We’ve decided to start a series of irregular blog posts called Top tips.
The Digital team is often asked for advice or guidance on a range of digital issues. Often these enquiries come from teams in DH or our Agencies. But, sometimes they come from other Government Departments, their Agencies or our partner organisations. And, as individuals working in a multi-disciplinary digital team, we often receive enquiries from our own team mates.
I recently replied to an email from a DH policy team, seeking advice on how to prevent people from sending multiple/spam entries to their planned consultation on Citizenspace. I shared my response with my digital colleagues on Yammer (as we often do) and a few of them raised the question of how we could share this type of useful information more widely and store it for easy future reference.
We’ve therefore decided to start a series of irregular blog posts called Top tips. These will be short posts featuring useful tips or advice that we’ve discovered (not necessarily by ourselves) in the course of our work or sent to others, and think will be of benefit to a wider audience. We’ll be tagging these ‘Top tips’ so we can easily find them later.
So, that’s enough background, let’s move on to answering the query that started it all:
Top tip #1
It’s impossible to completely prevent multiple/spam consultation responses on Citizenspace, as users do not have to register to use the system. However, it is less common with Citizenspace than with basic email consultations. This is because the form submission in Citizenspace requires a human to complete the task and cannot be exploited by technology eg. like spambots, to send multiple responses.
There are also other things you can do to put people off sending multiple entries. We’ve noticed that Transport for London(TFL) use the following methods on their Citizenspace consultations:
- Have a compulsory/required question to provide an email address
- Have a disclaimer statement explaining that only one entry per individual will be accepted and that any entries thought to be duplicate will be removed from the results.
Once you start to receive consultation responses, you can sometimes identify individuals sending multiple responses by looking at the IP addresses of senders (via Google Analytics). IP addresses are a series of numbers (eg. 192.168.0.0) that identify a single computer or a network of computers. It is likely that if a series of entries originate from the same IP address, and the emails provided aren’t all people from the same company (eg. Most DH staff have the same IP or are within a range of IP addresses), that the entries are by the same person. You can narrow this down even further by also comparing the browser and device data.
Similar text and phrasing in responses is also a dead giveaway. There are only so many times a person can vary the point they are making and when looked at in the context of the data described above, they can be quite easy to spot.
Citizenspace also allows you to remove responses whilst still retaining them in the back end for the record. So, if you do identify a duplicate you can remove it and prevent it from skewing your consultation results. It will also be excluded from any data that you choose to export out of the system for manual analysis.