With all the talk about using new crowdsourcing platforms to improve policymaking, it’s easy to forget the millions of blogs, online newspapers, Wikis, and visual debate-mapping tools that already exist, and that can inform future debates.
Billions of individual thoughts and personal experiences have been written about, from all conceivable perspectives. No policy process will come up with ideas that have never been thought of before; so existing content represents a knowledge base that should not be ignored:
• 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 can be linked-in: it can be dynamically matched, linked, and related to brand new policy debates;
• It can be made fresh, and given a new lease of life, when updated collaboratively; and
• It’s as good a source as any – basing policy around what’s current in the mainstream media will inevitably produce less diverse, more error-prone, and less extensively scrutinised results.
My new project – Poblish.org – aims to put all this content to use. It’s a political platform created for bloggers, by bloggers, who are passionate about both technology and politics, and who have high hopes for bringing the two together. Our aims:
• Defend political blogging, and value its content. Break the oligarchy of ‘go-to’ bloggers, to reveal the richness and diversity of political writing.
• An end to partisan isolation: aggregate and search all blogs equally, based on content, not popularity. Encourage bloggers to become global political actors.
• To break down the barriers between the worlds of blogging, collaborative editing, and debate-mapping.
• A political knowledge base: a real-time, as-you-type, ‘web’ of relevant political content – from across the whole political blogosphere – to improve your own blogging, to improve policy-making, and raise expectations for others. Use sentiment analysis to automatically identify supporting or contradictory evidence within political content, to nip bad policies in the bud.
• Collaboration: an end to the comment-box. Encourage people to work together to produce the policy documents of the future. Increase the light, and reduce the heat, for bloggers who are serious about politics.
• Human crowdsourcing: The Guardian’s recent crowdsourced MP’s expenses exercise showed what could be achieved by giving people an incentive to donate their time and brainpower to the community. Poblish will also enable users to manually tag assertions within journalists’ and politicians’ articles, in order to request supporting evidence.
Poblish is up and running now – and is already the UK’s biggest political blog aggregator and directory by far – so if you’re interested in the project, we’d love you to join in and guide its development. You can read more at Poblish’s blog, and follow us on Twitter.