Tag Archives: e-democracy

The five year journey from Civic Hacking Fund to mySociety


Tom Steinberg from David Wilcox on Vimeo.

Five years ago I met Tom Steinberg at a conference workshop where he was tentatively proposing the idea of a “Civic Hacking Fund”. Last night Tom and friends, including social media Minister Tom Watson, celebrated the fifth birthday of mySociety, the high-successful organisation now justifiably proud that:

Using our services, 200,000 people have written to their MP for the first time, over 8,000 potholes and other broken things have been fixed, nearly 9,000,000 signatures have been left on petitions to the Prime Minister, and at least 77 tiny hats have been knitted for charity.

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Tracking the buzz online


My creative friends over at Delib have launched a tool to track online conversation, and used it to give us insights into the buzz around Boris, Ken and others in London Mayoral election. You can read the analysis behind the diagram here – Boris is getting talked about a lot, but there’s general discontent among voters.

Brand Republic provides more background on the tool and its uses:

The technology behind the Opinion Tracker uses spider programs similar to the robots and crawlers used by popular search engines to scan the web for specific clusters of keywords on blogs and other areas where internet users interact.

The data collected by the spiders is aggregated, and then sampled and processed by a team of analysts at Delib, to provide end analysis and metrics.

The metrics collated by Opinion Tracker are organised into different categories, including “buzz”, the level of noise created by internet users; “mood”, where public sentiment lies; and “what’s hot”, a summary of the main topics inciting chat among internet users.

“Live conversations” provides examples of what users are saying online.

Chris Quigley, managing partner at Delib, said “With the increased usage of social media by the general public, its now possible to find out what people are saying and thinking without running a straight opinion poll or focus group.

“Using a service like Opinion Tracker can help organisations keep an eye on what’s being said about them across the social internet and the levels of buzz they’re generating.”

Other research firms provide online tracking, but I think we can rely on Delib to make it fun too. They specialise in online engagement and e-democracy, with a mix of serious forums and games, as you’ll see here. I thought of letting them know about this post, but I expect they pick it up anyway …

E-Democracy Centre "surprised by speculation"

The International Centre for Local e-Democracy has been subject to some discussion on blogs and mailing lists, started by Professor Stephen Coleman questioning what we get for our money.

Is it new research and understanding? Or new tools to be used by governments? Or critical debate about the merits and values of e-participation? Perhaps someone can tell me what ICELE is for and why considerable amounts of public money should be spent supporting it?

Almost as interesting as the value or otherwise of ICELE projects has been the lack of online interaction offered by the Centre, and low profile in the discussion. Now the director, Rita Wilson, has responded on the UK and ireland E-Democracy Exchange.

Having been on holiday for a few days I was surprised to come back to lots of speculation about ICELE. First of all I would like to say that I am more than happy to provide information regarding what ICELE has been achieving and there is nothing hidden about our activities. But we are doers not talkers, delivering a programme to make a difference in how local authorities use tools and technology to move from consultation to participation.

Far from not being well known we have around 1800 subscribers to our newsletter and we get over 2700 visitors to our website each month.

Adding later:

Yes we promote the use of social media and have our Facebook site, but it isnt about what we do but about what we enable others to do that we should be judged  some of which will take years to fully mature. We dont know what our future is  but our passion to make a difference to how local authorities engage remains.

You can read the rest on this thread and judge for yourself.

E-democracy centre: what do we get for our money?

Professor Stephen Coleman, blogging on citizenship in the digital age as I reported earlier, has now turned his attention to the Govenment-funded International Centre for Local e-Democracy (ICELE).

After listing a range of well-known e-democracy projects in the UK, he says they will be judged by the quality of their outputs.

In the case of ICELE it has been difficult to arrive at any judgments because I simply don’t understand what they are aiming to achieve. Is it new research and understanding? Or new tools to be used by governments? Or critical debate about the merits and values of e-participation? Perhaps someone can tell me what ICELE is for and why considerable amounts of public money should be spent supporting it?

The pilots that were funded by the national project for local e-democracy seem to have disappeared without trace, with the exception of the local issues forums (which survive largely because of the commitment of Steve Clift and his colleagues) and some rather under-used councillor blogging tools. What became of the other government-funded projects? How much money was spent on the now-abandoned Voice toolkit, described by ICELE as ’a web-publishing toolkit and an online community network rolled into one’? At the very least, a fully transparent evaluation should be made available.

Incidentally, I don’t write this in a spirit of negativity. Some projects will fail and we should learn from them. It’s the failure to be open about or learn from such experiences that worries me much more.

Ouch. It will be interesting to see whether anyone from ICELE ventures online to engage with Stephen. Their site has a “news” section, but I couldn’t see any opportunity to comment. The FAQ on ICELE’s vision runs to three items. Centre manager Fraser Henderson had a little difficulty recently with an over-zealous helper taking his name in vain. Their recent international symposium looked a bit Powerpointy. Beyond that I don’t know any more about ICELE than Stephen …

Join Stephen Coleman on a Bristol blog

Stephen ColemanStephen Coleman, Professor of Political Communication and Co-Director of the Centre for Digital Citizenship, is brilliant on the sounds bites for any video blogger (as well as main stream media) as you can see here when he talks about TV voting scandals, and here at an e-democracy conference in Bristol.

However, Stephen doesn’t blog himself, so it is a delight to find him available for discussion back in Bristol – virtually at least – guesting at Connecting Bristol.

I’m grateful to Shane McCracken for pointing this out, and neatly summarising the issues Stephen is highlighting about the changing nature of politics and citizenship: read more »