The first law of technology (according to Irish tech prof John Naughton) “we invariably overestimate the short-term impact of new technologies while underestimating their longer-term effects”. I would add to that that most bloggers probably overestimate the effects their work (however shiningly brilliant) can have on the body politic, wherever they are. But in the long run, there is little doubt that the read/write revolution is going to have profound implications for the engagement of citizens with their established (and not so established) democratic institutions. Slugger’s been running pretty much in the same format for the last 6 and nearly seven years. It has a reputation for culturing fairly consistently high quality engaged conversations, that from informal and anecdotal evidence have often been useful to members of the media and politicians alike (including explaining a particularly complex piece of Westminster legislation to the grateful satisfaction of one junior minister).
Now we are talking to a number of interested sponsors that will enable us to develop (and share) a ‘reputation management system’ for commenters, that no only provides them with their own home pages, but allows others to rate the quality of their contributions on an ongoing basis.
The idea is shift the emphasis away from constantly reinforcing the sanction bar to entry with red and yellow cards; or threats of banning and towards an incentive led heightening of the quality bar at the top end of the debate. The site would retain its general principle of openness; but seek to reward quality inputs from across the political divide.
…if the online conversation does become more worth tuning in to, we may be in a position where we can say that there is no need for any constitutional change in the way that voters relate to politicians. If we can start generating high quality content that politicians can trust and use, we – the public – are beginning to shoulder our half of the burden.
It’s a two way mirror. As Matt Wardman noted in his summing up of the Slugger Awards themselves:
NI is streets ahead of any other part of the UK in this respect, helped by the fact that politicians in Northern Ireland perhaps havent realised yet that they are supposed to be an Elite living in a bubble. Long may this ignorance continue.
The lesson? Citizens do get listened to, if their contributions are relevant and contentful… Our ideas for a new reputation management system are predicated on helping raise the quality bar for online debate for ordinary citizens (here on Slugger but they’d be available to anyother site who opted to use them) and help give them a direct and reliable root to those who hold the keys of public trust on our behalf…
We’ll keep you posted of any urgent developments…
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty