Tag Archives: BBC

Ways to read and navigate documents

Consultation documents are hardly ‘light reading’ so we thought it might be useful to provide a round-up of ways that you can more easily read and navigate documents on the WriteToReply site. We’ll use the BBC’s Project Canvas document as our example, not least because we want to encourage you to read the consultation before the deadline on 17th April. We’ve previously written about how you can use the RSS news feeds to read both documents and comments on your own Netvibes or Pageflakes dashboard. There’s a lot we could write about the use of feeds, and in this post, we provide a new example below.

Table of Contents

Obviously, the first thing you see on a WriteToReply document site is the Table of Contents. No real innovation here, except that you can see how many comments have been made, which might indicate the ‘hot spots’ in the text. If you’ve not got a lot of time, you could go directly to those sections.

Most Commented

Even more useful is the Most Commented box on the right of the page. This ranks the hot spots so you can immediately see what’s of most interest to other people.


It’s worth remembering that you can search across the entire document for keywords and phrases. Enclose specific phrases in double quotes.

Coming Soon – Serialised Daily Subscriptions

We’re testing a brand new feature which will allow you to have a section of the document delivered to you each day. Rather than receive the entire document at once and have it nagging at you in your feed reader, you’ll receive a single section each day, making the document easier to find time for and digest. Just subscribe to the ‘Serialised Feed’ as you would any other feed and look forward to tomorrow’s subscription!

Hyperlinked Word Cloud

We’ve pointed out how you can navigate comments via our CommentCloud, and we thought it might also be a useful way of navigating the document itself. You’ll see a link to the WordCloud in every document sidebar.

Semantic Tagging

We’ve recently started using OpenCalais, a semantic technology that analyses the document and automatically produces tags from names, facts and events. It produces a far greater number of relevant tags than we would normally include and offers a useful, visual way of mining the content of the text.

The Calais Web Service automatically creates rich semantic metadata for the content you submit – in well under a second. Using natural language processing, machine learning and other methods, Calais analyzes your document and finds the entities within it. But, Calais goes well beyond classic entity identification and returns the facts and events hidden within your text as well.


We also produce an eBook of every document we re-publish so that it can be read offline on a variety of eBook readers. Again, you’ll find a link in the sidebar of every document.


If you’re one of the millions of iPhone, iPod Touch or Google Android owners, then each document is specially formatted for your phone (the sections are in reverse order but we should be able to fix that with a bit of free time. In the meantime, just navigate to the first section and bookmark it).

Embedded version

Finally, we also provide an embedded version of the original PDF, which we host on Scribd. This allows you to read the document full screen and print it for reading on the train 😉


When are people commenting on Digital Britain?

Yesterday, on Twitter, @cyberdoyle asked “how many people use the digitalbritain site in work time as part of their work, and how many ‘ordinary’ people know about it?”

Well, the first part of the question is pretty easy to answer. We have web analytics showing visits to the site and the RSS feed of comments is timestamped, so we can examine when people are commenting, too.

Here’s a snapshot showing an overview of what time people visit WriteToReply’s re-publication of the Digital Britain – Interim Report. Click on the image to examine it in more detail on Flickr.

Basically, what this shows is that traffic is fairly evenly spread throughout the day, starting around 9am and not dropping significantly until after midnight. As you might expect, there are peaks mid-morning and mid-afternoon.

The next image shows on what days people are visiting the report.

This shows that visitors are largely looking at the report during the week, with just 14.67% of visits over weekends.

To look at when people are actually commenting on the report, I’ve used My Timelines, which in turn uses Simile, to visualise the comments on a timeline. This has been quickly knocked together for the purposes of replying to the question. We’ll host Simile on WriteToReply soon and look at how we can pimp up the timelines even more. Click on the image to go to the timeline. Drag the timeline either left or right to see comments made. Click on a comment to view it.

Timeline of Digital Britain comments

The final part of the question asks how many people know about WriteToReply’s re-publication of the Digital Britain report. This is much more difficult to answer, but here are a few thoughts.

If knowing about the report results in a visit to the website every time, then as of 12am today, the report has had 2,357 unique visits and 3,087 visits. Most of our ‘marketing’ of the report has been over Twitter. It’s where we first had the idea of re-publishing a report and is an easy way for us to get the message out at no cost. Our own efforts to tell people about the report have then been ‘retweeted’ or rebroadcast by others who have supported our efforts. Potentially, the message can reach tens of thousands of people on Twitter in this way. Indeed, it led to both the Guardian and the BBC tweeting about WriteToReply and writing two blog posts each ((1, 2, 3, 4)) about our re-publication of the report. Cory Doctorow on boingboing did the same, giving a significant boost to visitor numbers. Given the nature of this particular report, Twitter is a good place to focus our ‘marketing’.

However, our plans for WriteToReply are to enable anyone to re-publish any public report and therefore each report will require specific, targeted marketing to ensure that the appropriate audience are made aware of the service. It’s easy for us to advocate the Digital Britain report because we’re using Twitter and blogs all day in the course of our work for two universities, but we would currently struggle to reach the same number of people were the report a local council consultation or a topic well outside our existing communities.

The point about WriteToReply though is that it shouldn’t matter. It’s a multi-user platform that anyone can use to do the same as we have done with Digital Britain, empowering people to re-publish reports on issues they care about and can be effective advocates for. We’ve recieved some genuine enthusiasm from inside Government and have been told that WriteToReply will be advocated to Government departments as a method (among many) to seek public comment on consultation documents.  So whether you work in Government and are the author of a report or you’re someone who just thinks that a consultation could be done better through WriteToReply, the service is the same for each of you. We’ve created a guide about how it works on our wiki. Let us know what you want to re-publish and we’ll help you get set up and then it’s all yours to advocate by whatever means you can.

If you want to support WriteToReply, we’ve recently submitted a proposal for funding which outlines how we think it could grow and be an effective ‘community platform’ (and by ‘community’, we include the Government) for publishing, reading, commenting and discussing public documents. In fact, it could grow to be a social network where Government policy issues are discussed in general, but that’s for another post. 🙂

Three Days Left to Comment on the Digital Britain Interim Report

How time flies… There’s now just three days left to comment on the Digital Britain – Interim Report (at least if you want your comments to count with Carter’s review team) – deadline is ‘before March 12th’.

Comments have still been coming in (although we have suffered a little bit of downtime – apologies for that) with comment feeds being re-published on the official consultation sites at Digital Britain Forum and Digital Britain Pageflakes dashboard.

Contributions have also been flowing in to the The Fake Digital Britain Report (described here: The Fake Digital Britain Report), which provides another way for you to feed back to Lord Carter what you’d like – or expect to see – considered in the final report.

The Fake report managed to pick up quite a bit of press, which was good to see, firstly from the BBC Tech blog – Rewriting Digital Britain – swiftly followed by the Guardian Technology blog – Write the Fake Digital Britain report – it might get used.

So have you commented yet? WriteToReply: Digital Britain Interim Report.