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28.03.2010: CLF 3.0 Crowdsourcing: A Public Traction Pill for OpenGov Initiatives
While the reaction to the Government of Canada web template design (CLF3Layout.doc, 100Kb) published in my previous blog post was extremely positive, the item that generated the most intriguing follow-up conversation was the concept of crowdsourcing the CLF 3.0 visual design to the general public.
It is well documented that the Government of Canada has fallen behind other governments when it comes to Gov 2.0 initiatives. Countries like New Zealand, Finland and Australia have all created clean, modern and professional look and feel standards for their government web properties. And although still behind Canada on look and feel standardization, the US Federal Government roared ahead of the pack on the OpenGov front, riding the popularity of crowdsourcing initiatives like Data.gov, Peer to Patent, the recently announced Design for America contest, as well as virally marketed local initiatives like Apps for Democracy. If you are not familiar with these, and youíre wondering just how successful our southern neighbours were in capturing the publicís interest, here's an example: when launched, in May 2009, Data.gov had just 47 data sets. 10 months later, it now has more than 168,000 and it's growing every day. Another country at the forefront of the OpenGov movement, New Zealand, has successfully released data.govt.nz, its own data catalog used for crowdsourcing purposes.
I would venture to say that while I am confident that Canada will (eventually) open its federal data (there are some great internal collaboration and OpenGov initiatives that are driven out by the enthusiastic W2P public servant crowd - twitter search: #w2p), we have clearly missed the boat on being leaders in the open data space. However, there is one initiative that can put Canada right up there with the leaders in this space: crowdsourcing the new version of our Federal Government's look and feel standards (CLF 3.0). To my knowledge, no government has done this yet and pulling it off would not only raise the profile of our Gov2.0 and OpenGov programs, but would bring much needed positive coverage both nationally and internationally for our battered Public Service decision-makers. As they say, if you can't win, make up your own sport :O)
THE SITUATION AT TBS/CIOBAs documented in my previous post and numerous other web articles, CLF 1.0 and 2.0 have clearly failed from a visual, information architecture and accessibility standpoint. A recent lawsuit citing the lack of standardized accessible features for persons with disabilities in Federal Government properties is directly responsible for making accessibility the focus of future CLF improvements, probably at the expense of visual design. TBS / CIOB are left justifying their stances on CLF 2.0 and are scrambling to fill in the blanks as they go, lagging well behind public expectations. And while internal interest in CLF has steadily increased, the large number of empty GCPEDIA (Government of Canada collaboration wiki) CLF-related working groups is a testament to the fact that internal-only collaboration is still the wrong approach.
Moreover, despite the fact that publicís view of the standard is at an all time low, the CLF team ranks are made of just a handful of people, focused mostly on accessibility features. Largely ignoring the UX (user experience) side of CLF is a major oversight, and as a taxpayer, this is not exactly a confidence builder looking ahead. This make me wonder if we require a lawsuit targeting specifically how unintuitive the visual features and information architecture of CLF 2.0 are, in order to persuade TBS/CIOB to add competent user experience expertise to the team.
POSITIVE MEDIA COVERAGECrowdsourcing CLF 3.0 will solve all these functional and perception-related mishaps. Unlike the typical path of subcontracting work to a preferred local supplier (which will no doubt unleash a coast-to-coast media backlash regardless of the amount of accolades won by the GoCís advertising agency of choice), a crowdsourcing competition based on electronic submissions will allow participation of any individual or agency, regardless of their geographic location. Full involvement of the public (via popular voting, student submissions, sponsorships etc.) will allow the Federal Government to make educated decisions about the entire visual feature set that will be included in CLF3, while saving taxpayers money and saving itself a lot of time (more on this later).
THE ISSUE OF TIMINGFrom a timing perspective, I believe there is a very short window of opportunity here, especially by Government standards. If we want to be the first, and we if we want this to be the crowning achievement in kickstarting a true open government era in Canada, the crowdsourcing competition would have to start no later than mid-summer. This gives the TBS folks four very short months to work a crowdsourcing proposal through the ranks and obtain ministerial approval. And while the political side of things is moving, the real work also has to get under way. A professional, independent (non CLF 2.0 please) website will have to be built as the central piece of the initiative, for both marketing and operational (submissions and judging) purposes. Social media will have to be engaged both internally and externally to get the word out, and viral marketing campaigns will have to be created. The importance of student submissions should also be promoted on campuses across the country (those submissions will certainly serve as a springboard for the careers of those young designers, maybe even by offering a job with the federal government for the best student submission).
JUDGING ENTRIESThe next dilemma for a crowdsourcing endeavour is choosing judges. Not only do we need competent judges who truly understand three very important pieces of the CLF puzzle: design, user experience and technology, but we want them to also be able to spread the word about the contest. A judging criteria guide would have to be created in order to give an idea to both the judges and the competitors about the feature sets that will be evaluated.
FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONSI mentioned earlier that I will talk about the financial implication of such an undertaking. In my previous post I stated that I am confident that most people would do this free of charge as a means of helping out and/or self-branding. But it would be better from a marketing standpoint to make this a true competition with great prizes in all of the winning categories (I would estimate in the total prize money for the competition in the 20,000 to 50,000 range). This is also where sponsorship deals come in. Companies like Adobe, Apple, Microsoft immediately come to mind, as possible suppliers of prizes (imagine offering Adobe CS5 to the top finalists in the popular vote and the student vote, or a brand new 17í MacBook Pros to students who could never afford this while paying for university?). High profile sponsorship deals will not only allow this competition to become the talk of the interwebs, but will also significantly sweeten the financial commitment that the Federal Government needs to make in order to successfully see this initiative through.
As far as the money saved by the taxpayers, currently CLF 3.0 is expected at the earliest sometime in the 2011-12 fiscal year, which is clearly too late. A crowdsourcing competition would not only accelerate the process, but it will also save a lot of money on top of the sponsorship funds. If youíre still skeptical, here's another example from the US. In the first 30 days, the first edition of Apps for Democracy yielded 47 applications - a $2,300,000 value to the city of Washington DC at a cost of only $50,000. This is a 46 to 1 ratio of return. I don't know about you, but if all the money spent by the government would have anything resembling that kind of impact, I would personally write an open letter to the PM urging him to crowsource every public service known to man. But for now, letís start with CLF.
OPINIONS?What do you guys think? How can we make this happen? If you have a couple of minutes, please leave a comment below so we can keep the conversation going... Tags: GoC CLF, user experience, community, design, standards
I think it's a good idea, but I don't think GOC would ever let this happen. That would mean to acknowledge (and broadcast to the world) that they are bad at this and they need help. But I did like your idea from our conversation yesterday, making this a private or academic undertaking, rather than a public one...
I really wish this could happen, either initiated by the government or as a private/academic initiative. As pointed out in the article, the Public Service clearly lacks the human resources to properly address CLF3. And while accessibility improvements are great, they won't even be visible to the 99% of us who use the mouse/keyboard as primary input devices.
I agree completely that CLF 3.0 should address more issues than accessibility. However, I disagree with your assertion that accessibility improvements only benefit 1% of web users.
The Statistics Canada Participation and Activities Limitation Survey 2006 (PALS 2006) shows 14.3% of Canadians reporting as having a mild to severe disability, this number is likely to grow as our population ages. Although not all 14.3% of Canadians reporting a disability have a disability that will benefit from improvements to accessibility, I would guess that more than 1% of Canadians have a disability that would benefit from web accessibility.
Along with the direct benefits to the disabled community, web accessibility forces developers to think about semantic design, this I would argue will benefit all users in general, including search engines, who are also blind to visual design.
Finally, there are many users who have a disability that would benefit from accessible web design, but who quite comfortably use a mouse / keyboard for input. Users with low vision, hearing impairments, mild motor-function impairments, and users with learning disability to name a few groups.
Just some thoughts.
This is another great article. Thanks Cornelius!
It would be an interesting process to simply start listing the accessibility, usability & visual requirements that submitted brands would require. Also the Netherlands has some interesting approaches worth looking at as far as checklists http://www.webrichtlijnen.n...
I did want to comment on the accessibility issue that Philip raised. Accessibility issues affect much more than 99% of the population. Screen readers are a very small portion of the population, but a surprisingly high population of men are colour blind. There are no easy statistics for the number of people who are benefited by accessibility enhancements (but it's clearly much higher than 1%).
We published a white paper recently on Accessibility issues for those who are interested http://openconcept.ca/blog/...
Everett, Mike: I agree with everything you guys said, my guess is Philip's numbers were off (or ballparked) intentionally to underline that while those improvements are being made and are required in order for CLF to become a better standard, just improving accessibility means ignoring the needs of the vast majority of the population, who are just as vocal about the missing UX features in the standard.
From what I found out from my discussions this week (which are reflected in the post), accessibility is being addressed, and the entire TBS CLF team caters to that. While I have no idea what's coming up, I would expect that the lawsuit is forcing CLF to significantly mature accessibility-wise.
I'm just not very confident that we're gonna get the same magnitude of improvements on the UX front. The theme of this post is crowdsourcing the look and feel of the CLF, and extending it to the accessibility side of the standard would not be applicable because most graphics designers are not involved in coding the underlying hypertext and scripts. Mandating accessibility features would significantly limit the response in this case.
Another excellent post, Cornelius!
Maybe you want to check out the upcoming Public Sector Social Media: New Rules of Engagement conference to see if there is any movement in the right direction.
Thank you for the kind words Robert :O)
As far as the conference is concerned, there are so many upcoming Social Media conferences, I would't know which one to go to... The ALI conference is soon, GTEC is in June, there's a W2P conference is the making, there are all kinds of social media workshops, it's almost like the space is becoming oversaturated with competing events. Prices are also skyrocketing this year, so I think I`m going to skip the big conferences in favour of more intimate events.
accessibility branding business canUX community conference design GoC CLF marketplace ottawa privacy project management public sector research security standards TEDx thoughts usability user experience user interface UX tools UXcamp wireframes
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