Tag Archives: Britain

Recent activity on WriteToReply

The official consultation period ended last week for the Digital Britain – Interim Report although the ongoing discussion on WriteToReply and the Digital Britain Discussion Forum remains open and welcomed by the @digitalbritain team.

We contacted the Digital Britain Team via Twitter and email about whether your comments should be delivered ‘formally’ by email. Happily, we didn’t have to do this…

…which gave us time to do other things:

If you’re reading this via a feed reader, you may have noticed a draft post accidentally slip out about ‘how you can get involved…’ This was inadvertently published in the process of setting up a new feature on WriteToReply, which will allow you to search and browse by tag and category, every section of every document that we re-publish. In addition, every tag and category has its own RSS feed, so you’ll be able to subscribe to categories of government documents, or even just set up a feed for specific tags which are of interest to you. We’re still working on it, but over time, we think it will be a really useful way of searching through and browsing the full-text of government documents that we re-publish.

Ideally, every government consultation would be published on something like WriteToReply by government workers. Until that happens, it’s down to the rest of us to get involved and help re-publish consultations on WriteToReply. In the meantime, the best way of keeping track on current government consultations is to keep an eye on Tell Them What You Think . (Exploring how WriteToReply can most effectively work with Tell Them What You Think is on our to do list!)

We’ve already had two people step up and ask for their own site. One consultation is nearly ready and another was re-published yesterday by @DJSoup. More on that below.

In addition to evolving the ‘site architecture’, we’ve been working on trying to get funding. We’ve submitted a bid to 4iP and have a bid in development for a JISC Rapid Innovation Grant. The former is a bid specifically for WriteToReply, the latter is a bid based on our work on WriteToReply (but would share benefits for WriteToReply as well as the JISC community).

We’ve also started holding weekly online meetings on IRC. Our first meeting was last week and a last minute annoucement on Twitter attracted two people to join us, who gave us technical advice and advice on registering WriteToReply as a formal entity. We realise we need to do this if we’re to accept funding and develop WriteToReply over the long-term. Our meetings will usually be every Thursday at 11am. If they are poorly attended at that time, we’ll move them to another time. Instructions on joining us are on the wiki as are the agendas and full logs of the meetings.

You may have noticed that we had some planned downtime on the site over the weekend. WriteToReply was first thought up and launched within two days using cheap, shared web hosting. As the site grew in popularity, it groaned under the strain of your comments, so to remedy that, we moved everything to a new host over the weekend which will provide a better level of service and offers us more flexibility, too.

Finally, as I mentioned above, Andrew MacKenzie re-published Lord Carter’s Straw Man, otherwise known as ‘Copyright in a Digital World. What role for a digital rights agency?’ This consultation document has grown out of the Digital Britain – Interim Report and specifically addresses the issues of copyright infringement and the protection of intellectual property in a ‘digital Britain’.  These are discussed under Action 11 and Action 12 in the Digital Britain – Interim Report. The deadline for the consultation is the 30th March. Hardly any time at all…

“Today we have published proposals in the form of a Straw Man on digital rights. That Straw Man could be torched, tolerated or a touchstone for the start point of constructive debate and design. I for one hope it is the latter.” ((From the press release))

Sounds like an invitation to comment on the document paragraph by paragraph to me 😉


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.

An Example Netvibes Dashboard for the Digital Britain Interim Report on WriteToReply

One of the powerful features of the WordPress platform we’re using to host WriteToReply is the RSS feed publishing engine that produces all manner of RSS feeds out-of-the-box.

Feeds are a Good Thing, because they let you syndicate content and view it elsewhere. So called “web desktops” are one way in which you can construct your own dashboards containing widgets that can display content from different RSS feed sources and help you keep an eye on activity surrounding on any particular part of the report.

(For a mini-tutorial on how to use services like Netvibes, see the Click On: Web 2.0 Workshop on open2.net.)

So for example, here’s a Netvibes tab that show’s how to view the original content from one of the sections of the Digital Britain Interim Report, along with the comments made on that section. The tab also tracks media references to Digital Britain via Google News, blog post references using Google blogsearch, and up to the minute references on Twitter – WriteToReply dashboard demo (Netvibes): Digital Britain – The Interim Report, section 5:

Writetoreply Dashboard - http://www.netvibes.com/psychemedia#Digital_Britain_-_The_Interim_Report

Click on one of the section tabs in the far left hand column, and you can read the text from that subsection of the report:


Here’s an example of the RSS feed to pull in this subsection content: http://writetoreply.org/digitalbritain/2009/01/29/section-5-equipping-everyone-to-benefit-from-digital-britain/?&feed=rss2&withoutcomments=1

If you click on one of the comment links (middle columns) you can view the comments made by each individual on the relevant subsection:


Here’s and example of the feed URL you need to view comments by subsection: http://writetoreply.org/digitalbritain/2009/01/29/section-51-education-and-skills/?&feed=rss2&withoutcomments=0

The blogsearch pulls in the first few words from the start of relevant blog posts:

Digital Britain blogsearch http://www.netvibes.com/psychemedia#Digital_Britain_-_The_Interim_Report

Here’s the feed: http://blogsearch.google.com/blogsearch_feeds?hl=en&q=%22digital+britain%22&ie=utf-8&num=10&output=atom

Searching for Twitter responses to the report allows us to track some of the real time discussion going on around the report:

Twitter responses to Digital Britain

Here’s the feed: http://search.twitter.com/search.atom?q=%22digital+britain%22

Obtaining RSS feeds from Google News search, Google blog search and Twitter search is easy – the search pages all contain RSS feeds for the current search.

At the moment, feeds aren’t necessarily exposed on the page for each different WriteToReply view (although we are working on it). However, the RSS feed URL patterns described above should help you work out how to create an RSS feed URL from most of the pages that appear on WriteToReply.

If you do create you own public WriteToReply dashboard(s), please post a link to them in a comment to this post.

Digital Britain: First week analytics

In the interests of transparency and fun, here’s an overview of the Google Analytics from the first week of Write to Reply’s re-publication of the Digital Britain – Interim Report. Note that GA has certain limitations that can make the reports a little misleading, but heck, they’re the best we have.

As we explained here, Tony and I threw the site together over a couple of evenings and launched it over Twitter. We’ve continued to watch Twitter as the main source of feedback about Write to Reply. A running Twitter search (via TweetDeck in my case) for ‘digitalbritain OR “Digital Britain” OR writetoreply OR “Write to Reply”‘ quickly alerts us to any possible reference on Twitter to either the site or the report. (This coverage extends somewhat to the blogosphere, also, which we’re also tracking in terms of things like incoming links to the site.)

When we see someone referring to the Digital Britain report, we might contact them (@ them on Twitter, or post a comment to a blog post) and mention Write To Reply, where the report is commentable upon.  Every response I’ve had to this approach has been appreciative.

Many people have blogged about Write to Reply’s re-publication of the Digital Britain report but two posts have generated a significant amount of traffic. One by Jack Schofield on the Guardian Tech blog and another by Cory Doctorow on boingboing. Both writers urged their readers to use Write to Reply to comment on the report.  Thanks!

So first up, here’s a graph produced by the Akismet spam filter used on Write to Reply. It’s not entirely accurate for some reason (!?) but we can confirm there’s been three spam comments and 87 genuine comments received.  Thank you!

Given what I’ve said above about our use of Twitter, the first of the GA reports is not too surprising (click on the images to see them full-size and legible):

This shows that overwhelmingly, our traffic is via Twitter and, most likely, shortened URLs used on Twitter (which accounts for the ‘direct’ traffic). Thanks Tweeple, for about half of the traffic to the report!

The Guardian and boingboing are, respectively, the second and third largest referers and as they are busy news sites, we’ve probably seen most of the traffic they will generate as people turn on to the latest news. Maybe I’m wrong there. We’ll see next week.

When people visit the report, they’re mostly landing on the front page, as we would expect. Second on the list (with a much lower landing rate) is Section 5.1 Education and Skills (a section that was linked to directly with a request for comments in a message that got retweeted several times on Twitter).

48.15% of people are clicking through to at least one more page (actually, the average page views is 2.56/visit) and the top of these exit pages is, again, Section 5.1 Education and Skills.

Want to know about aggregated page views? As of 9pm last night, there had been 5683 views of 54 pages in the last week.

As you can see, besides the front pages of the report, people seem to like looking at the list of comments by section and the list of comment by user.  This suggests that that specific functionality provided by the CommentPress theme for WordPress is of interest to people. Excellent! 🙂

Most visitors have visited just once, but 19% are returning visitors (and we commend your dedication!).

So, where are all these people from? Mostly the UK (81%) but also from the USA (8%) and 40 other countries.

People across the UK are visiting the Digital Britain report, though almost half (48%) of visitors are from London (does anyone know exactly how Google locates people? Is it locating actual people at computers or just their ISPs?)

Interestingly, 46 visitors are from Lambeth, which is just minutes away from Westminster. We can only hope that these visitors are a concentration of people working in government 😉

Finally, here’s the big picture. The site peaked on the first day (Wednesday 4th Feb), dropped rapidly but slowed slightly due to the Guardian tech blog post (Thursday 5th Feb), continued dropping over the weekend until Monday 9th when it picked up again and then rose again suddenly, thanks to boingboing’s post on Tuesday 10th.

If anyone wants view access to the full analytics, send us your GMail address and we’ll add you to the user list. We’ll post more on this subject on March 13th, after the consultation period ends or if anything interesting happens before then. If you’ve got ideas about how this data can be creatively and productively used, please get in touch. We have some ideas on the burner, but welcome yours too. Thanks.

To Whom It May Concern – An Open Letter to Lord Carter and the ‘Digital Britain – Interim Report’ Team

Dear Lord Carter,

Drawing on inspiration from the Power of Information Taskforce Report (beta) [ http://poit.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/poit/ ], in which members of the public can comment on individual sections of that report, and in response to your statement in Digital Britain – The Interim Report that you “welcome feedback and comments on this interim report, before 12th March 2009”, we have republished “Digital Britain – The Interim Report” in a way that supports commenting on the report at the paragraph level at http://writetoreply.org/digitalbritain/.

Within a few hours of becoming publicly accessible on February 4th, 2008, comments started appearing on the site, with the site itself receiving several hundred visitors within just the first two days of availability.

We hereby invite you to consider comments made on Write To Reply’s Digital Britain site as comments made to you in response to Digital Britain – The Interim Report.

There are several ways in which you can view the comments made to the report on the WriteToReply website, as well as “trackbacks” from people who have linked to items within the report from elsewhere on the web:

  • by visiting the website itself: we split the report up into separate pages at the level of numbered subsections. Comments can be viewed at the section/subsection level, (for example: all comments on section 3.1); at the paragraph level, (for example, comments at the paragraph level); and by the name of the commenter, allowing you to consider individual responses to the report (for example, comments by user);
  • by subscribing to comments via an RSS/feed reader: an RSS feed is available for all recent comments (for example, recent comments feed) or on a per (sub)section basis (for example, comments on Section 2);
  • as a WordPress XML export file: we are happy to provide you, on request, with an XML file in the WordPress export format containing a full set of comments received on the site.

We are also happy to provide you, again on request, with access to the Google Analytics reports for the http://writetoreply.org/digitalbritain website.

We hope that you find the comments using this initiative useful and we are more than happy to discuss with you any questions you may have regarding the operation of the site and how it may benefit your work on the Digital Britain report.

— Tony Hirst
— Joss Winn

Contact: mail@writetoreply.org (email) or @writetoreply (Twitter).

Dated: February 6th, 2009.

Note: This letter was also sent to Lord Carter using Write to Them on February 6th, 2009.