Policy and technology: a "longue durée" view

Random thoughts on policy for technology and on technology for policy


February 2009

looking for impact, not only for coolness

My target for today is the attribute “cool” (perhaps as my kids use it all the time). And lots of web 2.0 projects in public services are cool.
I would like, in the workshop, to go beyond the cool effect, which is too often mentioned as a key attribute of web2.0 projects. I would like to have projects discuss the sustainability, the take-up, in other words the weight of web 2.0.
I would like to showcase projects that are both hacking and delivering.
Luckily, there are many. This is what is most impressive about Sunlight, Mysociety, but also less known initiatives like the Kublai project in Italy. They are not just cool, they are professional and well managed. Which is more difficult than building cool tools and having ideas.
It’s the old saying of Edison: success is 90% perspiration, 10% inspiration.
Now maybe inspiration is more than 10%, but still nothing without professionalism and commitment.

Powered by ScribeFire.

European initiatives do not meet Wikipedia quality standards

Over the last days , I had to work on some EU initiative and accidentally fell on wikipedia’s entries for EU projects (because I use the highly recommended Googlepedia firefox add-on).
What a coincidence: three EU buzzwords or project all were reportedly not up to wikipedia standards, sometimes “looked like an advertising”. For the records, I was checking NESSI, living labs, and digital business ecosystem. (Now they have already changed in some cases)

My point is that wikipedia and social software are very good in “cutting the crap”. All public initiatives should pass the wikipedia test. Publish a description on wikipedia, and see what wikipedians think of it.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

the risks of web2.0: how magnolia went down with all users’ bookmarks

An interesting weak signal with lots of lessons to be learnt on web 2.0, cloud computing, trust and resilience.
Magnolia, a social bookmarking tool, lost all users data a few days ago.
Very interesting interview to listen to. Main lessons learnt: “if you’re a startup, dont do your own IT at all.” at minute 3.03.


So is this good or bad for cloud computing? It show the users should not rely only on the cloud; but startups should rely more on the cloud. Uhm, interesting stuff

Powered by ScribeFire.

trends watching through the Fiasco Awards

Through Jack Schofield I came across the fiasco awards, which basically aim to recognize the large scale IT failures. It is a mix of Catalan, Spanish and worldwide failures.
It makes an interesting read, although I suppose that Windows Vista will win hands-off.
Some considerations:
– 3 private sector initiatives would have been in the list of successful projects two years ago: second life,, OLPC
– 2 of the proposed awards are for government digital TV and digital radio. Technologies strongly pushed by government at national and EU level.
– the Spanish dedicated government releases of Linux by regional governments are included. In Spain you have a Linux-based software release for Andalucia, for Extremadura, etc. I was taught these were success stories so interesting to see them in this list.

Good argument to keep in mind when designing ICT policies.

Fiasco Awards

Powered by ScribeFire.

Public services 2.0 agenda published: looking great and nearly full

We just published the workshop agenda today: great inspirational speakers, from NGOs, government, private sector. Have a look .
We have already 60 registered participants – unbelievable.
We will also show the web2.0 movie “Us now
This is really a web2.0 style workshop. No money, no large scale communication, organised in 2 weeks through word of mouth.
And great support from the friends blog: thanks Sunlight, Alorza, Alberto.

UPDATE: thanks Ajit

Powered by ScribeFire.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

web 2.0, conversations, manipulations, and the case of Eluana Englaro

The Englaro case in Italy has personally affected me a lot but this is not a personal blog so I will not put my thoughts here.

Yet there are some important conclusions for the role of web in politics which i would like to highlight.
The story is such: big debate in Italy on whether this poor girl was to be allowed to die or not after 17 years in coma. Newspapers, of course, run forum, online debate, online surveys.
So here is what happened at Italy’s largest newspaper, Corriere della Sera, which is an important piece of evidence on how to abuse public participation. If you can’t read italian, I recommend you install the GoogleTranslate button.
Basically, the survey started, large majority in favour of letting the girl die untile they reached 50K votes in in 3 days . Experience tells them that normally results after 5K votes are stable. But here not! Suddenly a reverse of fortune happens: in one day 50K votes are casted and the votes gets back in balance.
The Corriere is very transparent about this: because of this suspicious behaviour, they removed the survey from the homepage. And in fact, once removed from the homepage, the vote went back as they were before the anomaly.
So the vote was clearly manipulated in order to show Italians were splitted on the issue. And I am sure this helped to raise doubts in people, making them think twice.

Why is this important? it shows how parties have understood the importance of the web and actively manipulate conversations in order to influence results. Let’s keep in mind this. It happens also in comments, not  only in votes.

My final question is: does this mean online conversation and participation are unlikely to work if they address really important and controversial issues?
Or will the governance tools and transparent behaviour, such as the good approach of the Corriere della Sera, effective enough to ensure these debates are genuine?

My answer is that it  depends on the quality of the democracy and the civic skills of the citizens. In Italy, the majority of people will not look at this article, will not care about the manipulation, and overall it will appear people were divided, so manipulation works and web conversations don’t. In other countries, such a blatant manipulation would have backfired because of popular revolt.

Ultimately is the old linus’s law “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow“”. Countries without enough critical eyes will see web-based participation become a manipulative tool.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Jon Udell talks about the importance of incremental innovation (without mentioning it)

I am a big fan of Jon Udell’s and his interviews. In a recent blog post, he discusses the importance of notification services for collaboration, and he expresses a clear example of an incremental innovation and its importance.
To keep in mind as good example for the next article on the topic of incremental innovation – in fact this blog works also as my public notebook!

A conversation with Andy Singleton about distributed software development « Jon Udell

But let’s not sneeze at basic notification. That alone, widely implemented, would be a game changer.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Blog at

Up ↑