Better plumbing at No. 10

26072008959The backlash against the new site from the Prime Minister’s Office has begun. Neil McIntosh just popped up in my feed reader tearing it apart for limiting conversation and some poor planning/research around the branding of the video channel. And then Tosh minor chimes in on twitter: “@DowningStreet – turn on your comments”

In my view, what’s happening here is that we’ve got some better plumbing installed, and while that in itself does a little to raise the quality of the drinking water, there’s so much more to be done and part of that is recognising that plumbing isn’t just about delivering water, it’s about providing a circulatory system to support and enhance something that’s going on already.

I’m not certain that just turning the comments on is the way to go, immediately. Of course it would be great to open up the conversation online but I do think the whole thing is still too fragile to withstand the shenanigans of people like this.

The work now should be to build some more solid two-way relationships between No. 10, online journalists and bloggers. My first question would be why press people like Neil haven’t been more intimately involved in the project already. Many people are still impressed when the guys on the @downingstreet twitter feed reply directly to questions and comments. When Obama was here and I was hanging around outside, I had a significantly different experience simply because we had a feed coming from inside and questions were answered in real time. Yes, our government departments are too opaque, but from where I’m sitting, I see much greater will to move towards real transparency than we’ve had in the past. This is a small enabling step towards it – let’s support it rather than knock it down straight away.