I’m just back from the Digital Single Market high-level conference, where we were ensuring the online animation. I’d like to share with you some lessons learnt.

The model adopted for online animation was the same as for the Digital Agenda Assembly last year. We launched early discussions to identify the most relevant issues, this time through entries in the Digital Agenda blog. We stimulated discussion on twitter during the conference through a team of live bloggers and made sure that the input received online was fed into the conference (thanks also to the great work of the moderator). Finally, we created a idea-storm forum to get feedback from participants.

The results, analysed through my “participation steps model“, were positive:

– no technical hiccup

– good quantity of participation: we overall collected about 1500 tweets from 200 people, and 51 comments on the blog. As usual, participation was very unequal, with some session attracting lots of comments and other much less.

– little spam and inappropriate content: only one or two spam comments in the blog. There were some criticisms, but constructive.

– high quality of online participation: some of the comments helped to raise the level of the discussion and actually engaged people who were not there. For instance, the question from @lisadf1717 about the possibility of a European Netflix under the current copyright regime nailed down the issue and helped to better frame the debate. This was for me the best example fo what we want to achieve with online participation.

We learned several lessons that we will use for the Digital Agenda Assembly. The live bloggers (Jamal and Andrew) did a great job and it was a win-win situation because they were highly knowledgeable about the theme, and good in communicating.  Twitter participation increases when you have good, snappy speakers that are easily “retweeteable”.

But the most important lesson is that if we want to have high quality of discussion, we need to directly identify those stakeholders who have important things to say, are normally interested in EU policy issues but are not based in Brussels. We need to contact them personally and explain why it’s important that they participate online. EU policy debate is often highly technical and jargon based, and if we want to reach out to new stakeholders we need to explain clearly what’s at stake and why it’s important to participate. Let’s hope we can do even better in the next Digital Agenda Assembly.