Tag Archives: Community

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 😉


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. 🙂

Guidelines for re-publishers (scraped from the wiki)

Keen readers may have noticed that we recently moved the WriteToReply wiki over from third-party hosting. One of the reasons for this is that content on the wiki can now be scraped and embedded ((In case you’re wondering, we use the WordPress wiki-inc plugin.)) into WriteToReply, benefitting from the additional functionality of a blog, such as commenting (which is what we’re all about, write? err, right?). Also, you no longer have to login to contribute to the wiki, making it even easier for people to get involved.

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