Getting our technology and tools right: get in the know.

Campaign Technology is one of the most important things for the Liberal Democrats to get right.

Whether it’s canvassing apps, websites or even data entry, we can’t campaign effectively without the right tools and the right data.

Over the last 18 months, the LDHQ technology team has been reviewing our data, technology and tools. We’ve also been gathering feedback from the people who use them to help us understand where the problems are at the moment.

That process has identified a number of problems with our current setup, including:

  • We aren’t getting value for money from our campaigning technology
  • Our data quality is low and it is scattered across multiple systems
  • Our websites are expensive, hard to maintain and out of date
  • We can’t give volunteers easy and high-quality information on how their teams are doing and their campaigns are going
  • Our tools aren’t easy for activists to use

I think there’d be few Liberal Democrat activists out there who disagreed with that list of big picture issues – so hopefully we’ve got the measure of the problems we need to solve.

Of course, solving those problems will take time and patience: there are no overnight magic wand fixes that will solve everything (sorry!).

We’re going to need to make sure we have the basics done right and build up from there – just like we did with Lighthouse.

That’s why our first priority is getting our membership data flowing properly between Lighthouse and Connect – a project that will finally be able to kick off next week. We hope to have good news on this for you very soon.

We’re also hoping to make these changes in a much more open and collaborative way than has traditionally been the case.

We’re planning to announce more on the roadmap for technology changes later this month.

We’re hosting two Q&A sessions at Spring Conference so that members can ask questions and learn more about our plans.

You can register for conference here.

We’ll also be announcing some sessions that don’t require a conference registration, so if you can’t make it, this won’t be your only chance!)

There’ll, of course, be updates posted here as we make progress on the project. We’ve also set up an email list where you can get updates on the Technology project.

You’ll get at most, one extra email from the party a week and that’ll be packed full of status updates and useful information to help you understand what’s changing and why. You can sign up for those updates here: https://digitallibdems.typeform.com/LDTechProject

We’re planning to regularly ask for feedback from you on what we’re doing and planning – so that we can make sure that we’re making the right decisions.

Many of you will also have seen the Email Tool survey that we’ve asked people to complete by Tuesday 15th February (you can complete it here).

This builds on the surveys and in-person consultations we did last year and is only a taste of what’s to come.

If you’re interested in finding out more and helping us get this right, please sign up for email updates from the team today. You can do that here: 

And keep your eyes peeled for the update on the roadmap later this month!

* Greg Foster is the Liberal Democrats' Head of Technology

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13 Comments

  • I see that despite all its failings and difficulty of use and it’s unsuitability for UK elections that you are not reviewing the use of Connect, an expensive and vastly overrated system. You will never get our digital systems right if you ignore the elephant in the room

  • Greg Foster 13th Feb '22 - 9:41am

    Hi Mick, just to clarify we did review Connect (alongside all of our other technology and tools) and have a number of improvements to it identified as priorities on our roadmap – starting with the one mentioned in this post.

  • Mick Taylor, I agree!
    The big weakness when I use Connect is it’s inability to understand our individual house addresses, eg sub roads, named house, flats, apartments, barn conversions, etc, all combine to end up with lists completely at odds with the physical location of each letterbox. This is particularly apparent in rural areas, such as mine.
    I believe this is because of Connect’s North American roots and the much simpler addressing systems used there.
    Similarly the menu terminology used isn’t logical unless you are using the system full time and get used to it, again due to a degree of trans Atlantic wording.
    Looking at canvass data and comparing it with historic records is impossible, much easier with previous systems. This always gave me, at least, a straightforward way of literally seeing how a particular campaign was going.

  • Mick Taylor 13th Feb '22 - 4:52pm

    Greg, You just don’t get it. Everyday party members find Connect impossible to understand or use. If you are highly computer savvy then you can manage Connect with all its idiosyncrasies, but even then it’s a nightmare.
    The problem is that so many people in the top campaigning echelons of the party have invested so much of their prestige in this essentially awful system and spent so much money on it that they cannot bring themselves to recognise that we need a better system that ordinary members can use and that doesn’t wholly rely on cloud computing to work.
    To give just one example (and I could list a whole to more). In the Brecon & Radnor by-election there were whole swathes of the constituency where Connect simply didn’t work and therefore knocking up on polling day was highly inefficient because Connect wasn’t updating numbers from polling stations quickly enough so we we’re calling on many many people who had already voted and not getting to those who hadn’t. Quite honestly we were lucky to have won given the lousy technology.
    There are other, better, systems attuned to the UK electoral setup that will do a far better job for less money.
    If you continue to use Connect, you will never have an integrated technology system that works right across the party.
    Think again.

  • Greg Foster 13th Feb '22 - 5:10pm

    Mick – I’ll make sure your feedback is passed onto the team. We absolutely understand the frustrations with Connect (and our other tools) – but given our resources we can’t fix everything at once. This is going to be a process that takes some time.

    If there’s anything else you’d like to add we’d love to hear it. Just drop an email to [email protected] and we’ll be happy to make sure it’s on record properly.

  • Connect’s actually not bad, but the UI is pretty clunky and off-putting. At the very least, I feel we could do better with training and documentation covering the whole span of users. The scattered docs I’ve seen are often dated, and definitely don’t cover most of the basic features – let alone anything advanced.

    Also, while I appreciate most Connect users won’t be too worried, having some kind of API access would be incredibly useful for those us professional nerds to search and retrieve data from the system using our programming language or analysis tools of choice.

  • I have to agree entirely with the comments of Mick Taylor and Andy Hyde. Connect was bought, at considerable expense, off the shelf, yet it was designed by computer geeks for computer geeks to use in USA elections.

    Mick Taylor makes the point that in response to such complaints computer savvy people can usually come up with a complicated ‘work around’ to various problems but that the great majority of end users of Connect in the UK are not IT experts. It misses the whole point to have a complex solution proffered in response to basic problems that are frustrating and putting off volunteer users.

    My pet hates include:
    1. The inability of the 9 point canvass scoring system to accommodate what we used to call Anti but in Connect can be either NLD or Refused.
    2. The lack of a quick and simple button to click on polling day to show ‘how we are doing’ in a given Polling District/ward according to Tellers numbers measured against canvass data. EARS used to be a dream for this and even I could use it to run a Polling Day operation targeting limited human resources across multiple Wards.
    3. The inability to discriminate when seeking an address with common features. For example last week I typed Woodthorpe Road in and got every street in the Polling District of Woodthorpe. Or type in Walton Road and get Walton Crescent, Walton Rise, Walton Back Lane, Walton Drive, Walton Close and so on.

  • Greg Foster 14th Feb '22 - 5:08pm

    Paul / Mick / Andy – very much appreciate the feedback and I’ve made sure it’s recorded with the team. We’d be really grateful if you could drop an email to [email protected] with a bit more information so that we can make sure we’ve got things down accurately.

  • I find it difficult to believe that North American geography, which ranges from the tower blocks of Manhattan to the rural prairies, and from remote mountains to sprawling trailer parks, is significantly simpler than that of Britain

  • Suzanne Fletcher 23rd Feb '22 - 5:16pm

    @Mick Taylor – just to say that thankfully it was still Ears that I could cope with when I was running campaigns and out on the streets, and I didn’t have to learn Connect, that i doubt if I ever would have. But I echo his comments about knocking up, when I have phoned in elections it is so frustrating to not just contact people who have voted, but people who have already told one of us (and clearly “us”) but it is still on the system.
    The same goes for phoning when canvassing and they have been phoned the day before (and I am not talking about people where the phone canvasser has not marked up who in the house they have talked to properly).
    The whole point of Connect over Ears, i was told, was so that it dealt in “real time”.
    As a canvasser I spend too long logging in, having verifications sent to my mobile, finding the code and all the rest. Then the frustration of not being able to run the eye down the lists as to what sort of people to ring at whatever time of day it is.
    I do it, because I care about the outcome, but know I probably only talk to half what i did on Ears.
    Your choice.

  • Suzanne Fletcher 23rd Feb '22 - 5:23pm

    About the issue in general.
    It isn’t just that things are too complicated, it is that it is not understood that we learn at different speeds and in different ways.
    Some people can pick things up quickly and away they go.
    Some of us need taking through step by step, and be able to go back and ask questions when we try it again and it goes wrong.
    So having a general session on learning is going to be frustrating to those that pick up quick and lost on those who take longer.
    I can only speak for myself when I say that when I have managed to do whatever, it is fine, I am away, and can even help others.
    Paul Moat had to spend a lot of time with me to get going on phone canvassing when the dreaded connect came in, and i said I was giving up doing it. He was patient with me, and i think I can say it paid off. And I have helped loads of others to get going since.
    So please, take the time to help those going at different speeds.
    PS I was very annoying when young at taking ages to learn how to play a card game, then going on to win them all!

  • Bring back Shuttleworth Sheets.

    Always used to win when I used them.

  • Nick Collins 23rd Feb '22 - 7:46pm

    Please no, David: all that laborious writing on the night before polling day!

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