Review: WikiGovernment and Manor Labs

I’d read Wiki Government and, by the end of the book, my head was swimming with ideas about the City of Worcester could do better in their use of the web.

I had trouble articulating exactly what I wanted to see in a more interactive city website…until I came across manorlabs.org, which is the website for a town of 6,500 (people, not employees) in Texas. 

Basically, Manor Labs (pronounced MAY-ner, not “manner”) is a website (powered by Spigit) where citizens can submit ideas to improve the town.  There are four stages from incubation (the idea is submitted and voted on) to validation (reviewed by a department head when the idea gets the requisite number of votes and page views) to emergence (the innovation team meets to discuss the idea in more detail — cost, pilot program, etc.) to implementation/aborted (either the idea is implemented, or the citizen is given a reason why it can’t be).  You can watch the short video on their About page  to see how these ideas get evaluated.

This website has a lot of the features Beth Noveck describes in Wiki Government: ideas that have digg-like votes for or against (see the View All Ideas tab for some examples); users are evaluated by the usefulness and accuracy of their comments (see the Leaderboard for ratings on both ideas and users); easy usability (see here for videos).

Take a look at this idea: someone suggested that the town employ a part-time warrant officer, and people responded with reasons why it wouldn’t work.  Or an idea for automatic debiting of utility bills, which was successfully implemented.

You can read a WSJ article about the other awesome things this small town is doing and dream about a day when Worcester will have something similar.

12 thoughts on “Review: WikiGovernment and Manor Labs

  1. Jeff Barnard says:

    The first thought I had was to imagine all the active commenters on the T&G website participating in a Worcester version…

    It wasn’t a pretty picture.

    • Nicole says:

      Well, I guess if you have to be a registered user (with a real identity) that might put a damper on some of the garbage that goes on on the T&G website.

      One of the things Noveck discusses in Wiki Government is the importance of experts. She writes about a website that does community patent review, so that you have people who are self-selecting and have a certain amount of knowledge. Obviously, the latter may or may not happen in a municipal website like Manor Labs.

      I think (or perhaps I imagined) that Noveck also discussed systems where users are rated on the value of their feedback. So, if you had enough people with a clue who would rate the helpful feedback (versus the unhelpful) and/or report abuse, that might go much of the way to self-policing.

  2. t-traveler says:

    what does it take to get an item on traffic and parking agenda once the council refers

  3. t-traveler says:

    Borbone said tonight at Traffic and Parking that the city uses MUTCD as a standard

    • worcestergadfly says:

      They’re only meeting that standard if it says that adding a heart lets you chop an inch off the letter height. The lettering on my street sign was 6 inches in 2008. In 2009 we got a new sign with a heart . . . and 5-inch lettering.

  4. Bill Randell says:

    Think it is a great idea, but people would need to register. Seriously I refuse to read the comments on the Telegram anymore.

    • Nicole says:

      I totally agree about the registration, and that’s what I LOVED about the Manor Labs website. Everyone is a registered user, and they get points. After you get so many points, you can redeem them for stuff (T-shirts; be the Mayor for a day, including lunch or dinner with the Mayor; ride for a shift with the Chief of Police).

      Also — I found that the negative comments people left tended to be constructive comments (“we tried that before, and it didn’t work; here’s why…” or “that’s actually against the city ordinances…”

  5. t-traveler says:

    so where do we bring this? worcester research bureau?

    • Nicole says:

      I’m hoping to discuss this with the Mayor soon.

      (Also, over the next few days, time permitting, I’d also like to discuss the very good Boston PD website and what Somerville has been doing. But this is not a good week for me.)

      • t-traveler says:

        Mayor will have a “Coes Pond Neighborhood Walk” at 4 pm on Monday, meeting at the Alhambra Council Knights of Columbus, after taht there will be Mayor’s Night Out at Worcester Youth Center at 5:30.

        The MAyor said the people in the community had ideas and cited a visit from a young woman who had some ideas about how the city can use facebook and twitter.

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