Keep up at the back…

I tell you, playing in the social media space in government departments is like hording a marathon. I run with those at the front, well try to (fitness levels vary), listening to what they are saying and trying to keep up; falling back to chivvy along those enthusiastic middle runners (some in costume); then pitching backwards to round up the casualties lagging behind who are beginning to think (in horror) that they have made a terrible mistake. Then I have to race to the front again to keep up with their progress. Repeat.

I am not alone.

However, take tonight as a classic example.

I noticed that my friend Mark O’Neill (CIO for Dept for Culture, Media and Sport – ironic) had posted on his blog about how wary bureaucrats were in engaging in social media I responded by saying that however wary they were, by ignoring it, they were making matters worse. Add this to recent discussions here on creating a social media toolkit that can be used by everyone, starting with the key component: the ability to listen and to discover where people were talking, then engage with them there.

Rather handily, a good example of ‘listening’ came about by someone from MyLifeMyID (a Home Office website about ID cards aimed at 16-25 year olds). Ray Poynter, a moderator of the site, posted a comment here in response to a posting I wrote that received some interest from the user group the Home Office were targetting.

This I then highlighted earlier tonight in a second post about MyLifeMyID.

A colleague of mine then commented, ‘revealing’ the true identity of Ray Poynter – as an owner of the company running the MyLifeMyID site, rather than an administrator.

I have replied at length to Shane’s complaint, you can read this in the comments bit over there on the right of this page and I am not going to re-hash that. However, I think that it is an important point that if we are to offer a direct line of communication to those people doing the asking, we do not scupper this, or degrade its value by using the openness of the web to pick unnecessary arguments. If harm is being done, fine. If not, then perhaps a matey joshing, small rebuke, reminder, warning, anything that can be done in a sentence, followed by what you actually wanted to say on the topic being discussed.

In this instance, the fact that the owner of a company running a survey chooses to find out where the conversations are, and encourage further debate – regardless of what outfit he is wearing – is only good! The message was: you guys have gone quiet, does this mean you are OK now or is there anything more? Oh and by the way, we were listening and we have not only published the good stuff.

Shane, I do not mean to pick on you. It is a good point that you cannot hide here on the web. But by concentrating on the ‘scoop’ like this, rather than what is actually being discussed is what could be the downfall of our pleas to government to be more open.


Right, back up to the front again… how far? Lawks

8 responses

  1. Hi Emma, nice blog, I have added to my RSS list.

    I completely agree with point about not being able to hide on the Web. However, I think Shane probably jumped to a conclusion, and we all do that sometimes.

    Your readers might be interested in this blog post on the Virtual Surveys website which talks about the mylifemyid project from a researcher and a director’s view.

    I would suggest there is not much hiding there?

    At present there is no “guide to running research forums in open communities” and we are all learning, and we welcome advice and suggestions. I don’t for a moment think we get everything 100% right – and it would be really boring if we did.

  2. Thank you Ray. That is a good link too. Agreed that this is a learning curve but it is important to keep the conversation open – as we have been 🙂

    Good luck! Do let us know the outputs etc from the research.

  3. hi all

    late to this and I make no apologies (’tis august!).

    my point in the post shane linked to and which – odd this – had no comments was about the implementation. which was s***. straightforward stuff like you do not take people’s email addresses without saying what you will do with them. And more. Oh yes.

    with regards to Shane’s point (and PSFs) about people pretending to be ‘da youth’, this is standard ‘youth marketing’. I know ‘youth marketing’ people and – strangely – related this to ‘youth’ colleagues and out came the stories about posters appearing on boards/hubs bizarrely wanting to force topics back to the brand.

    ho. hum. it’s all about the implementation, not the concept.


    Some people do this well and others not so well. That’s the facts – it’s not that the idea’s bad for ‘youth id-what’d’ta think?’ it’s who’s hired and what they produce – Ray, sorry, you f+++++d up.

    As i said, it would actually do everyone good if this was well/honestly-analysed and report written. ‘Glass half full’ doesn’t help here.

  4. Hi Paul,

    Given that the forum is in the public domain and the report will be published, it would be a strange decision to do anything other than analyse it and write it up honestly. However, you will be able to judge that for yourself when the report is published.

    One important point of clarification. There have be NO fictitious posts by anybody connected with the creating and running of the research forum. Pete Comley’s (an Admin and a Director of Virtual Surveys) avatar is his picture which clearly shows he is 50ish, indeed some of the members of have commented and tried to draw inferences about his smile – and all his posts define him as an Admin. The Shooter related comments were entered by young people at Shooters Hill, they were not created by Virtual Surveys.

    I do not say this as a criticism as I think this is an easy mistake to make as the accusation has been made in several places. However, I checked again today, and nobody from Virtual Surveys has to our knowledge a) claimed to be younger than they are, or b) posted as a member.

  5. Well it’s a good learning experience for us all I think. We need to make sure that we are completely open about who is participating in any “public” space we operate and what their roles are. That does not mean we can’t allow anonymity, sometimes that’s key to the purpose of the exercise, for example if we were dealing with bullying or domestic violence, but we should always be well and accurately labelled in such spaces.

  6. ‘avatars’? cool. good stuff Ray. I can c how this somewhat undermines the main critique ur getting. However , my sarcasm was primarily about the implementation, which I -honestly – expect 2c from your newness (?) in *this space (.gov). — Cheetos? bah. Wii? Bah. Home Office?? Not bah.

    ‘Honestly-analysed and report written’ was a *positive comment about how unspecialised, unexperienced biz can/must engage/be employed by .gov. ‘taint straightforward, ‘taint easy. S”different’.That’s the point. And that’s what deserves serious analysis.

    What I mean is that if the focus of a report/analysis is on answering critiques around the presence of us ‘oldies’ on the boards – that’s a distraction. My focus was other aspects of the implementation which didn’t do the job – assuming that ‘the job’ was to get real feedback from young people. For example, I’ve documented how young people use youtube to discuss real issues. The site didn’t key into that. Neither were was social networking links, for another obvious example.

    So, Ray, my critique depends on whether it was genuine or fake ‘consultation’. Excuse, but cynicism is the default and you absolutely have to address that. Whether from me or from young people vis ‘the government’. MyID ignored this reality, hence cynicism.

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