How our technology will be different

In the team interview after our session at the Cabinet Office, Ben Whitnall and the work of our technology partners Delib didn't get much of a mention.  Ben's not one of complain, but I do think their approach deserves celebrating. I suspect that our competitors are pitching in with plans for new systems that have every conceivable facility for getting and sharing information, communicating and collaborating.

In our proposal, Delib make clear that they can build content management systems with the best, and if needed we could have ....

  • Blogging, news
  • Calendaring and events
  • Expert answers
  • Contacts, friends, groups, networks
  • Pledges and critiques
  • Surveys, polls
  • Forums, bulletin boards

However, in our discussions it's been clear that Ben sees the wider Internet as the real platform. To tease this out, we exchanged a few emails.

My first question was, if others are probably proposing bit new systems, how is the Delib approach different? Ben replied:

Let's not sell this short: we're proposing a substantial piece of  technology as well -- after all, there's a lot of people,  organisations, information, knowledge and ideas out there to be supported and allowed for by the Innovation Exchange.  The difference in our proposal is (at least, we expect it to be a difference; it's certainly atypical) that the substantial piece of technology should be the internet itself and not some new, from-scratch space inside it.  The last thing the end users need is another mini-internet to go with another login, another set of navigation and etiquette and limitations to get accustomed to, and to try and recreate networks, relationships and content 'over here'.  Our proposal is that everything you need -- the people, the content, the information -- is already 'out there'; we would then provide a mechanism or mechanisms to help you, the end user, make the most of that.

Where should most effort go in development of the online environment?

Ultimately, wherever it's most needed -- that's the only efficient  way to work.  That means that a good chunk of it should always go into determining / deciding what's needed.  Also, effort should go into expressing your requirements as outcomes, rather than functionality, and then coming up with ways of achieving outcomes, rather than building functionality.  We've spent a lot of time coming up with a working process to try and reflect this, which looks something like this (attached diagram; conscious that I really could blah on about this all day)

What's changed over the past year or so?

Everything: markets, technologies, expectations, capacity and all kinds of other variables are all constantly shifting in the world of web development; throw the wildcard of politics in there and you really can't say what people will want at any given time.  We've seen a huge variety come into our project work over the past year, largely because we define ourselves by things we want to change and achieve rather than by a specific working media or platform (hence our necessarily slightly fuzzy logline: Delib gets people thinking, engaging and participating using new technologies.  [Governments, charities and businesses use our tools to create a dialogue with people and make a difference. People use our tools because they want to participate and we make it enjoyable and easy.  Good communication is at the heart of our award-winning approach]).

What would you really like to do?

Push the envelope!  Something intelligent and good and ambitious and progressive.

We'll find out on Monday whether Cabinet Office will give us the chance to put this into practice.

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