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Working Together (Part One)

by afew Wed Jul 12th, 2006 at 07:08:11 AM EST

Last month Migeru called our attention (EU Consultations: failing to have our voice heard?) to consultations organized by the EU, some of them (not enough) open to the general public, on a variety of policy questions.

Whether the EU pays any attention to consultation submissions is a moot point. There are folks who'll say: "No way!", and I admit I'm sceptical myself. In fact we don't know if we're contributing to a policy debate (supposing there is one). But what consultations can make us do, is produce focussed work on a policy topic. We have to find and review available data, select what seems dependable and useful, collate it, discuss our fundamental approach in the light of it, (agree or disagree), and build policy proposals. This seems worthwhile to me.

We could do the same thing by producing position papers. Since we are not full-time professionals, however, these run the risk of remaining for a long time at project stage and perhaps never getting done -- a deadline can be a useful thing. And, from a consultation text, (and the work done in producing it), a position paper may be drawn.

On Monday we submitted our first consultation offering, on biofuels. That was satisfying, because we did what we set out to do, but it was all the same a rush job. With a little more time, we could no doubt have produced a more fully-argued and data-backed text.

Below I set out my take on the phases we need to go through in working on a consultation submission.


CONSULTATION PROGRAMME

HowYouFeel = (pick an integer between 1 and 10; 1 = fatigued, 10 = full of beans)
TotallyShaggedOut = 0

do

Phase One:

Identify the consultation to work on. It has to be in a policy area that seems important to us, interests us, and in which some of us at least may have some knowledge. There has to be enough time to work on it. In the light of the Biofuels experience, I'd say one month is a minimum.

As Migeru pointed out in his above-linked diary, the EU site doesn't make it easy to check out the full list of consultations : "to get the complete list one has to go to the consultation pages relating to 30 different policy areas of the EU". However, you can sign up for a mailing list which will inform you of new discussions and consultations. I have signed up. Anyone else is free to do so. Identifying a consultation is an individual initiative, go to Phase Two.

(Flagged: The consultation on "The Green Paper on a European Strategy for Sustainable, Competitive and Secure Energy", deadline 24/09/2006, must surely be one for us?)

Phase Two:

Diary 1 to gather a base group interested in working on the consultation. If there's a positive response, distribute tasks (on a voluntary basis, natch) from the start, rather than leave it in the air who will work on what aspect. One person should be co-ordinator, unless otherwise agreed.

The first job is to identify resources (including ET resources). Open a Wiki page where links can be put up and suggestions made (given that Diary 1 will disappear in a few days). I suggest a distinction be made, in terms of subject matter, between general and specific resources. The whole group should look at general resources. Those who have chosen a specific aspect to work on will also look at resources associated with that aspect.

Phase Three:

Diary 2 should consist of summaries of reading, data, thinking. The relative value of different resources and sources should be discussed. The best data sources should be chosen, (not in a prescriptive way, but to provide a common basis), as should (if applicable) the units of measure work should be presented in.

At this stage writers of draft material should be chosen : either one writer, or more, each taking on writing a specific part (certain questions in the consultation document, for example).

Phase Four:

Diary 3 will work on first draft. This will probably (if the Biofuels work is anything to go by) involve discussion on ideas and how best to present them, but also intense hashing out of data and calculations. It would be best to do this a fortnight to ten days before deadline, so there's a week left for clear thinking on final drafting.

Phase Five:

Diary 4 sets out the final draft for last-minute checking and editing.

Phase Six:

Submit.

     TotallyShaggedOut = TotallyShaggedOut + 1

    while HowYouFeel > TotallyShaggedOut

loop

Please pick holes, protest, throw tomatoes.

PS : I'll shortly add another diary about discussions that arose during the Toulouse ET meet last month, concerning methods of working together on ET and associated structures.

(The four diaries in the Biofuels collaboration:

Biofuels Consultation (Part I) Is the objective of promoting biofuels valid? ;
Biofuels, Petro-fuels = Liquid Fuels (Part One) ;
Biofuels & Petro-fuels = Liquid Fuels (Part Two) ;
Biofuels Consultation )

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Hey, it doesn't look like our submission made it before the deadline... (see the list at the bottom of this page)

Excellent work nonetheless, and I couldn't have put it better than you have:

Whether the EU pays any attention to consultation submissions is a moot point. There are folks who'll say: "No way!", and I admit I'm sceptical myself. In fact we don't know if we're contributing to a policy debate (supposing there is one). But what consultations can make us do, is produce focussed work on a policy topic. We have to find and review available data, select what seems dependable and useful, collate it, discuss our fundamental approach in the light of it, (agree or disagree), and build policy proposals. This seems worthwhile to me.


Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jul 12th, 2006 at 07:26:13 AM EST
Huh, wonder why it wasn't accepted...it was in on Monday?

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Wed Jul 12th, 2006 at 07:52:21 AM EST
I didn't get a return email. I think we should wait a while and see if they accept it and add it to the list.

If they don't, I'll write to ask why. And we'll take it from there.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jul 12th, 2006 at 07:56:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Any news on the submission and why it's not on the web site? In my quick look at the EU site didn't see any mention of a 5pm deadline for Monday the 11th.
by Alexandra in WMass (alexandra_wmass[a|t]yahoo[d|o|t]fr) on Thu Jul 13th, 2006 at 07:28:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not even before 5pm, though.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jul 12th, 2006 at 08:06:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, if that's their attitude (when they're supposedly out to encourage citizen participation), they're going to have to provide some explanation. And if they won't, or it's not good enough, we'll go higher up.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jul 12th, 2006 at 08:09:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On a similar path, over at Wikia.

Program an endless loop over there.

And add one fool or bottle of beer each iteration.

Think the only way you get the PTB's attention

Is to put hoards of people in the street, hopefully all loud and rambunctious.

No offense or reference meant Afew, to your submissions.

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins

by EricC on Wed Jul 12th, 2006 at 05:55:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not against people in the street, not at all. I joined in with it long ago, from the late sixties on. I don't think the powers that be have lost any power, looking back. I think they've gained. That may be because we don't take to the streets enough. I don't know.

I'm willing to work towards the possibility of challenging the ruling discourse by other means (also), particularly those offered by Internet (on condition we develop them).

I'm afraid I've only observed Wikia from afar for the moment.

BTW, my loop isn't endless. When HowYouFeel = TotallyShaggedOut, out you pop.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jul 13th, 2006 at 02:16:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Impressive work on the biofuels! Sorry I missed the in progress version. I also took a quick look at the working files in the wiki.

I like the idea of developing some game plan for easier collaborations. In what way did using wiki help in developing the biofuel piece?

I'm slowly recovering from jetlag and piles of accumulated work and hope to be a little more present around ET again in the next week or so.

by Alexandra in WMass (alexandra_wmass[a|t]yahoo[d|o|t]fr) on Wed Jul 12th, 2006 at 08:53:01 PM EST
Hi Alexandra! I was thinking of emailing you to say I'd put this diary up and was going to post one about the questions we'd discussed in Toulouse.

We didn't use the Wiki much, frankly. As a permanent information/links post, yes, but not for discussion. But I'll discuss this more in my next diary.

Hope you'll soon be over jet lag, and looking forward to seeing you around!

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jul 13th, 2006 at 01:58:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What seems to be missing (and I've come up against this problem in my own work) is a way of tagging information snippets in a way that helps you (or anyone) to find patterns or connections between them later on.

The old Hollerith begot Filemaker which begot datamining. But the common factor was that information was/is tagged consistently. It is hard to search great gobs of text, however efficient the search engine, because you still have to read great gobs of text to find out if they are relevant to your search.

I recall the post-Katrina problems of how desperate people were to find their family and friends, and that no system existed to correlate the emails, the written messages, the SMSs, the appeals for information. The solution was based on thousands of people on the internet volunteering to take small handfuls of raw data and enter it into a single standardised database. Thousands of people giving just 30 minutes of their time amounted to thousands of man-hours of work.

I am sure your frustration with the biofuels research had a similar desperation. Acquiring the raw data was not the problem - but making sense of it was (finding patterns of corroboration).

I can't see the solution. but a useful tool would be an ET database with any information tagged by a number of parameters: origin or source, key words, key numbers and statistics, submitter, associated graphics, etc etc.

We have the manpower to do the tagging work, I think. The problem lies in defining the tags for any particular project (like biofuels), and also making the tags accessible to other projects (like energy) because we are trying to build up worldviews also.

Having a tagged info database available to us all would also enable anyone to contribute to the raw research as well as the analysis.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jul 13th, 2006 at 04:47:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sven, I am a personal friend of the lead programmer here. Do you think that kind of software provides the functionality you're thinking about?

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 13th, 2006 at 04:58:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just had a quick scan while eating lunch on the verandah, and I am very impressed by (and grateful for) this link.

I am on a deadline, so I'll have to check it out later. Other people here should give their opinion - like Colman - people far more expert than I.

It appears to be a set of standalone modules - but that is not a problem as there could be a separate ET project space, just like the wiki. And the project space would surely crawl/link back to the ET diaries and comments? But what about the other direction?

It looks to be high maintenance - but I may be wrong. Even Scoop needs quite a bit of maintenance - and the fine tuning of functionality - and Scoop is basically sold as 'plug and play'.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jul 13th, 2006 at 06:36:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll keep a longer comment for Afew's diary #2 but I just took a quick look at the site Migeru linked to and it looks quite interesting! One item I was impressed by is the use of existing document classification systems (in this case the library of congress system). I've worked on a group collaboration database before were a lot of time was wasted trying to invent a proprietary classification system. More in diary #2...
by Alexandra in WMass (alexandra_wmass[a|t]yahoo[d|o|t]fr) on Thu Jul 13th, 2006 at 07:25:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That looks A1 interesting, Mig. Thanks for the link.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jul 13th, 2006 at 08:48:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Looks very interesting to me too,Mig.

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins
by EricC on Thu Jul 13th, 2006 at 01:02:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Great comment, and Mig's response.

Can we have this discussion on Part Two of this diary, that I hope to put up later today, because it's definitely what it's about?

(Not that I mean to halt discussion on this one... ;))

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jul 13th, 2006 at 05:32:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Have more time at the weekend - but I'll contribute what I can, me duck.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jul 13th, 2006 at 06:39:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Me too.
by Alexandra in WMass (alexandra_wmass[a|t]yahoo[d|o|t]fr) on Thu Jul 13th, 2006 at 07:32:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
OK I'll put it up sometime tomorrow for the weekend. I have a lot else to do too.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jul 13th, 2006 at 08:28:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Any comments on the suggestions for work on consultations? (On the understanding, though, that I'd like us to be free to think of content and interactive work management that might help make things faster, easier, more productive).
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jul 13th, 2006 at 08:33:09 AM EST
(Flagged: The consultation on "The Green Paper on a European Strategy for Sustainable, Competitive and Secure Energy", deadline 24/09/2006, must surely be one for us?)

Seems to me it's a good choice since

  1. it's in line with the Energize America proposal and other ET work that's been on on the energy issue.
  2. The deadline gives us enough time to prepare a response and perhaps even find other venues to circulate it in - even just using the EU consultation deadline as a time to circulate info (letters to the editor/press release?) to the press about ET's participation in the consultation and the ET/KOS collaborative style policy development process, now that there has already been one US/Jerome focused article on the topic in Le Monde.
by Alexandra in WMass (alexandra_wmass[a|t]yahoo[d|o|t]fr) on Thu Jul 13th, 2006 at 11:52:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
vandalism in progress by user "Nick" at the Wiki. Colman, can you block the IP?

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 13th, 2006 at 12:02:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Our contribution has been listed here, among the NGOs.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jul 13th, 2006 at 05:24:26 PM EST
congratulations!
by Alexandra in WMass (alexandra_wmass[a|t]yahoo[d|o|t]fr) on Thu Jul 13th, 2006 at 06:27:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent news!  Congratulations afew and everyone!!

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 13th, 2006 at 06:43:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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