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Everything You Wanted to Know
About Online Participation Tools
But Were Afraid to Ask*
Our Budget, Our Economy (OBOE)
Capa...
1. Blogging +
commenting
2. Email discussion list
3. Ideation
4. Webcast + Discussion
5. Survey (Choicebook)
6. Collaborat...
1) Blogging + Commenting
Definition:
News, ideas, opinions, questions, and
other information posted on a webpage in
revers...
Blogging + Commenting – Example
The White House Office of Science &
Technology Policy Public Access Forum
http://www.white...
Blogging + Commenting – Tools
Blogging + Commenting – Analysis
Pros
• Flexible
• Familiar
• Potential for ongoing
dialogue
• Free tools available
Cons
•...
2) Email Discussion List
Definition:
An open or moderated forum where
messages can be sent by anyone on the
list to every ...
Email Discussion List – Example 1
Minneapolis Seward Neighbors
Forum Home
http://forums.e-democracy.org/groups/mpls-seward...
Email Discussion List – Example 2
National Coalition for Dialogue &
Deliberation (NCDD)
http://lists.thataway.org/SCRIPTS/...
Email Discussion List – Tools
Email Discussion List – Analysis
Pros
• Flexible
• Familiar
• Potential for ongoing
dialogue
• Free tools available
• Push...
3) Ideation
Definition:
A brainstorming process where the host
specifies a topic and then users:
• Submit related proposal...
Ideation – Example 1
NAPA, AmericaSpeaks, and
Office of Management & Budget
Ideation – Example 2
Seattle City Council
Invites Budget Cutting Ideas
http://seattlecitycouncil.ideascale.com/
Ideation – Tools
Ideation – Analysis
Pros
• Clear, concise output
• Scalable
• Democratic
• Difficult to dominate
conversation
• Free tools...
4) Webcast + Discussion
Definition:
Live event observation and participation
through some combination of:
• Watching and l...
Webcast + Discussion – Example
White House Live
http://apps.facebook.com/whitehouselive/
Webcast + Discussion – Tools
Webcast + Discussion – Analysis
Pros
• Video is engaging
• Conversation can be
compelling, enables
real deliberation
• Man...
5) Surveys
Definition:
Invite citizens to complete an form
online.
May be combined with issue-based
education – the “Choic...
Surveys – Example
Speak Up for Change
http://apps.facebook.com/speakup-enparler/action/71
Surveys – Tools
Surveys – Analysis
Pros
• Multiple choice
answers scale well
• Simple to use
• Easily combined with
issue education
• Free...
6) Collaborative Writing
Definition:
Groups of citizens collaborate to craft
specific language for a policy
document, such...
Collaborative Writing – Example
The Netroots Platform
http://mixedink.com/netrootsplatform/
Collaborative Writing – Tools
Collaborative Writing – Analysis
Pros
• Specific, actionable
output
• Free tools available
Cons
• Messy with a lot of
cont...
7) Document Commenting
Definition:
Groups of citizens comment on an
existing policy document and discuss
potential changes.
Document Commenting – Example
OpenCongress
Bill Comment System
http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h3590/text
Document Commenting – Tools
Document Commenting – Analysis
Pros
• Specific, targeted
input
• Free tools available
Cons
• Legislative language is
diffi...
8) Online Message Board
Definition:
A web forum where users create new
topics, post messages within topics and
reply to ot...
Online Message Board – Example
Listening to the City
http://dialogues.listeningtothecity.org/
http://dialogues.listeningto...
Online Message Board – Tools
Online Message Board – Analysis
Pros
• Flexible
• Familiar
• Multiple parallel
topics
• Potential for ongoing
dialogue
• F...
9) Text Messaging
Definition:
Conduct surveys or measure support
using SMS.
(More mobile subscribers than
computer owners ...
Text Messaging – Examples
Text Messaging – Tools
Text Messaging – Analysis
Pros
• Phone is in your
pocket
• Multiple choice
answers scale well
• Free tools available
Cons
...
10) Social Networking Communities
Definition:
Allow users in a particular geographic or
thematic area to congregate online...
Social Networking Communities –
Examples
http://www.harringayonline.com/
Social Networking Communities –
Tools
Social Networking Communities –
Analysis
Pros
• Enables ongoing
interaction with
officials around local
challenges
• Build...
11) Facebook & Twitter
Definition:
Facebook and Twitter are popular
social networks where users post
‘status’ updates and ...
Facebook & Twitter – Examples
http://twitter.com/corybooker
http://www.backtype.com/user/twitter/corybooker
Facebook & Twitter – Tools
Facebook & Twitter – Analysis
Pros
• Familiar
• Huge membership
• Open & transparent
Cons
• Dialogue won’t scale
• Bias to...
12) Policy & Budget Games
Definition:
Citizens develop policy within a
simulation that involves real-world
trade-offs and ...
Policy & Budget Games – Examples
Concord Coalition’s
Federal Budget Challenge
http://www.federalbudgetchallenge.org/budget...
Policy & Budget Games – Tools
Policy & Budget Games – Analysis
Pros
• Forces empathy with
policymakers’
position
Cons
• Difficult, wonky
choices aren’t
...
“A fool with a
tool is still a
fool.”
Keys to Success
• Emphasize the user experience
• Focus on outreach, partnerships, and
advertising to ensure large, divers...
Keys to Success (II)
• Show citizens policymakers are listening
and join process as a user
• Communicate timing and result...
Thank you!
David Stern
Director of Online Engagement
dstern@americaspeaks.org
@americaspeaks @davestern
Mr T. Image from f...
Public Input Tools
Public Input Tools
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Public Input Tools

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These slides provide a brief overview of a number of free or inexpensive tools that enable local and national public officials to gather input online and give citizens a greater voice in shaping policy.

This presentation was given at the OBOE follow-up capacity building retreat in November 2010.

Published in: Technology
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Public Input Tools

  1. 1. Everything You Wanted to Know About Online Participation Tools But Were Afraid to Ask* Our Budget, Our Economy (OBOE) Capacity Building Retreat November 5, 2010 David Stern *OK, not quite everything Director of Online Engagement dstern@americaspeaks.org @americaspeaks @davestern
  2. 2. 1. Blogging + commenting 2. Email discussion list 3. Ideation 4. Webcast + Discussion 5. Survey (Choicebook) 6. Collaborative writing 7. Document commenting 1. As 2. d 3. f asdf 4. Asdf asdf 5. asd f 6. Asdf 7. Asdf 1. Online Message Board 2. Text messaging 3. Social networking communities 4. Facebook & Twitter 5. Policy & budget “games” The Complete Tool List
  3. 3. 1) Blogging + Commenting Definition: News, ideas, opinions, questions, and other information posted on a webpage in reverse chronological order. Comments are left by readers (and sometimes the blogger) in response to the original post and to others’ comments, usually beneath the original post.
  4. 4. Blogging + Commenting – Example The White House Office of Science & Technology Policy Public Access Forum http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ostp/public-access-policy
  5. 5. Blogging + Commenting – Tools
  6. 6. Blogging + Commenting – Analysis Pros • Flexible • Familiar • Potential for ongoing dialogue • Free tools available Cons • Requires moderation • Medium scalability • Pull, not push Bottom line: A good option for a wide range of projects, but requires significant time for posting, outreach, and moderation.
  7. 7. 2) Email Discussion List Definition: An open or moderated forum where messages can be sent by anyone on the list to every other person on the list. Users generally opt in explicitly to join the list.
  8. 8. Email Discussion List – Example 1 Minneapolis Seward Neighbors Forum Home http://forums.e-democracy.org/groups/mpls-seward http://forums.e-democracy.org/groups/mpls-seward/messages/topics.html
  9. 9. Email Discussion List – Example 2 National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) http://lists.thataway.org/SCRIPTS/WA-THATAWAY.EXE?A1=ind0905D&L=NCDD- DISCUSSION
  10. 10. Email Discussion List – Tools
  11. 11. Email Discussion List – Analysis Pros • Flexible • Familiar • Potential for ongoing dialogue • Free tools available • Push, not pull Cons • Not scalable • Lack of concise output • Vocal (but un- representative) individuals may dominate Bottom line: Perfect for getting things done with small, action-oriented groups. Not great for large-scale input.
  12. 12. 3) Ideation Definition: A brainstorming process where the host specifies a topic and then users: • Submit related proposals, ideas or questions • Vote on others’ submissions to identify popular issues • [Often, not always:] Discuss others’ proposals
  13. 13. Ideation – Example 1 NAPA, AmericaSpeaks, and Office of Management & Budget
  14. 14. Ideation – Example 2 Seattle City Council Invites Budget Cutting Ideas http://seattlecitycouncil.ideascale.com/
  15. 15. Ideation – Tools
  16. 16. Ideation – Analysis Pros • Clear, concise output • Scalable • Democratic • Difficult to dominate conversation • Free tools available Cons • Organized minorities can manipulate • Bias toward early submissions • One-off • Pull, not push Bottom line: Great for brainstorming. Best proposals need fleshing out afterward.
  17. 17. 4) Webcast + Discussion Definition: Live event observation and participation through some combination of: • Watching and listening to an event while viewing the speaker and/or presentation slides • Discussion via conference call • Discussion in an online forum (chat room, Facebook, Twitter, blog comments, etc.)
  18. 18. Webcast + Discussion – Example White House Live http://apps.facebook.com/whitehouselive/
  19. 19. Webcast + Discussion – Tools
  20. 20. Webcast + Discussion – Analysis Pros • Video is engaging • Conversation can be compelling, enables real deliberation • Many tools available Cons • Input not concise • Expensive to scale • Requires availability at specific time Bottom line: Great for getting the message out, not great at letting public input back in… Yet.
  21. 21. 5) Surveys Definition: Invite citizens to complete an form online. May be combined with issue-based education – the “Choicebook” model.
  22. 22. Surveys – Example Speak Up for Change http://apps.facebook.com/speakup-enparler/action/71
  23. 23. Surveys – Tools
  24. 24. Surveys – Analysis Pros • Multiple choice answers scale well • Simple to use • Easily combined with issue education • Free tools available Cons • Qualitative answers don’t scale well • Users not exposed to others’ ideas • No collaboration Bottom line: Great for taking quick pulse on an issue and embedding education, but hard to scale.
  25. 25. 6) Collaborative Writing Definition: Groups of citizens collaborate to craft specific language for a policy document, such as a position paper, draft legislation, rule, pro- and con- arguments, etc.
  26. 26. Collaborative Writing – Example The Netroots Platform http://mixedink.com/netrootsplatform/
  27. 27. Collaborative Writing – Tools
  28. 28. Collaborative Writing – Analysis Pros • Specific, actionable output • Free tools available Cons • Messy with a lot of contributors (at best) • Last editor wins • Writing isn’t fun Bottom line: Group writing won’t scale, particularly with controversial subjects. Identify basic principles, then have smaller group produce language together.
  29. 29. 7) Document Commenting Definition: Groups of citizens comment on an existing policy document and discuss potential changes.
  30. 30. Document Commenting – Example OpenCongress Bill Comment System http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h3590/text
  31. 31. Document Commenting – Tools
  32. 32. Document Commenting – Analysis Pros • Specific, targeted input • Free tools available Cons • Legislative language is difficult to understand • Messy with a lot of contributors Bottom line: Works with knowledgeable stakeholders, more difficult with general public.
  33. 33. 8) Online Message Board Definition: A web forum where users create new topics, post messages within topics and reply to other people’s messages.
  34. 34. Online Message Board – Example Listening to the City http://dialogues.listeningtothecity.org/ http://dialogues.listeningtothecity.org/webx?50@847.RQFUaUfagMT.3@.ee7d7e7
  35. 35. Online Message Board – Tools
  36. 36. Online Message Board – Analysis Pros • Flexible • Familiar • Multiple parallel topics • Potential for ongoing dialogue • Free tools available Cons • Requires moderation • Limited scalability • Unattractive Bottom line: Proven, but boring. Consider more output-driven, scalable tools.
  37. 37. 9) Text Messaging Definition: Conduct surveys or measure support using SMS. (More mobile subscribers than computer owners with Internet.)
  38. 38. Text Messaging – Examples
  39. 39. Text Messaging – Tools
  40. 40. Text Messaging – Analysis Pros • Phone is in your pocket • Multiple choice answers scale well • Free tools available Cons • Response length limited to 160 chars • Qualitative answers don’t scale well • Users don’t see others’ ideas Bottom line: Great for taking pulse on an issue and getting to hard-to-reach demographics, but engagement is pretty superficial.
  41. 41. 10) Social Networking Communities Definition: Allow users in a particular geographic or thematic area to congregate online, with the ability to: • Create profiles • Start discussions • Manage blogs • Upload photos
  42. 42. Social Networking Communities – Examples http://www.harringayonline.com/
  43. 43. Social Networking Communities – Tools
  44. 44. Social Networking Communities – Analysis Pros • Enables ongoing interaction with officials around local challenges • Builds social capital online & offline Cons • Long-term, sustained effort needed to build a community • Input isn’t concise • Policy isn’t the point Bottom line: Difficult to get to critical mass, but can provide infrastructure for dialogue on local policy.
  45. 45. 11) Facebook & Twitter Definition: Facebook and Twitter are popular social networks where users post ‘status’ updates and share and discuss news, photos, videos, events, and more.
  46. 46. Facebook & Twitter – Examples http://twitter.com/corybooker http://www.backtype.com/user/twitter/corybooker
  47. 47. Facebook & Twitter – Tools
  48. 48. Facebook & Twitter – Analysis Pros • Familiar • Huge membership • Open & transparent Cons • Dialogue won’t scale • Bias towards superficial interaction Bottom line: Great at finding people where they already spend their time. Need more experimentation with gathering public input, though.
  49. 49. 12) Policy & Budget Games Definition: Citizens develop policy within a simulation that involves real-world trade-offs and conditions. For example, balance the budget by identifying areas and dollar amounts to cut/increase spending/taxes.
  50. 50. Policy & Budget Games – Examples Concord Coalition’s Federal Budget Challenge http://www.federalbudgetchallenge.org/budget_challenge/sim/budget_master.html
  51. 51. Policy & Budget Games – Tools
  52. 52. Policy & Budget Games – Analysis Pros • Forces empathy with policymakers’ position Cons • Difficult, wonky choices aren’t engaging • Clunky, expensive tools Bottom line: It’s challenging to make balancing competing priorities and tradeoffs fun. More experimentation needed.
  53. 53. “A fool with a tool is still a fool.”
  54. 54. Keys to Success • Emphasize the user experience • Focus on outreach, partnerships, and advertising to ensure large, diverse participation • Frame issues clearly, narrowly, objectively • Invite input on specific, distinct issues in separate areas • Admin & community moderation
  55. 55. Keys to Success (II) • Show citizens policymakers are listening and join process as a user • Communicate timing and results clearly • Show how this influenced policy • Build long-term two-way communication infrastructure
  56. 56. Thank you! David Stern Director of Online Engagement dstern@americaspeaks.org @americaspeaks @davestern Mr T. Image from flickr user draggin under CC by-SA-NC license

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