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Inquiries 2.0: Part 2.0

2009 September 6
by Nicholas Gruen

I enjoyed writing my previous post “Inquiries 2.0” and am very pleased that it seems to have been enthusiastically received.  Well there’s nothing like a bit of encouragement.

I was discussing the way in which the post was launching us on our own little journey of discovery in this sense.  I posted it before the secretariat had worked out how they might be able to implement one of the ideas in the post which is to make the submissions more easily searchable. I was emailed with the caution that we might not have the resources to do it (things are pretty flat out).  I replied “well if we can’t do it we can ask the community”.

So I posted and then we had to solve the problems – not huge problems I grant you – but it’s not the way the things are usually done in government.

In discussing some of this the next day with Peter Alexander of the secretariat we agreed that this was a slightly edgier but in this case more productive way to work.  And he told me that some solutions were already being sorted by our technical people.  Then an idea came to us. Right now we plan to email all those who have sent us submissions seeking permission to post their submission in the normal html format with a comments facility for each submission.  Then we thought it would be good to build a plugin to Wordpress to handle some of what we’d have to do manually. Ideally it would

  • invite people to submit their submission in any acceptable format
  • convert submissions into a range of formats for downloading from the site
  • contain some tick boxes with which people could give us the various consents that we would like – to display their submission in different formats and append a comments threads to their submissions.

It could also invite them to provide metadata in tags and attend to various other possible ‘housekeeping’ matters.  There are probably other things such a facility would be useful doing.

Of course this is beginning the process of turning inquiries – well . . . kind of inside out – user driven inquiries where not only are costs for governments somewhat lowered and processes simplified, but, more importantly, those making submissions come to control just a little more of the process.

Anyway it seemed obvious from that point that that was just one idea.  It seemed obvious that we should see if anyone out there wanted to build such a plugin.  But not before we’d asked the community for other ideas that would be particularly good for Government 2.0. And then we thought we could have a competition to identify and perhaps build such tools. While we think about that, feel free to comment on these ideas, and if you want to propose ideas for other plugins for Government 2.0 and we mount a competition, any comments below will establish priority in proposing an idea.

5 Responses
  1. 2009 September 6
    Henare Degan permalink

    Hi Nicholas,

    You wanted a way to more easily search the submissions, here’s a 5 minute, quick and dirty Google Custom Search that should do the trick.

    Not exactly what your post was about (sorry) but I hope it helps nonetheless.


  2. 2009 September 7
    Nicholas Gruen permalink

    I made a similar point on the previous blog post.

  3. 2009 September 7
    matt permalink

    Web audiences are increasingly sophisticted.
    I would hope any commenting system would provide :
    * searching of comments (google would be a minimum)
    * ability to see commenter’s other posts/history
    * ability to attribute value to a comment; like/dislike,thumbs up/down.
    * ability to delete my own comments
    * rss of a thread
    * notifications

    Actually, there’s already a potential solution.
    Reddit is a popular website for posting links and commening on them. More info here [wikipedia].
    Their platform is freely available, as the code is open source.

    Caters for voting, moderators, searching, etc
    It’s relatively easy to extend too.



  4. 2009 September 19
    Nicholas Gruen permalink

    Thanks Matt,

    Good ideas. I’ve also realised something else that’s necessary – though it may already exist. When comments are ‘deleted’, there should be a plugin that keeps a record of them. This is important for government, both in case the decision to delete needs to be reviewed and also for standard government record keeping.

    Perhaps a suitable plugin exists already.

  5. 2009 November 7

    At the Lonely Planet Hack Day I am speaking to Lisa Dethridge from RMIT Design Research Institute. She is doing some work with the Country Fire Authority regarding social networking for bushfire learning and safety. Anyway here’s an idea. (As always perhaps it’s already been thought of and implemented). One could identify a hashtag in Twitter for emergencies, and then program the relevant client to sound the alarm whenever it detects the hashtag #emergency from any preselected source of tweets.

    Lisa mentions a project for computer games that simulate decision making in bushfires in second life. Also, presumably one could plot the current location of fires as known on a mapping which would then predict the spread of the fire using streamed weather and geospatial data with predictions replaced by real time, real fire data on an ongoing basis.

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