This site is part bookmark collection, part reference manual, part Q&A site about how public sector organisations can use – and are using – digital engagement as part of their work.

A free-to-use service, it’s intended to be a place to get inspiration, shortcuts and answers, and hopefully be something anyone can dip into as part of your work to spark ideas and provide context.

The initial tranche of content has come from bookmarks and suggestions from Steph Gray, Dan Slee and Al Smith.

The site is organised in four parts:

1. Techniques: are descriptions of tools and ways to use them, maybe a 5-step guide to setting up a Facebook page, or a screencast of getting started with Google Alerts or Netvibes.

2. Strategies: are about the process and documentation you might need around successful digital engagement – corporate policies, moderation rules, risk assessment templates and so on.

3. Examples: are short case studies of good uses of digital for engagement (i.e. not just broadcast or campaign-oriented social media).

4. Questions: are an experimental Agony Aunt area, building up a library of FAQs to some of the common worries and challenges people have, and some potential responses or solutions.

What’s the technology?

The site uses WordPress with extensive use of tagging (and some custom filtering code to simplify tag filtering within categories) intended to help people find examples using Twitter, or just the ones from local government, for example. We also use a custom taxonomy to drive the ‘Getting started’ cross-cutting task definitions and collections of content.

WordPress also brings with it opportunities such as comments (to help deepen the case studies) and RSS feeds, which are used to power an illustrated weekly round-up email from the site, using Campaign Monitor’s new RSS-to-email functionality.

The site theme is a custom, responsive design based on the 1140 Grid+Starkers framework by Alex Newman. It’s optimised for small smartphone screens, tablets or old machines with screens < 1024px wide, and larger desktop browsers.

Content is published mainly from outside of WordPress, via a custom tool using the WordPress XML-RPC interface and the PHP XML-RPC library. This tool – the Tag-o-tron – is a bookmarklet (i.e. a button on the browser toolbar) which enables authorised contributors to quickly publish examples or strategies they come across using a bookmarking-style form, automatically grabbing and storing a large screenshot (via ShrinkTheWeb’s premium service) or offering options for grabbing suitably-sized images from the site itself or on Flickr with a CC licence. Hopefully purely the process of building up an archive of large size screenshots of digital engagement projects will be useful in itself to teams wanting to include visuals in future presentations about digital engagement once projects have long since closed down.

The site uses a handful of WordPress plugins:

  • Gravity Forms powers the ‘Ask a question’ form, turning a submission into a draft post ready to be answered and published
  • Rich Text Tags, Categories and Taxonomies enables nicer formatting and intros to our category pages
  • Term Management tools help us to merge duplicate tags, streamlining submissions from different contributors
  • Security plugins including WordPress Firewall 2 and Limit Login Attempts help to secure the site from brute force or casual attacks
  • WP Super Cache helps improve performance

The site is hosted by Helpful Technology on servers provided by Bytemark Hosting.

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