Recommended reading… what China will do next, the failure of humanitarian intervention and a vision for online consultation

Here’s what’s been keeping me enthralled on the commute this week…

1. With China projected to overtake the United States in terms of economic output within the next ten years, many commentators are again speaking of a new ‘Asian century’ and the ‘decline of the West’. At Chatham House recently, Niall Ferguson drew on the last 600 years of world history to offer an insight into the changing global balance in terms not only of economics but also of geopolitics and ‘soft power’. Transcripts, video and audio are on

2. Adam Curtis consistently causes me think again about what I think I know. His new documentary series, All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace is classic Curtis fare: sinsiter music + archive footage + dogma + elites perpetrating that dogma + scathing critique = licence fee well spent. But I am an even bigger fan of his blog, and this article on the ‘idea of humanitarian intervention‘ I found provocative against the backdrop of Mladic’s arrest, extradition and trial.

3. Consultation is a ‘set piece’ of government. Doing it better online is a coalition commitment. But how? As well as tackling search, usability and agile development on a centralised government website, an Alphagov sub-team also turned their attentions to consultation and policy engagement. What they came up with was a succint and persuasive proposal that deserves attention and further development, particularly what it has to say about ‘layering’. There’s an introduction from Neil Williams and a copy of the deck on the Alphagov project blog

‘Improving Websites’ Evaluation Survey

The Digital Policy team at COI used social media to run its consultative review of the ‘Improving Websites’ Guidance. The review has ended and I’m evaluating the exercise.

If you participated or even just looked in occassionally, please fill out the very short survey at It would be much appreciated.

The short report will be out in a few weeks time.

New Opportunities

Had a look at the New Opportunities White Paper consultation site?

It does a lot right.

A basic, but good to see the use of social bookmarks.

Really pleased to see resource materials offered to online community managers and bloggers.

Like the fact that you are encouraged to go out into the ‘civic commons’ to deliberate (see the right-hand column on the homepage).  But when you click through to the TUC’s Touchstone blog or CommunityCare’s CareSpace forum the relevant discussion is well-flagged, while on the other sites it’s a struggle to find where the New Opportunities activity is – not so good.

And the copy is a bit heavy in places. Could do with some more formatting.

Will it all work? Will it get people talking? And responding?

Simon Dickson is in two minds.

Emma Mulqueeny seems to be into it.

UPDATE: Steph Gray – who advised on the development – has a done a write up.

What do you think?

Consultation, eh?

Been taking a keener-than-usual interest in Canadian politics online; I’ve written an article for a Canadian journal discussing different national experiences of eDemocracy.

I didn’t write about this specific site, but I found CitizenVoices interesting. Ostensibly it’s a platform for Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, to bring young citizens together for dialogue with politicians.

Four elements caught my attention:

  1. The dashboard model – I tested this approach with the Office of the Children’s Commissioner as part of the Digital Dialogues project last year. It was developed in partnership with Vohm, and brought profiles, forums, blogs, polls and an ‘Ask & Answer’ module all underpinned by Drupal. The idea is to give participants control over what functionality they use, in the interest of seeing whether their participation frequency rises or falls in comparison with sites where the functionality is pre-determined by its managers. Continue reading “Consultation, eh?”

When someone is trying to make conversation, it’s rude to ignore them

The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) is one of the new kids on the Whitehall block. The department has been established to steward the Government programmes that foster a dynamic, knowledge-based economy. And with a Minister like John Denham at the helm, the outlook is good.

A while back I picked up on a consultation DIUS was staging on innovation and how it should be sustained in the UK. Originally based on a conventional set of questions and an invitation to send in a response, I spotted that DIUS have now ‘upgraded’ the exercise with a consultation microsite.

The opportunity to get involved in a consultation about the contribution of innovation to the UK’s competitiveness is welcomed. The exercise has a particular focus on science and innovation policies and is open until January 31st 2008. I’m going to respond where I can (science and innovation is not exactly my area of expertise) and would urge others to get involved in order to demonstrate the depth of interest and the breadth of the innovation practitioner community. Continue reading “When someone is trying to make conversation, it’s rude to ignore them”