Following the apparent success, back in December, of presenting a leaked draft of the government’s IT strategy for reader comments, the Conservatives have repeated the trick by laboriously scanning every page of the Budget book, and presenting them on commentable WordPress pages.
They aren’t asking for email addresses on comments, and aren’t posting the comments when they’re submitted – citing a desire to protect the ‘anonymity [of] those who have sensitive insights’. It turns WordPress into an inbox filtering application, in effect: recording people’s submissions against the page to which they related, but not really doing anything more than that. Nothing wrong with that approach, just a little curious.
Again, I applaud the Tory team’s ingenuity here. But… writing on the Conservatives’ Blue Blog yesterday, Jeremy Hunt said:
We will be publishing it online in an easy-to-read format (not like the enormous PDF documents so beloved of the Treasury) as soon as possible after its release.
Now, there’s a lot wrong with publishing stuff purely in PDF files – and there’s a lot right about doing this site in WordPress. But PDFs have several huge benefits which this image-based site can’t match. Copy-and-paste, search, screen-reading, search engine indexing… etc. Plus, without wishing to be too pedantic: if ‘enormous’ is a reference to file sizes, the Treasury’s 3.5MB PDF file equates to significantly less than 230 JPG images of roughly 150kB each.
Leaving aside the technicals, this is a very interesting initiative on several levels. There’s the ‘crowdsourcing’ aspect, of course; but there’s also an underlying message – that Labour will be trying to sneak the nasty things through in small print on page 186. They do, after all, have a certain amount of form on this.
So is this a declaration that under the Conservatives, they’ll tell it to us straight – good and bad? I sincerely hope so.