Today’s wild-eyed idea

Perhaps (surely?) there are very good tools and applications available for the support of distributed data collection, but something about the widgets being deployed (very useful synopsis here, many thanks Simon Dickson) in DIUS’ recent consultation on ‘Science & Society’ struck me.

As far as I can understand it, the widgets allow interested parties to select from a menu of (in this context) the topics being consulted upon. Very sensible – it’s unlikely that everyone will be interested in every consultation question, so why not enable interested lobbies to focus their attention.

The next handy thing that’s enabled is the easy embedding of a panel, presenting the selected topics as some form of poll, within the interested party’s publication medium of choice. Again as I understand it, this is rather like embedding a Youtube video, or a tag cloud, into the sidebar of your blog, for instance. The interested party’s constituency can then respond to the poll in (that distributed) context.

And then (hey presto!) that data is piped back to the original consultation database. Not quite sure how this element works, but the idea is brill.

Even in its own terms, this is simply wizard. It’s disruptive technology of the best sort, being a game-changer for how consultation can be done. Congratulations to Steph Gray and colleagues. His own summary of their approach is well-worth inward disgestion alone.

But I was thinking of a slightly different context. I’m just working up ideas for a wee review project, in a domain characterised by fierce (and to a certain extent divergent – they’re pilot projects, which should explain a certain amount) enthusiasm for a series of clinical data-sets. Nationally, there’s a fair amount of consistency, but it’s difficult to gain consensus over the items that aren’t part of this. And politically this is not the moment to attempt to be Stalinist.

So, would this distributed approach support this ‘agreement to differ’? And would it do this better than currently mainstream approaches to clinical data sets? Could some differentiation be usefully applied by making more of the social (web 2.0) potential, rather than thinking purely within the frame of data collection?

Certainly the ease of embedding the tailorable poll (or data-collection form) in a variety of contexts would surely be a handy wee niche thingy?

Must see if a dog-walk would either help develop this, or delete the train of thought…


1 Response to “Today’s wild-eyed idea”

  1. 1 Steph Gray July 22, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    Thanks for the kind words.

    We’ll have to see how the widgets go – response so far seems to be OK, but it’s a big change to how people expect to feedback to government.
    I guess we’re challenging the role of representative organisations who would normally collate and manage feedback from their constituents, as well as policy teams in government.

    I’d be interested to know who you are!


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