I want Bailii to be less ‘private’. I want to try and get them on Twitter for a start off. So I did… put them on Twitter, that is
The British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII) is a charity that provides access to the most comprehensive set of British and Irish primary legal materials available for free and in one place on the Internet. It is available on a subscription-free basis for the benefit of the public, including pro bono organisations, neighbourhood law centres, students and users in developing countries. You can go direct to BAILII here
I emailed BAILII on the 29th May 2012 (see below). In the meantime I’ve flagged up what I’ve done here mainly to outline a few thoughts on opportunities I think are available not just to BAILII, but to numerous other professional sites needing to ‘break out’. All of which you are free to take away, applaud, argue with or ignore entirely.
Here is my BAILII mail:
Dear Mr Ury and BAILII team
I believe it would benefit BAILII to have a presence of Twitter – I am aware that you already have a fundraising page on Facebook, but believe that real-time updates to the legal profession via a Twitter feed will help support the profession and, importantly, ensure a regular and consistent reminder of your valuable service to both users and potential funders.
I have created a mocked-up account to demonstrate how it can work, which can be accessed here (or by searching ‘BAILII’ on Twitter itself):
The feed of tweets relies on various RSS feeds from the BAILII website. It is also fully customisable – the feeds I have used presently are to give you an idea of how your website content can be utilised. Once the account is set up it could be fully automatic and require little or no maintenance.
I am not seeking any payment for this; I just want to help, and thought it would be a good idea and something that would be beneficial to BAILII.
I would be grateful for any feedback and do hope that you will be prepared to work with me to fine tune the account into something you are happy with – I think it could be a great service with many potential benefits. If you are unhappy with the idea then I will of course delete the account upon your notification.
So, you get the gist and you might be thinking that I am being presumptious by setting up the Twitter account for BAILII? Or blogging about it here? Well, if so I have to disagree. What better way to illustrate a social media potential to someone than by engaging social media?
I want to make clear too that I am not being critical of BAILII here. I know they are hard pushed and, looking at the level of donations they are trying to survive on, part of me wonders how they are surviving at all
I’ve no idea what BAILII will say to me, if indeed they do reply. Regardless of this, I think it is possible that BAILII could take greater advantage of the considerable goodwill available to it and develop the Twitter account further, ideally incorporating it into its own communications and funding strategy (that’s where I would be heading if it were me)
Nor should it stop at Twitter. There are plenty of other possibilities out there that could radically change the way BAILII is perceived and how people interact with it. All to the benefit of BAILII itself and, just as importantly, people like you and me – its users
Of course, BAILII may just think of itself as a ‘feed’ site, providing info on demand to others who in turn will do all the fancy stuff. I don’t know, but if it does then I think it could do much better than that
To get where I’m coming from, it’s worth looking at the value of linking key elements of Web 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. Before the purists start shouting at me, I stress that I hate this artificial way of describing the web, being more of the Tim Berners-Lee school of thought on web evolution. However, it is useful to simplify what are complex and inter-related technological transitions in a way that people can get their heads around. Here you go:
Anyway, I think BAILII gets the website element of Web 1.0 basically right: incredibly useful site, great content, though I’d be so bold as to say it could certainly do with some work on the front end. Not much in terms of media, however. No embedded ‘how to use BAILII’ videos, for example. No periodic update newsletter. No on-site ‘I support BAILII’ downloadable HTML badges/widgets for use on other sites
That aside, what is more problematic is the Web 2.0 element – utilising social media. Yes there is a Facebook Page (I don’t know if it’s actually BAILII who set this up), and yes, there may be other ‘objects’ online somewhere (I haven’t seen any) but I think they are certainly missing a trick (or more) [EDIT 31/05/12 13.11pm: the FB page was set up by Shibley Rahman AKA @legalaware on Twitter)
This is where the Twitter account fits in, alongside the Facebook page. It can open up potential for engagement. At even a very simple level it can provide a service that doesn’t currently exist and increase profile, brand identity and so on
Whilst the Twitter account is currently automated (and still needs some work), it could in future allow additional messages from the BAILII team, engagement, calls to the cause and so on. This isn’t to underestimate the importance of the automatic feed, however – it ensures that followers on Twitter are virtually the first to hear of new decisions becoming available on BAILII. I watched the feed generate and Tweet the Hallam and Assange judgements for example, far ahead of anyone else getting them out there. It also provides a quick link-back to the BAILII site without having to open new browser windows, search favourites etc. Simple, but effective
The mobile web, Web 3.0, is less problematic. It would be straightforward to utilise social media technology that is already optimised for mobile web use (as just about every app is these days). For me, the bigger potential here lays in identifying new ways to take advantage of this technology. Exploring content curation for example, especially in respect of particular user groups. Allowing this to flow back, creating new dialogue, building and oxygenating the communities already there or being developed
So, there you have it. One of my latest ideas. Why did I bother? Well, I’m like that – very much a believer in the ‘free as in speech and beer’ concept. If you think this means ‘saying what you want when you’re drunk’, you need to read this (free) eBook (PDF) by Darren Wershler-Henry. Although now a little dated, it is a great place to start:
And, in the spirit of potlatch gift economics you never know, I may even get some work out of it somewhere down the line – it’s a hard world post-LASPO remember, even for the Crazy Ones
You see, there’s a story right there…
What can you do?
Well, if you like the idea of a BAILII Twitter account and think it has the potential to develop into something useful, please take the time to say so by following it
I can’t promise when or where the journey will end as this is down to BAILII. However, I hope it is something we can all support should BAILII be happy to allow it to grow. If not, and there could be perfectly legitimate reasons why they can’t allow it, then we must continue to support them however we can. You can find out more about the BAILII appeal, here
Thank you for reading. As CharonQC is prone to say: that is all