I just read an an article with the headline I used as my blog post title. It said things like:
Speaking with reporters, web users expressed a near unanimous desire to visit a website and simply look at it, for once, without having every aspect of the user interface tailored to a set of demographic information culled from their previous browsing history.
Although some people reported that they were open to voicing their opinions every once in a while, a majority of users rallied against websites’ expectations that they participate in a discussion on nearly every piece of published content, regardless of its significance or subject matter.
How would you react if you’d read it? I’d bet that, since you’re on GovLoop, you’re a pretty savvy person online, and that you’re having a very quick reaction in some direction, or you’re already formulating your arguments in support or opposing.
I reacted by thinking “yep, that sounds about right,” even though I already knew that the article was on the humor site The Onion. Read the rest of it and then come back here . Go ahead. I’ll wait.
As it often does, The Onion has touched on a real issue. This time, though, it struck me as more correct than funny. I get annoyed by sites pestering me to rate what I just bought, or being asked my opinion of every show I’ve seen.
Now, if you know me, you know I’m a huge proponent of using social media to engage people. But I also have always had my doubts that everyone coming to a government website really wants to be engaged, or wants to share their thinking on every policy issue (or any policy issue, for that matter).
So I don’t have an answer. Sorry about that. But I did want to acknowledge that the article raised some good points, and we should think carefully when we create engagement opportunities.
Now, of course, it’s your turn. What do you think (he asked somewhat ironically)?
Some people want to engage and we should lean towards making that possible and meaningful. Many people just want to consume information – and that’s OK.
Good comment back from Twitter:
Agreed. We designed
@HonoluluAnswers so ppl could find the quick answer to their question and leave. @rwithall @levyj413 @govloop #gov20
Two predominant citizen reactions to government information / feedback:
1. Give me what I want. I’m in a hurry.
2. Want me to comment? Make me mad.
Some sites do seem to go over-board, asking for comments on what seems trivial. While I rarely comment, I do like to read the comments of others. When shopping, I’ll even read reviews of very inexpensive items I’m thinking of purchasing. Then I think to myself, who are these people who take the time to write a review on a *pair of socks.* But there I am reading the reivews and darn if those socks get one or two mediocre reviews –I’m not buying them. So, it may be hard to determine what’s comment worthy and what’s not.
aha, it’s the old “customers vs active participants” debate. sometimes, i just want to be an anonymous customer. other times, i want a customized experience tailored to me and prompting me to provide feedback. sometimes i set out one way, and then, once i’m in the thick of it the interaction, change my mind, either because i’m suddenly in a hurry or because something really grabbed my attention.
For me it is usually time oriented. If I have the time and I am interested in the subject enough, I will write a comment or provide feedback on a survey. I don’t want to have to write my life history or give too much info just to browse a website.
I did have to join this group but got a taste of what the content was to make that decision. As stated by others, sometimes you just want to be anonymous and sometimes you want to participate.
If I do start a survey and it asks questions that direct my answers rather than allowing for ‘other’, I usually exit. They didn’t really want my opinion so they maneuver your answers.
Janina: I’m with you about surveys, esp. if they seem to offer statements as a way to convince you as opposed to inviting your opinion (e.g., “Do you agree that politician X was a slimeball when he said blah blah”?). I’m also with you that I like sites that let me browse before committing.
Thanks to everyone else for interesting perspectives, too! I agree it can be a challenge to figure out when people will want to engage. Maybe the solution is to offer, but not be annoying about it (e.g., sending email followups to pester people).
And Andy: absolutely correct that people will comment when they’re angry. 🙂