Well they say that all publicity is good publicity but it sure doesn’t feel like it tonight.
The author has raised some really important issues in his article that deserve to be addressed in a public forum like this.
First up, we were remiss not putting our names and backgrounds on the website. We apologise. It was an oversight that will be corrected by tomorrow evening rather than a deliberate decision to in any way conceal our identities – we are actually both really quite proud of the fact that we have created Bang the Table from scratch. It is the first service of its type anywhere in the world and we are both committed to developing a platform that helps the community get involved in debates about public policy. It is quite possibly the most important contribution that either of us has made to public policy development thus far in our careers, including our time working for government. It is also worth noting that we go into some detail about our backgrounds and experiences that lead to the creation of Bang the Table on our blog at www.onlinecommunityconsultation.com which is promoted on Bang the Table.
Secondly, yes we are Directors of Duo Consulting Pty Ltd. Our work at Duo is currently being wrapped up, but without it we would not have had the experience or finances to launch Bang the Table. As well as the private sector clients Alex noted, we also did work for the University of Newcastle, and Tamworth and Wyong Councils.
Thirdly, it is also absolutely true that we both have a background in Government. Between us we have worked in a range of roles for around 10 government departments as they went through various amalgamations and dis-aggregations. But surely this is a good thing? We have a combined experience of around 35 years in public policy, which, along with genuine debate, is what we are both passionate about and the reason we established Bang the Table.
Fourthly, unfortunately our experience in government did teach us that the community gets ignored too often and that a more robust and open method of consultation is needed. But it also taught us that too often it is a small group of individuals who claim to represent the views of the community without any evidence to that effect, rather than the community more generally, who take control of the public policy space. Too often we have seen reasonable people walk out of community meetings because they are yelled down by one or two vocal, persistent and dare I say it, rude, individuals. And too often I have seen decisions unduly influenced by the regular letter writers rather than good quality policy discourse. It is this vocal minority who don’t like the idea of a space where everyone can have their say without fear of receiving a barrage of abuse from an angry activist with an often hidden agenda. Bang the Table provides an opportunity for people who wouldn’t ordinarily get involved in public policy debate to have their say in the peace and security of their own home or office.
Fifthly, the article is clearly heavy with the implication that we are influenced in our moderation of the debate by the organisations we host. One look at the nature of the comments on the site today will confirm that this is patently untrue. When and organisation chooses to use Bang the Table, they open themselves to the possibility of criticism. This is to be applauded. At last, transparent public policy debate! We only remove comments if they are offensive, defamatory or spam. Lively and vigorous debate is encouraged.
Finally, it would have been great to have received a phone call from the author to discuss our business, backgrounds and motivations for establishing Bang the Table. We believe that there is a really good news story in here waiting to get out, a story about two Aussie blokes who built a service that lets people debate the issues that affect them in the knowledge that they will not be censored (within a few pretty reasonable site rules) and knowing the decision-making organisation is actually listening . Take a look at the current debates on the site and make up your own mind. We welcome feedback and ideas for improvements.
Matt and Crispin