NYC installs virtual suggestion box

New York City tries out Spigit online forum software to solicit worker feedback

New York City is harnessing the power of employee-based collaborative filtering to solicit new ways to save money and improve city government.

The city has set up what is in effect a virtual suggestion box, called IdeaMarket, where eventually all 300,000 of the city's employees will be able to give the city their ideas about how to improve operations.

What differs IdeaMarket from the proverbial dusty suggestion box in the break room is that the employees themselves will be able to vote on which ideas they feel are the best ones and leave comments on how to improve the ideas even more.

"It's much more valuable to have a collaboration around an idea rather than a bilateral exchange between two people," said New York Deputy Mayor of Operations Stephen Goldsmith, who oversees the program.

The city's management, in turn, will use this input to pinpoint the highest-ranked suggestions for possible implementation. Even in an early pilot stage with a small number of employees, the project has already generated some potential money-saving ideas.

One worker suggested setting up an online market for items that agencies are relinquishing, so that other agencies could repurchase those items. Someone else suggested restructuring the budgets in such a way that agencies can keep the money they saved through their own energy conservation initiatives.

A couple of ideas are already being implemented, including one suggestion that the city invest in video conferencing to cut down on intra-city travel.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in his recent State of the City annual address praised the project, and suggested he may open the service up to New York residents as well.

"This kind of open call for ideas -- or 'crowdsourcing,' as it's called -- has helped cutting-edge companies like Facebook and Netflix improve services and save money. And with more than 8.4 million people in our crowd, imagine what we can come up with," he said.

For Goldsmith, the service is valuable in that opens up communications across different levels of government, which traditionally has been difficult to enact on a formal scale.

"Public bureaucracies are very rigid and the boundaries between people are very hard to break," Goldsmith said. Generating innovative ideas requires collaboration and "government is very allergic to that as a matter of organization."

The IdeaMarket is a way to circumnavigate these barriers. "It would give a wide range of employees access to me and to each other," he said, noting that he signs into the service and reviews and comments on ideas every few days.

The highest-rated ideas will be examined on a rolling basis, Goldsmith said. Each agency has a person assigned to evaluate and implement ideas.

To get word out to employees, an invitation is sent out to city employee by e-mail. Thanks to a recent contract with Microsoft, the city has been able to offer e-mail to a larger number of city employees who work outside of offices, Goldsmith said.

Spigit, based in Pleasanton, California, provides the platform for IdeaMarket as a hosted service. Collaborative filtering has long been used in online forums such as Slashdot News and Digg.com, where users identify and vote for the most valuable comments and news items. But the basic idea can also be useful to large organizations seeking feedback from constituents or employees, said Paul Pluschkell, CEO of Spigit.

"Whether the Spigit-powered program will actually help New York become more efficient remains to be seen," wrote GigaOm analyst Mathew Ingram, in a blog post. "But at least the city government is trying to use social tools to improve the way it functions, which is an encouraging sign."

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags governmentsoftwareapplicationse-governmentGovernment use of ITSpigit

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Joab Jackson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?