Much buzz today about the government’s Your Freedom website which has been taken offline due to high demand. On the one hand it’s nice to see some web-based consultation happening. On the other hand how they’re doing it is a debacle of facepalm proportions, at least to those who’ve been thinking about this stuff for more than a few months.
Chris Applegate has a good teardown of why this is such a bad thing, drawing parallels with the BBC’s notorious Speak You’re Branes idiot magnet and making suggestions on how it could have been done intelligently. Which is the real tragedy of this site – it betrays a total ignorance of lessons that have already been learned over the last decade in online community management. Hell, we saw this when Obama’s change.gov site was hijacked by cannabis campaigners and that was frequently mentioned by Clay Shirky last year. It strongly implies the coalition is undoing all the tentative steps the last government made towards understanding how the Internet works as a social space.
Chris’ final paragraph says it the best.
As it stands, the site will end up as a total mess – in fact it’s well on the way there already. When it comes to closing the site down, I bet the politicians will take one look at all the “ban human rights act it give free school meals for wearing a burka” posts, shrug their shoulders and say that “the citizens have spoken, but it’s utter rubbish – they had their chance and they blew it”. No, the government who have blown it – they had their chance to make a valuable public resource, but we’ve instead got another poorly-designed, poorly-maintained failure.
So how could they have done it better? Well, I know we’re in an age of austerity and all but howabout hiring someone who knows what they’re doing? Unless of course this is just a harmless side project to keen Nick Clegg busy.