Comment on “Wanted: consultation platform, £1m reward”

[What follows is a republished comment I made to Simon Dickson’s Puffbox post Wanted: consultation platform, £1m reward about the recently announced competition that the Consrvative Party might run to source a citizen’s platform if they win the forthcoming, and as yet unannounced, election.]

I’d noticed the call when it came out too via some of the press coverage it raised, but being offline over the holiday couldn’t dig much further.

A full copy of the original press release appears to have been posted but a more detailed brief is still lacking (maybe they should have posted a wiki to let the crowds develop the brief? ;-) – it seems like we’ll have to wait till after the election – and presumably a Tory victory? – before that appears, if this quote is anything to go by: “the specifications that we will be publishing alongside the official opening of the competition following the election”

As to the vague mention of “an online platform that enables large scale collaboration”, I’m not sure what that means either, in several different senses?

Technically, would a WordPress extension or WordPress/Mediawiki configuration count, that could be deployed across departments, local councils and/or initiatives, maybe automatically generating related links between then? Or “to win” would a hosted 1-click WPMU installation that could launch a pre-extended/pre-configured site be the sort of submission that’s required?

Benefits wise, what would a successful community collaboration result in? A popular idea floating to the top of a voting pile (but how would that feed into the policy development or consultation process?) A flexible data powered platform (like Geocommons or Many Eyes) that provided people with access to data that could inform, support or deny the ideas that are put forward on a suggestions part of the platform? (An loosely coupled system of independent apps might suit that approach better? In which case, might a particular orchestration of independent systems/APIs qualify as a prizewinning entry, (though it would probably require a shiny interface to win!;-)

One of the things we tried (albeit largely unsuccessfully) around the Digital Britain Interim Report was the Fake Report on a wiki Wikipedia has shown that it is possible to collaboratively author documents, with each wiki content page showing a consensus NPOV view (sometimes!) and the related Talk page capturing elements of the discussion and rationale for why the content page is as it is. It may be that for developing policy documents, this diptych/dual view approach would capture a an argument in a more convenient way than a list of comments?

(One thing I’d like to explore is whether a Commentpress style theme could be used to pull wiki talk elements in to a wiki page as comments/discussion at a section level. As well as working for policy document formulation, a similar approach might also be useful as an authoring tool for closed communities, such as standards authoring (e.g. BSI Drafts ) or drafting Government bills.)

Votes are another way of compressing opinion, as is sentiment analysis, in order to summarise a large body of comment in order for it to be usable by the poor sod charged with the task of taking on board the opinions of the masses!

Or maybe you need a platform that can offer something to, and draw from, a wide range of visitor types: folk who might cast a vote but not comment, or comment but engage in discussion?

PS This reminds me of an essay I never did gt round to writing about the structure and role of state sponsored grand challenges and prize challenges in driving innovation in a particular direction (notes)

PPS in the short term, how about a comment platform for party manifestos as and when they appear, maybe on, I dunno, WriteToReply? ;-)

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

4 thoughts on “Comment on “Wanted: consultation platform, £1m reward””

  1. You should look at Poblish – – and contact Andrew Regan who is building it. He wants to mine good blog content, aggregate it and use it to drive deliberative processes.

    It’s a very powerful idea that he’s working on but it’s not all immediately evident.

  2. I’m keen to republish all manifestos (not just the main three) on WriteToReply as soon as they become available. Itching to do it, in fact…

  3. Yes. Republishing manifestos in commentable form is something that a lot of people seem to be keen to do.

    I’m not sure it’s that good an idea. It just reinforces the MSM’s shrill demand for consistency (u-turns, ‘muddle’, ‘disarray’ etc).

    I’d like to see people using creative tools to encourage politicians to be more thoughful and open-minded – more inclusive and consultative. Almost every online politics project I see seems to be concerned with doing the opposite.

  4. Just spotted this – note the intended audience….

    “The JISC, on behalf of the Strategic Content Alliance, invites tenders to develop the moderated web resource named ‘Digipedia’ from prototype to pilot service.

    The Strategic Content Alliance commissioned a prototype moderated wiki named ‘Digipedia’ in early 2009. The prototype aimed to link authoritative information resources on the management of the digital content life-cycle and produce a plain English narrative which can be text mined and provide an innovative browse mechanism to enable resource discovery for a broad audience. The primary audience for ‘Digipedia’ is policy makers and practitioners involved in the creation of digital content in the public and not-for-profit sectors.

    The aims of the work are to:

    • Develop ‘Digipedia’ from prototype to pilot service, providing the user with an easy to use, authoritative, up-to-date and insightful view on the management of the digital content lifecycle.
    • Build up a sustainable community of organisations and individuals working towards developing ‘good practice’ in digital content provision at a policy and operational level.
    • Develop an effective communications and dissemination plan in order to raise awareness, seek contributors to and use of ‘Digipedia’ amongst key stakeholders at a policy and practitioner level.
    • Develop a business plan for sustainability in consultation with JISC and other Strategic Content Alliance partners.

    Total funding of between £75,000-£85,000 (including VAT, travel and subsistence) is available for this work.

    The deadline for proposals is 12 noon UK time on 5 February 2010.

    A full version of the ITT can be found at [ ]”

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