Gordon’s on YouTube – wanting you

The PM is doing a sort of PMQT (Prime Minister’s Question Time) on YouTube, there is still time to submit your question – off you pop.

I am intrigued as to what will be achieved by this, apart from an apparent attempt at transparency. It might work, however, this is not real time, it is a recording of a question followed by a recording of an answer – both of which will be editable, deletable, re-doable &c &c until each party (questioner and respondee) are happy. This is very luxurious and feels a bit BBC in the 1950s: terribly proper and heavily edited.

I am presuming that he will receive the questions (or an official will) and a response will be drafted then read out on YouTube with Scottish aplomb – kind of like an interview with a question being asked and an answer provided two days later – except that we can delete the awkward silence.

I LOVE the fact that the text alongside the video invites you to ‘ask the Prime minister about whatever is on your mind’ – of course I immediately feel childish and chuckle a bit at the responses this might illicit. This is completely over-ruled by the PM who suggests we ask him anything, such as: ‘How globalisation is working? What is happening about Climate Change?’ I have a feeling that the questions will be more targeted and personal (not to the PM, but personal to ourselves), well I hope they will be.

I do like the fact that the questions will be ranked according to audience opinion, the ones with the most votes moving to the top of the heap and guaranteed an answer. However, I suspect that any ones that are too awkward will not be put into the pile for voting (or am I too cynical?). You can submit questions until June 21st, but can rank questions from May 26th. This seems slightly unfair on the ones posted later, as they will inevitably receive less votes – especially as the promised response from the PM is ‘the end of June’ – so no point really submitting anything on the 21st (unless you vote for yourself a lot!)

It is off-putting that there is no date given for the response, I accept that this will be because of diary commitments, but it should be easy enough to sift and sort the questions and fit Gordon’s recording of the response within a defined period of time. Again, it makes me query the validity of this and the confidence Downing Street has in being able to ensure this is not an enormous flop (at best) and supremely damaging (at worst) to the PM.

Hmm… I am reserving judgment on this – no doubt great use of media, but there is a risk that it will be far too ‘spun’ and ‘down with the people’.

We will see.

Here is the link: http://uk.youtube.com/downingst

PS Sorry, committing a blogging sin here by adding something after I have posted – however, what would make this fabulous, would be if we could have something on YouTube that shows a behind the scenes of GB watching the responses, and chatting with his advisors, then preparing the response – that would be really, really cool (and would achieve much to negate the concerns I think people will have). Just a suggestion 🙂

Ever-decreasing circles of time

I have been head-scratching here for the last few weeks about how on earth I can keep up with everything online, and have a life.

This weekend, I gave myself the gift of time: I left Twitter and Facebook. Well, not completely, I still have the accounts but both of them have a message to say to contact me through gmail if needed.

I am left with Flickr, WordPress and gmail… I think I can cope with that. The journey has been typical of all forays into any kind of new experience/hobby:

  1. Manic enjoyment of the thing
  2. Discovery and exploration
  3. Adoption into routine
  4. Frustration at limitations
  5. Divorce

It feels a bit weird – I mean being the complete insomniac I am, I am awake here at 4.30am, perfect time for me to be Tweeting with those in different time zones. Instead, I am going to have a peppermint tea, catch up with my GoogleReader stuff (which probably needs a cull as well), then read a book.


Social media and democracy

I was at a conference today during which much was made about how social media – well it was tabbed as ‘The Internet’ but I think they meant social media – is changing the way democratic societies across the globe govern themselves.  The assumption is that those in power will be forced to listen to the voices of those they represent, and be accountable. In this vein, it was mooted that China will have democracy forced upon them, and there is nothing they will be able to do about it. Hmmm…

Well, OK, you can see how social media, or The Internet, gives many fora for opinion/discussion and can act as an effective lobbying/rallying tool. You can even see that there is little any government or ruling party could do to silence those voices – take China and its efforts to block access to YouTube – this is clearly a losing battle.

However, it is just another way for people to speak – it does not enable listening! Yes it can create a two-way conversation, yes you can feel as if you are speaking directly to the person – rather than through convoluted channels that might dilute your message… but who is listening? What assumptions are they making about you?

Anyone who works in an e-media team in the public sector, will tell you how difficult it is to champion the use of any social media tool to any great effect. And, other than responding to the perennial cry: ‘I want a blog’ – which never, ever really means I want a blog (Miliband excepted of course) there is little or no interest. This could be due to the fact that there is a great nervousness around it: mis-information and wild assumptions all ultimately culled by risk aversion/avoidance. Sure, there are some great examples of its effective use: Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Number Ten’s e-petition site and the Ministry of Justice Governance of Britain site are all great examples of effective and supported use of social media tools – however, these are the exceptions and hardly about to start affecting the political philosophy behind democracy – or even give those who govern our country too much to be concerned about.

I remember being impressed by the Wispa campaign, where a Facebook group successfully nagged Cadbury’s to bring back their favourite 80s chocolate bar; I can’t see how nagging will ever enforce an EU referendum, for example, or change policy, or get you out of your tax liabilities.

Yet I keep hearing how these voices cannot, will not and should not be silenced… and a true democratic society would utilise the opportunity afforded by social media. My feeling is that there is nowt you can do to lower the noise level, but to enable real change, or the change that is suggested could be afforded by social media, a fundamental shift needs to take place in the way people listen. Until then, nagging/lobbying/campaigning through social media tools will have very little effect.

That is my view on social media and democratic change. HOWEVER, there is a great opportunity for any ruling nation to use social media tools to consult, deliver messages and perhaps better understand society’s concerns, but that is another conversation – and one that I know can be answered by members of public sector e-media teams across the globe.