Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Petition Position

In response to my last post on "websites down" Tom Steinberg posted a comment - in a John Kerry kind of way, i.e.first I did then I didn't. He's going to post again when he gets some new numbers but his essential point was that the Express was wrong (shock! horror! call the PCC) and that the Downing Street Petition site didn't go down at all, least of all when the piffling petition against inheritance tax was flooded by 15,000 signatures. I'd wondered whether it was, in fact, the far bigger campaign against road pricing that had caused the problem. Apparently it was a code bug. More from Tom soon. Checking the road pricing petition again, they're up to 693,000 signatures (versus 650,000 on Feb 4th). Inheritance tax is up to 25,000 a bigger relative increase for sure, but dwarfed in absolute terms. What's intriguing me is the organisation behind this anti-road pricing campaign. I'd have thought that nearly 700,000 signatures is a pretty impressive total for a petition, online or otherwise. The Mail on Sunday is backing it and seems to be showing more muscle than the Express. When the MoS published its story on January 27th, the petition had 590,682 votes - so they've added 100,000 since the first mention there. The Mail had this to say "Yet one Minister has dismissed the petition as 'nonsense', while Downing Street said the Prime Minister had no intention of abandoning plans to tax drivers by the mile. The Mail on Sunday has learned that the petition posted on the No10 website has recorded an extraordinary level of support. No petition in recent times has come close to gathering a similar number of signatures. The campaign by TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve the standard of school dinners managed only 270,000 names - yet it prompted a U-turn in Government policy." But there are 877 results in Google for the exact title of the petition. That's no mean performance. When the Telegraph wrote about it on 12th January there were "only" 250,000 names on the list and the DfT's thoughts were "No decision has been taken on whether to implement a national road pricing scheme," a spokesman said. "We are working with local authorities to investigate the potential of local schemes in tackling congestion." The Express' petition on inheritance tax has, however, only 11 results in google So is it that road pricing is more emotive than inheritance tax and is likely to affect both more people and perhaps crucialls, more people sooner? Or is it better orchestration of a campaign? I suspect it's both of those coupled with better press coverage - only the Express has led on inheritance tax whereas every motoring magazine, including Top Gear, and a good few nationals has had a go at road pricing. What would be interesting is whether people arrive at the petitions site, leave their signature behind and depart, or whether they stop and see what else is there? Tom - any chance of telling us how many people have signed up to more than one petition and how many people have both signed up to more than one and also created a petition? That might be an interesting way of seeing if we're witnessing a tool that has staying power. What about also tracking inbound links to the petitions to see which ones are getting more coverage?

1 comment:

  1. Hi. I took down the original comment because I'd undercounted the errors (I only had one kind).

    The petitions site failed to supply the requested page for 5000 of 250,000 page views on that friday, ie 2%. It either generated internal server errors, or told the users the site was busy: not good enough, we know, but not a system crash by most people's standards

    This is the downside of launching as a beta, the upside being that the site has evolved to respond to user demands really fast.

    In answer to your other question there are currently 1351558 confirmed signatures from 1149422 signers, or about 6 signatures for every 5 signers.

    As for the rest of the log analysis, I'm afraid it's late and I'm too tired :)

    Tom

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