chrishaller's blog now in public beta

cover We spent some time over the last weeks building a web application that allows presenters, event organizers and others to set up polls and message boards to be displayed on screens or monitors and their audience to respond with their mobile phone (text message or mobile webpage) - It's time to move forward, so take a look, play with and let us know what your reactions are - bug reports, feature suggestions and any ideas on how this could be (more) useful. And please forward...

OpenWebDay Focuses on Online Participation in Democracy


From the OneWebDay website: 

OneWebDay is one day a year when we all - everyone around the physical globe - can celebrate the Web and what it means to us as individuals, organizations, and communities.


The idea behind OneWebDay is to:

  • focus attention on a key internet value (this year, online participation in democracy)
  • focus attention on local internet concerns (connectivity, censorship, individual skills)
  • create a global constituency that cares about protecting and defending the internet

We’re building towards September 22, a Monday this year.

Curious to see what activities around online participation in democracy will be offered.  

What is mParticipation and what does it bring to the table?

Stefan Höffken at Zebralog has a nice post on mParticipation at the new PEP-Net Blog:

Mobile Participation (mParticipation) seems to be the next step in ePartizipation. With the rising of the iPhone and other smart phones and combined with other features like GPS and Location Based Services the expectations for new applications for are high. Consequently mobile applications amplify eParticipation in an spatial and temporal dimension. Not only at home, but also e.g. traveling in the metro, participants are enabled to read, write and follow the discussions.

While the discussion about mParticipation itself is not new, the debate about its benefits is changing with new phones and features coming out on a weekly basis. At this point, I feel the question is, what do we call mParticipation and where is the difference to what we consider eParticipation?
In my eyes, using smartphones to participate in online dialogues or consultation processes shouldn't be considered mParticipation. Technologies change and a couple of years from now I doubt there's going to be any differentiation whether citizens use desktop PCs, laptops, xBoxes, mobile devices or whatever online-enabled device comes next to participate in eParticipation projects.
Where I agree with Stefan, and feel some of the comments are coming short, is the added value mobile devices can bring to the table - the core of mParticipation. Stefan points out that
"even if SMS only offer limited possibilities (because of the restriction to 160 signs) in comparison to mobile internet devices, there are arguments for integration in participation processes. They are an easy to use feature, they are cheap, they can be integrated to web (and vice versa). Looking at demoscopic data, they even offer more advantages."
The point is they are ubiquitous, basically everyone on the street carries them. This is the true value which we need to explore further - how do we best use mobile devices as points-of-entry to the main engagement offering: a short question, first statements, spatial annotations, etc. that are context-sensitive and make the connection between project and everyday life of our target audiences. And responses with further information and automatic opt-ins into a contact database are bridges that can help to turn interested passerbys into engaged participants. The design of those kinds of cross-media participation processes is still in its infancy. I barely know good examples in the field (any pointers?), but looking at the shifts going on in the marketing world, there's a lot of potential.

Finally, I believe we shouldn't get hung up in discussions about whether mParticipation is a next step (e.g. here and here), but an addition to the toolset with a lot of potential that still needs to prove its true benefits.

Zilino - Your friendly e-participation engine

Curious to see what Tim and his colleagues are working on...

PEP-Net launched: New european eParticipation Network

My colleague Hans Hagedorn just came back from the PEP-Net Kick-Off:

PEP-NET will be a European network of all stakeholders active in the field of eParticipation. PEP-NET therefore already includes public bodies, solution providers and citizen organizations as well as researchers and scientists. The network is open to all organizations willing and actively trying to advance the idea and use of eParticipation in Europe.

The project aims to help overcome fragmentation and promote best practice by connecting established and experienced eParticipation players and networks throughout Europe as a critical first step. The objective of this project is to achieve critical mass for the establishment of a Pan European eParticipation Network (PEP-NET). Such a network will act as a repository and disseminator of good practice and exchange of experience, and be a visible resource for all interested parties across the European Union.

PEP-NET will ensure wider access to European eParticipation projects and permit more effective dialogue between eParticipation experts, researchers, practitioners, public administrations, civil society organisations and the interested public with the ultimate goal of facilitating knowledge transfer, encouraging further eParticipation trials and establishing European leadership in this field.


Lifestyle Democracy

Recently I stumbled across Traci Fenton's article 7 Trends Making Businesses More Democratic and finally discovered a term to better describe a major influence on our work that I've been thinking about a lot: Lifestyle Democracy.

We vote for the next American Idol, buy goods after reading the pros and cons that others discussed, rate our top movies, pictures, podcasts and get recommendations on what to watch, read, listen to next.

It’s the rise of what I call “lifestyle democracy,” where everything from media to music, education to fashion is being democratized. The effect of this trend: With life becoming democratized employees will expect the same at work.

... and citizens from their governments.


Google Earth Use in Everyday Life

As planners, geographers, researchers, etc. we're all excited about the opportunities that Google Earth provides for our daily work. But looking at this survey/question Lifehacker posted today (amongst a tech-savvy audience), it doesn't seem like the data, information and interactivity we create on top of it has hit the masses yet. At the time of this post, 66% use it very infrequently, though the options are poorly worded/incomplete. But the comments provide a nice overview of how different users apply GE:

... Google earth helps me get a nice lay of the land so to speak before I travel anywhere ... maybe for my science teacher trying to explain global warming, but the only time I've actually USED Google Earth was for a science project ... Sometimes, I will "fly" to my mom's house when I feel homesick ... I've used Google Earth to track most of our Geocaching expeditions ... I do a bit of cycling and skiing. It's great to export the kml file, and show other people where you have been ... and of course: I get a bit sentimental when I look at my own house in Google Earth, and see my old 1985 V-8 Thunderbird still parked in the driveway! I miss that car... I stupidly sold it, years ago

- just to offer a few sound bites. What really strikes me is that nobody mentions any planning related uses - no zoning maps, no 3D visualizations of new buildings, no fly-throughs for masterplans/comprehensive plans...

Looking for a new job

I recently left my former job at PlaceMatters in search of a new challenge. While I've taken on some freelance work for now, I'm ultimately looking for a full-time position somewhere at the intersection of Planning, Public Relations/Involvement and Communication Technology. 

If you, or anyone you know is looking for a passionate employee with hands-on experience implementing all stages of public involvement projects for regional visioning, comprehensive planning, and community planning, a tech-savvy urban and regional planner or creative communications manager, please have a look at my portfolio and resume and contact me.

Starbucks' eParticipation efforts a success story

When I first heard about the My Starbucks Idea campaign, I didn't pay much attention. After checking back and reading more about it, I have to say I'm impressed. 

The site asks customers to "shape the future of Starbucks" in four ways: Share, Vote, Discuss, See. Ideas are voted on after they are submitted and the ones with the most votes go into review. The "See" section lists the customer-submitted ideas that were actually adopted.

Looking at the way this eParticipation offering is designed, it seems like they've done their homework. The facilitation team is on the ball, the way ideas move from their initial stage to being implemented straightforward and transparent plus they’ve taken the “let’s talk and maybe it will impact action” concept and made the action a measurable component.  It makes the consumer feel like they're actually impacting change.

The site is powered by, the same San Francisco customer-relations management firm that powers for Dell Inc. The world's No. 2 personal computer maker started IdeaStorm early last year in hopes of repairing its battered customer-service credentials.

Both online communities offer three options for weighing in -- sharing an idea, voting on it and discussing it -- plus a tab with updates on which ideas the company is putting into action. [via]

It's great to see our society moving towards a participatory culture and large companies embracing it. That still leaves the question: If Starbucks opens up and lets us, the customers, discuss "why extra milk the only difference between Venti and Grande drinks is", to a point where they now actually consider changing this (after 15000+ votes and 120+ comments), when do our cities and communities follow?

Story Telling via Google Maps

It's fascinating to see how new web technology is reshaping story telling. I recently found this great example of science fiction story telling via the O'Reilly Radar

Penguin books is working with 6 authors to tell 6 stories in 6 weeks. The first one, The 21 Steps, is told via embedded Google Maps. Wow. What a great method of delivering stories, especially this one that follows a man around town (inspired by the classic thriller The 39 Steps).

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