Monday, March 16, 2009

UK public sector websites to contain user comments

One of the most useful features of the participatory web and the user-generated revolution is that it allows interaction from consumers (gosh, how do I hate it when I start using journalistic commonplace terms such as revolution, debacle or meltdown). Now the British government is about to jump in the bandwagon, as Gordon Brown announced last week that government websites will allow users to make comments and recommendations. The Prime Minister said that:

"For I believe government has been much too slow to make use of the enormous democratising power of information. People take it for granted that they will access other people’s reviews and ratings before buying something on e-bay or Amazon, and yet we do not yet have systematic access to other people’s experiences when choosing a GP practice or nursery. We have clearly got the balance wrong when online businesses have higher standards of transparency than the public services we pay for and support."
I for one find this to be very good news, it's almost as if the PM has finally realised that we are in the 21st century, and that there are other ways of garnering the public's interest. Wouldn't it be great if you were able to find out if your GP is any good?

Nevertheless, David Mitchell has written an excellent article on yesterday's Observer where he warns about implementing this policy (David Mitchell is UK's version of PC in the Mac ads). He rightly points out that comment sections across the web are often filled with vitriolic and unjustifiably angry posts that have no other objective than denigrate and mock the writer. Do we really want hundreds of comment pages around the country that consist of nothing more than baseless and angry rants about public service staff? This is a good point, as everyone who has spent any time in blogs and internet forums will attest to.

The solution? A new internet meme is born! Mitchell suggest that people should go to any website with a comment function, and should simply write "It just goes to show you can't be too careful!" This bland one-liner should act as a form of soothing counterpart to all the bilious animosity prevalent online.

So you know, it just goes to show you can't be too careful!


David said...

It just goes to show you can't be too careful!

Laurence said...

We are just about to implement a comments system at the Scottish Law Commission allowing suggestions for the Eighth Programme.

We've been clever enough to implement moderation and Akismet spam filtering, however :)