chrishaller's blog

eParticipation - a quick introduction

My presentation at last years PlaceMatters conference, end of October in Denver, CO. The presentation was giving a quick introduction to the field and setting the stage for the panel discussion that followed. (This is a backpost, since Google Docs didn't exist back then...)­



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Community Almanac - RFP to build an online mapping platform

The Orton Family Foundation just released a RFP to help them build their Community Almanac - an online mapping platform that helps communities to capture their assets or heart&soul. 

From the RFP: ... as stories, pictures and videos emerge during communities’ heart and soul articulation processes, and as technologies ever simplify the digital capture and depiction of such information on maps, the Foundation would like to offer the ability for its project communities and communities at large to utilize simple open source or Web 2.0 technology to build online, digital community almanacs. These community almanacs would be digital maps (perhaps GIS-derived, but not requiring active GIS to use) to (1) depict the community or county in which the project is located, (2) "easily" collect, display and manage community stories, pictures, graphics and videos through uploads by people in the community, and (3) make these stories and pictures readily accessible to all citizens through hotlinks on the map and/or other intuitive interface components. 

Read the full RFP document here >> 

Online Dialogue - Berlin Tempelhof hosted by Zebralog

My colleagues at Zebralog in Berlin have recently released a great video clip showcasing the online dialogue they hosted about the reuse of Flughafen Tempelhof, formerly Berlin's biggest inner city airport. It shows the on-site workshops they organized which accompanied the online discussion to inform and educate participants. The end of the clip demonstrates the importance of public kiosks to reach a less tech-savvy crowd and include their opinions into online processes. 

The GeoWeb - Presentation at CommunityMatters07


My presentation at this years CommunityMatters conference, end of October in Burlington, VT. The presentation was giving a quick round-up of the paradigm shift happening in the realm of GIS/Mapping and setting the stage for the panel discussion that followed. 



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Wiki Technology to Capture Open Space Outcomes

­The CommunityMatters07 conference in Burlington, VT is over and we are back in Denver. Looking back, it was a successful conference and the Open Space session on Day 2 was a great way to discuss issues that couldn't be addressed during the presentations on Day 1 and to  learn from the diverse group of participants. 

″Open Space Technology is a process…that allows organizations, groupsand communities to operate with high levels of dialogue, passion andcommitment. It allows leadership and structure to emerge, stimulatesmeaningful planning and initiates inspired performance. In short, itstrips away all that is non-essential and invites people to operate inOpen Space.″

- Chris Corrigan, Open Space Facilitator

Open Space begins with a blank wall anda room full of thoughtful, engaged participants focused on achievingsimilar outcomes. Topics for discussion are placed on the wall,locations and times are determined, and the day’s agenda slowly beginsto take shape. Participants decide where they can learn and contributethe most and make their way accordingly. Discussions begin and notesare captured in an online wiki or through other mechanisms. Over thecourse of the day, new ideas and initiatives emerge and evolve. At theend of the Open Space, participants put forth next steps as ideas arecarried forth and new projects are set in motion.

Like last year, we used Wiki technology to capture outcomes of the small-group discussion and make the available via the conference website. We used the dozen of laptops we have to support our eMeetings and had each group assign a notetaker, who captured the ongoing conversations as they happened. Participants were able to revisit the outcomes and make changes where needed for a few days after the conference. The final document will stay up on the conference website.

Front Porch Forum wins Innovator in Place Award

During the CommunityMatters conference in Burlington Vermont end of October, the Orton Family Foundation named Michael Wood-Lewis winner of the 2007 Innovator in Place Award. Michael hosts and facilitates Front Porch Forum, a free online neighborhood forum based in Burlington, VT. 
From the official press release:

    "Some argue that the Internet isolates people, further tearing the social fabric," said Orton Family Foundation President and CEO Bill Roper, "but Michael proves the opposite can be true. His innovation, civic spirit and commitment enable the kind of friendship, trust and interdependence among neighbors that the Foundation believes are key to vibrant, sustainable community. His tool is enhancing Burlington's heart and soul." 

    Michael Wood-Lewis, with his wife Valerie, founded Front Porch Forum in 2006.  In its first year, the Forum's trend setting use of the Internet at the neighborhood level brought 25 percent of the citizens of Burlington, Vermont (pop. 38,889), into community discussions. The free on-line service hosts 130 adjacent neighborhood forums covering every part of Chittenden County. About 7,000 households have subscribed, and hundreds more join every month.

    "We hear from people all the time who lament not knowing their neighbors," said Wood-Lewis.  "When Front Porch Forum kicks into gear, those connections begin to form.  It's a wonderful thing to watch take root, grow and blossom."

    Citizens put Front Porch Forum to good use, connecting with neighbors and building community by posting all sorts of messages: borrow a ladder, refer a plumber, look out for a lost kitten, organize a block party, discuss traffic calming, report a break-in, announce a school play, debate zoning, and on and on.  In addition to direct results ("Kitten Found!"), it's the growth of community offline that is the true measure of Front Porch Forum's impact. Each message comes from a clearly identified nearby neighbor, so over time participants get to know each other better. This familiarity spills over from the virtual to the actual front porch.

    The webs spun by Front Porch Forum that connect people are strengthened by 250 Forum Neighborhood Volunteers who champion the forums in their own areas, and 140 local elected and public officials who participate across their jurisdictions.  Police and other government officials use the site to better respond to problems in their area.  A remarkable Burlington innovation actively cultivating the development of rich, vibrant community, Front Porch Forum is exploring replication options and has a waiting list with more than 150 communities. Michael Wood-Lewis's groundbreaking social innovation is a blueprint for community development of the future. 


The underlying technology appears to be standard bulletin board software that allows both submission via email and through a web form, to reach different audiences. Which shows that this is another remarkable example how not the latest social software applications, but an on-the-ground approach builds true online, an in this case real neighborhood, community.

Jott the Vote - Messages to Presidential Campaign Via Phone to Text

A while back I started using, a voice to email service to update my personal todo list from m­y phone. I was amazed about how accurate most of the calls are transcribed and kept watching future development closely.

Just recently, they introduced Jott the Vote™, a free and politically nonpartisanservice that allows anyone with a phone to send a jott email messagedirectly to a presidential campaign.

"We have used Jott technology toallow voters all over our great country to easily and readilycommunicate with those running for President.

When asked, “Who do you want to Jott?” say a candidate’s name andleave a message that will be emailed to their campaign. Unlike yournormal jotts, these messages will also be made part of a publicconversation on

The website features:

  • Individual presidential candidate pages.
  • Candidate Jott polls.
  • A campaign question of the week."

The result can be found at I must say, I really like the voice to text part of it, which would be useful for any online dialogue to include people without internet access, whether that's in general or just because they are sitting at the bus station. Nonetheless, it also shows the shortcomings of phone integration, since an exchange of opinions is basically non-existent - if users reply to posts, barely ever does the author get back to them (could be a sign on lack of interest or significance of the discussion too).

Bringing comments submitted via phone or snail mail into an online deliberation with two way feedback/true exchange of opinions stays a challenging task and I haven't seen any case study successfully address that yet.

Free Webcasts with

I'm back-posting here, life has been busy over the last weeks, with Robin and I getting married on Oct. 6th. We had such a great time with fiends and family, but only a few of my folks in Germany were able to come to Denver to celebrate with us. So I looked into options to broadcast the ceremony, to enable everyone who couldn't make it to be with us virtually, while we were saying our vows.

This is where the story becomes worth a post on my participatory technology blog: The service I ended up using is called and I can highly recommend it, if you're looking for a free, high-quality way to broadcast meetings, workshops or town hall meetings.

From their website: "Ustream is a platform that provides live interactive video for everyone. Anyone with a camera and an Internet connection can use Ustream to broadcast to a global audience."

The whole application is flash-driven, which allows you to easily broadcast and record your session, without worrying about complex IP configurations and similar issues of other approaches to streaming video. Since the viewer is in flash too, it's as easy to integrate into your website as a Youtube video. This also means your users most likely will not have to worry about having the right software installed (real player vs. windows media player vs. quicktime) since flash is pre-installed on all modern browsers. It's a hosted service, so you don't have to worry about bandwidth either.

A quick note on the camera. You'll need a decent webcam to produce a high quality video stream. Even though webcams are getting better today, most of them still won't give you the quality you're looking for. This is a big issue, but in my research I found the "QuickCam Pro for Notebooks" from Logitech to be the best in terms of lens, light adjustments etc. I can highly recommend it, it turned out to be the best webcam I've used and the quality of the streaming video exceeded my expectations by far.

Cross-media participation research

A summarizing article of my research on cross-media public participation has been published in the most recent Limehouse publication. It outlines the key findings from the evaluation of two cutting-edge public participation projects in Berlin, Germany and ends with a list of recommendations for successful citizen engagement in an age of rapid technological changes and convergence of communication media. 

You can download a pdf version of the article or go to PlaceMatters' publication section to provide your input and feedback.  

eConsultation Platform for National Leadership Summits

We've been asked by Bill Becker, who's hosting the National Leadership Summits to provide an easy way to collect feedback on a large amount of ideas generated in the past to be included into the next Presidential Climate Action Plan. This is a screencast showcasing the eConsultation platform we built on Drupal. My first screencast... I'll keep practicing:

Some background information on the project:

In 1993, a group of American leaders began a six-year process to create a sustainable development agenda for the nation. The group was the President's Council on Sustainable Development, created during the Clinton Administration. Many of its ideas have remain just that -- ideas. Some have been implemented, but most have not. We need your help updating and refining these ideas to include them into the next Presidential Climate Action Plan.


In 2006, the Johnson Foundation began hosting a series of four National Leadership Summits to renew a discussion about U.S. sustainability. The summits, each involving 40 of the country's best thinkers, developed additional ideas about how to advance energy policy, natural resource stewardship and sustainable community development, especially in light of global climate change. (Learn more at   The final summit will take place in October. Its mission is to produce a five-year action plan to revitalize the goal of sustainable development and to identify the nation's next steps.
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