Wednesday, 26 May 2010


At a workshop at the EDEM10 conference in Krems, Austria in May 2010, ‘Best methods for undemocratic participation’, with the help of Hans Hagedorn of Zebralog, we asked the question the negative way around –

– if we set out to make an e-participation system that was as undemocratic as possible, what would it be like?

So here we go with the latest list, as adapted from our brainstorming session: please do add further comments and suggestions here and we’ll hone the list further over the coming weeks and months, before deciding what else to do with it.

Best methods for undemocratic participation

Pick the topic for democratic debate yourself, without reference to any of the bothersome people who are going to be doing the debating. REDI SUCCEEDS

Choose a topic with no emotional impact for anyone normal. REDI SUCCEEDS

Pre-select the questions you are going to answer in a “live” online debate. REDI SUCCEEDS

Don’t waste time on accessibility. Nobody with a disability or a slow internet connection is going to take part anyway. REDI SUCCEEDS

Or… spend all your budget on accessibility

If designing for a different generation, make your own mind up what they will need or like. REDI SUCCEEDS

Always give your supplier a vague, loose specification. REDI SUCCEEDS

Use technology that only runs in one type of browser; require a plug-in; and does not view properly on mobile devices. REDI SUCCEEDS

Do not be transparent about who is hosting the project, and why. REDI SUCCEEDS

1Have a hidden agenda. REDI SUCCEEDS

Do not connect your online activity with any other existing offline political or social activity. REDI PARTLY SUCCEEDS

Or if you do… don’t tell people how the two (online and offline) are related. REDI SUCCEEDS

Choose a few people to form the initial core of the project from among your immediate associates, contacts and buddies. REDI SUCCEEDS

Allow the rest of the participants to be self-selected from among the usual democracy geeks with the technology, skills and education to find your project, understand it and engage easily.REDI SUCCEEDS

As for everybody else - just create the website and wait for users to find you. The web’s not that big, is it?

During the registration process, ask every participant for at least 10 pieces of personal data .REDI SUCCEEDS

Allow people to easily assume multiple identities. REDI SUCCEEDS

Make the whole site hard to use, with at least 5 or 6 clicks required just to post a message. REDI SUCCEEDS

Ignore all other needs of the user: communication, motivation, abilities. REDI SUCCEEDS


Never use any form of moderation – after all, it’s more democratic that way, however unpleasant or dominant some of the voices may become.

Or if you do…
Pre-moderate, but make sure your moderators only work 9-5 on week days. REDI SUCCEEDS
Never reveal the identity and method of moderation. REDI SUCCEEDS

Ensure moderators remain anonymous. REDI SUCCEEDS

Do not give any commitment to the length of time moderation will take.. REDI SUCCEEDS

Take ages to moderate anything. REDI SUCCEEDS

Let the only recourse for people who feel they have been unfairly moderated be the law courts. REDI SUCCEEDS

Do not involve any elected politicians – they won’t understand the technology. REDI SUCCEEDS

Or if you do promise participation or replies from politicians, don’t deliver on the promise. REDI SUCCEEDS

We could add one more to this list already- restriction of the number of characters in a post I have tried to post this on Redi I once again came up against the 2000 character restriction


  1. ".... I have tried to post this on Redi once again came up against the 2000 character restriction". So, once again - REDI SUCCEEDS!

    Redi is a medium through which control freaks run riot. It won't change until The Mekon moves on and is replaced by a human being.

  2. When Red-i v.1 became Red-i v.2 the reason given was a change of IT "platform".

    Someone at that time must have made the decision to change the fundamental nature of Red-i v.2 compared to Red-i v.1.

    Is it feasible for a FOI request to discover who that person was?

    I think we should be told.

    We can criticise the council staff who opereate the existing system as much as we like but it was the management decisions made about the nature of v.2 that are at the root of the problems.

  3. And the BAD news is that the Chief Executive has told me that Red-i v.3 will emerge later this year!! Heaven help us.

  4. As we can all see, if we set out to make an e-participation system that was as undemocratic as possible, what would it be like? Redbridge I, despite the many fine words of the Chief Executive

    " it aims to get residents more interested in the Council and its services".

    "Key to the success of the initiative is a clear vision driven by a wider philosophy about changing the relationship between citizens and local councils"

    "I am not going to map out all the possible consequences of any new function… we let the resident do that, and where it doesn’t work well we discontinue it.’"

    " members have been given training on contributing to discussion forums and many contribute regularly to debates. In this way Redbridge-i is beginning to facilitate increased engagement between councillors and the public"

    "An important ingredient for the success of the forums is that relevant officers respond quickly, when appropriate, and members frequently participate in discussions. This means questions are answered effectively, positions clarified and a more productive dialogue can be held. This has required a culture that is prepared to accept criticism and engage in debate in real time".

    and finally the best of all

    "Mr Hampson says that if the council didn't offer the opportunity to comment on services, other websites would. "Who owns the local authority? It should be the public. It should be their descriptions of their localities. We should be able to say to them, 'You don't need to go to another website to make us do something,'" he says.

    So much for fine words which is exactly the reason for this website, because we cant get them to do something

    It is time that the new Administration ensured that the Chief Executive (who receives more than the Prime Minister) actually earns his salary and makes good on all his promises.

  5. Now 'ere's a funny thing ....

    Many people use public computers in Libraries. These can be booked and the Library staff provide a very good service.

    It has been brought to my attention that items such as blogs that contain photos are having the photos automatically blocked so that they cannot be viewed.

    Furthermore, a number of blogs with click-on links to other blogs and websites are being blocked by "Websense", which is normally used to block porn sites and so forth. Upon investigation, and using a few references as experiments, it would appear that one of the keywords in "Websense" used to block access is "Council"!

  6. So, it would seem, "Websense" treats "Council" as an obscene word!

  7. It would seem, therefore, that users of "Websense" can set their own parameters and thus Redbridge IT have decided to include "Council" as a word about which we are not permitted to know anything? Very odd!

  8. They've probably just installed a new version and not bothered to update the user parameters? We shall see. Some Councillors were up-in-arms when the B21 site got blocked in 2007.

  9. Well, one might say that this council is obscene