A “new frontier of democracy” in Police

The Police have put out a wiki so that the public can contribute to the drafting of the new Policing Act.  Interesting development, but the rationale – i.e. what Superintendent Hamish McCardle had to say -was even more interesting.  For me, there were 3 key points in the Stuff article :

  • “drafting new legislation “shouldn’t just be the sole reserve of politicians”
  • “The wonderful thing about a wiki is we can open it up to people all around the world – other academics and constitutional commentators interested in legislation – and make the talent pool much wider”
  • “We have been asked if we are worried about it being defaced, but wikis generally haven’t been defaced internationally – people generally are constructive and productive”

Completely spot on.  Of course, none of this is new – we have been reading about wikis, and their potential for government, etc etc for a long time already – but I haven’t yet heard a senior government official talk about wikis with the same sort of naturalness as Hamish McCardle

Of course, the Guide to Online Participation was a policy document that a community of practice in collaboration with SSC had drafted on a wiki as well – and that was probably the first example to date.  But drafting legislation?  That’s a little different. 

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September 28, 2007 at 2:25 am 1 comment

Of leaders and managers

Joanna and I have been talking about the deeper meaning of “walking the talk that we talk”, alternatively known as exemplifying best practice or leadership, in (somewhat) uncharted territory.

In management literature, leaders are often contrasted with managers. Maybe it’s just me – there seems to be an apparent distinction, but it quickly fades away upon closer examination. Like a mirage. The manager at my first real job as a librarian was someone who talked nonchalantly about “managing people” (and I knew then she would never become either the leader or manager of me). On the other hand, the people who really inspire me are not trying to influence my behaviour in any direct or covert way – Lennard who gave up a career in engineering to become a pilot; Irene’s mother who picked up more than 5 street languages all on her own in spite of the lack of education; some of the world’s great thinkers; an artist who expresses a vision through a (hi)story/movie that completely rocks my world. . . So, going back to basics, how do you define a “good leader” and a “good manager”?

Continue Reading September 24, 2007 at 2:48 am Leave a comment

Metaphorically speaking

The first time that I remember using a metaphor (or rather, more accurately a simile, I suppose) was when my older sister came home from school, full of frustration with a girl in her science class who couldn’t understand that a bunch of gases mixed together and heated could become a star rather than just a bunch of gases mixed together and heated. As a seven year old who’d just started being allowed to use the oven by herself, it made total sense to me. “It’s like when you mix together flour and eggs and sugar and stuff and bake it, it becomes a cake rather than flour and eggs and sugar and stuff, right?” I asked. And so began my career of using things to explain other things – or as I would learn in English class much later, the art of the metaphor.

I mention this now because I’ve recently attended two conferences in which speakers used a wide range of metaphors to get their points across. At BarCamp, Che Tibby spoke about the Internet like being a park where there are no rules apart from societal norms, and how government webspace is more like an arcade of shops: it’s a public space of sorts, but there are shopkeepers and security guards to look after the place. At Driving Government Performance: the Development Goals at work, Dr Steve Hodgkinson said that there are three kinds of responses to using Web2.0 technologies – Mr Toad of Toad Hall who’s very excitable and quick to rush in to things, Eeyore who thinks that it’s pointless and that it’s all going to end badly, and finally an ostrich who buries their head in the sand and pretends there’s nothing happening.

I personally think that those metaphors are lacking an example of someone who is excited but cautious, and thinks carefully about how they could use Web2.0 tools to enhance their core operations, rather than replace anything already working fine, or rush into anything unnecessarily, but that’s probably another post right there.

Another examples of metaphors I picked up at the conference yesterday was “Googling yourself is like reading letters to the editor”. Leaving aside discussion how Google became a verb rather than a proper noun, and possibly some talk about how names associated with computers (mice, burning CDs, monitors) were originally other things entirely*, using terms that listeners are familiar with makes new technology seem less scary. Thus: 

  • Blogs are Letters to the Editor
  • Blog comments are submissions to Suggestion Boxes
  • Facebook/Myspace/Bebo is your personalised phone book, combined with a noticeboard
  • Flickr is your way of having friends over and showing them a slideshow of all your photos from your overseas holiday.

What are some metaphors that you use regularly to explain things to others?

* In a 1994 song called ‘Pretty Good Year’, Tori Amos sang “Greggy writes letters and burns his CDs”, about how Greggy is destroying his possessions. In today’s context, however, that’d be heard as “Greggy is duplicating his music collection”. Oh how times change!

September 20, 2007 at 12:12 am 1 comment


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