Wednesday 1 December 2010

Yoosk as a Hustings Tool

by Keith

Yoosk has recently been used as part of the Hustings for the election of new leaders to both the Labour Party and UKIP. Both Labour and UKIP held their own hustings events around the country of course, but these have their limitations:

  1. Not everybody can attend ‘live’ hustings events.
  2. Not every part of the country can be covered by ‘live’ hustings events.
  3. Not everyone who attends a ‘live’ hustings will be given the opportunity to ask a question.
  4. A filmed ‘live’ hustings event is not user friendly in that only dedicated users will sit through a 90 minute video clip of politicians talking.

Yoosk addresses these issues very simply by allowing anybody, anywhere in the country to put their question. Of course, not all questions will be answered, but the most popular ones will be answered and the answers will be there for everybody to view. And because at Yoosk we cut up our interviews into individual video clips for each question, the clips are easliy navigated and users can choose to watch only the clips that interest them and know that they will not have to invest a huge amount of their time in order to do so.

Here are example clips from each of the Hustings we covered:

This type of engagement with voters must surely be the way forward for future election campaigns. Imagine, at the next general election, an online location where constituents could post questions to prospective parliamentary candidates and the candidates could log on to add their answers in either text or video format... Such a site would be an invaluable central tool for voters to visit to find out just where their candidates stood on local and national issues. And the benefits for candidates in being seen to actively engage voters and to be able to get their message across to them would surely outweigh any complaints such as ...’I don’t have time for this...’

In addition to Yoosk, there are other sites which share the same general concept such as Votewise and Hustings but none of us are quite there yet in either format or ability to cover a complete national election campaign.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Tanya Franks - Rainie from Eastenders - answers your questions...

At Yoosk we have become known for our interviews with politicians, but actually, we are happy to conduct our crowd-sourced interviews with anyone in the public eye and in the past we have interviewed sports personalities and TV celebrities too and today we are happy to publish our interview with the actress and writer Tanya Franks ('Rainie'in the clip above).

Thankyou for your questions and a big Thanks too to Tanya for her interesting answers:

 From cat-kiti: Did you do any kind of research to play Rainie in Eastenders?
Yes, lots. The producers put me in touch with DrugScope who were a great help, and of course there was a lot of video footage, reading material, talking to people, etc.

From Mike Rouse: Do you ever feel typecast?
I don't feel typecast, but I guess you are asking that question because you think I am. Check out series 2 and 3 of Hotel Trubble on BBC1 from the end of September, that will probably answer it for you.

From JDanil: Presumably, a permanent role on Eastenders would mean you giving up your other interests - your production company, theatre,  screenwriting....... - so would you take one if the chance came along? Or has it already?
When I enjoy playing a role I don't worry about what I have to give up for it - usually it is just a little delay, not having to give them up completely. There are often bits of free time around shooting as a regular in a series, so it is certainly feasible to juggle the writing. Who knows what will happen with EastEnders in the future, I weigh up each proposition as it comes along.

From Neil2025: Do you have a favourite medium - theatre - film - tv - comedy - drama.. ?
I am very fortunate to get a lot of diversity within the roles I play at the moment. I don't worry about what medium it is in. They all demand different disciplines and I am more tempted by the quality of the scripts and the challenges of the characters than which medium they are in.

From Neil2025: What TV shows do you enjoy watching?
I am enjoying 'Pete V Life' at the moment and 'Mongrels'. Also I love some of the American shows like Breaking Bad, and Treme.

From NE11: Can you tell us a joke please Tanya?
A guy walks in to a pub with a steak and kidney pie on his head. The barman says, "Here mate, you've got a steak and kidney pie on your head". The guy says, "Yeah I know, I always wear it on a Thursday". The barman says, "But it's Friday". And the guy says, "Is it? Oh no, I must look such a c***!"

From HoaiHood: Which would you prefer to do, celebrity master chef or I'm a celebrity get me out of here?
Neither thanks.

From lydiadid: Eastenders - when ur not in it, do you watch it?
I'm not a soap-watcher by nature, I don't have too much time to watch a lot of TV.

From Charley: Have you had a holiday this year? If so, where did you go and did you have a good time? What is your favourite holiday destination?
I am about to take a trip through parts of Spain that I have never been to before and am looking forward to some quiet time. My last trip was to Tokyo, amazing, Japan is a place I would like to explore more of. I also love Italy, Israel, Egypt, Crete, I just love travelling full-stop.

Saturday 7 August 2010

Crowd-sourcing has its place, even if it does resemble tabloid-consultation sometimes

By Tim

I've just been moved to comment on RSA Chief Exec Matthew Taylor’s most recent post about the Government’s Spending Challenge and Your Freedom crowd-sourcing campaigns.

Although the Yoosk team have conducted various crowd-sourcing projects for government, we weren’t involved in these most recent campaigns. But I have watched with sympathy as some of the talented civil servants and the excellent company involved- DELIB- have come in for undeserved criticism.

It is true that as an initial attempt by this new government, it might have backfired slightly but it is also entirely predictable that both political opponents and internet sceptics have written it off as an abject failure.

There are two main criticisms. Firstly, that the various crowd-sourcing web projects generated a lot of semi-literate comments and unpalatable ideas. Secondly, that there have not yet been any concrete policy changes as a result.

Crowd-sourcing on a mass scale, by its very nature, is a populist activity. In fact this type of exercise might best be described as tabloid-consultation. Much of the content generated came from people who express themselves in tabloid-like language, which is unsurprising since that is what they digest when they read newspapers and watch popular TV.

Personally, I don’t read tabloids because I don’t much care for the tone and simplicity with which they express ideas- ideas that I often find repugnant. But I recognise that tabloids are part of a free press and that they keep millions informed and generate some kind of feeling of involvement in society for their readers.

So the same applies to large-scale crowd-sourcing of ideas and views on government policy: it has its place in direct government-to-people communications, as much as briefing the tabloid press has its place in government-to-media communications. Those of us who don’t like the tone and the content will have to live with it.

True, there was an element of hacking, spamming, abusiveness and general nastiness on the sites that I think took the organisers by surprise. But it was the first time it has been done on this scale and I know they have learnt lessons.

So to conclude on the first point: crowd-sourcing will always generate a lot of tabloid-like opinions of varying usefulness and acceptability (to us) but it has its place alongside more meticulously designed consultation methods. Indeed, this government is using other methods including another populist approach, PM Direct. They should probably be explaining this better and presenting the mix as a more coherent long term programme.

The second objection- that government response to ideas has been formulaic and impersonal, that nothing has come of it and people will therefore not participate again- is stronger. It would have been better to do this over a much longer period, with separate crowd-sourcing projects between individual departments and targeted online communities relevant to their work (e.g: Ministry of Defence asking the Army Rumour Service, as we have supported in the past). Crowd-sourcing can be done with different sized crowds and crowds with common experience: it doesn’t mean inviting everybody all at once.

So will this reduce the prospect that people will participate again? I don’t think so. I think this will be seen by most as the first large scale government-to-people communications exercise and people will quickly forget about the problems. If the next one looks better, they’ll give it another go.

It is easy to criticise with hindsight: the new government tried to deliver on their commitment to widely consulting the public, rushed it and got it partly wrong the first time. It was too broad brush and they weren’t prepared to process and act on the ideas quickly enough. But at least they tried and they tried using a small UK innovator, not a huge consultancy like Capita or a trendy, hyper-financed West Coast website. Next time they’ll do better, I’m sure.

Don’t write-off popular digital consultation- it has its place!

Tuesday 3 August 2010

Yoosk the questions put to the candidates will be chosen.

As the Yoosk Hustings charge into their second week, the quantity and quality of questions is really heartening as our recent article for LabourList shows.

But as the race for votes to be assured of a place in the top five for each candidate, and therefore a place in the interview, hots up; now is a vital time to serve a couple of reminders about the manner in which the final questions will be chosen.

We at Yoosk pride ourselves on being entirely impartial and democratic about our crowdsourcing process. There are countless crowd-sourced interviews out there, but the majority of questions still live and die by the sword of the interviewer who cherry-picks the questions provided by the masses.
We hold firm to our principles of letting you not only pose the questions, but vote for which ones should make the final cut, and we would always let you have the last say.

So the issue here is not one of editorial selection, but one of repetition.

Some questions already asked of the Labour candidates are duplicates of previous ones. A greater number tackle the exact same issue from a slightly different angle.

Should it occur that two questions in the final top five be on an identical issue, we will choose one or combine the two and then add the sixth most popular question to the list.

By the same logic, should a question on one particular issue be asked of the whole panel, we will then look over any identical questions asked of any individual candidate as they will already be covering that topic in their five 'all panel' answers.

By no means let this dissuade you from posing your question if you feel it is original enough to hold its own and earn enough votes, but first see if someone else has already asked it, and perhaps choose instead to lend them your vote.

The second point is a much simpler, and much more inclusive, addition. We know that even if it doesn't receive enough votes to be asked on camera, each and every question is the most important question to at least one person.

So we will do our best to get every question answered and after each interview will leave behind as many of the excess questions as possible in the hope that each campaign team may at least email us a text answer explaining their candidate's position.

Any answers we do receive will, of course, be posted on the Yoosk website.

Friday 30 July 2010

How to maximise the chances of getting your question answered.

by Keith

Last week, Yoosk had the pleasure of interviewing Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes. You can see Simon’s answers to your top-voted questions here.

When we started Yoosk we hoped our site would be used by campaigners in order to get the issues they are campaigning for, in front of the relevant people in power. When Neue Politik blogger Jae Kay saw that we were inviting questions for Simon Hughes he posted this question:

‘Will the Lib Dem parliamentary group, of which you are the most senior non-ministerial member, fight for full marriage equality in the recently announced "consultation" rather than accept current inadequate plans for religious civil partnerships?’

which is clearly an issue on which Jae Kay feels strongly and his question was answered by Simon in our interview. In order to try and ensure that his question was answered, Jae requested his followers on Twitter to visit Yoosk and vote for his question....a little unfair maybe? No, not at all we think, this is exactly how we would like to see Yoosk being used – questions posted on Yoosk and shared on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to gain support.

Following his Simon Hughes question, Jae has posted another one to David Miliband and we wish him luck with getting that one answered too.

Friday 23 July 2010

The Yoosk Labour Hustings: reaching out to Labour's core vote

By Tim

It's fair to say that many of Labour's core voters do not want to participate in the political process online  or even know that they can. And when we started looking at the Labour Leadership election, we also felt that many of the hustings were being attended only by a politically active elite.

We want Yoosk's Hustings to draw in those 'digitally excluded' core voters by giving them a chance to put their questions in the most convenient way possible-online, by SMS or even handwritten questions. That's why we have printed these postcards and will be distributing them to Working Men's clubs in targeted areas of the country.

It will be interesting to see the results. Where we have used print to supplement online before, the results have shown that we get very different questions- raw, challenging but ultimately highly relevant to the very real problems faced by ordinary people.

Thursday 22 July 2010

The Yoosk Labour Hustings

Yoosk's Hustings for the Labour Leadership start today. Enter your question below or go to