Focus: Communications - Site Visit

TalkTown, a new and interactive online 'town' designed to help tackle child abuse, was launched last month by the NSPCC as part of its 'Talk 'til it stops' campaign.

The microsite uses a technology called Lingubot, which enables members of the public to 'talk' to the town's four resident characters - Marcus the 'street-savvy teenager', primary school teacher Umesh, pub landlady Rachel and 'neighbour' Elena - about child cruelty concerns.

Main pages

The homepage is literally a signpost to TalkTown, although those with a more urgent need are usefully directed to more relevant links. Once in TalkTown, however, it's hard not to be impressed with a site that offers something a little different.

The 'artificial intelligence' of the four characters is unquestionably innovative, but you could be left wondering if it's all just a bit too ambitious. Despite enjoying reasonable enough conversation with Marcus, it was frustrating to ask Umesh "What do you think you should do?" and have him tell me that he was a primary school teacher.

Special features

TalkTown also features a phone box, a post box, a gift stall and a bank that respectively offer the NSPCC helpline number, an online survey, links to the NSPCC gift page and the chance to donate online. Donating is encouraged on every page, most enjoyably on an air balloon that wafts behind Umesh's head.

The NSPCC says:

"We are very excited to have the chance to use this state-of-the-art technology. It will bring the 'Talk 'til it stops' initiative to life in an interactive and emotionally engaging way.

"We hope the site will give people the confidence to make a real difference to the lives of abused children suffering in silence."

Site Visit is by Tony Hodson

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