Monday, 19 May 2008

YouTube but who manages?

Very interesting to hear today that Gordon Brown is to conduct a ‘Question Time style’ discussion forum with members of the general public via YouTube. Of course this isn’t the first time that there have been high profile users of the service, with both the Queen and The Archbishop of Canterbury using it to broadcast their Christmas messages for the first time last December. Number 10 have also had their own YouTube channel for some time now (alongside a rather interesting and eclectic mix of other stations!)

What strikes me as different about today’s announcement, however, is the fact that on this occasion the Government will be using YouTube to conduct a two-way dialogue: with members of the public posting their questions to the PM and (as I understand it) he then answering in kind via the same media. This is a potentially significant difference with resulting implications for its subsequent management. Previously YouTube was just one of many channels of distribution being used (with the apparent safety net that it didn’t matter if the Queen’s speech was being distributed by YouTube as the traditional ‘master copy’ would undoubtedly continue to reside and be managed internally). With this announcement, however, the ‘record’ is surely the combination of both questions asked and answers given with any separation between the two rendering the final record of little informational or evidential value. And it seems to me that only YouTube alone will be in a position to ensure the integrity and longevity of this evidence.

I suppose in this instance it could be argued that hosting such a debate via YouTube is fundamentally little different from the Prime Minster appearing on a televised discussion programme such as Question Time, where the final record belongs to the television production company or broadcaster and is therefore their responsibility to manage, rather than the government’s. Where this comforting analogy might breakdown in the future is if more and more public bodies start to use established Web2.0 services such as YouTube to collect evidence or conduct public enquiries in ways which rely on an accurate record of the dialogue being preserved as part of the formal decision making process. That may still be some way off at the moment, but announcements such as that made today suggest that it is a question of ‘when’, not ‘if’ that day arrives.


ataylor said...


Very good comments and discussion points. I have been struggling with this concept; when business organizations move to E20 venues to conduct their affairs, what will be the available actions for proper records management of officials business transactions/documents? Will we see internally-developed facebooks and other W20 tools that allow for retention/litigation/business management of final products? And who will be the arbitor of what is an official document, or even when a document does actually become the "official" record?



Steve Bailey said...

Hi Aaron,

I completely share your concerns - hence writing the book - as I fear that the records management profession as a whole is being marginalised by this whole agenda and unless we are prepared to do some fairly radical re-thinking about how we should apply RM methodologies it is hard to see how this situation will change.

Designing our own internal Web2.0 solutions is certainly one solution, but personally i have my doubts. It is an option I explore in the book but remain unconvinced that such compromise solutions (which nullify many of the advantages of existing 'commercial' Web2.0 solutions) will actually be acceptable to users. My own preference is, instead, to think of how best to use the technology and theory underpinning the most successful Web2.0 services for our own ends - if you can't beat them (which I don't think we can), maybe we should think about joining them!



ataylor said...

Hi Steve,

Well said again. I agree totally with the need to embrace the movement, to understand it intimately and to proactively prepare to manage the information without stifling the initiative and creativity. Exciting and challenging at the same time. I look forward to reading your detailed account.

records management said...

Its interesting to get the reply on YouTube via same medium.Discussion given in this post is good example to uderstand what actually they trying to convey.Original authority of records is to the main head but still you can use copy of the same.

records management said...

You raise an interesting question about the records of this discussion, however you must admit this is a welcome initiative and a great use of resources!