Local Democracy Notepad

Democratic perfectionism as a political method

Archive for the ‘Debategraph’ tag

Where Geeks can contribute to democracy

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After attending the Westminster SkepticsGeek Manifesto‘ event the other night, I’m now leafing through my shiny signed copy of Mark Henderson’s new book.

This isn’t a review (I’ve not finished reading it yet!) but the book carries a powerful case for rationalism in politics. The author tends towards a sort of post politics-ism that I’d not go along with, but this is a quibble for another time.

The discussion among the Skeptics was interesting though, and I wanted to capture one issue:

How can Geeks engage in politics? Should they stand for election? Few do. Should they continue sticking up for their own – defending Simon Singh with The Quacklash or fighting cuts to research funding- that they sometimes do so well? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Paul Evans

May 16th, 2012 at 9:50 am

Poblish: when crowdsourcing new policies, don't waste existing content

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This is the first in a series of posts on the subject of ‘How the semantic web can crowdsource high-quality judgment and improve policymaking’ that Paul introduced yesterday.

bupropion sr


Debategraph: One way of mapping arguments

With all the talk about brand new crowdsourcing platforms, and letting the population ‘speak their minds‘, it’s easy to forget the mass of already-expressed opinion that exists in electronic form, and that can inform future debates. Not only the millions of overtly political blogs, but regular blogs, online newspapers, Wikis, and visual debate-mapping tools, like Debategraph.

Billions of individual thoughts and personal experiences have been written about, from all conceivable perspectives. No policy process is likely to come up with ideas that have never been thought of before; so expressed opinion represents an archive – a knowledge base – that should not be ignored. Here’s why:

  • It already exists – the mental work has already been done.
  • It happened – it’s a record of what happened when particular policies were tried.
  • It’s not just blogs: thanks to TheyWorkForYou, Hansard reports and transcripts of Select Committees make for highly-detailed content.
  • It can be linked-in: it can be dynamically matched, linked, and related to brand new policy debates.
  • It can be made fresh – it can be given a new lease of life when updated collaboratively.
  • It’s as good a source as any – basing arguments in brand new policy debates around what happens to be current in the mainstream media will inevitably produce less diverse, more error-prone, and less extensively scrutinised results than using sources that have already been run past potentially hundreds of human brains.
  • There may be no alternative – it enables, and bootstraps new policy debates, bringing in the words of those who haven’t yet joined – or even heard of – the new platform.

The challenge of using technology to make sense of all this political information is what concerns us now.

My new project – Poblish.org – aims to put this content to use, and to collapse the distinctions between the worlds of blogging, collaborative editing, and debate mapping. The result will be a collaborative ‘open data’ platform that works for both bloggers and policy-makers, and that will nurture an ecosystem of new political data tools. Hopefully the Labour-themed iPhone app Paul mentioned yesterday will be merely the first of these.

I will be explaining more about Poblish in future posts: the particular problems it was designed to address, the questions it tries to answer, and more about how it can improve policy-making.

Written by Andrew Regan

January 13th, 2010 at 9:30 am

Going to extremes. 'Whataboutery': polarisation v 'the hive mind'

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Cass Sunstein I’ve been reading Cass Sunstein’s ‘Going to Extremes‘ lately – it’s worth a look.

diflucan no prescription

Sunstein’s conclusion – that when we are filtered into like-minded groups that we reinforce each other’s prejudices and tend to reach more extreme conclusions than we would if we were on our own – is not a particularly startling one in itself.

What is interesting is Sunstein’s discussion of how that polarisation happens and what the consequences of it are. He’s also very good on the question of  how extremism isn’t always a bad thing.

More of that another time though. The reason I’m drawing attention to it is that I think Cass would be interested in this exercise that I kicked off yesterday – almost on a whim.

Slugger O’Toole is a site that I contribute to occasionally, as well as working with it’s founder on some offline projects. The site is largely devoted to issues in Northern Ireland’s politics, and Mick has often noted a phenomenon called ‘Whataboutery.’

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Paul Evans

December 10th, 2009 at 1:17 pm

Debategraph on the G20

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David of Debategraph has dissected the G20 communique, using his Debategraph application.

Quite a brilliant idea, Debategraph. It does everything that a pro-democracy technology should do – it enables a wide range of people to rationalise a problem. Once that’s done, elected politicians can make and explain their decisions – not in terms of interests bought off / betrayed, but as a decision made as a result of a series of trade-offs.


Debategraph makes us all ‘eavesdropable.’ Its worth a million consultations, petitions and ‘have your say’ exercises. Crowdsourcing opinion is as easy as crowdsourcing idiocy, and barely more valuable. Crowdsourcing judgment – and this is what Debategraph does – is invaluable.

Oh, have I said? I really really like Debategraph….

Written by Paul Evans

April 3rd, 2009 at 12:07 pm