Zach had a post up yesterday that should be embarrassing to government employees at many levels.  I’d like to offer those in power a solution that seems to work very well, and might provide a low-cost, almost foolproof way of identifying these problems in the future: listen to your customers.  Though there are various ways to accomplish this, my absolute favorite method is used by Seattle’s Department of Transportation.

SDOT has a blog, and on that blog there is a page set up just to listen to the public.  On this page a person can comment, and generally within a few days an SDOT representative comments back.  The responses are simple and courteous, but almost always describe what branch of SDOT the problem is being reported to and how a problem is being solved.  There’s also a page to report potholes, and they’re usually fixed within a day or two of reporting them.

Imagine if this process existed for King County Metro – it seems highly unlikely those announcements would continue for a year.  I’d actually love to see this throughout government.

17 Replies to “Government by Crowdsourcing: SDOT’s Blog”

  1. I wish somebody from Customer service would monitor all social media outlets for reports. KCMetroBus on Twitter does a good job but I’m not sure if that channel is official and gets the support it needs.

    1. Maybe someone in Metro does monitor social media, and they try to keep quiet about it. There have been ideas floated here that Metro pays attention to, such as yesterday’s revelation about PM peak loaders in the tunnel.

      Metro does have open-comment blogs for its change proposals, but all that does is elicit comments from those who benefit from the waste in the status quo. A more general blog where people could express their opposition to the status quo might elicit more support for change.

      1. Linda Thielke herself used to respond. I thing that the blog was (at least intially) overwhelmed with negative questions that Thielke wasn’t able (or willing) to translate into statements of (perceived) official policy responses from Metro. I agree that this would be a good avenue for communications, but somewhat empathise with lower-leve bureacrats fearing that their internet postings might become national news.

    2. Monitoring what customers say is a good start, and I’m sure Metro does this to some extent. But having 2-way feedback is much, much better. To start with, it removes the feeling that customers are shouting into an empty hole. It also ensures that someone really implements changes, as it creates accountability.

    3. Given that memoranda occasionally appear suspiciously in tandem with outrbreaks in the blogosphere – I’d say that the issue is covered, if not officially then unofficially.

  2. Thanks, Matt, for a reasoned and practical solution to an infuriating chronic problem.

    Mark Dublin

  3. I’d hate to be a Vancouver fetishist here, but TransLink has done an excellent job using crowdsourcing/Web 2.0 techniques where they have all their customer information and communications staff monitoring Twitter.

    1. Are you suggesting we just post on Metro’s wall when we have a concern/question?

      It could work.

      1. Good question. There are 5 user comments on the facebook – one about a missing watch and 4 about “dump the pump” day.

        There’s a KCMetro response to the “Dump the pump” comments “Thanks so much for dumping the pump today. You are all awesome!”

        So not really any substantial conversation going on, but at least there seems to be a human monitoring it.

  4. The City of Bellevue’s Neighborhood Traffic Safety Services group just launched (yesterday) Streets are for Everyone–a traffic safety blog. The blog is a place for residents to learn about traffic safety projects and learn how their traffic concerns are addressed. While the blog does not provide real-time transit info or anything that needs to be updated on an hourly basis, it helps to create a more open, proactive forum for residents and City staff to communicate and allows residents to directly submit their traffic safety concerns to us (via onlien form). These are responded to shortly after they are received.

    Streets are for Everone–

  5. Great idea! But be sure to space only once after a period. The old double space rule applied only to typewriters.

    1. I disagree completely. And considering my iPhone automatically adds a period when I double space, I think the double space is here to stay.

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