry and checking my Twitter timeline and lists, so you get the idea how that goes.)

Importantly, I’m not just issuing and reading tweets via mobile. I’m following links. Lots of them. As we all know link sharing is one of the most common ways of using Twitter. And I can tell you that when I get to the other end of those links, I much prefer dealing with site that’s optimized for mobile than one that’s not. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

What’s the takeaway for us GoC web communications types? If you are running a Twitter account that posts links to your website into the Twitterverse (and soon that’ll be all of us), it looks like its time to start thinking about taking your website mobile if you haven’t already.

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Wiki Angst.

Been witnessing a lot of wiki angst recently. “We gotta get more people using the wiki.” The latest lament of civil service managers. (I wonder how many of them use it?)

Why? Why do we *have* to get people using workplace wiki?

Because senior management says so?

Because that other group over there uses it, and we gotta keep up?

Because it’s the latest trend, and we want people to think we’re up to date?

Those reasons don’t really cut it for me.

Oh sure I’ll be a good bureaucrat and try to do the right gov 2.0 thing, but really there’s only one reason that people will use their team/branch/agency/govt-wide wiki: if it will help them do their job better. Or to put it another way, if it solves a problem for them. That’s it.

My experience: For me, there’s been really only one way that workplace wikis have helped me work better: when they contain ideas I can steal.

GCpedia in particular has become a space for folks across the GoC who are in my line of work to share info. Tips, how-to’s, examples. Stuff I can borrow, copy, tweak and apply to my own work. And then share back to keep the cycle going.

My department also has a wiki that’s starting to contain some useful stuff, but to a far lesser degree. In part b/c our departmental wiki is younger than GCpedia but mainly I think it’s because I’ve got more in common with types who do what I do in other orgs than with people in my own org who do different things.

So basically, a wiki is just a tool. If it’s the right tool for the job at hand, it will get used.

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Twitter name switch

For whatever reason, my little issue with my twitter handle continues to nag away at me. So as of now, it’s being switched. @spaghetti_p is no more, long live @pcwsmith.

My apologies in advance to everyone for any inconvenience this may cause. (nice bit of corporate language that)

But hey, this social media stuff is supposed to be all about me, so it is what it is.

Basically, it boils down to this: my longtime Twitter handle was too reflective of my blog focus. My Twitter presence covers a much wider range of stuff than simply where social media and government communications meet. So tying the blog and the Twitter account together so closely no longer seems warranted.

Oh and I’ve felt deeply ambivalent about my handle for longer than I can remember. Tired of that feeling, so it’s time to get rid of it.

And now I’m off to update the other fragments of my online self…

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First frame of the presentation

The five Ws of creating citizen focused websites

“Continuous improvement” is my mantra. I see managing web presences in the government context as the art of making small interventions that add up to result in a better user experience. It’s a survival tactic really — if I don’t break down the challenges inherent in a huge, complex and confusing government website into smaller, more manageable chunks, I’d be heading for the hills or jumping off a cliff in despair.

This is also a useful approach when it comes to making my work plans — and now that season is upon us, what with the new fiscal year right around the corner. (It’s no joke — the GoC’s fiscal year really does start on April 1.)

Which is why I was really happy to see this presentation from @resultsjunkie. It tells the story of continuous improvement for government websites. It’s a fully measurable process that can even help you with your organization’s MAF scores!

Continuous improvement is a cycle of planning, acting, evaluating and improving, then starting it all over again. Over time, all of these small improvements lead to bigger improvements, and show up in the key performance indicators being reported on.

And as an added bonus, the presentation is a slick little animated multimedia doohickey too. Unfortunately I’m unable to embed here since WordPress.com doesn’t seem to accept the code.

So head on over to where Laura’s posted her presentation on screencast.com and check it out.  I’m considering chucking out the draft work plan I started and just submitting Laura’s presentation to my bosses — because I couldn’t say it any better.

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Bar graph comparing popularity of social media web sites among Canadians

Source: Canadian Social Media Survey, Q1 2009, Online Survey, by 6S Marketing

There’s a plethora of stats about the social web out there… but sometimes it seems impossible to find anything about Canada in particular. I’ve experienced this frustration myself when looking for Canuck-specific info on social networks, mobile use, etc. etc.

Given my job working in the bureaucracy for the Canadian federal government, it’s understandable that I’d want this kind of info, even if nationality isn’t supposed to matter on the Web. :+)

So taking a page (so to speak) from @jowyang’s annual collections of social networking statistics, I’ve decided to curate a page of Canadian web statistics, right here on this blog.

Given my interests, I expect this page will evolve  to focus on Canadian-specific data about the social web in all its forms, including social networks, mobile, etc.

You can see the page from anywhere on this blog by clicking on the stats link above (look up, waaay up, past the header). Or if scrolling is too painful right now, click here.

I’d love it if you could help me make this page valuable. Send me your links and info, and I will add it in. I’d like to see this become a robust collection that helps when you are putting together presentations or proposals. You can contact me on Twitter or via email.

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