What do you want from a one-page guide on Social Networking Sites?

Social Networking Sites - Draft Guide for Facebook

Social Networking Sites (SNS) are pretty complicated things. If defining them isn't tricky enough, trying to create a one page guide that communicates all the salient facts about Social Networking in general, and a social networking platform in particular, is turning out to be very tricky indeed.

For the research I'm carrying out into how Youth Workers can support young people's interaction with online social networks, and for a workshop next week, I've been trying to explore the common features, and the specific features, of different SNS in order to be able to support an informed discussion about the opportunities and risks each present.

For my purposes, I'm looking to have a tool to provide the shared understand that lets us explore questions like:

  • Are our concerns about SNS linked to a specific feature of a specific site? Or are they linked to some common and integral feature of all SNS?
  • What aspects of SNS design maximise opportunity and minimise risk?
  • Are there some features of some SNS that mean the responsible adult simply can't engage with young people on that site? Or are there specific features that oblige responsible adults to engage with young people in that space?
  • What does a youth worker need to know about SNS to be able to support young people's use of them? Do they need to know about each specific SNS? Or is some general knowledge enough?

Online Social Networking - Draft GuideAs you'll see from the image above and the attached first draft of a general SNS one page guide, and a specific guide for Facebook, when I've tried to provide something to answer those questions, I've been realising it probably won't fit into one page – and the guides have been somewhat loosing the simplicity that I hope was a virtue of earlier guides in the series.

So – I though I would take a step back and ask for your input to help me refocus these guides slightly…

  • What would you want in a one page guide about Social Networking Sites in general?
  • What would you want in a one page guide about a specific Social Networking Site?

Whilst I can't promise I'll cover exactly what you want – I can try to make the guides flexible enough so that you can adapt them to meet your needs.

And as an extra question (I'm already leaning towards an affirmitive answer on this): should I ditch the diagrams currently in the draft guide? They carry a lot of information – but I'm not sure that they make it very accessible. What do you think?

Attachment: Early Draft One Page Guides – Social Networking.pdf

Tips for youth led research

The Young Researcher Network are looking to create a real change in the way research on issues for young people takes place.

Rather than imposing adult frameworks and structures on the challenges young people face today, they're building the capacity for young people to be researchers themselves, and to use rigorous research methods to support moves to create change.

They've started blogging over here and to help welcome them to the social media space I thought I would capture and share a quick interview with my friend and colleague Sarah Schulman, who has been responsible for a number of fantastic youth led research projects in the US.

Getting data out of DirectGov

Mashing up Direct GovOn Saturday at BarCampUKGovWeb I asked whether it was possible to use the data from DirectGov to direct website users to their local government services, without needing to send them via the pretty orange pages of local.direct.gov.uk.

Thanks for a tip-off from Paul Clarke, I got in touch with Andy Key from Hampshire who has helped out with a few pointers to some currently unofficial (but possibly soon-to-be-supported) ways of making use of Local Direct Gov data:

The answer is No, Yes, and Maybe.

Web services: not yet. This is something I've been asking for and the Local Directgov team are looking at doing. […]

What is possible now is simple link redirection. This involves linking to a Directgov URL and passing it the code number of the service you want, the code number for the interaction type you want (normally 8 for “finding information”) and the code number of the local authority whose service you want to access. The service codes are a subset of the standard Local Government Service List (LGSL); interaction codes are from the Local Government Interaction List (LGIL).

Here's an example:

Find information (LGIL code 8) about the Youth Opportunies Fund (LGSL code 1116) at Bristol City Council (authority code 558):

Find information (8) about volunteering opportunities for young people (629) in Nottinghamshire (239):

Obviously this only works for services that are included in the Local Directgov service list, and for authorities in England and Wales. Local Directgov relies on the authority having provided a URL for the service in question. If a particular authority has failed to do so, the link defaults to the “Contact us” page of the authority's website.

This facility has a few obvious drawbacks:

  • The website user has to know which council area they're in.
  • You, the website owner, have to know what the code number is for that council.
  • It doesn't work well with services delivered by more than one tier of local authority (e.g. services provided by both county and district council in an area).

[…] LDG have their own numbering system for local authorities.

As it stands, then, the facility is quite usable for a council website where I only have to know the codes for a handful of authorities in my area – see http://www3.hants.gov.uk/redirect-district?lgsl=372 for instance – but not much good for a national website.

The alternative, for now, is to recreate the input form at http://local.direct.gov.uk/LDGRedirect/index.jsp?LGSL=1116&LGIL=8 on your own website. So you prompt the user for their postcode, then use that to send them to Directgov with the postcode already set – for example, like this: http://local.direct.gov.uk/LDGRedirect/LocationSearch.do?searchtype=1&LGSL=1116&LGIL=8&Style=&formsub=t&text=bs1

Youth Workforce Dream Team: exploring complex consultation with games

[Summary: just launched online consultation game on youth workforce development]

One of the many people I got a chance to meet at BarCampUKGovWeb this Saturday was David Wilcox. It was through David's work on Useful Games that I first started thinking about the role games have to play in participation and consultation.

And so, with the challenge of creating an online consultation to engage young people in thinking about the different training needs of leaders and managers in the youth workforce – I was drawn to thinking about how approaching the consultation as a 'game' could help us get good quality consultation responses without falling back on a long-and-boring e-surveys that would ask people to rank abstract attributes of leaders and managers, and to choose which detailed training packages 'managers in general' might need.

So I built an interactive consultation game called Youth Workforce Dream Team – and it's online now.

Youth Workforce Dream Team

The game is targetted at young people but responses from all ages are welcome – and if you work with any groups of young people who may be interested in adding their responses, please do share the link, or download and share the attached flyer.

The game is targetted at young people but responses from all ages are welcome – and if you work with any groups of young people who may be interested in adding their responses, please do share the link, or download and share the attached flyer.

Play the game at: http://tinyurl.com/243wr7

You call the shots


Why a game?
The 'rules' of a game can offer a lot of information, and by creating interactivity and incentives games can provide a powerful way of collecting structured information from players, without asking players to force their responses into overly formal structured forms.

And whilst the Youth Workforce Dream Team game doesn't quite have the flashy cartoon graphics of a DemGame from Delib, in being built since the New Year on top of Drupal, and in having the flexibility for us to respond to feedback and adapt it throughout it's short lifespan (the consultation runs until the 18th February 2008), it should help gather some really useful responses to influence the future of leadership and management training of youth services in England.

Are you using games?
I'm also interested to hear about any experience readers may have had in using games for consultation. Either online or in physical spaces. Have you designed games to engage young people in consultations and decision making? What works well? What issues are there to look out for?

Attachment: Information Sheet.pdf

Social Media ROI: Are we comparing like with like?

[Summary: To measure social media ROI we need to know about the ROI of paper-based outreach]

Credit: PhotoGraham - Creative Commons - (Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic) - http://www.flickr.com/photos/82278008@N00/283496355

If you've ever handed out a leaflet to a class of school students in tutorial you may be familiar with then finding 1/2 those leaflets dropped in the bin on the way out (recycling bin hopefully…).

If you look at the piles of paper on most office desks – and then ask the desk inhabitant how many of these documents they've actually read – and how many they've responded to in any way – you may well find their desk is collonised by many unread and unresponded too leaflets, magazines, reports and papers. Even though all those leaflets had a tear-off slip, and the magazines had a letters page.

Printing 1000 leaflets doesn't mean 1000 leaflets get read.

But leaflets don't report back how many people have read it.

A blog post does.

And a blog post might only be reporing 150 readers, and 2 comments.

But then, did two people write in to respond to the leaflet?

If we're comparing the print-run of your paper publications, with the number of people who've read what you've written online – then it strikes me that we're not comparing like-with-like.

Beth Kanter is writing a lot at the moment about measuing the Return On Investment (ROI) of social media.

Which has got me thinking about the need for an initial case study on measuring the ROI of a traditional charity publication, or the ROI of including a letters page in a paper-based supporters newsletter to help us in developing comparisons and a baseline to work with?

(Note: I'm thinking broadly in the context of basic social media interactions that involve offering information, inviting feedback and possibly getting into a conversation – not in terms of those that are involved in fundraising etc. when measuring ROI may be a simpler process…)

Photo Credit: Waste Paper by PhotoGraham

6 things thinks I learnt from BarCampUKGovWeb

I'm on the train back to Leicester after the first BarCampUKGovWeb and thought I should get down in blog form some of my early reflections.

6 Things I leant from BarCampUKGovWeb

  • We need to talk (and commission technology?) in terms of narratives and stories of user experience: What do we want to do for people? Unless I can describe in technology neutral terms what it is I want to do, and unless I can explain a) exactly how technology will help me do that, and b) why a technological solution is preferable over any other form of solution – I'm probably not going to end up with the technology that fits my needs. Stories are powerful. And we should be using them more.
  • We as citizens need to demand open data from Government: next time a government consultation asks me what would make youth services work better, or consultation work better, or government in general work better – I need to ask for open data; for web service APIs to direct gov; and for the right for committed citizens to innovate with public data – because I need to give my support to the committed and talented civil servants who can make that happen – but who won't be able to without the top down pressure from political masters and management.
  • This isn't simple. It's not about 'setting all the data free', or 'locking all the data down'. It's about deciding which data we should set free. Which information should be shared. Which contexts civil servants should be empowered to speak in, and what contexts they should be silent servants of the political system in. Choosing what government should do in the online space involves many complex decisions. But then so does deciding what government should do in the physical space. Why should I expect anything different?
  • There is amazing innovation and progress taking place in Government against the odds, but the stories of change are not always being shared – for example, UK legislation online has gone from being published with horrendous and unparsable HTML 3.1 markup to being published with very nifty semantic XHTML, but BarCampUKGovWeb was the first time that the story of how that happened was widely (?) shared. We need to share stories of change to inspire and encourage government webbies to create the amazing changes they would really like to be creating anyway.
  • We need to be thinking about content strategies, not web strategies. Citizens want information. Government wants to get content to citizens. Websites are only one platform. And platforms are just a small part of the process.
  • Self-organised conferences work – ok, only 50% of the session may really work for you. But compared to the 10% or 5% of sessions that really do the business at a conventional pre-planned conference, BarCamp is worth the (very well organised) chaos.

If you were at BarCampUKGovWeb what were 5 of the things you learnt today?

BTW: Many thanks to Jermy Gould and all others who make BarCampUKGovWeb happen.

Is it possible to mash up data from Direct.gov?

There is useful data in local direct gov – but can we get at it with a web service to create mash-ups for public benefit?

<warning – slightly geeky post coming up>

Last year we tried to raise awareness of the Youth Opportunity Fund and Youth Capital Fund with the Actions Speak Louder campaign. The campaign, targetted at young people – involved a national awards ceremony and publicity campaign – but the goal was to help young people find their local Youth Opportunity Fund grant making panel.

YOF/YCF serach on MySpace from Direct Gov?

The only place we could find a directory of Local Youth Opportunity fund websites was through Local.Direct.gov.uk, and it seems like you can only search on the Local Direct Gov orange website. However, we wanted to be able to pull a search of local Youth Opportunity Funds into a widget on the Actions Speak Louder mySpace website instead of pointing people off to Direct Gov.

Direct Gov Youth Funds

As far as I knew at the time, that couldn't be done. Local Direct Gov doesn't appear to provide an XML feed, or web service API. However, here at the BarCampUKGovWeb Paul Clarke who works with Direct Gov has suggested it might just be possible. He notes:

Hantsweb gave an interesting presentation at the last Directgov Open Day about how one local authority has used the Local Directgov functionality to enhance the way it routes interested citizen to relevant local services in its area (and close surroundings outside the county).

So I'm hopefuly. But with a bit more searching I'm little further forward.

So, I still have three questions:

1) Does anyone know if its possible to query the Local Direct Gov data as a webservice? Or do I have to always direct users off to the dreaded orange pages?

2) If it is – does anyone know how?

3) If it isn't – what would it take to make it possible?

Update: follow up post here

Government and young people online

I've just been in a session at BarcampUKGovWeb where we've been talking about how government provides information to young people, and involves young people in conversation with government (although we ran short on time to get onto that second and most important one). There's a lot to be talked about here – and 20 minutes only got us started. Below is a quick mindmap of what I gathered from the discussion:

Young people online

I'd be happy to share the mindmap with anyone else who was in the session who would like to add to it. And very keen to continue the discussion…

Hear by Right 2008 launched at last

Hear by Right 2008

It's been a long time coming, and it's still got a long way to go – but finally this afternoon I've been able to set the new version of the Hear by Right website live with the newly launched 2008 Hear by Right resources and a brand new design and CMS back-end (drupal). I won't write too much about it now… as heading off to the pub to celebrate… but a bit of background for you:

Hear by Right is a standards framework for the involvement of young people used by 100s of organisations from local authorities to small voluntary sector organisations. It's designed to help organisations change to embed the voice and influence of youth into their everyday fabric. Although as I mentioned in response to a post by David Wilcox last year Hear by Right has a lot to offer work on user engagement and participation in all organisations – not just those that work with young people.

Through the Hear by Right website we've been trying to:

  • Create a space to share learning from the many 100s of authorities and organisations using Hear by Right to map and plan for change
  • Curate and share some of the best resources to support the participation of young people in decision making
  • Encourage organisations to be more open about the challenges and successes in engaging young people in decision making
  • Make clear the neccessary link between participation in decision making and real change for the lives of young people

The site's new design and back-end should help us do that just a little better – and puts in some more solid foundations for us to build on than those that were provided by the somewhat hacked-together CMS I wrote back in 1999 whilst learning ASP (those days are fortunately long behind me…).

And now that the site is launched… I can finally start pulling together some plans to explore different ways of visualising the data it holds… expect more on that soon.

Help the Young Researcher Network find resources for teaching online research skills…

Young Researcher NetworkThe Young Researcher Network have just launched their programme of basic training for their network of 15 youth-led research projects (I created some resources for their launch conference in December last year) – and they're planning what training will come next. So far, with help from the Centre for Social Action they're going to be looking at:

  • the research process;
  • finding focus and defining a research question;
  • identifying a methodology;
  • considering the ethical implications of research.

But Darren and Antoinette from the Young Researcher Network also want to think about delivering training and support in online research methods for young people and I thought some readers here might be able to help them out with pointers to good resources, or some tips and tricks? They ask:

If you're a young person, perhaps as a young researcher, have you had any good training in how to use the internet well? Or have you just always known how to make use of the internet? Do you think you're an expert searcher – or are there things you want to know about?

And if you're involved in research – are there any good resources you can recommend for teaching good online research skills to the google generation, and supporting young people in online research?

If you think you could help – do drop them a comment on this post on their new blog – particularly as they're only just taking their first steps into the blosophere…