COI response on Metadata and Social Media Consultations

On Tuesday I wrote this blog post about the Central Office of Information beginning a consultation on the use of social media and metadata in government. The “consultation” was first spotted by Emma Mulqueeny. This morning the press office e-mailed this response:

“The social media guidelines are aimed specifically at Civil Servants and any informal consultation has been among this audience group.

“The Metadata guidance has also been subject to an informal consultation within government. However, we are planning a six-week formal consultation with a wider set of stakeholders shortly at which point the document will be made publicly available.

“We have amended our website to make this clearer.”

Emma spotted the COI site change mentioned above. It no longer says there is a consultation going on but that the work on metadata is “in preparation” and the using social media guide is “coming soon”.

First of all I’m pleased we got a prompt response. Thank you. But here are some more specific thoughts.
You don’t need to do this on your own as an internal thing. As Emma points out in this comment on Jeremy Gould’s post:

it is simply that there is SO much good will out here – we all want this to work – and I am pretty sure this is a rare occurance in any public/private/3rd sector collaboration. We so want these guidelines to be good, and we all want them to be exemplars, and there are many people who would freely give their time to making this happen, (some of whom I know, and I know how valuable and unique their ‘time’ is)… if time can be unique… I digress

Please, please can we have this back in consultation, and please, please can we be told how to contribute. We mean well :) we want to help!

So that’s my first point so eloquently made for me.

The next is a question: Are there enough civil servants with experience of using social media as part of their work to make such an internal consultation meaningful? Social media does have a slight chicken and egg problem because it is really understood through experiencing it and until you’ve had that experience you wont know that it might be of value to you. So I think it would be wise to find some way of ensuring there are enough people involved in this internal conversation who can help those being consulted experience what they are being consulted on.

Good to know the metadata work will be made publicly available soon. Will that be as a pdf – or will it be offered up in a more conversational way? If it is presented as a wiki we could edit it, there are other online mechanisms to allow comments to be made against specific sections of a fixed text or perhaps it could even be presented as a series of blog posts – perhaps a post per chapter, which would then allow us to comment and link. Working this way will make the consultation much more effective and hopefully mean that the resulting guidelines will be more realistic, ambitious and useful.

Many of us are already thinking along these lines. Paul Canning has already contributed a response to the earlier parts of the COI’s consultation on government use of the web and Cabinet Office Minister Tom Watson actively courts collaboration with us outsiders to help develop policy on the use of social media.
Any more thoughts from the COI please don’t worry about e-mailing them to me – just make a comment below or any where you find the conversation happening!


  1. paul canning says:


    In the post you’re linking to I wasn’t really responding to the COI consultation – Jack Pickard has done that for PSWMG and I haven’t read the doc ;/ I have posted on the COI and social media before – after they took fright after putting their toes in the water with facebook then running away >>

    What I was saying was to whole heartedly agree with Jeremy that “we shouldn’t wait for government and we have to organise ourselves.”



  2. This conversation is so good, so many great and respected people are involved (no reference to self :)) and I am really pleased that you got a response explaining the change of status.

    One point that is quite simple – may seem insignificant, but I think should be recognised – is that if this stuff is put up for public consultation before it is laid in Parliament and becomes very hard to ‘edit’, it will cost a hell of a lot less than producing it, then running research and analysis on how successful it is and how satisfied customers are &c &c &c.

    Public funds are stretched, and if they are not they should be – my Mum cannot come to my daughter’s sport’s day because she cannot afford the petrol… can government really afford to be so indulgent?

  3. Shame about the social media guidelines. Operating in a vacuum is frustrating, and leaves me stuck with the ‘play-it-safe, keep-it-vanilla’ option until the guidelines emerge. I’ve offered, on Tom Watson’s blog, to be part of whatever internal consultation process there is, but not heard back …

  4. Nick Booth says:

    Hi Ian, I don’t think people flock to join the conversation where they are being heavily got at. There’s a major culture change needed here and i reckon it’ll happen faster where we treat people with respect. Having said that some times my frustrations do get the better of me!

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