Building the Matrix: Is this the kind of thing you had in mind?

We’re planning to release a beta version of the Matrix early next month, so we really need your feedback on aspects of its functionality.

Regular readers of this blog know that when the Matrix is mentioned here it’s not a reference to the film (even though the first in the trilogy was a brilliant breakthrough movie and is still very watchable, just in case you’re interested). No, when we talk about the Matrix we’re talking about a repository of tools, techniques and case studies that help policymakers to do open policy making (OPM).

When the conversation started, back in September last year, there wasn’t really a community of ‘open policy makers’, which is how I fondly think of the regular readers and contributors to the OPM conversation.  Since then, the community has grown and we’ve been able to:

  1. have more conversations, offline as well as on this blog and elsewhere;
  2. observe the way people have used the ‘minimum viable product’ version (i.e. the case studies index) of the Matrix
  3. hold more involved workshops to determine ‘user needs‘ and
  4. review the results of ‘top ten’ open policy behaviours vote

All these things have given us a much better insight into how the  Matrix should work.

For example, while the goals are a useful way of filtering content, they are not enough. Policymakers would also like to be able to filter on the basis of time, digital skill level, policy stage etc.

What we need from you- your feedback on the functionality

I reasoned this would be a good time to follow the old maxim, “show, don’t tell”. So, using this really cool (and amazingly, still free) tool called Lumzy, I threw together a few (very) rough page views to illustrate the functionality of the next iteration of the Matrix. My aim here is to get your feedback on the functionality, not the design.

I’ve incorporated these functional page mock-ups into a slide presentation (if you can’t access SlideShare, email me and I’ll send you the slides). As I mentioned earlier I created the page views using Lumzy, which in addition to helping to create mock-ups, supports some basic simulation. So, for example, you could select an option from a drop-down menu and be taken to another page, albeit a pre-prepared static one. Anyway, if you’re interested in ‘experiencing’ the mock-ups in this way, send me an email and I’ll give you access.

When providing your feedback please bear in mind that the Matrix won’t be able to do everything. It’s not designed to. Open policy making is simply too wide-ranging for that but, it should help policy makers to:

  1. identify the (digital) tools and techniques that make open policy making possible
  2. find out who’s doing open policy making and how they’re managing to do it.

In addition to your feedback on the illustrated functionality, it would be useful to get your thoughts on some bits that haven’t been fleshed out yet: (1) what’s the best way to manage the comments on case studies and tool bios- how do we keep assessments truthful and fair? (2) Should there be a requirement that only tools that can link to a case study (on the site or elsewhere) should be allowed to have a bio? In other words, should only, ‘tried and tested’ tools be featured? If so, what’s the best way of highlighting new but largely untried tools? These issues relate as much to governance as they do to functionality.

We’re looking forward to collaborating on the creation of a really useful tool. To do that, we really need as much feedback as possible. Do share your thoughts.


6 replies on “Building the Matrix: Is this the kind of thing you had in mind?”

  1. Ade,

    Thanks for this it’s encouraging to see your efforts, and it certainly fits with the Big Society agenda.

    I do, however, have one question. Why are you not soliciting feedback on the designs – given that the designs are conveying the functionality? It seems to me that you’ve got a good basis on your deck to get some meaningful feedback on design (and by the, the functionality).

    One small feedback from me: be careful with 3D rotating carousels, especially when you might have more than an optimum number of items on the carousel. Perhaps a jquery version might be appropriate.

    All the same, well done. It’s a great start.

    Champion Breaks

    1. Hi Champion Breaks

      On your question, the answer is “we will be”. The design should follow function, so once we know what the functionality will be, and our designer has reached his perfect iPad/macchiato ratio, I will share the design elements in a separate post. It’s worth saying that the design work is part of a wider site revamp project that we have underway.


  2. Hi Ade,

    We spoke a couple of months ago about this and it’s great to see the progress!

    I’ve since been on the GCN ‘Digital engagement for open policy-making’ course run, as you know, by Steph Gray and Dave Briggs. What I’d like to know is how the Matrix differs from Steph’s Digital Engagement Guide and Dave’s Digital Engagement Cookbook. If ‘the market’ is already meeting the need for a catalogue of searchable case studies, then why do we need government to provide another?

    I don’t mean to sound critical, I just don’t understand how all these great resources fit together.


    1. Hi Graham. Thanks for commenting. You raise a good (and not unfairly critical) point.

      So let me try to explain.

      Firstly, there are similarities between the Matrix and the Digital Engagement Cookbook/ Guide: both highlight digital tools and techniques successfully used in consultations and engagement exercises. In fact when the project scope was limited to consultations/ engagement exercises we considered simply pointing people at the Digital Engagement Cookbook.

      However there are differences too. The Digital Engagement Cookbook and guide don’t provide case studies in the way we’re proposing the Matrix should. Nor do they support the ‘tool/product bios’ or enable policymakers to rate these tools (or read the reviews of others) that are being proposed for the Matrix.

      Further open policy making (OPM) ‘happened’ and effectively embedding it required more than simply showcasing digital tools. Some of what was required were identified by those who took part in the vote on the behaviours of the Ideal Open Policy Team. I attempted to explore some of these in an earlier blog post. The most pertinent, in relation to the Matrix and aside from digital tools, is building a community. As I explain in the aforementioned post identifying the policy makers behind various open policy making exercises is important in fostering the kind of peer-to-peer learning that will embed the kinds of open policy practices that policy makers have indicated they want to see.

      Finally, in response to your final query about “how all these great resources [I hope you’re including the Matrix in that category :-)] fit together”, I think the Digital Engagement Cookbook/ Guide and the Matrix will complement one another- especially since the latter cover a broader range of engagement tools/platforms. There are things we could do make this smoother e.g. incorporating some of the filters and categories used in the cookbook/guide. I’m open to suggestions of course, so please do share if any occur to you.

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