I have long kept in the back of my mind how to make EU consultation more meaningful and accessible. Typically, they involve a questionnaire to be sent via e-mail or via their survey tool, ambitiously named Interactive Policy Making 2.0. But I always noticed that the biggest problem is not the tool, but rather the obscurity of the language. When we animate policy debate, most of our energy goes into making the questions clear and meaningful.

That is why I particularly like

It is a very simple tool that reorganised the consultation questions around real-life problems such as “can’t access some youtube videos in my country”. It then presents the relevant questions for this problem, and explains them, so that you can answer easily. Finally, it lets you download a .odt document which is the filled EU questionnaire and invites you to send it to the EC.

The innovation is in the process rather than in the technology. It’s a quite simple tool that presents the same questions starting from real-life problems. It is mostly translating the logic and language of government in the logic and language of people. But that is its strength.

Still, it’s only a first step in the right directions. The “problems” are not very clearly presented, they are too many and unstructured. It would benefit from a more visual starting point.

In the future, this kind of tools would flourish if government published the questionnaire in a structured format such as XML. You could easily then produce your own version of the questionnaire, just like we make Neelie Kroes’s speeches commentable.

Can we have machine readable consultations? It’s not difficult! Much less costly than building your own consultation tools.

How can we make consultation more understandable and accessible? Copywrongs is an example, commentable documents are another, what else? What is the best online consultation you have seen?