Ministers are pretty chatty on average

Visualisation of ministerial webchat replies
Visualisation of ministerial webchat replies

I’ve managed and evaluated a few ministerial webchats in my time, and I’m expecting to run a few more.

When organising a webchat two questions always pop up.

One, how many questions will be received? The answer has to be: how long is a piece of string, or more accurately, how interesting is a piece of string. Sometimes you get 50, sometimes 5000.

Two, how many questions can the Minister expect to answer in the time (usually 60 minutes)? That’s an easier question to answer with an inclination, but recently I’ve been wanting to give a more precise answer. So, I thought I’d try to get one.

The aim was to get an average number, not produce a league table. A league table is pointless because each webchat attracts different questions requiring different answers that take different lengths of time to satisfy.

I restricted myself to ministerial webchats (no senior civil servants) and those run on departmental websites or channels. All webchats were text-based (practically all are) and run after 2005. Some ministers appear more than once, because they’ve done more than one webchat (dates available if you want). All the webchats had to be public-facing to count.

I found the transcripts through site archives and allowed myself to search back as far as three pages into a Google search. I think it was a pretty exhaustive search, but please let me know if I’ve missed any. I then counted the ‘replies’, which in webchat parlance count as answers. I did the count manually but thoroughly, though I accept there may be a reply missed or added here and there.

The answer: on average a minister manages to answer 21 questions in a webchat.

Continue reading “Ministers are pretty chatty on average”

Commons in Cyberspace – coming to pass?

Back in 2006 (when we were still going about in horse-drawn carts and every man wore a hat)  I wrote a think-piece (as we called them) about ‘Commons in Cyberspace‘, building on some academic work written by Jay Blumler and Stephen Coleman in 2001 (probably in a cave over a dinner of mammoth and sabre-tooth cat).

We called it ‘edemocracy’ back then. Oh, how they laughed.

:)

You gave us your money, now give us your feedback

Was part of a good discussion today about 1) highs-and-lows of the digital year [almost] gone and 2) hopes and fears for the year to come.

Barack Obama’s use of digital media featured highly in both. We spoke about our shared admiration for the election campaign, and our shared aspirations for what might happen after January 20th 2009.

What excites someone in my sort of role about what the new US Administration might do with digital, is how it might excite other leaders around the world and encourage them to keep pace.

Only time will tell if the adventurous, inclusive and integrated approach to digital we witnessed during the presidential campaign will translate to an average day in the White House. But I think the portents are positive.

Continue reading “You gave us your money, now give us your feedback”

Democracy 2.0 – Event Presentation Slides

Last Thursday I gave a presentation on eDemocracy in Scotland for Urban Learning Space in Glasgow’s Lighthouse. This is the first opportunity that I’ve had since then to post about it – things have been pretty busy (that’ll be obvious from the irregularity of the posts on this blog).

It was first public-speaking gig since November last year. I had quite enjoyed the lay-off (for a while there it felt like I was doing one every week) but I really enjoyed getting back into it – although there was definitely a bit of rust. What felt particularly good was the chance to speak about Scotland, its experience of eDemocracy and what might happen in years to come. It’s a subject that is never far from my mind but I’ve had few opportunities to present on before this.
Continue reading “Democracy 2.0 – Event Presentation Slides”

See you there, there and there

I hooked up with Urban Learning Spaces to organise the Democracy 2.0 on Thursday 25th September in response to a lack of debate – and action – in Scotland around the contribution of digital media to democratic engagement and participation. I’m looking forward to presenting, and my co-panelists Sarah Davidson (representing the Scottish Government) and Iain Bruce (from the Sunday Herald) are key players and not to be missed.

Then Alex Stobart got the ScotWeb2 Unconference together, which will be taking place at Edinburgh University on October 31st and looks set to be a great opportunity to discuss and network with those who have designed and are managing the next generation of political sites, applications and campaigns.

And now the Hansard Society has organised a seminar on online citizen engagement in the Scottish Parliament on October 29th.

Talk about waiting on a bus and then…

Unlike the bus analogy there is every reason to welcome this clustering of events. I intend to make all three – have to make two for sure because I’m speaking at them – and I hope that anyone who is even a passing interest will be at all three.

This is a kickstart moment – it needs people with motivation, ideas and the ability to act.

Democracy 2.0: Bringing innovation and the social web to the heart of governance in Scotland

Back in February I jotted down some reflections on eDemocracy in Scotland. I’d been back for a few months and was fairly disappointed by the progress the Scottish polity had made online.

First step to putting things right is a good diagnosis, and I hope you’ll participate (whether you’re kilted or not).

On September 25th I will be opening a seminar organised by the fantastic team at Urban Learning Space in Glasgow’s Lighthouse.

Democracy 2.0 – bringing innovation and the social web to the heart of governance in Scotland‘ will be an opportunity to reflect on Scotland’s experience of eDemocracy and discuss where it goes from here. I’m really excited to be joined on the panel by Sarah Davidson, Director of Communications at the Scottish Government) and Iain Bruce (of Sunday Herald fame).

Continue reading “Democracy 2.0: Bringing innovation and the social web to the heart of governance in Scotland”

eDemocracy in the top flights?

Have been thinking about analogies ahead of a presentation I’m to give on eDemocracy in the UK. And with our domestic football season coming to an end, I’ve been thinking along footballing lines and playing about with this angle…

If we think of the web or politics as having football-like leagues, then taking an interest in eDemocracy is remarkably like following a lower-league team. Continue reading “eDemocracy in the top flights?”

Blogging moves into the Second Chamber

How can you keep track of what is going on in the Lords? You can read Hansard, you can watch BBC Parliament, there might be the odd article in the papers.

The Lords has been quite a closed shop, more by accident than design. Yet it is busy, bustling, important and relevant. The challenge is how to get the public to tap into that potential.The answer may be found online through blogging. This is the hypothesis of the ‘Lords of the Blog’ pilot launched by the House of Lords and the Hansard Society at www.lordsoftheblog.net.

At the end of 2007, I made some predictions about political uses of the web over the next 12 months. One was that the House of Lords would turn to blogging to encourage public awareness and participation. Of course, I was dealing on some insider info. Fundraising for ‘Lords of the Blog’ was one of my last duties at the Hansard Society. But finding the funds was no guarantee that the blog would see the light of day. The kudos for that lies with Barry Griffiths, the project coordinator, and Liz Hallam-Smith, the Lords Librarian for having the foresight to see the value in such an experiment. Continue reading “Blogging moves into the Second Chamber”

World e-Parliament Report 2008 Published

They say:

“The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the Inter-Parliamentary Union launched today the World e-Parliament Report 2008. The Report was prepared as part of the work of the Global Centre for ICT in Parliament.

The  World e-Parliament Report 2008 represents the first effort to establish a baseline of how parliaments are using, or planning to use ICT to help them carry out their representative, lawmaking and oversight responsibilities and to connect to their constituencies. It is also intended to advance a shared knowledge base among the parliaments of the world and to promote international debate on these matters.

The Report is based on the responses and comments provided by 105 assemblies from around the world to a survey on the use of ICT in parliament conducted between July and November 2007. It also draws on experiences exchanged during the World e-Parliament Conference 2007 and relevant publicly available information”.

I say:

“An excellent and very important piece of research. Significant, because it covers all conceivable applications of ICT by parliaments across the world. Well done to Gherardo, Jeffrey and Jane for putting it together”.

The Report is available at www.ictparliament.org.