Thursday August 27, 2009

WE Believe in Community 09

Lisa Harvey, Government 2.0 Taskforce

Last week some of us attended the Local Government Web Network conference in Sydney. It’s an annual meet up – now in its second year – for local government web workers across NSW.

The program included keynotes from Senator Kate Lundy and Mark Pesce, a plenary session from Jason Ryan of the N.Z. State Services Commission, a panel session on online community engagement and a Government 2.0 Taskforce workshop with Lisa Harvey. There were also talks from Local Government web people and practical workshops on topics from javascript to user-centred design and accessibility guidelines.

Here’s our report back.

Some highlights

  1. Jason Ryan’s talk on Open Sourcing Government. It touched on all the hot issues in gov 2.0 but from an insider’s perspective. He spoke about a successful online consultation from New Zealand’s tax office. They’re considering changes to the way they collect student loans and used a forum to consult with recipients of the service. We’re still learning the practicalities and potential of online engagement, and this successful example – along with the panel session later in the day – was very helpful.
  2. James Breeze’s workshop on user-centred design. We’re looking at redesigning our Council home page and there was some great discussion on existing sites and how best to ensure that choices are informed by metrics, users and past experience.
  3. This year there was a session called “lightening talks” where anyone could do a 5 minute talk on an interesting experience, a new project, or anything relevant to government and the public sector on the web. Hearing stories from fellow web workers was inspiring. And there’s probably a few ideas we can borrow.

Bernard D, Internet Coordinator

Gatekeepers – stand aside

Hopefully web2.0 champions will leave conferences such as these more clued up and enthusiastic to spread the word. This information revolution we are embroiled in will only succeed if people know how to interact with it. We no longer possess the tag as gatekeepers of knowledge any more. We are educators through which others may become self sufficient in information gathering and dissemination.

Now, how do we get this valuable information from the conference room to the public? Hmmm, instead of a band playing in the shopping square, have people speak about Government 2.0, followed by cool web 2.0 tools, for example. But make it short and to the point, plus provide some balloons for the kiddies. You’ll get through to more people than if it was done in the local library or conference centre. It’s no longer a nerdy subject. It’s mainstream. It’s time the library moves forward and helps spread the word, which may mean getting out of its comfort zone.

Ken D, Internet & Information Technology Librarian

Writing for the web, or writing for our customers.

On a council web site it is important to consider that we are writing for time poor, task orientated people overloaded with content who do not read, but scan for new information.

We need to capture their attention and make it easy for them to complete their tasks or find updated content with minimum effort.

With the internet changing the way people gather information we must look at writing our content from a reader’s point of view.

With this in view, giving our customers the information they most likely require at the top of an article, expanding for those who wish to read further and providing clear headings written in simple language can increase the amount of information actually getting to the customers.

Using large paragraphs with detailed information written in complex council jargon, acronyms and long lists may put more information on the page, but what is the point if no one reads it.

There is always the opportunity to give access to more detailed information by hyper linking or providing forms.

The opportunity for our customers to give us feedback on articles is important as publishers, not so much as to whether they agree with the content, but more so that we know if we are getting through to them.

Ray Welling’s presentation at #LGWN09 may have been short but true to his teachings the content was clear, concise and true to his audience.

Tim G, Library Officer, Lending & Information Services

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