LCO and Technology: Desperately Seeking Help

So far we at the LCO are being pretty basic about the technology we’re using. A standard (I guess now “traditional”) website that is okay as far as it goes, making RSS available, posting everything we write. But we need to do more. I’m planning to issue our family law project options “paper” in other than traditional form (shamed into it by Simon C. at a lunch with KM folks), maybe as a wiki.

I listened to a webcast (pretty basic in format, too, actually) of how to connect with the new media to get the organization’s message out there, especially to a younger demographic, and that made me realize how stodgy we are (okay,I knew, but now I can’t be in denial about it). For the last six months, I’ve been planning to retain a consultant or consultants to help us with this. We’ll still find a consultant, but I finally clued in that I have a great resource in SLAW. SLAW began as a law and technology blog and much of its content still relates to that – and I also realized that at least some SLAW bloggers are my demographic or near enough. So this week, I’m looking for help…

First, I’d be pleased to hear about any consultants you think would do a good job for us. We have some recommended web designers, but I’m not sure where “media” and “web design” are synonymous and we need both. You can send me any suggestions by email. (I also want to find a KM expert.)

More to the point, I’d appreciate any ideas you have about how to improve our website and use social networking sites. I’d like it to be interactive (but retain some control over it). I’m thinking of writing a blog (I may have mentioned that Simon invited me to write this blog as a way of practising for my LCO blog). I can tell you that none of the people currently working in our office uses any social networking sites. At the end of last summer, I asked one of our students about her Facebook page, but we still haven’t done anything about that.

It’s not terribly difficult to reach professionals (although the better we are at it, the more successful we can be) or community organizations (as long as we know about them). We want to reach as many of the public as possible, in different cohorts. We want to get our work out there, at all stages of development. We want to hear from people, but we don’t want to be overwhelmed – we just don’t have the resources to handle too many questions or comments, or to address less than constructive comments (either by engagement or by deletion). Maybe that’s enough right now. I’d really like the LCO to be a forerunner in using technology to advantage – and right now the field is clear! Let me know if you have any ideas. At least, I should be further ahead than I am in selecting consultants.


  1. Patricia, you may be able to take advantage of the keen young minds of the e-government group of the Ontario Public Service (OPS). They’re part of the Ministry of Government Services. They spend quite a lot of their time looking at service delivery models using 2.0 technologies, and then writing guidelines, best practices, etc. for government types.

    Darren Chartier has also started a group called WIRED, which is a quarterly get-together of IT folk, communications types, educators and a pushy librarian (me). We compare notes on different initiatives and talk about practical solutions to technical and bureaucratic challenges. It’s very invigorating. I think you’ll find it surprising the depth and breadth service which is already being delivered using wikis, podcasts, Facebook, Second Life and other social tools.

    You’re welcome to contact me off-line and I can introduce you to the OPSers I know in this area.

  2. Though I love technology, I have to say that you need to be cautious here and not adopt this or that feature simply because it’s up to the minute or cool in some way. You should always be driven by need — what do I want to do that I can’t do now, and how can technology help get me there.

    Much of your audience for any of the Commission’s efforts will be lawyers, who are as a whole perhaps the most conservative group on the planet when it comes to technology. RSS is considered too new or too difficult, for heaven’s sake, and it’s been around for eons. So if you’re aiming to engage lawyers en masse, an email list is the way to go, alas. You can of course do that in conjunction with RSS and other means of delivery.

    If you’re headed for young lawyers and law students, Facebook is the way. Here I’m ignorant, and not a little disapproving (probably propter hoc).

    In all of this, relentless publicity and promotion. It is not the case that if you build it they will come. One valuable device would be to find a hook and get viral marketing to do your work for you. Hooks are hard to come by. But you could think about using research tips and techniques, a chance to improve proposed legislation (needn’t adopt the contributions), open sourcing your research in a given area, acting as a lightning rod for complaints about the law (dangerous, this, of course).

    Oh, and whatever you do with technology, double the cost estimate: it’s fine to get a fancy firm to design you a site that does nifty things, but who will maintain it? Who will fix the RSS feed when it craps out for reasons that are obscure? So think “maintenance” and, I suppose, “development,” too, because technology will not stay still. Dammit.