What’s Next for ParticipateDB?

by Tim on July 13, 2011

This September, ParticipateDB will have been around for two years. Time to maybe kick it up a notch!

Let’s look at how things have been going and what we could or should do next:

First, where do things stand?

On the plus side, it appears that ParticipateDB has quickly grown to become the most comprehensive catalogue of its kind world wide (please correct us if you have proof to the contrary). Based on the occasional kind feedback, many people seem to find it quite useful. Some have even expressed ideas how to expand or build on top of it.

On the not-so-plus side, growth has slowed down in recent months. Many entries are still little more than stubs with key pieces of information missing. Many much-needed features are still missing as well (e.g. proper search, tagging or other metadata, notifications). By and large, contributions have come from only a handful of the 50+ registered users. There’s a backlog of about 100 entries just on my end (mostly resources and projects) that we just haven’t had the time to process yet. Writing decent entries can be a time-consuming task, and since this is a side project, not our main focus, bottle neck happens.

Second, how can we best move things forward?

If you’ve been following the site or have used it occasionally to look up tools or related projects, what are the things you’d like to see? What’s on your wish list? How could ParticipateDB become even more useful to your day-to-day work (and more user friendly, of course)? What should be our strategy to go both wider (more entries) and deeper (more comprehensive entries)? If you’re a tool maker, how would you like to see your work presented?

If you have an opinion, don’t hold back! Please let us and your fellow Participators know what the next version of the site should look like. Leave a comment below or ping us on Twitter, Identica or Facebook. You can also go straight to our support site. We promise to look at each and every idea or request and will start to plan our relaunch efforts accordingly. And please, no holding back: feel free to go crazy!

Third, where’s the party at?

Two years of collecting tools, projects and resources in one of the, dare we say, most exciting and without a doubt very important areas of 21st century civic society warrants a celebration. No details yet, but chances are there will be a little get-together of some sort here in the San Francisco Bay Area some time in the Fall. Stay tuned!

A huge thank you to everyone involved in getting us this far: you have been coding, researching, editing, following, forwarding, commenting, getting the word out etc. — a nice collaborative effort all around!

Somehow it feels we have barely scratched the surface of what’s possible here. There are still hundreds of projects out there that are worth documenting, analyzing and comparing to help us better understand what works and what doesn’t in e-participation. I look forward to a productive year three.

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ParticipateDB Could Use Your Input
July 19, 2011 at 12:12 am

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Sebastian July 14, 2011 at 7:08 am

Would love to see a more interactive aspect to it, possibility to comment both on tools, projects and documents. Have a more portal-like start page with latest project showcase, interviews, tighter blog integration, etc..

Tim July 14, 2011 at 7:10 am

Michael Allan brought up a few good points already (via the Dowire Exchange listserv):

1) Registration required to contribute
2) Content is copyright Intellitics, re-use and sharing is not possible
3) Difficult to find participation “projects” that are ongoing.
4) No search interface

Tim July 14, 2011 at 7:11 am

@Sebastian Me too! 😉

Lucas Cioffi July 14, 2011 at 7:43 am

-I’d vote for keeping registration as a requirement to maintain quality.
-A search interface would be very useful.
-Displaying one sentence about each project as they are listed a pages such as this http://participatedb.com/projects would be helpful.
-Eventually it might be helpful to include lessons learned, but that would be a lot of work.

Congrats on two years!!

Tim July 14, 2011 at 7:53 am

Thanks, Lucas!

Impact analysis and lessons learned would be great. How can we get the resources to dig those things up? Interns? Work with universities maybe?

John Spady July 14, 2011 at 12:57 pm

I would like to see a comment thread (like this one) beneath each of the entries on ParticipateDB (PDB). Similar to Sebastian’s idea above, when someone makes a comment, that message is sent to the original poster of the entry with a strong request to answer back. With this addition then casual viewers can be encouraged to ask questions and the creator can make a posting occasionally of the status of the product/process. Unresponsive creator’s might be a criteria to remove or archive their PDB entries?

What do people here think of this idea?

Ron Lubensky July 14, 2011 at 5:01 pm

The technology is fine. I think the main problem will always be to keep practitioners contributing, including recording new events and processes soon after they occur. Perhaps run week-long online events twice per year (“participathon”?) to update and expand the db, a bit like what community radio does to gain subscriptions (are familiar with that model?). You could bring in a few student helpers to edit text for contributors who lack the time to do it, but concentrate the effort to get a lot done in a short time. You might tie these events into gaining and maintaining sponsorship. These events will generate new conversations too, and that’s always a Good Thing!

Tim July 14, 2011 at 9:47 pm

Like the idea of participathons!

Simon July 15, 2011 at 12:35 am

I agree with Michael that the search interface should be put up, especially as the numbers of projects are impressive, but therefore also difficult to browse.

Concerning the semantic wiki approach: I like the idea very much and I think it has much merit, especially if users can have more accessible user interface than having to write [[xx:yy]] all the time.
Also then it would make sense to harmonise the use of descriptors with http://www.participedia.net to avoid inconsistencies (like the ones I always complain about in public administration – and we surely can do better, no? 😉 ).
(Disclaimer: I’m affiliated with the European Institute for Public Participation, which has been strongly involved in setting up participedia).

I also support the idea of ‘participathons’. These could be structured around larger events, such as NCDD meetings/academic conferences/unconferences of all kinds etc.

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