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July 20, 2010

Against the public’s stupidity, the coalition itself contends in vain

Oooh, you've got to love crowdsourcing. What a great idea it is – genuinely – for organisations, from the state itself down to the local council to the corporate or Third Sector body as well, of course, to open their virtual doors and invite comment from the world

By Cbr Rolling Blog

Oooh, you’ve got to love crowdsourcing. What a great idea it is – genuinely – for organisations, from the state itself down to the local council to the corporate or Third Sector body as well, of course, to open their virtual doors and invite comment from the world.

What better place to as it were re-create the agora, the Athenian marketplace where democracy itself was born, than online – a public, national Roman Senate or even in its own modern way a new slant on our own Anglo-Saxon Witenagemot? That, surely, was the thought of our coalition masters CameronClegg when they started setting up their Spending Challenge and Your Freedom sites, which were set up in the past few weeks to allow the thoughtful expression of considered ruminations on public spending and personal liberty issues by Her Majesty’s citizens?

Well – if they were expecting 21st century Hellenic debate, they possibly may be a tad disappointed (or not?). How’s this for stuff worthy of Pericles, if not even Churchill: "Payment to immigrant families should not be paid unless they have been in the UK for at least 5 years then only pay child benifit for the 1st and 2nd child. When the sums are done the immigrant population seems to be exploding far out stripping the local population… uk gov to buy an island somewhere and build some static caravan type home with only basics and send them all to live there and make it thier own insteed of trying to make uk like back home for them." (NB spelling mistakes and gross idiocy in the original.)

Private Eye has a very funny regular item on rubbish textspeak-blogger-isms, of which the above could have been an excerpt – only, alas, it was a genuine bit of input to the debate on how we are going to stop our country descending into the kind of horrific chaos and deprivation as is, er, Burkina Faso, sorry I’ll read that again, Greece. Or something.

Seriously, though, the point is that if you open up your doors to totally unmonitored content from the Great, the Great Unwashed will pitch in as well – as is their right, of course. Problem is, I don’t want to read this kind of racist garbage and I don’t see how it is going to be that useful a contribution to debates about how we can strip 25% out of central Government spending in a way that doesn’t cause a Poll tax Riot a week until the next Election, frankly.

In any case, this week the public posts have all been taken down, with the following message in their place: "The site has been the subject to a small number of malicious attacks so we have unfortunately had to pause on the interactive features for now, but we’re still keen to hear any further ideas you have, which we may publish at a later date."

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The lesson here is that outreach and Web 2.0 interactive sites are useful – but that unregulated, they are a disaster. Back to the drawing board for the Treasury – and let this be a lesson to any CIO asked to set up a social media outreach facility.

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