Revolutionising Question Time Through Web 2.0

One of the more intriguing aspects of recent moves towards utalising technology to help foster participatory democracy through direct exchanges with politicians, have been the moves to incorporate user-generated questions in debates and so forth.

The concept is rather simple. You submit questions on a website (or through twitter). Other users get to vote on these questions, and the most popular ones get asked. A great example of this was the RNC Chairman debate hosted by ATR where hundreds of people submitted questions, and tens of thousands of votes were cast. I believe similar sites were up for Presidential debates. More recently, The Nation, The Washington Times, and the Personal Democracy Forum have teamed up to launch Ask the President, where you and vote on questions for President Obama that they will present the top ones at the next press conference. Zotfish is another example that takes this beyond politics.

I was thinking about this and I thought – why not use this at home? We have a great forum for executive accountability in Australia – it’s called Question Time. Why not use this to its full advantage?

What I propose is that the Opposition sets up a website where people can propose questions that they will ask the Executive in Question time. Everyone can submit a question. Everyone can vote. Then, during Question time, a Member of the Opposition stands up and asks “I ask Mr. Rudd this question on behalf of John Smith…”

The advantages of this are easy to see – it engages people more in the democratic process. It gives them a greater feeling of ownership of the political process. It turns Question Time into something meaningful and not the joke many people feel it has become. The costs? Other than some very cheap coding and promotion – none.

This is an idea that is easy to do. It will benefit all Australians and help the democratic process. It is politically savvy for any opposition that chooses to embrace it.

So – what are we waiting for?

UPDATE: It has been brought to my attention that people have perhaps at one point possibly asked somewhere that questions be submitted to them. Or something. Obviously not exactly backed up with the greatest promotional campaign. But this misses the point. Unless matched with a website where people can vote up/down questions – thereby increasing the engagement with people 100 fold – it will never work. It’s the mass engagement that makes this idea have such potential.


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10 Responses to “Revolutionising Question Time Through Web 2.0”

  1. JaketheMuss Says:

    Tim, it’s very important that we use all our questions to ask the exact same question with only a few words changed. We must also ensure that the questions are weak and easy to bat away and that the subject matter is unimportant.

    We simply don’t have enough spare questions for your idea.

  2. rachel Says:

    This is a great idea, Tim. I’d suggest still having a portion of the questions coming from the pollies themselves (who, after all, have staff dedicated to investigating these issues to a degree that most of us don’t have time to), but it’d be really good to see something like this incorporated into Question Time.

  3. Tim Andrews Says:

    Oh yes defiantly, and obviously there’d have to be some discretion as to what is chosen – you couldn’t just choose every popular question, but I think done properly it has a lot of potential!

  4. Robert Candelori Says:

    Tim, great idea. Pity about your woeful spelling. 🙂

  5. JaketheMuss Says:

    As Tim has said many times, the english language is an evolving organism.

    …for some reason that doesn’t apply to grammar though.

  6. Leo Perkins Says:

    Tim, I did kind of experience this to a degree when, Malcolm (or his helps) posed in a status something along the line of; Malcolm Turnbull is heading off to question time. Anything you want to ask the house?

    The response was and varied but was for the most part well informed.

    I like the idea of formalising it a bit more and for it to come from the Liberal Party. This would be something that I would love to get involved in myself in making it happen.

    I think this would create a re-newed interest in question time, even for the novel aspect of “they read my question”

    As well as bringing the Liberal Party into the world 2.0.

    If the Liberal Party is to connect with younger generations we need to communicate and be communicated with on that level.

  7. ralph Buttigieg Says:

    G’day Tim.

    It should be even easier to implement then you think. The technology is already here: Google Moderator.

    I’ll might post something on Barry’s and Malcolm’s websites.



  8. Ralph Buttigieg Says:

    It should be easier to install then you think. The technology is already available through Google so should be easy to embed in a website.

    I’ll post a message on Barry’s and Malcolm’s website.


  9. TimH Says:

    Hi Tim

    This sounds very exciting. At Yoosk, we’ve been hoping to hookup with someone from Australian for some time.

    If you’d like to learn more about Yoosk, a site that has been doing this on a somewhat more impressive scale than Zotfish and started a full year before either Google moderator or Zotfish, drop me a line.

    Here is our coverage of the G20 London Summit- – you’ll see we have interviewed quite a number of the UK cabinet.

    Lats year we won the Building Democracy Innovations Award in the UK and have recently received funding from Channel 4’s Digital Media Public Service Broadcast fund-

    I’d be glad to help set up a dedicated Yoosk site and share our experiences of crowd-sourcing questions for the last two years.


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