Tag: Tim Berners-Lee

5 stars of open local democracy?

a set of steps marked with one star at the moment and five stars at the top

There’s a conversation going on in South Birmingham – led by Karen Cheney and Austin Rodriguez and others – about how to get more public democratic processes shared more widely.  This builds on various work (including a Cllr in Billesley buying some kit to live stream for the first time their ward ctte meeting).    At a meeting yesterday we talked a bit about equipment and platforms, but also that not all meetings need to be live streamed etc.  So, I wondered, could establish stages of activity for digital open local democracy?  I said I write up my thoughts as a blog post….

What are the principles?

In the mould of Tim Berners-Lee, I’m adapting his 5 stars of open dataI’m know I won’t be the first person to think through these stages, – I’ve searched but not found the 5 stars thing for very local public meetings. If you find it then please share.  Update: this is where I’ve seen something similar before: http://www.comms2point0.co.uk/comms2point0/2014/6/3/proposals-to-improve-health-and-wellbeing-board-social-media.html/

This is a summation of some of our experience social reporting over the years and the following list applies to local processes, currently things like police priority setting meetings,  patient forums for GP and CCG’s, council ward committee’s, housing association walkabouts, neighbourhood forum meetings or neighbourhood watch groups.  This is the myriad of daily democracy that we have created over time.

5 stars of  open (hyper)local democracy


1 star:  Be seen and be welcoming.  Put agenda’s and minutes somewhere where it is very easy to find them and where it is easy for others to share them. Make sure everyone knows they’re invited.  (This could be a blog, just on google docs with a link or creating an Eventbrite to invite people to meetings. It can include putting invites through doors and agenda’s and minutes on public noticeboards.)

2 star: Talk about what you’re doing.  This means that you have a #hashtag for your meeting and publicise it and also share what you know (make sure that background information to papers is publicly available). You are open to others live reporting or recording what you are doing.

3 star: Do it live.  You do the above but you also do it during your meeting or event.  This is where you can introduce a livestream of video or audio or live social reporting through twitter, facebook and or a blog. This also means you only hold meetings in places where there is good, publicly usable wi-fi or 3g.

4 star:  Involve people outside the room in the meeting.  This is a step change from being seen to be doing. This values the questions and comments made on the web as being as important to your meeting as the ones made in the room.  They are incorporated though hashtags or services like cover it live, blyve or a facebook q&a as the event unfolds.  This could also mean organising events specifically for talking to people on the web.

5 star:  It’s a permanent conversation. This fifth step recognises that the civic conversation you’re having doesn’t just happen at times and places you decide.  It can happen all the time. It means being responsive in between meetings when, for example a comment appears on a website or a hashtag.


There are other stages I could have added – using open data for example, but I’m trying to envisage stages by which we can help us develop from the familiar “meeting with 1 man and a dog in a draughty village hall”.  So perhaps the 5 stars of “more” open local democracy.

Behind all this is another core principle:

Keep it simple:

  • Collaborate.  Don’t do this in silos, have things that involve many services, voluntary or statutory.
  • Use available tools.  make things happen with the mobile phones around you, using livestreaming through google hangout or similar, rather than needing to build a thing.  (there are very fine services used for some formal democratic processes, but they’re not essential here)
  • Use available kit – what can you achieve with a smart phone or two?  How much do you really need to buy, is video right for your sort of event?
  • Go to where people are  If the busiest place to find people is on facebook can you use that for your online conversations.  Sharing live events online through hyperlocal blogs is another example

If you can’t make it work without these then clearly start looking for other ways of doing but start with keep it simple, not with “we need to build a portal for that” .

Thanks also to our very own Steph Clarke for helping me think through this – she’s oodles of experience of encouraging public services to get involved with people online both at work and her volunteer efforts at www.wv11.co.uk




Why it's great that Tim Berners-Lee is advising the British Government.

The announcement that Sir Tim Berners-Lee will be advising the UK Government is important not because he invented the world wide web, it’s not even because he’s very clever, and so credible he’s hard to ignore.

It’s simple because he’s really is obsessed with data. I know that seems like statement of the bleedin’ obvious but its worth saying.  This is good news because he really does know what he’s talking about. If you want to appreciate how much he cares, watch this TED.com talk from February 2009:

In it he talks about his concept of Linked Data, which asks for 3 things:

  1. Individual bits of data should also be given web addresses, that’s an address beginning with http for every bit of data within another document: people, places, events, products, genes, chemicals etc etc.
  2. That data appears in some sort of useful protocol.
  3. When we get the information it also contains relationships –  and whenever it expresses a relationship, the thing it relates too also has an address starting with http.

So Tim Berners-Lee cares about much more than the mechanics of how we move to HTML 5 (the new rules for how we will work the www).  He cares about how data can make government more transparent and help knowledge evolve faster.  His role will include (hat tip to Tom Scott):

  1. overseeing the creation of a single online point of access and work with departments to make this part of their routine operations.
  2. helping to select and implement common standards for the release of public data
  3. developing Crown Copyright and ‘Crown Commons’ licenses and extending these to the wider public sector
  4. driving the use of the internet to improve consultation processes.
  5. working with the Government to engage with the leading experts internationally working on public data and standards

He also believes in the power of grassroots movements. That’s Us.  As he puts it in the talk:

I asked people to put their documents on this web thing, and you did!  Thanks.  It’s been a blast.

He understands that the remarkable thing about the internet is we built it.  It flourishes because we choose to share stuff with each other using the rules he created back in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

So a world wide web of Linked Data is not something he expects big commerce or big government to take sole responsibility for. He expects us to learn how to do it, just as every time we add something to Facebook we show that we have learnt how to play our part in making the World Wide Web.

You might also want to listen to this interview with Rory Cellan-Jones, about the problems of bureacracy. Emma Mulqueeny thinks his reputation will bring much needed “serious intervention” to a data muddle, while Paul Canning echoes that, hoping that (with the departure of Tom Watson from the Cabinet Office) Sir Tim might be able to act as a data head-banger.