I’m annoyed. Junior Minister Tom Watson has resigned, and I have been forced to learn this from the BBC News website, like some blogless plebeian. This is despite the fact that Mr Watson has his very own blog. But at 1:50pm today, I find no response from the site at all.
Meanwhile, David Milliband has had his own efforts to embrace the new technologies foiled (via DK). His ‘Envrionmental Contract’ was supposed to be edited as a ‘Wiki’ by members of the public. Unfortunately, the ‘Wiki’ was comprehensively defaced, and DEFRA had to abandon the project.
The ‘cyber-vandalism’ was, as Milliband says, rather juvenile. I have very little sympathy, however. The use of a wiki for this purpose was ill-conceived. New internet technologies provide many different ways for people to engage in dialogues and collaboration. But that does not necessarily mean that a wiki open to millions of people, to create a government policy that will affect millions of people, is necessarily the best use of the technology! Such tools will, I believe, be much more effective when used at the lower echelons of democracy – Between civil servants around the country sharing ‘best practice’; or between the members of rural or island councils, say, who may have long distances to travel. Central government will have very little success when it tries to use the ‘Smallweb’.
This jumping on the Wiki/Blog band-wagon in this manner reminds me of the dot-com boom-and-bust we witnessed a few years ago. The people getting burned (or, in this case, custard-pied) are those who assume the new technologies can somehow overcome all laws of economics and politics. I very much doubt Milliband would make policy by standing at Speakers’ Corner with a flip-pad, writing down all the suggestions from passers-by. Sooner or later someone will begin heckling. So why try it online?