My MWDSI 2009 paper was a day late and a euro short, thanks to Freiburg im Breisgau, but the U.K.’s still thought my discussion of electronic participatory budgeting was worth reading… and publishing! Editor Dan Jellinek boiled it down to an essay (stripping out all those boring old APA citations) and posted it in Headstar’s E-Government Bulletin Live online newsletter. Cool!

…or is it? For much of the academic world, publication in anything other than a scholarly journal is irrelevant to status. I’ve heard that occasionally profs look down on colleagues who get articles published in practitioner journals.

But again, to whom are we telling our stories? To whom do they matter? I know there’s some big timber we can fell in our forest that will build some spectacular houses, even if the rest of the world that lives in them can’t comprehend how they were built. But when we can express our ideas in ways that a broader audience can grasp, I see no reason that we shouldn’t. The fact that an idea can be expressed in a broadly comprehensible manner does not render that idea inherently inferior or less important. Spread the word!


…on something that’s already been done. Arrgghh!

Update 2009.05.02: I discover tonight that my presentation was wrong on one key point: that there weren’t any major experments in electronic/online participatory budgeting going on. Ha ha ha. I need to read more. Much more.

The southwestern German city of Freiburg im Breisgau, population ~218K, conducted an ePB trial April 7 to May 9, 2008. They combined online discourse, face-to-face discussions, and surveys.

The online tool is Demos-Budget, interactive planning software — server-side database, users need nothing but a browser. It has a graphical interface with budget sliders.

The online trial elicited the following participation:

  • 1861 registered users
  • 15K visits
  • 240K page views
  • 757 discussion forum articles
  • 1291 budgets with 914 text explanations
  • 22 issue-specific wikis

City government was on board 100%, funding the project and committing to incorporating the results in the actual budget.

“Lessons Learnt”:

  1. Aggregate the data for regular users; have detailed data ready for those who request it.
  2. Expect gamers and gunners; get moderation.
  3. Integrate online and offline activities; they each make the other better.
  4. Participants have to know this isn’t just a game; make it count! Get the city on board!

Read the details at By the way, Frieburg im Breisgau has a remarkable reputation as one of the greenest cities in the world.

——————original post, 2009.04.18———————–

Hey! I presented today! It was fun! Thanks to all who attended. If you’d like a copy of the presentation, you can download that (in .pptx format) right here. The full paper is available in the conference proceedings. Enjoy!

—And now I’ve just learned how to embed slideshows via Slideshare in WordPress! Kudos to Joe Bartmann, who always knows which button to press!

Quick notes, 838, meeting with Amit:

  • Come up with a clear list of requirements. Don’t sweat the existence of other systems. Go ahead, catalog those other systems, but make the system that meets your reqs.
  • Borrow from large-group collaboration research
  • making room for more voices, allowing all to speak: recall the introductory survey/requirement idea
  • “social phenomenon is PB itself”
  • education! pre-test and post-test: “What do you think are the key issues in the budget?” test for educating
  • so these other systems exist — they haven’t been studied yet. The focus that makes the paper worthwhile is studying the system in the context of the constructs.
  • But what is your theory? What are you testing? You can’t just go out, hand out a survey at random, and get a bunch of data. What is your theory? Go look on AISWorld, find the theory list.

This could as easily go on CAH-HULK, but it’s more specific to the 838 project. Here’s the initial e-mail I sent to Dr. Deokar, seeking permission to pursue this topic for our semester paper assignment:

I’m considering possibilities for the semester research project for INFS 838. I’m focusing on the decision support side at the moment. I’m looking at building on the topic I worked on Dr. Sarnikar’s INFS 830 DSS class in Fall 2008: designing an online tool to support participatory budgeting, a public decision-making process. Attached is the draft I submitted for that course. I’d like to build on it with the following:

  • much heavier lit review and theory (since focus of project was definition of problem and design)
  • further review of material on participatory budgeting (most is overseas, very little in U.S., but I want to to keep looking for possible existing implementations);
  • development of a working online version;
  • expansion of the design and data to do multi-jurisdictional planning (city and county);
  • and maybe even some public trial runs (informal, of course, since I can’t get the city or county commissions to vote my research into legal force).

All systems go so far….