Wake County Partnership w/ Yelp

Yikes – can’t believe how long it has been since I’ve posted! It’s been very much head down and nose to the grindstone around here for a long while now. But I am taking a breather to make sure I mention something we’ve done recently that I am very proud to be a part of.

ImageAs you are probably aware, Yelp is the most prominent online guide for places to eat, shop, relax, etc. People can write reviews on Yelp to provide their opinions and experiences about certain locales.

Wake County, regularly conducts sanitation inspections at more than 2,600 restaurants and for years we’ve posted the information to our website. In order to be more transparent and to provide access to this information in high traffic places, we recently partnered with Yelp. We push a daily data feed of sanitation scores daily to Yelp so viewers to the site will automatically see a restaurant’s inspection score right next to its customer reviews. Clicking through the scores also provides users with a high-level summary of the infractions in an easy to understand summary. This helps to serve people of the community and visitors in a broader way. It is “one-stop shopping” that provides users with peer reviews and official results all in one friendly package.

One of the best parts of this endeavor is that there were no direct costs associated with this project, only a small amount of staff hours to set up the data connection and to make sure that the information was consistent with Yelp’s “tone”.

This really was a no-brainer. We were already collecting and publicly providing the data, albeit in a somewhat out of the way page on our site. Yelp was already the recognized leader in crowsourced restaurant reviews. So the question was, why would we NOT do this? It was all but free, it provides great customer service, it gets our valuable info to a place where people are already looking for such info and it promotes the Wake County goal of transparency!


Below is a sampling of the great coverage the project got in the media and among open data and government transparency thought leaders. This might give you some ideas about how to apply it in your own locality.

Avoiding the Teal Deer

tldrThis week I had the opportunity to present at the Citizen Engagement Seminar, sponsored by Carahsoft. As always, I got to interact with old friends and made some great new contacts in the audience and on the panel. But my favorite tidbit from the whole session came from my co-presenter Lindsay Oxford, Social Media Coordinator for California State Parks. Lindsay presentation focused on how to alter traditional engagement strategies when using social media. We’ve probably all heard the KISS rule – Keep It Simple Stupid. Lindsay introduced me to the millenial version – TL;DR – Too Long, Didn’t Read. Sound the letters aloud and you get…Teal Deer!

Much like meeting a real deer on the highway, the teal deer can ruin any social media push. The cool kids will shun the parties where you don’t fit the vibe. Don’t try to shove  sanitized and bureacratized messages into the social media formula.  Your message objective doesn’t (and shouldn’t) change but your delivery style should. Keep it fun, keep it engaging and conversational and for Bambi’s sake, keep it short!

Wake County Infographics

A few weeks ago I did an ignite style presentation about Wake County’s use of infographics in front of a group of large city/county CIOs. It was very well received and it generated a lot of questions from my peers. Government Technology wrote a great article building on our experience and we continue to consider ideas for our next infographic option. But perhaps the highlight came when GovGirl covered our story and her mad design skillz put our infographics to shame. Check out her work here:

Information Week Review of Fieldguide

ImageThis week, David Carr from Information Week wrote a very comprehensive and thoughtful review of the Fieldguide that he titled The Government Leader’s Guide To Social Media.

He did a great job of pulling out some of the core elements that we hope to get across to readers with regards to culture change, policy development and the creative uses of social media in government today.

Information Week might be for technology and IT in general, but it is evident that Mr. Carr gets the true value that social media brings to government when he closes his review with: “the very nature of media has changed, and government needs to change with it.”