The Australian Government Consultation Blog

Just to balance out the previous post:I posted up on bloggerati australia back in Mid-August the AustralianIT article about a proposed Consultation blog by Canberra. TechCrunch’ Duncan Riley (Australian Government Proves Why Blogging Is Best Left To Everyone Else) (who hat tips Des Walsh) brought the finalised paper to the attention of Priscilla who posted…

Just to balance out the previous post:
I posted up on bloggerati australia back in Mid-August the AustralianIT article about a proposed Consultation blog by Canberra. TechCrunch’ Duncan Riley (Australian Government Proves Why Blogging Is Best Left To Everyone Else) (who hat tips Des Walsh) brought the finalised paper to the attention of Priscilla who posted it on blogger Senator Andrew Bartlett Facebook wall. Now it’s my turn to have a little say:

As the success of this initiative requires participation by citizens, this paper asks for your opinion on some important issues that will affect the ways you can contribute to and participate in the consultation blog.

here it is in more detail:

What is this consultation about?
The Australian government is inviting community feedback on how the government can utilise new internet technologies, such as blogs, to better consult with people.
Who is the consultation for?
This consultation process will seek to identify whether citizens would like to provide feedback to government via a consultation website and what features they would like the website to include.
The aim of such a website would be to increase the number of citizens who participate in the government’s policy and service delivery development process by providing their views on a range of topics and issues.
The government also welcomes the views of business and other organisations who may wish to respond.
When can responses to this consultation be submitted?
Responses can be submitted up to 1 December 2007. Late responses may be considered if time permits.

Or you can read the whole thing here on
TechCrunch don’t seem to agree with this strategy:

…the irony of launching a consultation paper on a consultation blog seems lost on them. Certainly deciding to run a blog based on a lengthy consultation process by itself seems to me to prove that they shouldn’t be blogging at all; after all, if the purpose of having a consultation blog is to gain feedback from the public, wouldn’t they just be better off launching the blog and taking feedback from the public via the blog rather than launching a consultation paper that probably cost six figures to come up with by a committee of high paid public servants who love nothing more than creating papers like this as a means to avoid real exposure to the will of the public? A little cynical perhaps, but reading a paper that describes blogs like 2002 called again can do that to you.

so I posted:

Duncan, you are waaaaaay off beam here.
The Government is inviting the community to help develop Community Guidelines. If you don’t know what they are, it’s a Code of Conduct. Rules of Engagement. Etiquette Statement.

Now what most community hosts usually do: is basically decide themselves how the community should behave, in a fairly draconian way. Then they figure out they have to lighten up – before it’s too late. That’s not letting the community have ownership.

Another popular tactic: is to have NO code of conduct. And end up with spam-ridden forums like TechCrunch. You guys get a 10/10 for blogging and 0/10 for forums. Seriously. Though I personally found the “how to hack Yahoo AOL password” threads particularly useful. :P

The third option: community hosts pay a fortune for a social networks strategist like me to come in and help them navigate their way through the quagmire of establishing purpose, place, profiles, roles, leaders, etiquette, events/rituals and swarms. Tax money that could be spent elsewhere while letting the voters decide how they want to be managed.

So in spite of the fact that they are confusing the one-to-many limitations of a blog with a full scale on line community, it’s just semantics at this stage. and having the community establish and agree to the guidelines is going to put them in a good position when the old lovies at MainStreamMedia start screaming that the ‘government blog is full of … (insert pejoratives)’ – tricky to take that stance when you will have a community of a few hundred thousands screaming back that it was the “voters’ decision”

My motto is: I’m lazy, let the community run the community. Now, how much are you going to pay me to get your forums back on track hmmmm? :P (I don’t get out of bed for less than a coffee and a sandwich).

Yes they could’ve had a wiki to ask the community to establish guidelines for the forthcoming blog/community but who would’ve written up the wiki guidelines hmm? A bunch of politicians? No one? Me? Let the community independently email in stuff, and make a start on it that way.

By the way, only the Government gets let off the hook with mailed in suggestions instead of open debate, to start with. They are just too vulnerable if they get it wrong. Unless the whole thing ends up being a whitewash (our emails/mail in suggestions disappear, never to be seen again), and we get some strange goverment-ized blog/wiki/forum hybrid… In which case, we start our own communities, our own dialogue and don’t play with those Canberra kids anymore. Right?

Anyway, here’s the exact questions they are asking:

Questions to consider
Discussion Forum
Would you respond to a government online consultation of interest to you, if you were aware of it?
Would you read the views of people published in the public discussion forum?
Would you post your views in a public discussion associated with an online consultation?
What proposed features of the discussion forum do you like or dislike?
Would you participate in a notification system that allowed you to be informed
when reports and policies developed as part of the consultation process were made available?
What other features for the discussion forum would you like to see?
Expectations about responding to a government online consultation
Would you expect to see other responses (submitted via email, post, or survey) published on the consultation blog website?
Would you expect to see other responses published in full in a consultation report?
If your response to an online consultation affected the policy outcome would you expect to be recognised?
What other expectations would you have in contributing to a government consultation online?
People Telling Others
Would you ‘tell a friend’ about consultations or comments posted to an online consultation forum of interest to you?
Finding a consultation
Would you add your own classification, labels or tags to online consultations using descriptive words that are meaningful to you?
Challenges for the Australian Government Consultation Blog
Who is posting and registering to use the consultation blog?
Would you register to participate in the consultation blog forum?
If you registered, would you provide your real contact information?
Should people be required to register to recommend consultations and posts to the consultation blog forum?
What content would you consider to be inappropriate if posted to the consultation blog forum?
Is the ability to discuss the consultation in the forum a feature you would use?
Moderation of some posts after they are published
Should posts to the consultation blog discussion forum be moderated before they are published?
Would you accept posts being automatically scanned for malicious or inappropriate content?
Is it important that posts to the discussion forum are published as quickly as possible?
Should people who register, and who demonstrate their interest by their participation in the forum, be invited to help moderate the forum?
Are the moderation guidelines at Appendix A suitable to use to moderate the forum?
Should other ways to moderate the forum be considered?
Would concerns about your privacy prevent you from using the consultation blog discussion forum?
What other privacy concerns regarding the consultation blog do you have?
Would concerns about security prevent you from using the consultation blog discussion forum?
What other security concerns regarding the consultation blog do you have?

I guess there is an element here of “shall we do this or are we wasting our time”. Let’s tell them they are NOT wasting there time. Shall I throw up a wiki (at, cos blogspot doesn’t do the wiki thing) and we collaborate and send in something together? Or would I be wasting my time?

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  1. Yes, I just noticed your comment on the TechCrunch article Laurel 🙂

    For those who can’t be bothered to go and have a look, this is what I had to say earlier in the day:

    I don’t think the Australian Government can be criticised for putting together a consultation paper on this topic … they have to do this in order to receive comments from the public, it’s simply the way they operate. I think it’s great they’ve got to the point of realising that blogs would be a very good way to have conversations with the general public.

    I took a quick look at the PDF. What Duncan didn’t mention is that the public (including organisations) are invited to respond to this paper before 1st December. So if you have something to say about the policy, why don’t you submit a response? If we are unable to engage with pollies on our platform of choice (eg blogs) then we need to engage with them on their platform (white papers) if we want to influence the decision-making process.

    Anyway, take a look at … the Government is falling behind re online conversations with constituents, so the outcome of the white paper is likely a formality. They will have to produce a blog because the Australian public will demand it if they don’t.

    — ENDS

    While putting up a wiki sounds like a transparent, collaborative and wonderful idea, it’s extremely unlikely AGIMO will accept a submission in that format. Further, the more submissions they receive saying they want blogging etc, the more likely it is they will listen. So it is actually a good idea not to collaborate in this instance. I strongly suggest everyone does the analog thing and send AGIMO your comments the old fashioned way 🙂

    Would love to know what our friend Andrew Bartlett thinks of all this!

  2. *laughs at li’l sis* umm I think you can usually double post on your own and someone elses blog, but … 😛

    I didn’t mean give them the wiki, I meant send in a collaborative document with all our names on it. And really push the web 2.0 thing by treating it as an interactive consumer submission.
    But we don’t have to, I figure I can fill a book up and send it in. Heh.

  3. Good post Laurel – and I liked your comment on TC.

    For an ex-public servant, Duncan has a very short memory (or is just linkbaiting): consultations are meant to be extensive and inclusive, hence the need for a paper like this…

    I posted some thoughts about this and an initiative her in New Zealand here:


  4. Hi Anonymous/Jason, thanks for your comments. (incidentally you can use a href=” on here to link to your own blog post directly.)
    Let me show you more of what I gave SMH – they didn’t print it all of course – but I was aware of the NZ Police wiki:

    The approach the Australian Government is taking is different than New Zealand. Instead of having every Government Department eventually deploy their own blog, wiki, forum, chat room, this Australian Government Consultation Blog project seems to be seeking to centralise the discussion. We won’t have to go to the Police Department page to find a way of inserting ourselves in the dicussion on the wording of a New Act for Parliament. We won’t have to hunt down Frank Connolly’s excellent Victorian Public Sector Continuous Improvement Network blog (sponsored by Christine Nixon, Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police) to participate in CI. It will be co-ordinated from one community host, as part of an overall strategy of collating, disseminating and collaborating on government activity and discussion.

    This is a great opportunity for the Australian Government to deal directly with the Australian people and it will mean bypassing traditional media such as newspapers. So that if the Government has had limited ability to voice their point of view in debates in the press, this strategy will challenge the typical Government submits a press release and the Press may publish what they want the Public to know. This blog brings the conversation directly between Government and Voter.

    Finally, if a Government was to resist entering into online communities they also risk becoming locked out of discussions by major Influencers. If the people we listen to and who guide us on major issues are NOT politicians and if they are running communities of their own, politicians may find out they cannot enter into the discussion ( e.g. the debate where a senator’s comments on broadband were deleted by the moderators as “self-serving”, three times). When it comes time to canvass the Public, the Public will be already online articulating their concerns and issues – only not into a forum the politicians can engage with. That must surely be avoided at all costs?

  5. LOL!!!

    Are you kidding me? I agree with Duncan. The whole idea of a consultation paper on a consultation blog is totally ridiculous. Only a bunch of clueless Canberra bureaucrats could come up with such an idea.

    Btw, was there a consultation paper on whether or not Howard should be using YouTube?

  6. …because YouTube already has policies and procedures in place and are equipped to deal with hosted i.e. remote conversations.

    If the government wants to host the community themselves, they need to get everyone on the same page. That’s a LOT of work. It’s much easier to do a distributed marketing campaign for superficial dialogue at youtube, myspace and facebook.

    Personally, if I was the Gov. I wouldn’t do it. I’d outsource and underwrite to a social network management group. Less aggravation, reduce risk of legal ramifications and still get the same benefits…

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