Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

2020, or 1020?

Posted by Dave Bath on 2008-04-20

Did I miss something from the coverage of the 2020 conference?  I saw people with pens and paper.  I saw no evidence of an internal wiki (or something similar) being used.  It seems they are using 1020 technology to manage the output of our best and brightest.

I hope I’m wrong, and that someone will point out my error.

If the government couldn’t organize a search engine, and collaborative software such as a wiki and electronic whiteboard software for participants (even if they had to bring their own laptops), then I’ve got to wonder how much thought actually went into organizing this in the most productive, forward looking way.

Imagine if all the participants were working on a wiki preloaded with all the papers by each participant, all the contributions by the public, links to public documents that supported their ideas, and all the categories and cross-references that could have been automagically munged with an SQL-savvy bot.

It’s not the ideas stupid, it’s self-organizing of ideas and linkages between them that creates value!  This is especially important when individuals are chatting to each other with "speed dating and red stickers": they could easily have created tags and links between two ideas in two pages in a couple of seconds.

And by close-of-business, a monkey could have run the stock standard wiki reports to produce tables of cross-references, most-linked-to pages, etc, etc, etc.

As they walked away, each participant could have been given the wiki export to take home and load up on their own computer, the wiki could have been made public with second-tier and invited-but-couldn’t-make-it folk given logins that allowed them to edit the pages.

It seems like the technology given to assist participants and make analysis and value-adding of their efforts actually useful was merely an advanced version of what was available in 1020: microphones and speakers replacing megaphones and loud voices, paper and textas rather than quills and parchment.  No real innovation, again, unless I missed it.

It’s not like our best and brightest wouldn’t know how to use a wiki given that wikipedia is in the top 5 read sites in the world, and millions of people have edited wiki pages (although not necessarily in the wikipedia).

I wonder if any of our best and brightest raised the idea beforehand, whether the government read the discussion paper on efficient electronic consultation mechanisms for a recent AGIMO inquiry and twigged that the same 21st century tools could be installed in a couple hours for this conference (a server, an OS, a wireless LAN, MySQL, Apache, a "Google mini", then give all participants the URL on the internal LAN and tell them to create their own wiki accounts).  It’d take less time than planning the seating arrangements!

If a wiki had been available, then others qualified but unable to attend could have participated over a VPN, or many who did attend might have been able to contribute to the ideas without their transport contributing so much to greenhouse emissions!

If a wiki wasn’t used, making any notes actually useful will take loads of effort that could have been largely avoided.

If a wiki of the conference and associated papers isn’t produced to the public within the next week, under a “” domain, then perhaps there should have been a preliminary conference on how this gabfest should have been organized.

Aaah, but we all know the saying about hindsight and 20/20….

See Also:

  • The initial report (2008-04-20) from the gabfest as PDF (Microsoft Word format also available here).  NO SIMPLE HTML? – I guess network bandwidth and people needing braille browsers don’t matter!.  None of the embedded images were actually informative, but merely decorative!  Read it, only a handful of small (the disagreements sections) might have required observing the actual conference ("some people want GMOs/clean coal, others hate those ideas"), the rest was easily predictable. (The 79 different revisions – probably opened and saved 79 times – check the document properties of the MSWord version – makes me suspicious).  And no, no wiki xml export!

8 Responses to “2020, or 1020?”

  1. Jacques Chester said


    A better fit would be a issue-tracking system — one like Trac or JIRA that integrates with a wiki. Then we can spend most of our time marking things as duplicates.

    We can see that the media have already decided that the ‘new ideas’ were stuff we’d all heard before: republic, treaty, abolishing states etc etc.

  2. Dave Bath said


    Good point, as per usual.

    I used wiki as an example because it’s something most people understand, and many know just how little it takes to get one up and running. The idea of something Joe Average could install on his own machine, download the wiki export, load it up and then go to town was just tooooo appealing.

    And I haven’t tried to merge JIRA (or other ticketing system) data from multiple sources, so I dunno how easy it would be, especially for offline editing and remerging (think remote community with coughing spluttering narrowband).

  3. […] Dave Bath at Balneus is perplexed at the outdated technology used to manage the proceedings and output of the summit, and give a good explanation of how collobarative softward could have improved the productivity of the event. As he says, “it’s not the ideas stupid, it’s the self-organising of ideas and the linkages between them that creates value.” […]

  4. Jacques Chester said


    JIRA at least has some third-party desktop clients available for it. Maybe we should ask them to donate a licence for something like this?

  5. […] Dave Bath at Balneus is perplexed at the outdated technology used to manage the proceedings and output of the summit, and gives a good explanation of how collobarative softward could have improved the productivity of the event. As he says, “it’s not the ideas stupid, it’s the self-organising of ideas and the linkages between them that creates value.” […]

  6. Dave Bath said

    Actually, the good folk at AGIMO are more than capable of making such implementation decisions, and have whitebranded software developed in-house before. An excellent model is MySource Matrix built when Avi Miller was called in to tidy up the barf-inducing NOIE site (and funnily enough, NOIE was dissolved from Communications, and AGIMO born inside soon after: THANK GOODNESS).

    So, I was happy enough to talk of “something like” a wiki, but I’d rather point pollies and departments to one of the few really competent agencies around.

    If we can stop pollies and senior departmental types rushing into whatever solution some overpaid consultant talks about, and get them talking to AGIMO before they do something stupid, there’s half a chance things will improve.

    Ideally, the pollies will ask AGIMO first, release RFIs and tenders later. I think we should encourage that rather than offer specifics…. and I feel that will be a good subject for a future post.

  7. geoff h said

    I dont know what a wiki is, but it sounds like a good idea.

    I had a similar thought when looking at the pre summit submissions.

    It would have been good to have at least a search function to find those submissions of interest; is it too late to do this now?

  8. Dave Bath said

    geoff h:
    It’s never too late.

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