Hashtag Legislation

Background noise for those who don’t know me or follow every single thing I do or join: I am on this and am writing about some of the stuff that comes out and sharing opps to join in too.

We heard evidence being given today on making laws in a digital age, aka Legislation. “Giving evidence” is another phrase for those who have a proven track record or knowledge in the space we are casing, stroking our collective chins and mumbling, telling us everything they think we should know from their years and years of detailed work – in 15 minutes. I know, not perfect but there it is. (I think that is why they invite the empassioned to be commissioners, this is like catnip to us – a whiff of *new*… ‘mazing). But we don’t *just* do that, we also …

(This is the only image I could find for stroking chin looking serious, on open licence, apologies – but ice skating can be fun)

… read everything that comes in from everyone over the course of the evidence process. (See my previous post for the timeline of topics, but you can pretty much join in whenever, if there is a soapbox, we will gladly standby and listen – mainly because we want to be on your soapbox with you. So long as it is about Digital Democracy obviously). So nothing is done based on 15 minutes and a short heated debate, but it does actually require you to send your stuff in digitaldemocracy@parliament.uk, or chat on the forum <- bit rubbish in there, come on real people, this is properly the time to stop whispering behind your hand and chuck your milk; stuff is going to happen here, you can help. I’ll stop hectoring…

Anyway, today we heard from people who know a *lot* about Legislation. I mean this space of civic society is quite incestuous, it is a small world, luckily growing larger (go get on your soapbox and make it bigger…) and of course any discussion on Legislation without John Sheridan would be a discussion that is pretty pointless. Or so I thought, I mean John knows everything, and he is passionate and he can analyse and apply Boolean logic to the Statute Book for God’s sake – his life, like mine and digi democ, is dedicated to this legislation topic. He does lots of diagrams that look like this:

… although that is a social media diagram from Wikipedia and way more simple than John’s, his are too scary for pre-watershed. I can honestly tell you that his visualisation of the affect of an amendment to an Act, was basically a GIANT SCRIBBLE, that was drawn properly and could justify itself. The most scary scribble in the world – and it even took the Speaker back into his pre-Speaker days (I think).

But John is just a piece of this puzzle I thought I knew pretty well, from reading John’s stuff. But then, these amazing men (who are dressed beautifully but ridiculously, please do not change, I absolutely love having men/women that dress up for work and I am so totally not lying, Parliamentary dress is something we must treasure forever, like paper, ink and embossed logos… but I digress) explain the process of amending a Bill; making a change to something that has already been enshrined in Law. They were so …

… about the process they absolutely believed in, but also knew absolutely to be outdated and irrelevant to the people who needed to know.

Cue my lesson number one: This is not a case of just pointing out the bleeding obvious (which to be fair has been the case across government/Parliament-ish for the last decade+). In Parliament at least they have slashed the thorn trees to the best of their ability (not a green field yet, obvs) and they are facing the granite wall of history. How the holy f*ck are we going to deal with this, I mean seriously…

We had at the table today, five dedicated people who have been active in this digi democ space from a point of law, preeettttyyy much since they learned to read, I think. In addition to the Commissioners and Speaker.

As I listened to this insanely complex process of legislation, the paper annotations that are recorded studiously, drafted meticulously, the amendments that are processed now against Laws passed in the 19th Century to address issues we face nowadays with firearms and knives on streets, for example. There are no limits to the number of amendments to a Bill, so basically we are updating the manual when the toaster just doesn’t work any more. this analogy is not mine, it was from today though <- perfect.

I was sitting next to MPs who groaned in acknowledgement of the time, the ridiculous process and effort they had to go through to recommend that something change in law to make life better, in a legal way, for their constituents. The *time* our democratically elected representatives spend on this …

And so I suddenly learned lesson number two today:

This is not about getting Mary next door to comment on a Bill about firearms, that’s a thing we need to address of course – but if the MPs we actually elect are bound up in this crazy web of amendments, and not actually representing the people because they are having to actually make up for the fact that they have not learned every Bill and Amendment when they chose to go into elected politics, I am not actually sure anyone except John could do this anyway.

Freeing the MPs from paper-bound process is as vital to democracy as engaging Mary in gang warfare (law), so to speak.

Action required from you, dear reader:

Having read all of that, these are the questions the Speaker’s Commission for Digital Democracy have out for consideration at the mo:

  • Could technology improve the access to and usability of both legislation and the law-making process for the citizen, representatives and professionals (such as lawyers), and if so do you have any suggestions?
  • Should you need to be a lawyer to understand and use an Act?
  • Should technology be used to integrate citizens’ views better into the legislative process? At what stage of the legislative process would this work best? How could the Public Reading Stage be improved?
  • Are there any examples from other parliaments/democratic institutions in the UK or elsewhere of using technology to enhance legislation and the legislative process, which the Commission should consider?

You don’t have to answer them all, of course, just tell us what you think we should consider/remember/be wary of/or of course what you think we should JFD. You can submit your evidence (thoughts/opinions) by email to digitaldemocracy@parliament.uk but there is also a forum if you prefer some chatter: although all I can see so far is Nick Booth commenting and I know him so that isn’t fair – go play in the forum, this affects you all. Please? And actually, riff on the MPs, because I really think we could have a huge impact by digitising their official work. I know loads of them and they are not all gin and jags, most are like me: still up at 1am writing about this stuff.

Hashtag Democracy

Last week I was standing by for a call from the Speaker of the House of Commons, my life has its colour I tell you, he was calling me at 10:15. By 10:30 he had invited me to join his Commission on Digital Democracy… and my life was complete. Without boring you to death about why, there is one thing that drives me, that empassions me, that will keep me talking to dawn – and that is the implication of the digital revolution on democracy. In. Every. Possible. Way. Imaginable.

Here is what the Commission is going to do:

The objective of the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy is to consider, report and make recommendations on how parliamentary democracy in the United Kingdom can embrace the opportunities afforded by the digital world to become more effective in:

  • representing the people
  • making laws
  • scrutinising the work and performance of government
  • encouraging citizens to engage with democracy
  • facilitating dialogue amongst citizens

In addition, the Commission aims to consider the implications for Parliament if it is to become more relevant to the increasingly diverse population it seeks to serve.

Here is a picture of Grape my kitten sitting on the Commission papers this morning, after ripping them out of the printer – for those not gripped by my story

photo 1(1)Today was the first meeting of the Commission I attended, (they are happening monthly) and I will write more things as they make sense in my head, but I wanted to share the process with you – also give you the heads up on how to get involved and when.

NOW March 2014: Evidence Gathering – Legislation (Making laws in a digital age) I have written this up in a separate post

April: Evidence Gathering – Scrutiny

May: Evidence Gathering – Representation

June: Evidence Gathering – Engaging the public

July: Evidence Gathering – Encouraging dialogue

(Find out how to share your views with the Commission on any of the above things, or all of them if you fancy, over here)

Then the analysis, no doubt “heated debate” and so on until we are at a point to publish a report in January 2015 that will contain recommendations. It may have been said in the past that these Commissions can just be a circle jerk, or words to that effect, but I can assure you with my hand on my heart that every single person on that Commission is passionate, brave and absolutely committed to ripping into the issues, laying out the entrails, sculpting a vision of a future and then recommending where the stepping-stones are placed to get there.

You may think my Damien Hurst style metaphor too gory, but you need the stomach of a lion to hear some of the blockers that, frankly, would make anyone a little bit sick in their mouth. We are an old Nation. The stuff we do, we do still because we have always done it that way, because of the Magna Carta, because of the way the House of Commons and the House of Lords was originally set up… because of a million things. This is not a bad thing, it just cannot be discarded. You can’t just turn it off and on again, much though many have been tempted over the years.

That’s OK, it is a challenge – we can do this, all of us, I reckon…

Kitten time again? OK…

This is her right now

photo 3(1)But yes, please do share thoughts. Today was revolutionary for me, and I live and breathe this stuff, I talk about this in my spare time for goodness sake. It is my topic of choice at 3am when I have had way too much fun – I know, I am a barrel of laughs. But yet, in one session of two hours I learned so much, heard even *more* things that are affected by this digital renaissance and I do feel a little bit sick, I must admit, I do need to armour my stomach… but my goodness me, what an absolutely blinding opportunity.

I cannot tell you how 100% happy I am to be on this Commission, but also 100% scared, daunted and challenged – as are each and every one of those people in the room, not just the Commissioners and the Speaker, the students, the researchers. But it needs everyone to join in. Whatever you have been riffing in those long car journeys with your sister (may just be me, sorry Ruth), or in the pub, or at school or work send it in digitaldemocracy@parliament.uk or pop onto the forum, although it seems a bit dusty in there – it needs some lively debate. I know there are plans to bring our digital carthorse into Facebook,  so maybe you will only get around to it when we career by, but if we do, grab your soapbox and vent your digital democracy spleen.

I have written about the first evidence session on Legislation here.

This is how happy I am (taken earlier today) #notaselfie

photo 2(1)

This was taken by John Pullinger, a legend of a man and DG of Information Services in the House of Commons <- if you ever meet him, shake his hand and thank him for being tirelessly brilliant.

8 reasons why programmers make the best boyfriends/girlfriends

1. They invent the most exciting and clever ways to tell you things, for example JoeTech (if you ignore the ecard suggestion, I like to think that is an ironic suggestion and would mean immediate chucking) I am sorry to edit late but I just stumbled upon this much better example http://originalcontentlondon.com *speechless* see? amazing

2. They apply Boolean Logic as a matter of course: nothing is ever complicated, it is always logical – how refreshing!

3. They can work from anywhere with wifi and power, so you need never miss them in those crazy heady days of first love

4. Whilst they appreciate beautiful design, they are more intrigued by what makes up a person, luckily they do not need to physically take you apart to see how you work before putting you back together again

5. They have lots of interesting stories to tell because they can apply their skills to a limitless number of topics, and do

6. They love nothing better than a challenge, something that is supposedly impossible – meaning that potentially everything you have ever dreamed of will be possible… in some way (although I am still waiting for the flying car, maybe this is why I am still single)

7. They invent the most brilliant new toys for themselves and each other, know how the entire thing works and often inject humour and surprise as Easter Eggs

8. Their every thought for their job is about making it easy for a person to immediately find out what they need (website) or to quickly solve a problem (app) or to untangle messes (algorithm), how can you not fall in love with that.

Boy or girl, programmers are the best.

So… become a better boyfriend, or a better girlfriend/wife/husband/lover and start your coding journey this week. Those lovely people at uk.code.org have even given you a load of tutorials to set you on your journey. An hour of code this week might be the start of a new career and a new or rejuvenated love life! Go…

The difference between the 97er and Gen Y

I get asked enough times to actually publish about this.

97er is the generation of people born in 1997 or later Gen Y are the Millennials

97ers grew up with social media from as early as they can remember

Gen Y didn’t but they grew up with more digital skills than their parents – they just swerved the natural inclusion of social media

There is a marked difference

My 97er posts all link from here if you want to know more

The 97ers and social activism

I have worked with self-taught young programmers (aged 18 and under) in Young Rewired State since 2009; and in 1997 I gave birth to my own little digital native, and in 2002, another. My passion for learning, observing and being amongst networked communities in various forms, means that I have begun to see some interesting trends and patterns that are fascinating, and I am going to write a series of things about this. Here is the third (the first is here and links on to the second) and in this series I refer to the 97er. By this I mean child born in 1997 OR LATER: The true digital natives.

When I was a child, when I was cross about something I had to wait until I was a grown up to do something about it. This is no longer the case for 97ers.

As I said in my previous post on 97ers and Identity:

97ers are split personality teachers and consumers from as early as seven years old, if not earlier

They are also activists with access to immediate knowledge, discovery and research tools across living and historical communities that have never been available to those generations that came before them. They may have no understanding of democracy, governance or Government, no concept of activism or protest, but what they do have is the basic human ability to discriminate (not as in “discriminate against”, but apply their own judgment of right and wrong) and 24/7 access to what is happening in the world.

Of course these young people are no different to those that went before them in nature, and outraged gossip is as delightful to them as it has always been

gossip girl

… but now they see acid attacks in Pakistan, war-mongerers in the Congo, inequality across borders and seas. And they talk and share videos, news articles, Facebook pages, blog posts, hashtags and campaigns and they have a voice.

Online Advocacy Campaigns(I love this photo, creative commons from Flickr, but the dude who is presenting his slide refers to the story-telling. The story-telling that 97ers use to verify identity as well)

Imagine growing up knowing that your voice counts…

… and that every single person has the ability to activate their communities. Because every person in the digital space has a community, a social network and to 97ers this is completely normal, this is all they have ever known. If they don’t like something they will protest, loudly, in the online space, find campaigns to support their feelings and advocate them to their friends.

People say constantly that online activism makes no difference to what happens on the ground, liking a Facebook page does not stop an acid attack, nor give food to the starving. No it doesn’t, of course not, the other activities those charities and movements have access to at the moment do that. Online activism raises awareness of plights. But for the purpose of this blog post, what the online activism does is to reach the 97ers. They are aware, they will share and their understanding of social and personal responsibility is as much a part of their maturing and growth as traditional education.

The 97er armchair activist

So we can see that the 97ers have grown up with a natural expectation that they have a voice, that they can rally crowds, and almost without thinking they highlight things that trouble them and call on their friends to also be outraged. The outraged teen is tomorrow’s politician, entrepreneur, activist, connector. This has always been the case, but with the digital natives this means big change is coming.

They learn the power of their own voice through the constant value measures attached to followers, retweets and likes. They can measure in real time whether something they have said has chimed with their intended audience, and they adapt and learn how to ensure that the stuff they really care about gets seen by as many people as they can possibly reach.

Not only are they very skilled in reaching their audience, they do this for fun in their social time. And so they are growing up with social responsibility and an expectation of voice as a core part of their being. They have known nothing else.

Once these 97ers hit the post-education world and shatter into the people and positions they will become in business, politics and life (not that far away… 2020 is my guesstimate for the receding-sea-pre-tsunami of 97ers affecting everything we know) they will continue to do what people have always done: activate their networks. But for the 97er who really knows how to activate their networks, and has grown up doing so but now can move into positions of control over what happens as a result – then we will see big change.

A thought for pondering

We all know how we change our behaviour when we know someone is watching and judging what we do. For the 97ers they have grown up in an open world, their social space is open. Their behaviour is shaped by immediate applause or boos across social media. They validate beyond the family (in a different way, of course).

When the 97er is the war-mongerer, acid-attacker, abuser how will their behaviour adapt?

Only the 97er will be wily enough to second-guess and expose that, we (the pre-97ers) need to move into the role of supporter, mentor, offline guardians of everything they will see, face and do. But we will never be able to have this instilled as a part of our core as much as they will. So we must listen as much as we teach.

This is a generation without borders, and separate governance of countries and regions has no effect here, and this is important to remember.

Read previous posts on 97ers here:

The first post where I try to define them

97ers and Identity

For those used to assuming that this applies to GenY, or The Millennials, here is a clarification

How does the Year of Code wreck become a good thing?

You all know my feelings on the Year of Code. That’s done. But it is a thing, it does exist and I know that they are now talking to great groups like CAS and people like Conrad Wolfram and I am sure they will find something useful to do.

If they are not going to turn it off and on again and reboot the whole thing then it would be great if the following things could happen:

Be able to answer the following questions: Who are you and what are you going to be doing exactly?

If signposting everything that is going on, then signpost. If representing a government initiative, do that (and defend it somehow). If just a massive PR exercise on behalf of coding – get cracking and get some massive advertising and brand agencies on board.

From my experience the subject is too broad for this scatter-gun effect of confused messaging to generally everyone.

Be clear who you need to be talking to. To my mind the group you need to be focusing on is parents. Reassure, explain, find a way to marry the mixed messaging of *the internet is bad and full of paedophiles and danger* and *go forth and code*.

That would help.

Oh and decide whether the Year of Code is a Government thing. If not, take Osborne off the Home page.

*Late edit* Can I please just clarify, I have no issue with Lottie Dexter not being able to code, that is not an issue. I can’t code. Well, not the way people code nowadays – BBC Basic was what I was brought up on, by a Father who was obsessed with computers and educational software in the 80s!! I did not choose to take this as a career path, but I do understand it! The issue is that she has not done enough research, has not been properly briefed, does not have the stories, passion or experience (yet) to be the right person for this. The Sarah Palin of Code. But it is not the coding thing, that is not the issue. Nor am I suggesting that I am right for it! I have a full time job, this is not that. It is the actual harm this confusion is causing, and it really has to end.

That’s it, I am done.

Here is a photo of my kittenIMG_7860 And some lovely Young Rewired State videos.


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