Steph from the Department of Innovation is at it again. I’m really very impressed by his new WordPress theme, Commentariat, which effectively picks up where CommentPress left off. After an internal trial, he’s used it publicly for the first time, allowing people to comment on the Power Of Information Taskforce’s report.
I think he’s correctly identified the weakness in CommentPress: it isn’t meaningful to comment on individual paragraphs. Better instead to offer the content in editorially selected chunks. And that’s what Commentariat does. It makes commenting a breeze: I’ve just been through the entire POIT document, commenting furiously as I went… and I’ve certainly never done that before. The technology is irrelevant: if it’s getting me to contrbute like that, that‘s why I’d consider it a success.
I don’t understand the potential ins-and-outs of copyright (which will be the subject of another post in due course), but I really hope we can find a way to release this ‘properly’ as a theme offered through WordPress.org. It will genuinely amaze people to see HM Government producing something like this, and offering it free to the world. Who says we don’t ‘get’ open source?
I’m genuinely delighted to see the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills allowing itself some room to innovate. As DIUS social media manager Steph Gray explains, they’ve just published an interactive version of their white paper on innovation (published a few months back), using – wahey! – WordPress. Or more specifically, CommentPress: the theme which allows you to add comments on each individual paragraph of a document.
It’s a nice piece of work: I first referenced CommentPress in late 2007, saying it was ‘just crying out for someone to use on a White Paper or other consultation document.’ Lo and behold, Steph has done just that, and it really does work. It even looks quite pretty too. I actually find myself wanting to add comments.
But more significantly, as Steph clearly recognises, it represents ‘one of the first public outings of [their] sandbox server, designed to be at arm’s length from the corporate site and with greater scope to test innovative tools and approaches online.’
It’s not the first really smart thing to come out of DIUS lately, either. The work they’ve done with Harry Metcalfe, to deliver a full-on (customised) Atom feed of consultations. Unlikely to excite many people, to be honest; in fact, I doubt many people will ever see it. But it’s absolutely the right thing to do, delivering a comprehensive, well-structured data feed for interested parties (ie Harry) to use as they please.
We’ll only make steps forward if people are given freedom to play around, and somewhere to do it. It’s fantastic to see DIUS taking such a lead on this.