There is no doubting the importance of video to connect with an audience. Since Mark Zuckerburg’s announcement earlier this year, there is no doubting the importance of Facebook groups. So, the idea of going through groups to reach an audience is just win. Here is how South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue did it.

by Emma Wright

When we set about planning our International Women’s Day (IWD) campaign, one thing we wanted to be mindful of was the recent changes Facebook had made to its algorithms earlier this year. The changes signified a turning point for Facebook, prioritising content from family, friends and groups and ensuring posts from businesses, brands and media were less prominent.

Whilst the exact changes to our news feeds are not yet known, there are certainly ways that we can work with the new algorithm to continue to reach our desired audiences with meaningful content and messages. One of the most effective ways this can be done is through the use of Facebook groups. This means identifying where your target audiences are talking about what you want to talk about and asking to be a part of it.

Our campaign focused on raising awareness of firefighting as a career amongst girls and young women, with the ultimate aim of encouraging more females to consider a job as a firefighter. We knew we had to be really targeted in our approach, as only a small proportion of our audiences following our online channels meet this very specific audience. Our plan was to take our content where we knew the people we were trying to reach spent their time online- which for us included special interest Facebook groups and online forums, such as women’s fitness and parenting groups.


We contacted 14 Facebook pages and groups in total, using our personal accounts, to see if we could generate some support in raising awareness of the campaign. By directly reaching out to the individuals who acted as admin for each group, we were able to introduce ourselves and provide a little bit of background information about the campaign.  Not surprisingly, some didn’t reply, but with just under half of those we contacted responding, we were positive we’d built some important relationships in support of the campaign.

Three groups and two pages shared the video using either their own accounts or directly from the page itself. Those that did were also able to provide further detail to others about the campaign as a result of their direct communication with us.  These networks helped us to reach more than 1,400 people who exactly matched our target audience.

In the two weeks following the launch, 59 women registered their interest in a career as a firefighter. That’s almost four times the number of registrations received (15) during the two weeks prior to the video launch. It’s also an increase on the number of registrations received during the whole of the month of February (43 registrations). Almost all of those who registered said they had heard about recruitment as a result of the video or our associated activity around it.

As one of the first times we have realistically considered Facebook groups as part of an external campaign, albeit on a relatively small scale, the results have highlighted that this new side to Facebook is one we can’t afford to overlook.

Emma Wright is internal communications officer at South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue.


Original source – comms2point0 free online resource for creative comms people – comms2point0

I am what is affectionately known as a policy wonk in the Patient Safety team in NHS Improvement, and we’re working on an exciting new digital service to support better learning from patient safety incidents. The new service will replace the current National Reporting and Learning System (NRLS) and the even less popular Strategic Executive Information System (STEIS).

But our goal isn’t just a tech upgrade and like-for-like replacement – we want to support a transformation in the culture surrounding patient safety, from one of reactive reporting and counting, to being focused on helping our health care workers learn and improve.

To help us do this we are designing the new service in collaboration with users and working with the Government Digital Service and their Digital Service Standard. Since last November, we’ve been working through the alpha phase and I’ve been getting acquainted with my new role as product owner, and all things digital.

Agile post-in notes

Going agile

This is our team’s first agile project and it has been quite a learning curve. Luckily, our delivery partner, Informed Solutions, has been helping us adjust. Agile feels very different from the more traditional policy- and project-management styles – it’s more collaborative, more responsive, and much faster-paced. To get us started, the Informed team ran a few sessions to introduce us to agile concepts, set us up with some collaboration tools, and tackled our endless questions.

Agile development helps us focus our work around users, describing everything we do in the form of a user story. I’ve been telling people for years that that this project has the best stakeholders in the world, and the level of support we’ve received from outside the team has been amazing. It’s exciting (and terrifying!) to think that the new service has the potential to benefit such a large user community across nearly every area of health care.

Users and us

To help us manage our user engagement, we started by grouping the potential user-base into 28 types (personas) and have worked extensively to get input from each of them during the alpha phase.

Asking health care workers to take time out away from their patients is never an easy task, so we’ve used a variety of techniques to reach people, including:

  • 3 sets of targeted user surveys (including one for patients and the public), receiving over 1,300 respondents, partly promoted through Twitter
  • remote usability testing (50 users)
  • face-to-face usability testing (19 users)
  • 2 day-long workshops (45 users)

What have we been talking to users about?

Our primary goal has been to make sure we understand how users see the world of patient safety, how it fits into their day-to-day work and world, and what they’d want from the system in terms of enabling learning and improvement. Over the past 3 months we’ve built a range of prototypes to explore what users are looking for in a digital service, including:

  • online incident recording – we’ve built 5 different variations of web forms, testing them with a wide range of health care staff and members of the public
  • 2-way information exchange with local risk management systems – we’ve been testing the electronic exchange of information (using APIs) between systems used within health care provider organisations, and our new national system
  • work with users on the types of safety data they’d like to have access to, and how they’d like to be able to analyse it. Alongside this, we’ve been looking at ways to share the learning materials the Patient Safety team create through their regular review of recorded incidents, so that the right people can access them and start making patients safer

We think we’ve got a good idea of the overall user needs now, and over the next few weeks we’ll be setting out and sharing our plans for the beta phase.

Patient Safety team working on an agile project

Top tips for agile alpha advancement

My advice on this process for anyone who might be starting out:

  • get ready for a lot of ‘ceremonies’. Within each 2-week sprint in this project we have 6 stand-ups, sprint planning, review and retrospectives, show and tells, and a governance meeting… You’ll get used to the pace, but I spent the first few sprints wondering when I was going to get any work done!
  • get the right team. I am lucky to have some great colleagues from NHS Improvement working alongside me, and we’ve struck a really productive balance with our delivery partner in terms of team working, friendly challenge, knowledge and skills exchange, and the all-important ‘getting stuff done’
  • learn the language: my undergraduate degree was in anthropology, and as any great explorer of worlds will tell you, the key to a good adventure is to immerse yourself in the culture. You’ll quickly find yourself ‘opening tickets’, agreeing ‘epics’, ‘assigning story points’ (which – fun fact – follow the Fibonacci sequence), ‘iterating’ everything, and even ‘grooming the backlog’ (ooh Matron!)
  • arm yourself with as many post-it notes as you can find – they are the most powerful weapon in your agile arsenal!

What’s next?

With huge sighs of relief from all involved, I’m happy to say we passed our GDS Service Assessment for the alpha phase at the end of March, and so will next get cracking on building a full-feature service for our users. We’ve built up some real momentum in alpha and learned lots from our users and by prototyping. We’re all excited to see where the beta phase takes us!

Get involved

If you’d like to learn more about this project, or to get involved, email so we can add you to the mailing list, or follow me on Twitter for sneak peeks of what we’re up to.

Original source – Stephen Hale

While there are some great pockets of work taking place to deliver better public services, the UK government’s overall attempts at technology-enabled, or “e-government” or “digital”, reform appear to be struggling to achieve and sustain the benefits promised at the pace and scale originally foreseen. And not for the first time – this has been a repeating cycle of optimism and disillusionment since the mid-1990s. So why is this?

The 3 wellsprings

To understand what’s worked, and what hasn’t, I’m going to look at 3 of the major influences on the digital reform programme of the coalition government of 2010-2015, and of the successor Conservative administrations since 2015:

  • Better for Less (2009) – which helped develop the policies of open data, innovate/leverage/commoditise, disaggregation, spend controls, open standards, SME-focus, service-oriented / micro-services architecture, cloud first / buy before build, etc.
  • Directgov 2010 and beyond: revolution not evolution (2010) – which helped accelerate the website convergence onto GOV.UK already underway as part of Directgov, and which set out ambitious plans to open up government through the widespread adoption of APIs (application programming interfaces – interfaces to provide access to government systems)
  • The House of Commons Public Account Select Committee’s (PASC) report into Government IT (2011) – which supported the move towards opening up the market, re-skilling the civil service and the increased use of SMEs.

I’m well aware of course these weren’t the only contributors. The run-up to the general election of 2010 was a rich period of innovation and ideas, including the long-since defunct Make IT Better Conservative website and the Ideal Government IT Strategy –  imaginative crowd-sourced ideas which were socialised and discussed with each of the three main UK national political parties. There was also the series of joint Design Council and London School of Economics (LSE) events in 2011, looking at how improved service design could play a significant impact in improving the experience of public services in the specific area of social security (welfare), both for those offline and online (my own small contribution to that can be seen here).

I’m not ignoring these many other efforts, all of which helped shape and influence the landscape. But it’s these 3 specific wellsprings of the recent digital reform movement I want to explore in order to understand what has worked and what hasn’t.

But first … the backstory

It’s important to understand that the 2010 reform programme didn’t start with a blank page. The focus on users (“user needs”) and outcomes (rather than simply putting existing transactions and services online) goes back to the 1990s. The UK government has been in the vanguard of trying to use technology to reform public services since at least 1996 and the publication of Government Direct. A Prospectus for the Electronic Delivery of Government Services.

However, it was the Labour administration from 1997 onwards that broke significant new ground. It reset the focus on outcomes based on citizens’ needs instead of propagating online the siloed government departments and agencies involved in their delivery. It recognised that:

From “ – Connecting you with government information and services

Part of this transition was the focus on “life episodes”, developed by extensive research with the users of services and focused on meeting their needs.

2001 citizens needs.jpg
From “ – Connecting you with government information and services

The research that went into these life episodes identified six initial services that were prioritised first:

2001 life episodes.jpg
From “ – Connecting you with government information and services”

Behind the scenes, these new life episodes were implemented via two cross-government platforms – the website; and the authentication, security and smart routing and orchestration facilities provided by the Government Gateway.

2001 platforms.jpg
From “ – Connecting you with government information and services
2001 platforms graphic.jpg
From “ – Connecting you with government information and services


This approach – undertaking extensive research into users’ needs, rebuilding services around life episodes that spanned multiple departments and agencies – was a refreshing change from the earlier approach of simply putting silo existing transactions online. And the development and use of common cross-government platforms and infrastructure helped put the UK government at that time at the forefront of innovative reform.

The justification for adopting common, cross-government platforms was explained as follows:

“[this approach] was designed to simplify and accelerate the UK e-Government programme. It achieves this by ensuring that the common building-block components of e-Government services are provided once, in a flexible, modular and scalable way.”

[Source: “Delivering e-Government Services to Citizens and Businesses: The Government Gateway Concept”. Jan Sebek, p.127. Published in “Electronic Government: Second International Conference, EGOV 2003, Volume 2”. Editor Roland Traunmüller]

A 2002 report noted that

The UK has been in the vanguard of developing common IT architectures, and was ahead of most of the benchmark group in developing the IT core to enable secure transactions with citizens … [However] If the UK government is to achieve targets around online service delivery and e-procurement then significant progress will need to be made in standardising systems between departments. This investment need is particularly acute at the level of local government.

These remain valid observations. Whilst the UK had successfully pioneered common platforms at the centre of government, their success would depend upon the discipline of opening up and standardising the way government works rather than each part thinking itself “special” and home-baking its own bespoke local approach. At the local government level this issue is still particularly problematic and difficult to tackle, with large scale duplication of resources, technology, systems and processes and little effective momentum towards the adoption of platforms to meet the needs shared in common by every council (part of the issue discussed in the recent Better Public Services Green Paper [PDF]).

By around 2003, this cross-government platform model had developed into a range of common components to help build services in a consistent and cost-effective way. They included:

  • Cross-government website: providing a single point of entry to services and information, oriented around extensive user research and collating users’ needs into life episodes
  • Registration and Enrolment: the identification, authentication and verification of online users — citizens, businesses and intermediaries — utilising a range of credentials, from user ID and passwords to digital certificates to — later — EMV chip and PIN cards
  • Transaction Engine: handling the processing of transactions between citizens, businesses and departments, including the management of state and orchestration across multiple organisations to support the joined-up life episodes
  • Secure Messaging: handling two-way secure communication between departments and citizens
  • Payments Engine: handling in-bound payments to government departments
  • Helpdesk: an internal service enabling departments to integrate a degree of management of these common components services within their existing helpdesk services

Building on the shoulders …

The 2010 reform programme inherited this environment of user-focused services and cross-government platforms. It was ideally placed to build rapidly on the shoulders of what was already in place, and to take reform to the next stage – by focusing on a more fundamental de-siloing and redesign of government itself, enabled by the user-centric redesign of better outcomes and supported by cross-government platform delivery.

This is the soil in which the seeds of the subsequent reforms from 2010 onwards had the perfect opportunity to grow. I’ll be exploring how well they were nurtured and how well they’ve flourished in my next blog in this mini-series.


Original source – new tech observations from a UK perspective (ntouk)

What does it mean to stay happy and healthy? Some people would say it’s eating well and exercising, others would say it’s being able to stay ‘in the know’ and in control of existing health conditions. What these tasks have in common is that the internet can be used to make them easier. And that’s where our Widening Digital Participation project with NHS Digital comes in.

This week we’re shining a spotlight on this project, not least because the project has been shortlisted at the Digital Leaders 100 Awards for Cross-sector Digital Collaboration of the Year, but also because we’ve engaged 104,300 people through this second phase of the programme so far since April last year.

Building and developing

In the first phase (September 2013 to March 2016) we supported a total of 221,941 people to learn digital health skills. In the third year, through our research, we discovered that the behaviour change of people moving more of their health transactions online would mean potential annual savings of £3.7m in saved GP visits and £2.3m in saved A&E visits. That’s savings of £6 million in just 12 months. These savings alone represent a return on investment of £6.40 for every £1 invested in the programme.

At a time when the NHS is increasingly strapped for cash, we’re happy to help them save a bit of money and alleviate pressure on services by teaching people to use the internet to manage their health. Just to be clear, we’re promoting the use of digital as one channel to help with how people manage their health, and this channel sits alongside the other telephone and face-to-face support people can and should continue to have access to, such as NHS 101, Pharmacists, GPs, Health Clinics and A&E.

Our second phase (that started last April) has identified ‘pathfinder’ partners, that’s CCGs, GPs, Online Centres, third sector organisations, Councils and more with a specific idea to test if (a) it works and (b) if the idea can be replicated and scaled.

What are our pathfinders doing?

There are 13 live pathfinders currently and they’re piloting different ways to embed digital inclusion into healthcare. Here’s a little taster of what they’ve been up to:

  • Digital Health on the High Street, Nailsea: Nailsea Town Council purchased the old butcher shop on the High Street, turning it into a community space that can help Nailsea residents improve their lives through engaging with digital technology and their health. They’ve engaged 870 people, supported 120 people in-depth and recruited 21 Digital Champions.
  • Young Carers, MYMUP, Bradford: We’re working in partnership with MYMUP, local third sector organisations and education establishments in order to support young carers. MYMUP is an online platform that is helping support young carers with their resilience and mental health. We’re working with them to discover the ways that digital support can improve the lives of young carers and also increase access to health information for the people that they care for.

There is so much more to read about what our pathfinders have been up to on our ‘micro-site’, so please do have a look.

It’s not just about digital skills

Good Things Foundation is social change charity. We believe in helping people to improve their social outcomes powered by digital, so through programmes like Widening Digital Participation the health benefits aren’t limited to reading NHS Choices or booking a GP appointment through an online booking system or ordering a repeat prescription for delivery to your home. It’s other things like reducing social isolation – learners who normally live alone and spend most of their time alone can get some company when they go along to their local centre to learn about digital – or improving their mental wellbeing and confidence by interacting with other people.

The benefits to individuals, their communities, and to the NHS of the Widening Digital Participation programme are potentially huge. We’re looking forward to finding out the new and exciting ways that our next 7 pathfinders will help the most vulnerable in our society to become happy and healthy.

And here’s just one story to bring it all to life…

Read Paul’s story

Original source – Helen Milner

Leeds gov design meet number 1 was on Monday 19 February. You can read about it here.

Following the first meet I asked for some feedback on what we could do next. Using that feedback I shaped the next meet.

Today – Wednesday 18 April – we had the second meet. We got the same room at ODI Leeds again. We limited the numbers to 20 people in the room, who came from DWP Digital, JISC, Ministry of Justice, NHS Digital – and Leeds Council (at last!). Unfortunately two product owners couldn’t make it, but great they tried to come. The windows were open because it was warm (but comfortable), and the sounds of the sirens on at least four vehicles drove past Munro House while we were there.

We had two sessions this time, rather than the four of the previous meet.

First, Marie Cheung from DWP Digital introduced those present to some service design tools.

A team shows off their canvas

Marie had little pieces of paper for every person in the room. On each piece of paper was the name of a service design tool. There were repeats so there were only five tools in the pieces of paper. Each person had ten minutes to research on their own that tool.

Groups were then formed, people with the same tool on their piece of paper getting together to pool their knowledge on a canvas Marie had provided. The groups then took it in turns to present their canvas to the room.

A team shows off their canvas

It was a quick way for people to discover and then immerse themselves in one thing (a service design tool), while others did the same for something else (other service design tools). Sharing openly to the room meant everyone in the room learnt about every tool.

Another team shows off their canvas

If you want to see the five canvases the teams produced click on the following links:

The second session was lead by Mitchell Wakefield, who works at NHS Digital as a user researcher. Mitchell’s session was an honest reflection on failure, something we don’t talk about enough. The openness, humility, and introspection of the talk made for a really engaging session.

Mitchell talks to the room

Thanks to Marie and Mitchell for running their sessions, and to everyone who came along. If you have any feedback contact Marie or Mitchell directly, or you can drop me a line.

Onto meet number 3? I said in an earlier post this will be the last Leeds gov/public design meet I set up for the foreseeable future. The four Public Design West Yorkshire meets and these two Leeds cross gov design meets are five more meets than I planned. To do six in a year has been great fun and so worth the effort setting them up and running them. Thanks to everyone who has led sessions over the last 12 months, and everyone who has come along. I might be able to organise more further into the future, but for the time being I can’t. It feels there’s a need for these meets: people come along and people ask for more. If you’d like to carry the meets on drop me a line.

Original source – Simon Wilson

I love looking out for signage.

Some signage I love because they delight me in some way. Like signage in airports and wheelchair signs in New York. Them are da best signs.

Here is another of my favourites, on an air hockey table at the Hollywood Bowl in Bradford.

Sign at Hollywood Bowl

Wonderful is it not?

Some signs make me scratch my head, like they are a puzzle, an enigma even.

Here is one of my “fave” head scratchers, close to where I live, turning out of Woodhouse Grove onto Harrogate Road.

The sign giving instructions how to turn out onto Harrogate Road

The punchline is you see this sign as you drive into Woodhouse Grove not as you are driving out as you would actually need it.

If you are curious what the road map this is trying to show looks like, here you go (nabbed from Google Maps).

Screenshot of the road map from Google Maps, showing the area of Harrogate Road shown in the sign

Out of sheer I had both of those images open in Photoshop-ness I comped the map onto the sign.

I need a new hobby

At least the landmarks make it a little easier to understand.


Original source – Simon Wilson

whale meat.jpg

What has whale meat got to do with the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal? Read on…

by Ben Capper

What are your thoughts on whale meat? How might this affect how you vote in future?

Brief back story (bear with me):

As members of the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA or “the Single Market”), the UK is legally not allowed to place restrictions on produce made or processed in a member state being sold in the domestic market. As whale meat is caught and eaten in Iceland and parts of Norway (both EEA members), there is theoretically nothing we plucky Brits can do to stop their whale meat being imported and sold in your local Tesco Metro. You could argue that good old market forces (i.e. the fact that most British people consider whale meat either ethically indefensible or culinary appalling) probably override any international legal trade obligations in reality, but technically this is true. Once your product is legal in one member state, it has to be legal in all.

Why is this relevant?

Well, if political-podcasts are your thing, I can strongly recommended “Remainiacs”. There’s usually a sweary hour-long episode every Friday. In the 30th March podcast there was a fascinating discussion led by Ros Taylor, Editor of the LSE Brexit Blog in to the subject of the Cambridge Analytica (henceforth referred to as “CA”) scandal and the alleged links to the motley crew of Leave Campaigns during the EU Referendum. In it, she highlights a Facebook ad targeted at users whom were thought to be receptive to messages about animal rights and welfare, playing on the aforementioned whale meat issue.

During the Referendum, I didn’t see that ad. Neither did most people. In fact I can see no trace of it online. But by all accounts it did exist. How much impact it had on those individuals that did see it, is difficult or impossible to quantify. This is, however, how micro-targeting in this sense worked during the campaign.

When the scandal broke a few weeks ago, I dutifully followed my instinct and fell straight in line with the very real outrage pervading online and in the national media. I considered #deletingfacebook and was surer than ever that the Referendum result (and the US Election result) were based on manipulation and lies.

But it was a post by Albert Freeman that made me initially take a step outside of my bubble and consider this from a different angle. Then I thought a bit about how we as communicators use social media (in particular Facebook) to target our audiences with specific messages, and how when I worked for an agency, I would regale clients with the wonders of what Facebook can do to target messages down to the nth degree. “It’s so cost effective”, “You can target it as literally 10s of people in your neighbourhood”.

All of a sudden the moral certainty I felt reading the brilliant Observer expose, started to dissipate slightly, and made me feel a bit ill at ease.

The fact that the result of what is alleged to have happened is something that (full disclosure) I am unhappy about probably was initially blinding me to something quite obvious: that this is marketing in its purest form.

It’s analysing data, and concluding trends from it which help to segment audiences based on their preferences. Then it’s tailoring messages and designing an infrastructure to move them to a desired course of action.

This is the very basic bread and butter of the job. What the boffins at CA managed to do was perfect this targeting and tailoring on a minute level, based on patterns of behaviours. And, to give them credit, they were pretty good at it.

Just before it looks like I’m exonerating them of any wrong doing, there are of course two, in my mind, very serious legal and ethical issues that we currently know of here: the alleged illegal funnelling of campaign funds via an autonomous group to pay CA directly; and the –apparently-not-illegal-but-very-questionable practice of the now notorious Facebook personality test app harvesting participants friends’ data.

Legal process should be followed and those responsible held to account.

However, if you can put those aside for a minute, I think there are broader uncomfortable (and sometimes contradictory) questions about our profession that are worth us all considering:

1.      Message or channel – what’s more important?

Irrespective of what dark arts CA employed, they had something that the Remain campaign wouldn’t have recognised if it slapped them in the face with a putrefied shark’s fin (another Icelandic delicacy): a clear, resonant message. I wrote about this 2 months after the Referendum result on these very pages, and nothing in this story invalidates that view. What we now know however, is how brilliantly and endlessly adaptable it was. It played on the very human notion of “control”. Who doesn’t want “control” over their lives? Be it in restricting immigration or the sale of “foreign muck” like whale meat, that message had something for everyone.

Even if Remain had employed these shadowy methods, their lack of any kind of human language or consistent emotionally resonant message would’ve meant their investment would’ve failed.

2.      Do we truly understand what “behaviour change” means?

An agency I used to work at specialised in “behaviour change”. This was a very easy concept to work with and use when working with say, NHS organisations on, for example, stop smoking campaigns. We’d find out about the audience in question, and design services and comms to help support and move them to make healthier choices (i.e. give up smoking), and very often this would be really successful.

But sometimes when we worked with clients with harder-edged targets e.g. sales or driving people to use a service to make it viable, their expectations could be very different. I remember having a difficult mid-project meeting with one client who was disappointed in the current numbers of people engaging with their new offer and being put on the spot with this zinger: “We hired you because you said you’d do behaviour change.

My retort to this was always that behaviour change is a methodical process. It’s not magic or dark-arts mind-control. There has to be desire or the slightest kernel of a desire to change or move in a certain direction in the first place. Our job as communicators is to provide the motivational and practical support to help individuals make that change, whatever it is.

Behaviour change is not about tricking people into making decisions that they know are against their best interests. This point is critical when understanding the CA scandal.

A lot the noise from people like me who are unhappy with the referendum result focuses on the convenient and comforting belief that the scandal is “proof” that Leave voters were “tricked” into voting the way they did. I think this is not only patronising and wrong, but completely misses the point of how these things work.

CA targeted individuals whose Facebook activity suggested that they would/could be moved to vote Leave based on their views on a whole range of topics. The key issue is that a small degree of motivation had to be there in the first place in order for them to take that course of action.

That’s behaviour change comms in a nutshell.

And it probably explains why you never saw the whale meat advert.

I guess you’re just not that into whales.

3.      What are our new ethical boundaries?

So given these previous two points, how the hell do we keep doing our jobs whilst ensuring we can sleep at night?

Well clearly we’re in new territory these days, and the possibilities of micro-targeting demand that we look afresh at the values and behaviours we sign-up to as professional communicators.

Targeting audiences with tailored content is our way of making sure our comms are effective, cost efficient, and help to drive the right people into the right services at the right time. Social media (in particular Facebook) remain brilliant platforms for doing this. And in that respect, can and should continue to be a force for good.

But we need to take a few things a lot more seriously.

–          Consent

GDPR is a good start in this regard. But rather than just lumping everything we do as a “legitimate interest” and carrying on regardless, we need to take much greater care in how we use our audiences’ data, and be far more mindful of their preferences. This isn’t so much a legal or policy shift, but one of mindset. We need to think “how would I feel seeing or receiving this message?”, and take far greater heed of what data subjects believe or know they’re signing up to.

The aforementioned “legitimate interest” clause in GDPR seems to be getting used as the get-out-of-jail-free-card for almost any use of personal data, and ultimately means that most ways we use personal data will still be legally allowed.

But legal obligation and ethical best-practice are not the same – as the Facebook personality quiz app has most dramatically demonstrated. So once we’ve satisfied ourselves that we’re legally compliant, we also need to give far more consideration as to whether what we’re doing is ethically preferable. This is harder work, but essential if we’re going to build trust with our users and communities.

–          Targeting vs. intrusion vs. discrimination

Targeting is good. Targeting is what makes us effective communicators and helps to develop mutually beneficial relationships with our users and customers.

But what the CA scandal highlighted is an aspect of intrusion. Not necessarily intrusion in the classic sense, but more emotional intrusion – leading to potential manipulation. This scandal has shone a light very clear on the boundaries of what makes us comfortable. We seem to be fine with very transactional targeting (i.e. “you liked this, so you might also like that”). But highly emotive messages based on a mind-bendingly complex and hidden data profile? We seem to be officially not OK with that. We need to be sensitive to this, and act accordingly.

And there’s a very difficult question around, when does targeting become discriminatory? During the recent and unintentionally hilarious “Grandads trying the fix the VCR”-fest, that has been the Mark Zuckerberg Senate Hearings, one very interesting question came from New Jersey Senator and likely 2020 Presidential candidate Cory Booker; where he asked about how Facebook targeting has been exploited by businesses to exclude minorities in their commercial activity.

The fact is, that it is technically incredibly easy to exclude as well as include people in your Facebook messaging. But just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should – especially when your targeting tips over from “personalised” into “discriminatory”. And where that line is drawn is something as an industry we need to be a lot clearer on.

And maybe that’s the point from this entire furore. Just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should.

I think I’ll remember that the next time I visit an Icelandic restaurant…

Ben Capper is director of marketing at Liverpool Students’ Union

image via Toronto History

Original source – comms2point0 free online resource for creative comms people – comms2point0

If you visit FixMyStreet and suddenly start seeing spots, don’t rush to your optician: it’s just another feature to help you, and the council, when you make a report.

In our last two blog posts we announced Buckinghamshire and Bath & NE Somerset councils’ adoption of FixMyStreet Pro, and looked at how this integrated with existing council software. It’s the latter which has brought on this sudden rash.

At the moment, you’ll only see such dots in areas where the council has adopted FixMyStreet Pro, and gone for the ‘asset locations’ option: take a look at the Bath & NE Somerset installation to see them in action.

What is an asset?

mySociety developer Struan explains all.

Councils refer to ‘assets’; in layman’s language these are things like roads, streetlights, grit bins, dog poo bins and trees. These assets are normally stored in an asset management system that tracks problems, and once hooked up, FixMyStreet Pro can deposit users’ reports directly into that system.

Most asset management systems will have an entry for each asset and probably some location data for them too. This means that we can plot them on a map, and we can also include details about the asset.

When you make a report, for example a broken streetlight, you’ll be able to quickly and easily specify that precise light on the map, making things a faster for you. And there’s no need for the average citizen to ever know this, but we can then include the council’s internal ID for the streetlight in the report, which then also speeds things up for the council.

Map layers

So, how do we get these assets on to the map? Here’s the technical part:

The council will either have a map server with a set of asset layers on it that we can use, or they’ll provide us with files containing details of the assets and we’ll host them on our own map server.

The map server then lets you ask for all the streetlights in an area and sends back some XML with a location for each streetlight and any associated data, such as the lamppost number. Each collection of objects is called a layer, mostly because that’s how mapping software uses them. It has a layer for the map and then adds any other features on top of this in layers.

Will these dots clutter up the map for users who are trying to make a report about something else?

Not at all.

With a bit of configuration in FixMyStreet, we associate report categories with asset layers so we only show the assets on the map when the relevant category is selected.

We can also snap problem reports to any nearby asset which is handy for things like street lights as it doesn’t make sense to send a report about a broken street light with no associated light.

Watch this space

And what’s coming up?

We’re working to add data from, so that when a user clicks on a road we’ll be able to tell them if roadworks are happening in the near future, which might have a bearing on whether they want to report the problem — for example there’s no point in reporting a pothole if the whole road is due to be resurfaced the next week.

Then we’ll also be looking at roads overseen by TfL. The issue with these is that while they are always within a council area, the council doesn’t have the responsibility of maintaining them, so we want to change where the report is going rather than just adding in more data. There’s also the added complication of things like “what if the issue is being reported on a council-maintained bridge that goes over a TFL road”.

There’s always something to keep the FixMyStreet developers busy… we’ll make sure we keep you updated as these new innovations are added.

From a council and interested in knowing more? Visit the FixMyStreet Pro website

Original source – mySociety

We’re very proud that Sue Griffin, Head of User Support Services at DWP Digital, has made this year’s Digital Leaders 100 list.  Find out more about her role and what motivates her.

Sue Griffin

Sue Griffin

Tell us about the type of work that you do

I lead a team providing technical support to 84,000 colleagues across DWP; from helping them to get the best out of their digital products and services, to fixing any issues they may have.

What was your first job in technology?

I worked as part of a commercial team in outsourcing DWP’s IT contracts.

What attracted you to DWP?

I started in 1987 straight after my A-Levels, on a 12 month temporary contract in a local benefit office before going to university.

However I never made it to university and 30 years later I’m still here! I loved the feeling of team work and there being a real purpose to what this department does.

What technology excites you most and why?

I’m fascinated by the work SpaceX is doing on re-useable rockets.

Tell us about a project you’re working on

We’re working on the automation of around 600k user administration tasks across multiple systems and products.

Our current systems require significant manual intervention to add, remove and change colleagues’ information and accesses, or to reset passwords.

We’re designing the new products and services to be self-service, meaning that this manual intervention can be avoided.

What problem does it aim to solve?

Colleagues across DWP will get access to the systems and services they need more quickly. It will also free up around 70 User Support employees to provide more tailored face-to-face support to users in offices across the country.

What is one surprising fact that people don’t know about you?

I am naturally quite introverted.

Name one career goal you would like to achieve in the coming year

DWP Digital becoming more diverse and seeing more women join us.

Name someone living or dead who inspired you in your career

My favourite TED Talk (so far) is by Dame Stephanie Shirley – she’s pretty amazing! I’d recommend checking it out – it’s titled “Why do ambitious women have flat heads?”

How do you find the working culture and environment in DWP Digital?

DWP Digital is a collaborative, innovative, fast-paced and fun place to work. That said we’ve still got some way to go to improve diversity and to value all colleagues (both new and existing) for their expertise.


Digital Leader of the Year

You can vote for Sue in the Digital Leader of the Year category of this year’s DL100 Awards. This award recognises an individual whose actions in the past year have made them standout as a Digital Leader in the transformation of their sector.


Original source – DWP Digital

Six years is an unusual amount of time to spend working for the same company these days – more so when that company works with technology. The thing is, my time at dxw has really been like working for a number of different companies.

These days we have a well-developed recruitment process involving an application tracking system, a skype screen, two interviews and worksim. Back then it mostly involved lasagne.

All the things

At the end of 2011, I was fleeing a job at a large consultancy and put out a call to my network for interesting people working in tech, public sector, charities etc. A mutual friend introduced me to Harry and we went for lunch. I thought we were just having a chat, but at the end of lunch, Harry essentially offered me a job.

I joined Harry and Lee in the corner of an office in Borough shared with the Open Rights Group, we invented a silly job title (User Insights Analyst) and I started doing market research with WordPress developers.

Since then I’ve been a Developer, Head of Products and finally Technical Architect, and been involved in pretty much every aspect of the work that the business does: bidding and pitching for work, hiring, building products, running discovery activities and participating in user research, maintaining servers, and writing code in all of the main technologies we deliver client work with – Ruby, PHP and Javascript. I’ve even subjected users to my visual design and front-end skills.

I’ve also been to conferences as far away as Bulgaria, spoken at and run meetups, and visited numerous government departments as well as Number 10 Downing Street itself. Needless to say, these experiences have fundamentally shaped who I am as a professional and I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had here.

Changes for the better

Much has changed over the years: I’ve seen the company grow organically from four people to almost 40. Some things which seemed like unrealistic aspirations at the beginning are now business as usual:

  • the unit of work we sell is a sprint, we only work in sprints, and we usually work on one project for an extended period
  • all our ruby projects are 100% built with test-driven development
  • user research is a normal and essential part of development work, not (as it used to be) an optional value-add which was routinely cut from proposals.

These are all great improvements. dxw is now something of a Big Deal in the sector, and I’m proud of the part I’ve played in that growth.

Some things, however, haven’t changed: a firm resistance to pointless paper-based bureaucracy (and a distaste for paper in general), a shared aspiration to always be listening and improving, a distaste for too much process and too much hierarchy, and a will to do good work for social good.

Ett nytt liv i Sverige

Now I’m saying my goodbyes and taking some of that culture with me as I move to Sweden in search of a different kind of life experience to London.

I’ll be working for Varvet in Gothenburg – a similar sized agency with big goals and a culture of craftsmanship which I’m looking forward to being a part of.

I’ll see y’all on the internet/vi ses  internetet.

Original source – dxw