All kudos to the Number 10 webbies

When Jimmy Leach left Downing Street last Autumn, after the changing of the guard, many people thought that the raft of innovation he had overseen (including the introduction of online petitions and webchats) would come to an end. I have to admit that I was one of those people.

But in recent weeks, coinciding with the arrival of Jimmy’s replacement – Mark Flanagan – the web team at Number 10 has been on a bit of a roll.

First, a neat little wordpress microsite build to support the Progressive Governance summit at the beginning of April. The project included a live video stream of the event and online chat between officials and viewers. Considering the event took place on a Saturday, and the subject matter, it got a pretty good audience.

Second, an even cleverer wordpress microsite to support the prime minister’s recent visit to the United States. As well as the goodies above, this project incorporated Google maps to track the progress of the visit across the country.

Third, the launch of a Downing Street Twitter feed a few weeks back. Initial suspicion that this would simply tweet links to official announcements on the Downing Street website were allayed as the team found their voice, using the tool to support announcements, events (such as the two described above) and engage in dialogue and banter with the geek ‘twitterarti’.

All this activity has attracted attention elsewhere. Last Friday, the Guardian published an article on their homepage, sorry frontpage, about Downing Street’s use of Twitter. Now that is some coverage and encouragement.

Downing Street’s innovation has always been of help to other government webbies to justify investing time and effort in using new tools and applications for communication and engagement.

This isn’t playing with technology for the sake of technology. Its about piloting new methods of engagement, at little or no cost, in an attempt to improve transparency and dialogue.

Please guys, keep it up for all our sakes.

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  1. Slight correction: it isn’t entirely playing with technology for the sake of technology. 🙂

    Some of it was unashamedly playful. The presentation of blog archives on a Google Map wasn’t especially accessible, and was unquestionably slower to render and more awkward to code than a simple list. But it looked cute, and it was nice to prove it was possible.

    Which is precisely the purpose for doing it. I lashed it all together in just a couple of days, start to finish… and still managed to incorporate supposedly ‘difficult’ things like a Google Map. This wasn’t just talk; see, it can be done.

    Now, let’s think of something better to do with it.

  2. Slight correction: it isn’t entirely playing with technology for the sake of technology. 🙂

    Some of it was unashamedly playful. The presentation of blog archives on a Google Map wasn’t especially accessible, and was unquestionably slower to render and more awkward to code than a simple list. But it looked cute, and it was nice to prove it was possible.

    Which is precisely the purpose for doing it. I lashed it all together in just a couple of days, start to finish… and still managed to incorporate supposedly ‘difficult’ things like a Google Map. This wasn’t just talk; see, it can be done.

    Now, let’s think of something better to do with it.

    • futurewww
    • April 27th, 2008

    nice sites, but are they website rationalisation-friendly?

  3. @futurewww Details dear boy, details 🙂

    • futurewww
    • April 28th, 2008

    …..very cryptic!

    but seriously, couldn’t you argue that all these (lovely) wordpress free sites highlight the flaw in the web rat approach? It shouldn’t be just about reducing headline numbers; the lead driver should be what customers want. (And I’ve never heard a customer say that the problem with government sites is that there are too many of them. Chances are they will pick on something else, such as poor user journey, too silo’d, inaccessible, boring content, etc etc…..).

    So how would a government webbie square this I wonder?

  4. Yeah apologies for that…

    I’m not sure if they do or not. Most of them (and there’ve only been a few) are add-ons to existing sites for specific purposes and/or functionality rather than new standalone government websites.

  5. Serendipitously found this (we each left on the site of someone [or somebot] self-described as “SocialButterfly” a “thanks for visiting but who are you?” comment). I had heard just the other day about Downing Street and Web 2.0 so it was good to be able to read this and get a bit of an idea of what is happening. As our new Aussie PM K Rudd was there for the Progressive Government event who knows but he may have picked up an idea or two also.

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