Broken political platforms

It is a fundamental responsibility of the prime minister to listen and respond to the concerns and questions of the people he serves – at least that is what it says in Premiership for Dummies.

As such, Gordon Brown’s enthusiastic adoption of Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs and online video to open dialogue with UK citizens is to be commended.

But intention and execution are two very different matters, and the PM’s recent dalliances with Web 2.0 have demonstrated some of the pitfalls associated with ‘reaching out’ online.

Mistake number one: After naming the prime minister’s channel on YouTube as ‘Number10TV’, Downing Street webmasters neglected to register the domain name www.number10tv.com.

Cue Chad Noble, an online political activist and supporter of the UK Independence Party, who took the initiative to register the domain and post Brown-mocking satirical videos on the site.

None of this would have been too much of a problem had a Financial Times blog not mistakenly linked to www.number10tv.com in a post on the PM’s mastery of the web.

Mistake number two: When building the website www.number10.gov.uk, Brown’s Web 2.0 hub, developers used the popular open-source blogging platform WordPress. Nothing wrong with that, but they decided to use a pre-built layout, designed by programmer Anthony Baggett and released under a Creative Commons licence.

The licence made the layout available for anyone to use, as long as they credited its author. The developers behind the great leader’s website, however, decided to remove the credit that would ordinarily appear on the layout. But they did not remove the name of the author from the underlying code, meaning that simply clicking ‘view source’ on a web browser revealed their crime.

And crime it is, according to a US judge who ruled in August 2008 that a Creative Commons licence has the same legal protection as copyright, making specific reference to software.

These two gaffes demonstrate an immutable truth of the Internet: if you are doing it online, make sure you do it well. Because on the web, nothing travels faster than news of a cock-up.

Further reading

Web 2.0 adoption faces workplace challenges
Integrating Web 2.0 technologies into the workplace is not always a smooth project

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Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media (now Bonhill Group plc) from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The...

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