Update to the case study on social media and justice

As I said in my first post about this: the title is a bit wrong, but I am still unsure what to call it.

However, I thought that I would just write an update on how the community has built around the website www.justicefortom.com.

As you may have read in the news, Tom Cholmondeley – my mate – has now been charged with manslaughter and sentenced to the three years he has already served plus eight months in prison. Regardless of your own opinion on the case, or Tom, you might be interested in how the simplest of WordPress sites has developed and been a focus point for an incredibly diverse, worldwide community. (Please read the first post to see how it started.)

The people who comment on the site are:

  • Tom’s mother: Lady Delamere
  • Tom’s relatives
  • Tom’s friends and family
  • Old school mates
  • Friends from years ago
  • People who may have met Tom once but have vivid memories of doing so
  • Other prisoners in Kamiti
  • Prisoners who were in Kamiti with Tom, but have left
  • Prison officers from Kamiti
  • Lawyers from around the world who have read/watched the case
  • Press
  • Kikuyu and Maasai tribesmen (one of whom sends messages from his mobile whilst tending his cattle and working)

Many messages come in from around the world after people read an article, or see something on TV and are compelled to reach out to Tom.

Of course there are the death threats, and thundering fury from those who feel strongly against Tom. About 1% of the comments we receive are like this – they are not published or responded to – but referred on to Tom’s lawyer. They are not published – not because there is any trickery, or want to hide the other side of things; but the site is very clear about what and who it is for, and to publish such comments would incite argument and inappropriate content that would/could get out of control.

We do not respond (generally) to comments posted, rather leaving them for other commentors to respond to if they like – for example, lawyers debate issues with each other on there: and provide advice to Fred (not sure how grateful he is but… !!!)

The reason we don’t respond is that the site is a conduit mainly to Tom, and most messages are written as messages directly to him – and are sometimes personal: family news, good memories, bad, pleas to stay sane and so on. If the website suddenly had its own voice, it would lose the feeling of being a direct line to Tom.

The stories and observations around the case and Kenya detailed in the comments have begin to weave a story about a conflicted country – told by those in it, outside it – based around a high profile case that has *possibly* exposed a stumbling justice system.

Tom

Very occasionally they can get online access in Kamiti, it is random! Hence the occasional emails from other prisoners. And sometimes Tom can actually get to see the site and the messages in context – as opposed to printed and given to him. It gives him great focus, and of course news from his friends and family touch him hugely. Stories from other people inspire him and he gets huge strength from the connection made.

Again, regardless of your thoughts on him as a man, his guilt or otherwise – life in Kamiti is grim; I have been there several times and won’t go into details – not actually sure whether I am allowed to – taking photos – even of the outside of Kamiti is an arrestable offence. But there is some stuff on YouTube that is already out there so, here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamiti_Maximum_Security_Prison;

http://kenya740.tripod.com/kamiti.html;

http://www.africanews.com/site/Kenya_Kamiti_Prison_water_issue_half_solved/list_messages/21396;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-kQ27JPZjU

Back to the website

I watch it create its own magic space – simply moderating comments and updating posts as news comes in. It fascinates me, and I am sure that if I were not quite so close to it, it would be a very good study in something.

Anyhow! Thought I would share that.

Oh, and Tom’s case is aired on More4 tonight 19th May 2009 at 10pm if your curiosity is piqued about the people involved.

Please mind the gap

After a few weeks of unavoidably engrossing myself in work (and family) I have neglected to blog. This is partly because of busy-ness but also because actually there has not been much to say. I tend to use this blog to showcase what I notice happening around government and the digital space, and for a while it was a struggle to keep up, now however, there is a gentle acceptance, adoption and movement in the direction of the future. The door is no longer being kicked at, it is open; the job now is to help everyone working in departments to mind that gap of knowledge.

What has become glaringly apparent is the widening gap between the use of social tools for big ‘P’ Politics and Politicians, and then public service. This took me by surprise, but explains why I was slightly frustrated by the projects at Rewired State that tended to focus on Politics and Politicians rather than public service data mash-ups that would help us in our lives (I was about to say daily but that might be a reach too far).

My focus is on the public service use of social media within the departments and by civil servants. This tends to cover four areas:

  • policy consultation – big lesson here is that the current digital environment requires earlier engagement (and more dialogue less monologue by the policy units)
  • marketing – obviously the marketing teams are already savvy to the fact that their online audience is collecting in community spaces (and most are supplementing traditional marketing media: TV, radio, print, with targeted online campaigns)
  • Press – press officers were probably the first to be baptised by fire and so now they are running with the crowd and monitoring what is happening in the social media space: following blogs, twitter streams and utilising flickr and YouTube (no comment); my dashboard-creating mates are very busy at the moment. I also think they should be the ones who gatekeep on behalf of the departments where they work, the tweeting/blogging areas of their departments should remain under the watchful eye of the Press Office (Although there is inevitably a cross over here with Political use of social tools)
  • corporate communication: in this I include information that the department/corporate produce for citizens/business/stakeholders/other departments (so transformational government and website rationalisation puts the onus here on Directgov and businesslink.gov.uk) however it is here that the most controversial arguments happen with departmental responsibility to the tax-payer: see the ‘free our data’/’give us RSS’ campaigns and the like (both of which I staunchly support)

That leaves a glaring gap for us working in central government: local government. Centrally this is the remit of the department for communities and local government, but in reality this is a whole different ballgame and the choice to engage using social media would lie with each council. (Not going there right now, that’s a whole other post).

It also has created an interesting conundrum for the strategy units, who are perhaps not used to working in a communication world that changes society/community in quite the same way or at the same speed as the digital revolution has created. More and more I see strategy units re-checking the future, not only because of the economic crisis, but also because of the communication landscape and technical revolution. This is a very exciting place to be.

So… the update is: this is now not something ‘new’, it fits, in a way that Second Life never did; it is an external catalyst for change within departments for comms teams, marketing and press; it is re-energising strategy units and more importantly, or beautifully, it is re-humanising the public service, assisting (IMHO) democracy – not so much for the world of Politics maybe, but in utilising the democratic idealism for making sure our public services work well for us.

It is a good place to be, and although there are battles to be fought and won, creaking changes to be made and mistakes, the doors are firmly open, we just need information gap monitors 🙂 (See what I did there? I created a whole new job title).

Update…

So, the gaps are:

  1. Between Political use of social media and public sector/public service use
  2. Between central and local government
  3. Between the door being open and the knowledge needed to successfully use social tools

Put a big bow on it and say goodbye

Last year during the course of my postings I made a few decisions/explored some random avenues and then disappeared off down other paths, seemingly willy nilly. This year I was determined to tie them all up and then move on.

Here are the three that haunt me:

Right back at the beginning I promised that I was not ‘blogging’ that has been proved untrue, as Dave Briggs pointed out, it was indeed a slippery slope. SO sorry!

I also said that I was going to build a social media toolkit I have since realised that there can be no such thing – it belies the medium and actually the best I could do was a decision tree to decide how online content should best be delivered according to who was needing to read the stuff. Not very clever, but realistic.

Finally, I made a big brouhaha about the online consultation deal because something small turned into something big. It has now turned into something monumental. This is exciting but it also beyond me and my blogging here until the people who are now doing this get to a point where we can help further.

I know that this last one is the most rubbish of me, I yelled for help, got it, then went silent. However, the name of the game is getting stuff done and if the work that I do goes any way towards getting that stuff done, then I have to be happy with that. And for all of you who contribute to discussions here, well… your time is not wasted either as all of it goes into the pot and is used to influence how we move forward.

It is better to be honest about this, so if any of the above piss you off then please accept my apologies. If my role is posting here about stuff that is happening, that then creates energy and conversation, it is not wasted. My role is enabling change and assisting the reality of that change; officials and Ministers do everything else. (That sounds lame, but I don’t mean it in a lame way – feel free to beat me up).

Well, that is the true beginning to my year. I look forward to another one that is going to kick arse in the government online space, not only in the UK but everywhere else too – it is an exciting time.

Damn that blogger’s block – but here’s to the value of friends

I have been side-swiped by a debilitating, bibical-sized dollop of blogger’s block. By that I mean I am no longer inspired, or driven, to write something here that has any value for you. It is killing me, because I love writing, and I (sadly) somehow validate myself (think I have a brain) when I write something and you lot (a) read it (b) respond. Then I feel as if I have shared and perhaps helped/inspired/deluded/anything…

So I am stuck in this vacuum of consciousness, driving myself insane.

Being me, I keep nothing to myself and have bemoaned my state of mind with many a friend and colleague – those who blog and those who do not. Those who do not look slightly bemused and pat me on the back, or buy me a drink. Those who do, look at me in horror, and sympathise. (And then there is Tiff, who is always an inspiration and just makes me feel fabulous whatever I do… lovely lady that she is).

Most recently, today in fact, Beth Kanter – with whom I have been in an email discussion across the pond about bringing her brilliant mind here to help us in the public sector with effective online engagement using social media tools. She sent me the information on the Digital Media and Learning competition, for which I thanked her profusely as it meant I could write a post about something both useful and interesting to my fellow bloggers. (Of course I also moaned about my block).

Within minutes I received sympathy in buckets (email) and a link to her own post about this, with some brilliant and helpful links.

So, I am sharing that with you – and going for a run.

Oooh opportunity to dig your best bloggers

Announcing the Digital Media and Learning awards (see below for a definition of participatory learning). This is primarily a Stateside reward, however, they have opened up the Innovation award to an International audience. Here is the copy I received:

2008 DIGITAL MEDIA AND LEARNING COMPETITION 2008
$2 Million Competition
Focus: Participatory Learning

Participatory learning is defined broadly: using new digital media for sharing ideas or planning, designing, implementing, or just discussing ideas and goals together.

Application Deadline: October 15, 2008

Full information at: www.dmlcompetition.net
Twitter: twitter.com/dmlComp

The second HASTAC/MacArthur Digital Media and Learning Competition is now open!

Awards will be made in two categories:

Innovation in Participatory Learning Awards support large-scale digital learning projects
$30,000-$250,000

This year we are piloting international eligibility for our Innovation Award and will be accepting submissions from primary applicants in Canada, People’s Republic of China, India, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands,Nigeria, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States; collaborators can befrom anywhere in the world.
……
Young Innovator Awards are targeted at U.S. applicants aged 18-25 year olds
$5,000-$30,000

(You can find out about last year’s winners at hub.dmlcompetition.net/)

Full information at: www.dmlcompetition.net

Have a little think. I am pretty sure there are some bloggers out there you know who deserve to be recognised.

(I wish I had flipping well finished my toolkit! On which note, Steph Gray and I met and we are going to be working on a decision tree for deciding which tools would best service your online digital engagement needs. When we have done it, we will share, of course!)

PLEASE DO SHARE DETAILS OF THIS AWARD WIDELY

Social media toolkit: I have been complicating things far too much

Any of you following my blog posts recently will have seen my vague attempt to create a simple social media toolkit for people to use in order to join in the fun.

Whilst on holiday in Kenya, I spoke to lots of people about the stuff I do, particularly this: www.justicefortom.com.

Many of them considered themselves novices in all things web, and certainly thought that Web 2.0, or social media, was beyond them (except for Facebook, of course!). So, over many suppers with a variety of people I explained that it was not a thing, rather a more effective use of online communities – and your interaction with them. (I am a fascinating guest).

The theory behind your web presence is no different:

1. What are you wanting to do?

2. Who are you doing it for?

Now you need to find out where the communities are that exist online already. At this point I recommend you use a listening service such as Addictomatic. (In a previous post I have explained how to use this – although it is really simple so you don’t need to read the post unless you love my prose so much you can’t get enough – understandable of course :))

Once you have spent some time listening, finding the places where your target market are already conversing and collaborating, you can then begin to join in the discussion. This will enable you to really understand how you can effectively meet the needs of your audience and refine your own offering online accordingly.

At the same time as doing this, you are establishing a solid piece of online real estate – proving that you are not just shoving stuff out there. People will begin to recognise you if you join in the conversations online, (the simplest way of doing this is by commenting on blogs – yes it is that simple).

Finally, you need to start your own conversation.

An example

Let me run through the Soy Sambu conservancy online offering:

Kat Combes, the Director of the conservancy, had set up a website and was looking to start a blog to:

  • raise awareness of what the conservancy was doing
  • attract funds
  • share experience and learn from others

Kat is web savvy, however considered setting up and running a blog way beyond her abilities. In fact the more she googled, the more scared she became. I sat with her for about an hour and ran through Addictomatic and WordPress; showed her how I manage my own blogs and how simple it actually was – even for the technically impaired like myself. We then created the conservancy blog and I walked away. Kat has since then played extensively and here is the fruit of her labour: http://soysambuconservancy.wordpress.com/

Now, the blog will stay pretty much as it is, whilst Kat ‘listens’ using Addictomatic and a variety of key words. However, please do comment and send links to any other websites that you think would be good to look at, and keep an eye on how it grows from here (on the conservancy blog of course not here!).

Whilst talking about the conservancy site, Graham Vetch – the manager – spoke about how the conservation was not just about the land and animals, but also about the people living there. How part of the challenge was to take the indigenous people from poverty to self-sufficiency. He is frustrated as he has many plans and is not sure where to start. Now this is where I believe blogging really can come into its own. We discussed how Graham could just throw his hat on the ground, sit down and start blogging about his plans  taking us with him on his journey.

Now this will achieve two things:

  1. Share a journey that could help numerous communities and community managers
  2. Give Graham access to feedback on his plans – enabling him to find out where to start and learn from others’ experience

I am very excited about this and as soon as we have set it up – I will show you.

So, the tool-kit?

Addictomatic and WordPress are the tools I recommend for the moment. However, it is less about the tools and more about changing the way you think about your online presence – use the community, share your knowledge, take people on your journey with you rather than simply talking about it after it is done.

Newspapers are dead long live journalism – or somesuch

Last night I watched a live stream thing on Frontline called: Media talk – Print online: making it pay. You can watch it here http://www.frontlineclub.com/club_videoevents.php?event=2387

It was good, so good that I have been thinking about it on and off ever since I watched it. The basis of the discussion was initially blogger vs desktop publishers. How the hell can we transfer the superb journalism supplied by print newspapers, to online? Alongside the question about whether blogging is a recognised form of journalism, and if so, how to make cash.

This was interesting, but what piqued my interest most was the argument about brand, and how valuable that can be. Paul (Guido) argued that although a print media brand: Telegraph etc might be strong, the value of Jeremy Clarkson, for example, is equal to if not more effective a ‘brand’ online. If people want fun news about cars, they will subscribe to JC (no pun intended), rather than any strongly branded offline publication about motoring, whether it is available online or not.

Made me think. I read the free newspapers (not represented at the talk, sadly) on the train, I read the online newspapers at work, and at the weekend I buy the Sunday papers to read all through the week. I subscribe to the blog feeds that interest me, and more recently those that interest you. This is enough, I make an active decision when buying the paper, signing to a blog feed or grabbing a Metro, but it has nothing at all to do with brand. At all.

So, this discussion was not so much about journalism, or print, or profitability, it was an exercise in ignoring the elephant in the room: the value of brand in this new great age.