Welcome to complain: how the Our City portal helps Muscovites

January 1
Municipal services

In October 2021, the Our City portal celebrates its 10th anniversary. Nearly two million Muscovites became participants of the project in that period. The appeals coming from them to the portal are read not by robots, but by real people. They are the ones who send requests and complaints to relevant authorities, wait for a feedback, and rejoice when it turns out to solve the problem. Over 10 years, more than 5.2 million issues were solved through the Our City portal. What the residents of the capital write about on the Our City portal, how the moderators of the site help them, what changes occurred over the 10 years of its operation — in the mos.ru report.

Moderation Rules

Windows of the Our City portal office overlook merchant mansions in the Art Nouveau style, constructivist partnership buildings of the early twentieth century, trendy restaurants and modern highways. However, the portal's employees have no time to observe changes outside. Their monitors show other changes that require special attention.

"Moderators process user messages and responses from authorities and organizations. The unified editorial office works daily, and simultaneously, staff training is underway and incoming applications are analyzed. About a third of employees work remotely now because of the pandemic," says Anastasia Kartashova, Deputy Head of the Our City portal unified editorial office.

Anastasia  Kartashova. Photo by Yulia Ivanko, Mos.ru

Employees hardly take their eyes off monitors: appeals from Muscovites are a continuous stream. It is necessary to study each message and first determine whether it complies with the uniform rules of moderation.

"It is important that a message is stated accurately: correct address is specified and the essence of the matter properly described. And you need to choose the right subject matter from eight categories. Threats and abusive language should be excluded. One appeal should not contain several problems concerning different subject matters, otherwise we will not be able to send such a complaint or request to a specific authority. After the message is published on the website, it will be processed by the smart system that chooses the addressee, depending on the selected object and the registered problem. It is such process that ensures eliminating most of the problems in a timely manner," Anastasia Kartashova explains.

If a user violates the uniform rules of moderation, a notification about the reason for rejecting the message is sent to the personal account and to the email address.

By the way, the same rules are applied to representatives of the authorities. "Sometimes we get a short answer from higher authorities: "We'll fix it in three weeks". In such cases, we demand an explanation for reasons of taking such a long time. Probably, it may be necessary to purchase materials or wait for favorable weather conditions. A resident has the right to know all the details," the interlocutress adds.

The moderator also checks whether the photo attached to the message is applicable to the problem. Sometimes one minute is enough to understand whether the appeal complies with the uniform rules of moderation. But it happens that it takes a lot more time. Portal employees have to study additional documents, regulations or consult with senior colleagues. In any case, within a day the appeal shall be published on the website and sent to the relevant authorities or rejected.

Appeals that passed through the moderators' filter and were published on the site will wait for a response. The regulatory period for submitting a reply is eight working days, however, according to statistics, every second problem is solved within one or two days. After the response is published, the user receives information and, using his personal account, monitors the progress of the problem solving and the quality of the work performed.

Sort Out the Situation

According to the portal employees, the largest influx of appeals takes place during rainy seasons, due to road flooding. In winter, frosts and snow cause many reports of snow-blocked ways and icy roads, and on hot summer days, Muscovites report improper lawn care. The most common topics are: garbage not collected, pits on the territory, lighting malfunction.

"Besides, we receive emotional or non-standard requests. Once a snake crawled into the entrance of a residential house. The animals are not in our competence, but we promptly shared the information, because the residents were in real danger. As a result, the snake was caught," Anastasia Kartashova recalls.

Some Muscovites allow typos in appeals, which only a person can detect. There was a case when a user wanted to write "please sort out the situation", but missed the letter: it turned out to be "scream out".

Another time, a resident of the capital sent an application... in verse. This verse was saved by the portal staff: "The Ministry of Emergency Situations warned, there will be wind, there will be a squall. And so our sign went limp under the gusts. And it will bang against the ground." "We ventured to publish the verse. And imagine, the respond was also in verse!" Anastasia Kartashova laughs.

The situations can be complicated. For example, a dispatcher at the polyclinic canceled emergency visit of a doctor. "Our task is to sort out, but not to blame the clinic or answer the user: "I'm sorry, it happened like that," the staff of the unified editorial office say.

Sometimes moderators have to reject an application. For instance, once a user asked to find and return to his house entrance a "fairy cleaner" who unexpectedly quitted the job. Another time a Muscovite wished to install a fountain in his yard. Our City portal cannot fulfill such a request: a fountain is not an obligatory part of the infrastructure, unlike, for example, waste bins.

Full Speed Ahead

Many moderators — the Our City portal old-timers have been working here for five or more years. Everyone explains their decision not to change their place of work in the same way: "I like helping people, solving difficult tasks, improving my hometown."

They don't notice the routine. From their point of view, no day is like another. The portal is always in motion, like Moscow itself.

For example, Elena Perova has been working here as a senior moderator since the beginning — 10 years!

Elena Perova. Photo by Yulia Ivanko, Mos.ru

"I was lucky that I contributed to the development of the portal. Initially it was scary to work. Besides me, only four employees worked. There was no one to ask for assistance, there were no similar services. I felt a special responsibility. I consider Our city to be my affair. If I had suddenly left, I would not have known how the website and the city were changing with it," Elena says.

According to her, Muscovites became more conscious within 10 years: "They understand that the portal is not a fence, you need to write to the point."

Over the years, the site was technically improved, the list of available problematic topics was significantly expanded, authorities and various organizations responsible for sorting out problems were involved.

Initially, applications concerning only the courtyards condition were accepted, and today 225 topics are available on the portal. One of recent opportunities is a complaint about advertising on sidewalks, dangerously protruding elements (cable, fittings), incomplete dismantling of garages, poor maintenance of the territories of state institutions, improper maintenance of attics and basements.

The Our City portal team does not cease developing its functionality. New areas of concern will appear on a regular basis, including those available to residents of Troitsky and Novomoskovsky Administrative Districts.

Moscow is among Top 7 of the smartest cities in the world Look inside 'Our City'. How the portal works

Source: mos.ru

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