Parliament's new forum site proves 80-20 rule

I was looking at the Cabinet Office website’s section on Consultations. I clicked on a link ‘Less is More‘. It took me to a ‘page not found’ error page. You couldn’t make that up.

The new eConsultations website for Parliament is ‘the result of a great deal of effort from the Hansard Society over a number of years’ (according to Jeremy Gould); so it’s intriguing that in the end, they’ve gone (by the look of it) for an off-the-shelf discussion forum package. And so far, it seems to be working pretty well.

It’s running on the Phorum platform, which I don’t know at all but seems perfectly fit-for-purpose. And by taking an off-the-shelf product, they get some nice extra features including search and RSS. The debate on Medical Care for the Armed Forces is getting a lot of traffic, presumably as word gets round the forces and families; not so much for the other discussion around the Local government and the draft Climate Change Bill. Everything is subjected to moderation which ‘should happen within 24 hours’.

It’s further reinforcement of my growing belief that there’s an 80-20 relationship in most web projects: the first 20% of effort will yield 80% of the likely benefit… and that it’s very rarely worth the extra 80% effort to get the final 20% of benefit. There are exceptions, but then again, there always are.

We shouldn’t get worked up about the electronification of the existing formal consultations process. If Tom Steinberg reckons it’s beyond the mySociety crew, that’s a clue. And besides, it’s far from an ideal process anyway. Few old-fashioned consultations get great responses, in either quality or volume. We can do better.

3 thoughts on “Parliament's new forum site proves 80-20 rule”

  1. Well spotted Simon! Hopefully someone there reads your site…
    Like your application of the 80:20 rule. Certainly it would probably cost 4 times the cost to reach the last 20%, is that the same though? But I doubt that projects are costed in that way as the overheads would include things such as marketing which are sometimes not realised until a project is actually delivered.

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