Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Survey Results, Q2-3: Interest and Usefulness of PS Renewal-related Websites

There was an unusually high level of traffic on my blog yesterday, so I guess the first results of my little survey are drawing some attention. Not a single visitor has posted any comment though, which is ironically a good lead-in for this posting.

Today I am presenting the results to a few more questions from the survey, more specifically:

Q2. What is the level of usefulness of the following websites? Q3. What is your level of interest in the following websites?
  1. The PS Renewal page on the Canada Public Service Agency intranet site
  2. The site An Inconvenient Renewal
  3. The group Bottom-Up Renewal
  4. The blog Contrarian Thinking
  5. The blog CPSRenewal.ca
  6. The Facebook group on PS Renewal
The results are as follows (click on image to enlarge):

The good news is that respondents rated 5 of the 6 sites just above “medium” for both usefulness and level of interest (the only exception being the Facebook group on PS Renewal).

Something puzzles me though. While 5 of the sites' usefulness and interest comes at least in part from their interactive features (comments, input from users, or in some cases capacity to share links or attach documents), the level of participation on the majority of these sites is almost anaemic:
Part of the explanation undoubtedly lies in the inequality factor (thanks Nick for the link!), which states that “user participation often more or less follows a 90-9-1 rule:
  • 90% of users are lurkers (i.e., read or observe, but don't contribute);
  • 9% of users contribute from time to time, but other priorities dominate their time;
  • 1% of users participate a lot and account for most contributions: it can seem as if they don't have lives because they often post just minutes after whatever event they're commenting on occurs.
On my blog, I have received approximately 3200 visitors in the past 12 months, or 267 visitors per month. It is not too bad given that I have averaged just over one post per month in the last year (by comparison, CPSRenewal.ca practically features a new post every day and a column every week!). But I have also averaged just over 1 comment per post, when according to the 90-9-1 rule I should have expected 15 to 20 times. So there must be something else…

I am raising this issue because the implications are broader than you might think. As you may know, I do quite a lot of work in staffing, and one of the comments I hear the most often coming from managers is that they want “more tools and more opportunities to share best practices” around staffing and the new PSEA. Now here we are with PS Renewal, hearing similar demands, and for once the tools are available and the opportunities to share “best practices” are better than they ever were. But no one is making use of the tools, and few people are sharing anything. Why is that?

Could it be that the repeated demands for more tools and opportunities to share best practices are in fact “cop out”? A thinly veiled excuse for not taking responsibility for the change, yet not being blamed for the lack of progress?

I can already see employees pointing the finger at managers, managers pointing the finger at senior executives, and senior executive pointing the finger at central agencies. “It's not our fault if we are not getting positive results with regards to {insert problem of the day here, i.e. PSEA, staffing, recruitment, succession planning, PS Renewal, etc.}! We need more tools! YOU (whoever this may be) must give us tools like websites where we can access information, repositories for sharing best practices with other Departments, and discussion forums to encourage dialogue!”...


Troubling isn't it?...

And perhaps a little painful...

Let's get back on track before denial kicks in...

So far, I have only been able to come up with a few other explanations for the low participation rate:
  • Restricted access to these sites from work;
  • Equivalent or better sites available behind departmental firewalls;
  • Limited time to comment and provide input;
  • Discomfort or lack of familiarity with the medium and/or the technology;
  • Language barrier (i.e. sites in English only);
  • Fear of getting in trouble;
  • Learned helplessness.
If you can think of other reasons why participation is so low – especially when we keep hearing that people want more opportunities to share ideas and best practices – please comment below. I will use your input for my next poll on this blog.

Tomorrow... Well, tomorrow is a special day. I'm saying no more, it's a surprise!


Etienne Laliberté said...

Another very interesting article on user participation: http://www.evidencesoup.com/canopener/2008/11/still-searching-for-evidence-of-that-elusive-online-influencer.html

Asif said...

Hi Etienne,

My experience tells me that there is indeed a deep desire at the ground level to have their voices heard via communities -- the problem comes when what is voiced is seen as "dangerous" because it could ruffle feathers at higher levels.

I would argue that this enculturated self-censoring plays the largest part in inhibiting open communication (virtual or not) among public servants -- particularly when it comes to "political" issues like PS Renewal (which seems to be being interpreted differently by different people).

Posting where nobody's listening has its own negative consequences on participation; posting where anybody could be listening raises a whole host of other consequences.

So I would vote for the "fear of getting in trouble" option above as the main issue -- to the extent that I believe that what I've just posted here could be used against me at some point in the future.

Dorothy said...

I think the reason for lack of uptake could be a combination of the factors you listed. Also, though, could it be that managers don't know the tools are there?