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 agimo.gov.au.
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 world.com.au, cos blogspot doesn’t do the wiki thing) and we collaborate and send in something together? Or would I be wasting my time?