Thursday, 22 September 2011

How much time do you have to understand progress?

I just returned from sunny and warm Portugal where I was attending a meeting on the accessibility of statistics. I know that might sound dry but there were some very interesting things that came up. The crowd was mainly made up of international organisations and bankers, but it is really interesting to see that, no matter how far along they are with the use of social media or other new communications tools, everyone is basically in the same boat. With the vast amounts of data an information alive today, how does an organisation ensure that their information will have the most impact?

The OECD is also looking into making their statistics more accessible via visualisation and there is a group of us who are looking into that. From what I gather from the group at the OECD so far, and several other meetings around the world, people are trying to communicate statistics in an easy, quick and reliable way. Sounds like it might be easy; you just put out a spreadsheet and let people know about it. However, the complexity lies in the fact that statistics need a context. You can’t just look at evidence without knowing the whowhatwherewhenandwhy it was created. But, is that even enough? Should we even be putting out Wikiprogress statistics in wiki.stat without the context or analysis? Yes, free and transparent data is a public good so we should do it. But, we put it out with good metadata.
Now, how and to whom do we communicate it?

Do we try to segment the market (i.e., a difference message for journalists, academics, interested public)? I’m not sure. I think I lean along the lines that we will never really be able to know what these segments really are or what they really want. That “general public” category has always eluded me as well. Also, I think that these groups are dynamic and change. Maybe we should look at these things in terms of time rather than occupation or role.

For example, when you come on the Wikiprogress site you would see:

Welcome to Wikiprogress! How much time do you have to look into/contribute to progress in societies?

1 minute? Click here
5 minutes? Click here
1 hour? Click here
1 day? Click here
A lifetime? Click here

I’m not sure I have ever seen that before in website design. I think it might take into account most of our people without trying to pigeonhole them. It is also a pretty neutral way of bringing people into the site meaning that we will hold no preconceived notions of who our visitors are. Of course, we have a very good idea in general but perhaps asking people to search by "time available for this" might give them a richer experience. I think we will try it and let you know how it goes.

More thoughts on this to come - such as what channels should statistics communicators use, and will any of this create more a trusting environment? Any ideas you have are also very welcome.


PS: If I was asked the question: How much time do you have to look into/contribute to Portugal, my answer would certainly be “a lifetime”! What a wonderful place. Thank you.

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