Tag Archives: Cory Doctorow

When are people commenting on Digital Britain?

Yesterday, on Twitter, @cyberdoyle asked “how many people use the digitalbritain site in work time as part of their work, and how many ‘ordinary’ people know about it?”

Well, the first part of the question is pretty easy to answer. We have web analytics showing visits to the site and the RSS feed of comments is timestamped, so we can examine when people are commenting, too.

Here’s a snapshot showing an overview of what time people visit WriteToReply’s re-publication of the Digital Britain – Interim Report. Click on the image to examine it in more detail on Flickr.

Basically, what this shows is that traffic is fairly evenly spread throughout the day, starting around 9am and not dropping significantly until after midnight. As you might expect, there are peaks mid-morning and mid-afternoon.

The next image shows on what days people are visiting the report.

This shows that visitors are largely looking at the report during the week, with just 14.67% of visits over weekends.

To look at when people are actually commenting on the report, I’ve used My Timelines, which in turn uses Simile, to visualise the comments on a timeline. This has been quickly knocked together for the purposes of replying to the question. We’ll host Simile on WriteToReply soon and look at how we can pimp up the timelines even more. Click on the image to go to the timeline. Drag the timeline either left or right to see comments made. Click on a comment to view it.

Timeline of Digital Britain comments

The final part of the question asks how many people know about WriteToReply’s re-publication of the Digital Britain report. This is much more difficult to answer, but here are a few thoughts.

If knowing about the report results in a visit to the website every time, then as of 12am today, the report has had 2,357 unique visits and 3,087 visits. Most of our ‘marketing’ of the report has been over Twitter. It’s where we first had the idea of re-publishing a report and is an easy way for us to get the message out at no cost. Our own efforts to tell people about the report have then been ‘retweeted’ or rebroadcast by others who have supported our efforts. Potentially, the message can reach tens of thousands of people on Twitter in this way. Indeed, it led to both the Guardian and the BBC tweeting about WriteToReply and writing two blog posts each ((1, 2, 3, 4)) about our re-publication of the report. Cory Doctorow on boingboing did the same, giving a significant boost to visitor numbers. Given the nature of this particular report, Twitter is a good place to focus our ‘marketing’.

However, our plans for WriteToReply are to enable anyone to re-publish any public report and therefore each report will require specific, targeted marketing to ensure that the appropriate audience are made aware of the service. It’s easy for us to advocate the Digital Britain report because we’re using Twitter and blogs all day in the course of our work for two universities, but we would currently struggle to reach the same number of people were the report a local council consultation or a topic well outside our existing communities.

The point about WriteToReply though is that it shouldn’t matter. It’s a multi-user platform that anyone can use to do the same as we have done with Digital Britain, empowering people to re-publish reports on issues they care about and can be effective advocates for. We’ve recieved some genuine enthusiasm from inside Government and have been told that WriteToReply will be advocated to Government departments as a method (among many) to seek public comment on consultation documents.  So whether you work in Government and are the author of a report or you’re someone who just thinks that a consultation could be done better through WriteToReply, the service is the same for each of you. We’ve created a guide about how it works on our wiki. Let us know what you want to re-publish and we’ll help you get set up and then it’s all yours to advocate by whatever means you can.

If you want to support WriteToReply, we’ve recently submitted a proposal for funding which outlines how we think it could grow and be an effective ‘community platform’ (and by ‘community’, we include the Government) for publishing, reading, commenting and discussing public documents. In fact, it could grow to be a social network where Government policy issues are discussed in general, but that’s for another post. 🙂

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Digital Britain: First week analytics

In the interests of transparency and fun, here’s an overview of the Google Analytics from the first week of Write to Reply’s re-publication of the Digital Britain – Interim Report. Note that GA has certain limitations that can make the reports a little misleading, but heck, they’re the best we have.

As we explained here, Tony and I threw the site together over a couple of evenings and launched it over Twitter. We’ve continued to watch Twitter as the main source of feedback about Write to Reply. A running Twitter search (via TweetDeck in my case) for ‘digitalbritain OR “Digital Britain” OR writetoreply OR “Write to Reply”‘ quickly alerts us to any possible reference on Twitter to either the site or the report. (This coverage extends somewhat to the blogosphere, also, which we’re also tracking in terms of things like incoming links to the site.)

When we see someone referring to the Digital Britain report, we might contact them (@ them on Twitter, or post a comment to a blog post) and mention Write To Reply, where the report is commentable upon.  Every response I’ve had to this approach has been appreciative.

Many people have blogged about Write to Reply’s re-publication of the Digital Britain report but two posts have generated a significant amount of traffic. One by Jack Schofield on the Guardian Tech blog and another by Cory Doctorow on boingboing. Both writers urged their readers to use Write to Reply to comment on the report.  Thanks!

So first up, here’s a graph produced by the Akismet spam filter used on Write to Reply. It’s not entirely accurate for some reason (!?) but we can confirm there’s been three spam comments and 87 genuine comments received.  Thank you!

Given what I’ve said above about our use of Twitter, the first of the GA reports is not too surprising (click on the images to see them full-size and legible):

This shows that overwhelmingly, our traffic is via Twitter and, most likely, shortened URLs used on Twitter (which accounts for the ‘direct’ traffic). Thanks Tweeple, for about half of the traffic to the report!

The Guardian and boingboing are, respectively, the second and third largest referers and as they are busy news sites, we’ve probably seen most of the traffic they will generate as people turn on to the latest news. Maybe I’m wrong there. We’ll see next week.

When people visit the report, they’re mostly landing on the front page, as we would expect. Second on the list (with a much lower landing rate) is Section 5.1 Education and Skills (a section that was linked to directly with a request for comments in a message that got retweeted several times on Twitter).

48.15% of people are clicking through to at least one more page (actually, the average page views is 2.56/visit) and the top of these exit pages is, again, Section 5.1 Education and Skills.

Want to know about aggregated page views? As of 9pm last night, there had been 5683 views of 54 pages in the last week.

As you can see, besides the front pages of the report, people seem to like looking at the list of comments by section and the list of comment by user.  This suggests that that specific functionality provided by the CommentPress theme for WordPress is of interest to people. Excellent! 🙂

Most visitors have visited just once, but 19% are returning visitors (and we commend your dedication!).

So, where are all these people from? Mostly the UK (81%) but also from the USA (8%) and 40 other countries.

People across the UK are visiting the Digital Britain report, though almost half (48%) of visitors are from London (does anyone know exactly how Google locates people? Is it locating actual people at computers or just their ISPs?)

Interestingly, 46 visitors are from Lambeth, which is just minutes away from Westminster. We can only hope that these visitors are a concentration of people working in government 😉

Finally, here’s the big picture. The site peaked on the first day (Wednesday 4th Feb), dropped rapidly but slowed slightly due to the Guardian tech blog post (Thursday 5th Feb), continued dropping over the weekend until Monday 9th when it picked up again and then rose again suddenly, thanks to boingboing’s post on Tuesday 10th.

If anyone wants view access to the full analytics, send us your GMail address and we’ll add you to the user list. We’ll post more on this subject on March 13th, after the consultation period ends or if anything interesting happens before then. If you’ve got ideas about how this data can be creatively and productively used, please get in touch. We have some ideas on the burner, but welcome yours too. Thanks.