Liberal Democrats: Flock Together

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Where you want Flock Together to go next…

Thank you to the 169 people who responded to the Flock Together survey – both the bits where we asked you to rank new ideas – and the bits where we asked you for your own ideas.

Both parts of the survey have thrown up some very helpful ideas – saying what’s important – what’s not important – what needs fixing – and what doesn’t

Starting with the ‘quantitative’ ideas, five ideas popped to the top (one of which we’ve already done)

Full integration into the main party website
FT events now appear on the main party website. I’d love to do a full Obama with a dramatic increase in opportunities for member campaigning via the main party site (including Flock Together), but it will need to go into the overall party priority list.
Tidier page to input events
I’ve never been a fan of the 3 column design – or the design of the input page – and it’s time to fix both! The organisation list also needs ajaxing.
Flock Together application on Facebook
Yeah! There’s an event API for Facebook at last. Integration with Facebook should be pretty straightforward (gulp!). I think I’ll be contacting the 9 people who offered to help code Flock Together on this one…
Ability for users to register political skills and interests that other party members can search for
Shouldn’t be too difficult, but will need some careful design. My take from the comments is that people would like it as members’ only. Open tagging? Or a closed list of attributes? What skills would people like to see?
Link to email a friend about an event
This should be spectacularly trivial to do… I’ve always wanted to polish this off but been dissuaded by others. One late night coding session while bored should be enough to do it.

When it came to the people’s comments, there were loads of them (see below)… but a couple popped out as the biggest priorities:

Simplifying the front page design
A top priority – but quite a lot of work. I’ve got some ideas for a dramatically simplified front page. Any redesign is going to need refreshed functionality, a ground-up redesign of the navigation and the removal of a load of unnecessary complexity.
Simpler filtering, including by region
The filtering of events by type and distance is too complicated. It is possible to get most of the combinations that people are asking for, but way to hard to set it up.
Previous and future by-election results
This will either need some incredibly clever way of interrogating the ALDC database or website or (more realistically) some volunteers (and ideally a volunteer coordinator) to make it happen. Flock Together has the capability to give different users different editing access – but I don’t have time to organise it. All volunteers welcome…

Comments? Questions? Offers of help?

Detailed results

First the ‘quantitative’ bits. Which ideas scored highest – and which had the most fans…

The average scores for all the ideas on a scale from 1 to 5 were as follows:

Item Score
Tidier page to input events 3.66
Link to email a friend about an event 3.47
Full integration into the main party website 3.45
Ability for users to register political skills and interests that other party members can search for 3.45
Reminders of events via Twitter or Email 3.39
Easier to find and link to appropriate organisations when inputting meetings 3.38
Ability to report unhelpful or unclear names of meetings 3.32
Edit a comment once submitted 3.16
Ability to be listed as officer of particular organisation 3.06
Code to show Flock Together events on your blog or website 3.02
Show most recent comments and most popular events on front page 2.99
Repeating events 2.95
Flock Together application on Facebook 2.91
Option to receive HTML emails 2.86
Menu bar along the top for different party websites – like Google 2.66
Show blogs and Twitter feeds on map 2.51
Ability to record ‘friendship’ and other links with other users 2.34

But it’s important not just to look at average scores, but also ‘star’ scores – the items that people scored 5 – to get a sense of the items that will attract people most. The main change here is that the link to Facebook leaps up the table. People who don’t use Facebook gave it a low rating, but people who use Facebook really like the idea.

Item % scoring 5
Full integration into the main party website 27%
Tidier page to input events 25%
Flock Together application on Facebook 22%
Ability for users to register political skills and interests that other party members can search for 22%
Link to email a friend about an event 21%
Reminders of events via Twitter or Email 17%
Easier to find and link to appropriate organisations when inputting meetings 15%
Edit a comment once submitted 14%
Ability to report unhelpful or unclear names of meetings 14%
Show most recent comments and most popular events on front page 14%
Code to show Flock Together events on your blog or website 13%
Ability to be listed as officer of particular organisation 12%
Option to receive HTML emails 12%
Repeating events 9%
Menu bar along the top for different party websites – like Google 8%
Show blogs and Twitter feeds on map 7%
Ability to record ‘friendship’ and other links with other users 6%

The verbatim questions came in 3 sections:

What would you like Flock Together to start doing that it doesn’t do?

promote its self more widely

The facebook interface would be really handy. Especially if you could link it to “add to my events” and it added an event to your facebook events.

I have a drafted paper which I will send Martin directly on possible ways forward in terms of building the conversation/feedback side of the party.

Statistical summaries of local by-elections by region

I would like it to send users a weekly email (every Monday morning?) recommending specific by-elections and events based on user-defined criteria in a less “listy” manner. For example: “by-election of the week” “social of the week” etc.

Advertising the site to party members

Only if it was not like facebook

More blanket coverage – It sometimes seems very London orientated

Allow cut and paste of event information At present you need to ‘select’ the whole page ‘copy’ the whole page ‘paste’ to a word document then ‘cut and paste’ details EXCEPT email infomration which requires you to manually copy across the email from ‘picture’ of email into word document format!

Broaden its output not only to party members

Feed into Lib Dem toolbar?

Automatic link of events into our Prater Raines local web site

Tell me where things are on the weekly email, rather than just ‘crow flies’ distance. We need an extra line saying which local party or branch is organising the event. Also, to be able to stipulate that you want all events within a certain region, city or constituency would be good.

I like all the ideas above about integrating FT better with other websites – official and unofficial. (I’ve de-prioritised the Facebook ideas though, purely because I am finding Facebook a bit much now.) I LOVE the idea of inputting skills/interests – we mentioned this on an LDV comment thread recently, how it would be a good idea to have a skills bank site like the LETS scheme, where PPCs (in particular) could go to get childcare help/secretarial volunteering etc from members, and take a bit of the pressure off their own time while giving ordinary members something a bit more imaginative and results-driven to do than just deliver leaflets. And FT could be the perfect platform for that, rather than starting *another* website.

Easier links that are “in your face” without having to trawl around for them ie to get booking forms for the events.


Tell me where events are and only email me ones that are actually near me – many are entered at “an unknown distance from your location” which is just annoying. This probably means making sure users have to input the postcode of the event.

Inviting members, not just those who have signed up.

I would like all by-elections to give information about the current state of the parties at the last election

I usually identify events from the email alert – but too often there is no name of the location or region in which it is happening, requiring me to go to the site to find out. Please make it mandatory to put in the town/location and region when listing an event.

Be used as a skills bank / timebank for campaigning & other skills/time on offer. Award ‘credits’ to local parties for help they’ve provided to others.

I would like it to be used to connect telephone canvas volunteers with local campaigns.

Flock together isn’t terribly useful for me at the moment, I’m in Basingstoke and the local party doesn’t use it that much.

Flock together needs to increase its catchment of events- by directly contacting responible people at local level to post events, and provide advice for holding events. Recording of “allied” events could increase Lib Dem attendance and vote share in Environmental, anti-ID and foreign policy groups.

Proactively solicit event info from local parties – coverage is rather patchy at present

In the email sent out, user-definable option for how far ahead to list events (currently only one month).

send emails to invite to register events with link

As mentioned in your listing – registering people’s skills. Availability of deliverers/door knockers etc who are willing to travel when a seat is up for election. Some people enjoy delivering because they are fit and their are others who enjoy canvassing on the doorstep or out and about in a central meeting place. I would also like to read two very pro-active members of the party having a debate on issues and explaining how they would handle these issues.

Read the ALDC emails, parse them and update/add by-elections automatically

places to stay in the near location of the events – late rooms?

I think the info on the site is visable to all without logging on. This could reveal some confidential data to the wrong people if for example a skills bank is added.

Enable you to search for nearby skills – excellent suggestion!

The top priority has to be to increase the useage of Flock Together, ie PUBLICITY in more Cowley St literature. As well as a “distance from home” select button, a “meeting type” select button would be useful so you could view (for example) social events only

Presence on Facebook, My Space, You Tube, etc

Send emails to listed users in a geographical area.

Be accurate about distances from my location – at the moment, most distances come up as “unknown”

Better consistency, perhaps via help. For example, what do the “meeting type” fields mean? what should an AGM be categorized as?

Allow notification based on state/region, rather than distance from the postcode.

Essentially I am a satisfied customer. I’d like to know about all events in the East of England, but I think this is probably a minority taste. So I don’t suggest you cater for it. But being able to alert people by email directly would be good.

When events pull through to the flock application on facebook it wouild be fantastic if they could pull thorough as an event rathyer than an rss feed – is this possible? Even better would be for people to be able to assiciate their facebook and flock profiles so that an RSVP in the one would show on the other – the more buzz there is about an event the more people go. Also is it me or is the RSS feed into facebook about a week behind

We get a reasonable amount of use out of flock together in that we’ve had occasional activists along to our events who wouldn’t have otherwise come, but a skills bank would be useful perhaps.

Distinguish different events easier e.g. by-elections. Possible allow different categories for events on maps to be shown and allow selection of these types of events e.g. click on a button to show by-elections.

Use iCalendar/CalDAV to share events – perhaps a feed for each constituency. Could be bi-directional so that you can feed from us rather than the other way around.

1. When inputting an event, show preview of event announcement page, with user option to edit before confirming ready to publish. 2. Permit Local Party chair & secretary to have editing rights over all events posted in name of said LP.

Does not allow for an image to be uploaded i.e. campaigs stall. The postcode entry fields needs to be higher up in the homepage.When logged in, pages should be more local – showing local party websites and list of forthcoming events etc down one side. Reminder facility, that can send a message via a mobile phone to people signed up etc about events?

Have an easy to use format. It looks confusing. it needs extensive streamlining with a simplified look and links from one page to another.

Map of daly events. Differentiate between national and local focus events

Know my location, and email me with details of events within, say 100 miles, or the same euro constituency

To be honest I don’t really understand a lot of your questions, blogs, twitter etc is double dutch to me. I wish when there’s a by-election the maps were easier to see and if anyone nearby was going who could give a lift that would be helpful. PS. In answer to your end question I haven’t a clue what you are on about so I am leaving it as “no answer” I just have MS “works” and “dial up”.

More information on resources (Risos etc.) e.g. whether they are prin t-your-own, operating hours etc.

What would you like Flock Together to stop doing that it current does?

It’s very cluttered and messy looking.

I would like it to kimit meetings to ones really relevant to me. For example, Swansea is 40 miles away as the crow flies, but an unrealistic journey by road… (I live in Bude, and dont want to hear about Swansea meetings. Bodmin is a similar distance and is fine.)

Mobile Version accessible via phone for visual display (e.g. excellent mobile version web site – using a phone try: ‘’

I get some email reminders that are a bit annoying – perhaps I should edit my preferences so that I don’t receive them!

Not sure – would rather “forthcoming events” from nearby websites be automatically included (seamless) into our own (with distances)

I think it probably looks a little too “party central” in design. A bit more Googly friendly simplicity would be nice, given that part of the point is to try and get people who aren’t that involved to realise they really can turn up to an event.

Emailing me about events I could not possibly get to.

page is too wide and I always have to scroll across to be able to read the distances many entries are unclear esp. about where they are and what kind of event is being advertised

Advising me of Regional events in other regions. Advising me of minor events a long way away.

sending info abt events more than 100 away

Don’t know. Sorry! I don’t see any point in developing functionality that is already available elsewhere e.g. be-friending.

Map application should be optional- activating on a link rather than autorun.

limit choice geographically

be more specific rather than just a distance from a location – traveling time is what is important

There are “advert” pictures on far right which ALWAYS overlap information about events and which cannnot be got rid off. I don’t object to the “adverts” but I want to see what is beneath them.

terrible formatting in ie

preference for slightly simpler ‘cleaner’ interface

Front page can be quite confusing

Calling the “.ics” download an “Outlook” download. It works for Macs, too.

being so orange. I would like to see orange remain the predominant colour, but a few ogthers wold be nice.

ost too much irrelevant information on the page. Have a map available for use of area searches.

It’s a bit over loaded I get tons of stuff some miles away. Also not everyone has a car, I think it would be best to maybe just send info within a certain radius.

What would you like to change about Flock Together?

I use for info re elections. Therefore results poss? While I make ref to , I wonder at times how much actual use is made of it… what take up is there? I think in all the time I have used I have only been able to attend one election notified via source.

Make it more user friendly for the not so IT nerds amongst us

Nothing really. I think you have set it up very well, Martin, and it does all that I expect it to do. On the other hand, I do not manage all the advanced technology. Even text messaging is beyond me, and I normally lose whatever people send me. So probably if you were to “improve” the site, it would not increase its usefulness for me personally. How is your byelection in Wincheser getting on? 🙂

I like flock together, the problem as I see it is that at least in my area, Lib Dems don’t! I struggle to get local members to attend our events, let alone get someone to leave their cosy branch or constituency to come to an event in Basingstoke. Until people start to be a bit more supportive, the whole flock together idea is a vast amount of wasted potnetial.

Add in options to specify by region or possible theme.

More people using it in Gloucestershire/Bristol area.

It just has not “caught on” in my area.

Make it simpler to use.

Improve the mapping

Trouble is, to be honest, I don’t use it (*blush*). I think it’s a great idea to draw people in who don’t have existing contacts, but I hear about things I want to go to via the online community as an active blog bod anyway. So I’m probably not the best person to ask.

the blasted password – why cant it be simple so one can remeber it and be the same as all others in the party? It is supposed to be but still some site require different, long passwords!

The links it includes should be to pages that are properly updated. Quite a number have almost no information about the event at all – just an email contact address.


distances to be in kilometres and times in 24hour clock

grim yellowness! but I guess we are stuck with that – its better than blue which I have seen as too many LD website colours 🙁

Filtering by distance does not work. I have no interest in the SE Region or London Conferences, but either could be closer than the East of England Conference.

Make it much clearer which local parties are involved – at the moment I just get an email saying x miles away, which doesn’t mean very much to me in London – and lots of people entering data don’t mention which local party it relates to

Map page should be able to be set up to automatically centre in on your home area rather than always centering on London.

I think the future of Flock Together must be about providing information that can be presented elsewhere, rather than expecting people to come to the site to read it there.

I think more social networking might be useful. It’s obviously the ‘in’ thing at the moment, but I think a little more online interation could be a very good thing. Possibly Facebook integration, but requiring people to use Facebook and depending on their infrastructure wouldn’t be ideal. One of the most interesting projects for me at the moment is, already used by The University of Brighton.

There are too many single function Lib Dem websites. I would rather they were all rolled into the members area of the main site – so you wouldn’t have to remember 20 odd passwords! Keep things simple for the user – not necessarily for the webmaster.

In the news feed, for the events to be in date order (but I gather that is not possible; thus rather a weakness).

separate looking for and recording events so clearer

FT’s main problem is that it looks tatty and out-of-date. It is not pleasent to use or look at. It needs to be overhauled. Just look at how much nicer Lib Dem Blogs looks!

just make it look as professional as pos

Get more local parties involved – I’ve had about 2 notifications in 6 months of ‘local’ events. Constituency secretaries or Social/fund-raising people need to be contacted – perhaps using a Cowley St mailing.

Looking so crowded. Would be nicer if it was a tidier, crisper website.

A “Help” page would be a good idea so that new users could easily see what’s available and how to use and get the most out of the system. The Help page could have an alphabetical index of what’s available and when a heading is selected, detailed instructions are Add an event Cancel an event Edit an event Navigate map View Events

It tends to be ‘messy’ and when I last looked, so little used that it wasn’t helpful. At least this survey will remind me to look again!

Make the webite tidier and more accessible

Tidier look

Perhaps the ability to somehow tie into LibDem mailing lists so that, perhaps, when I post an event on behalf of Enfield Lib Dems, the members of the “Enfield Lib Dem members” mailing list all receive a notification.

Make it more like a social networking tool. Integrate it into the main party site and attempt to mimic Barack Obama’s incredible web-site

Larger easier map to navigate.

I tried to input my Social Event and found it impossible as the banners to right prevented me seeing what I had input. There was nowhere on the site of and indication of who to contact to help me imput. Although I have used computers for some 15years these kind of websites seem to lack practical basics Agree that often the details shown on emails are not enough to identify where they are. Do we need a compulory box showing location so its is easier to read ?

It sends me too much information. Quite possibly this is my fault for setting my parameters too widely. Perhaps an occasional email to registered users telling them briefly how they can update their criteria so that they get the info they want, would be useful. It certainly would be for me (but maybe I am not typical) – to be honest at the moment I never read the emails I get. As I say this is probably my fault but perhaps an occasional helping hand from FT to tell us we could manage it better would be helpful.

website layout

Improve accuracy of location map pins.

the look of the page needs to be more modern and cleaner. It looks very cluttered and this obstructs easy use.

Definitely improve links to Twitter, Email blogs and Facebook

I’d like a portal to all party websites – right now, I seem to need to use several sites, so I probably use them less than I should

The maps could be clearer, I can’t get to grips with all those arrows etc. Better directions using public transport. Sometimes events are expensive, I would not go to a diner with a £25 ticket miles away so pointless getting the stuff on it.

More people to make use of it

Many thanks to the Liberty Research people for their very helpful website.

2 Responses to “Where you want Flock Together to go next…”

  1. Jennie Rigg Says:

    “Ability for users to register political skills and interests that other party members can search for”

    Could this not be acheived by some sort of integration with Jo Crispy-Strips’ Who’s Who in the Lib Dems project?

  2. Stephen Robinson Says:

    Superb report. I look forward to Martin [working with John Hemming?] solving all the Govt.’s ICT problems after the election 🙂

    Agree with Jennie about linking to Who’s Who. There are so many places where info is stored about members but not used.

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