was taken down this morning, shortly after 9am.
About a week beforehand, the admins asked for feedback on the running of the site. Here's that request, and two considered replies.
There will apparently be a report from Virtual Surveys back to the Home Office, and it will apparently be published, although I have no idea where or when. It should make interesting reading.
mylifemyid - feedback
Role: VS Administrator
We'd really like to know how you think the mylifemyid process could have been improved.
Post a comment below giving us your suggestions.
Re: mylifemyid - feedback
I feel you could have improved in two fundamental and significant ways:
the first was impartiality and tone...
- especially in the early stages of the site, you tended to refer to the userbase is a slightly condescending manner, pandering to some sort of imaginary stereotype of some 'yoof' who could barely string a coherent sentence together, never mind share reasoned and logical views on the issues at hand. I think however you gradually improved this, partly as you realised that the audience wasn't the bad stereotype you expected, and party because the level of discourse was about a million miles away from some of the more inane questions that were posed.
- throughout, questions and polls have tended to have a slight pro-ID bias, sometimes alarmingly so. I recall some early posts which went along the lines of "OMG ID cards are like so awesome! I can't wait!!!!111!!eleven!!one" which clearly, while paraphrased, was not the 'impartial' tone required
- talking of impartial tone, all the material on the site itself was supplied by the home office, which of course was all the usual pro-id card propoganda. If you had really wanted an impartial look at the issues, you would have hosted the opposing arguments (even at least worded your own way or something). This did not occur, and therefore, your 'impartial' approach was to me, not impartial at all. However, I accept this was pretty inevitable given you were employed by the home office to conduct the research
Secondly, was openness and transparency
- throughout this site's operation, posts (and occasionally entire threads) have gone missing, users have been banned, and posts were edited. To this day, "off topic" posts are moved to the pit of despair known as the miscellaneous posts thread. This is not a responsible and transparent manner of running an adult discussion. There was at times no reason or interaction with the users to inform them of why these things happened, except when someone made a big fuss. I made a post a significant time ago detailing how net forum etiquette works, how you have to be transparent in your activities, explain any actions to the members of the site and generally maintain trust. This is a crucial point. One of the reasons why members have been so hostile to you (forcing you at times to take action, when otherwise you wouldnt have needed to) was because there is a great, deep seated mistrust of virtual surveys, caused by this lack of transparency. I will freely admit things have improved greatly since the sites inception, (things were pretty awful at the start), but they are still miles away from where they should ideally be.
Even in the context of research, your heavy handed approach has at times been totally disproportionate, and unneccesary. Because of all this, we have also not taken you very seriously as users. We actively expect that you are biased, that you will mis-represent us and our views, that you will abuse the system is some way. Again, this is a trust issue, and without it, co-operation and constructive action will be greatly lacking.
I actually think that beause of these issues, the results of your report are potentially undermined. The reactions you may have received and the research data you would have compiled might actually have been slightly different had people actually trusted you, and had you not deleted users, posts and entire topics from the forum!
Fri, 10/10/2008 - 01:46
Re: mylifemyid - feedback
Please print out DSM's message poster-size and display it on every wall of the Virtual Surveys office.
The idea of having a large scale, open, transparent, internet-based consultation of the views and attitudes of 16 - 25 year olds was absolutely inspired. You had the opportunity to perform a public-relations coup and demonstrate a more free, more representative and more consensual form of democratic policy making, with less skewed results than New Labour's traditional closed focus group.
You blew it.
You claim neutrality, but all information on the site is undiluted propaganda.
You make the classic mistake of assuming that all 16 - 25 year olds are silly, facile creatures able to debate only at the most trivial level. The design of the site and early moderation efforts were patronizing and insulting. Remember that, especially when you get to the 21 - 25 end of the scale, you'll find there are people that are married with job, mortgage, kids and a lot more life experience than your moderators. The site did become usable when you reined in the moderators and let a person who was clearly not 16-25 take over providing the foil for our arguments.
You claim to be trying to conduct research into our views and opinions, but due to heavy-handed moderation you ended up stifling discussion. Topics drift - in doing so they create new ideas. Your role as moderators is to keep a lid on foul language, not to try to force a discussion to run on rails. Far from keeping your research on track, you provoked open hostility and possibly distorted your results more. I say possibly, because we will now never know. You poisoned your own results by bad practice.
I really do hope that the UK Government, whichever party it may be, learns from this experience and conducts policy research using free, open, online mass consultation in the future.
I hope that whichever organisation they choose to operate the research first looks at how good online discussion boards operate (look at, for example, Internet Infidels and Bad Science).
I hope that the next time the UK Government chooses to consult the "youth" they can do so without the condescension and contempt: we are not stupid, we don't deserve to be treated as though we are.
I think that you took a brilliant idea and made it fail. But don't be put off: next time remember that you're here to ask our opinion, not tell us our opinion, listen and moderate with a light touch and you'll get the honest, consensual trends you're paid to gather.
Sun, 12/10/2008 - 08:32