Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Sign of the Times: E-Petitions Are Just the First Step. Becky Hogge Has Some Advice for Aspiring Campaigners

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Sign of the Times: E-Petitions Are Just the First Step. Becky Hogge Has Some Advice for Aspiring Campaigners

Article excerpt

I didn't sign the e-petition against road pricing last month (I ride a bike), but I did sign the one against biometric ID cards. This also closed in the past week and though it was signed by a mere 27,985 people, it still warranted a "personal" response from Tony Blair. Unlike his riposte to Britain's angry motorists, it was not appeasing in tone. I should not be surprised--after all, what are civil liberties compared to the right of my parents' generation to pollute the air their grandchildren will choke on?

But I digress. When the e-petition on road pricing closed at midnight on 20 February it had nearly 1.8 million signatures. Campaigning lore (into which, thanks to my work with the Open Rights Group, I am fast being initiated) states that on any particular issue, it takes six letters of protest to land on an MP's doormat before he or she will take the matter further. Had each of my fellow signatories chosen to write to their local MP instead, each member of parliament would have received seven times that figure. Had the motorists done the same, each MP would have received nearly 3,000 letters.

When you ask people who think about such things what makes geeks volunteer hour upon hour of their spare time to contribute to free and open-source software projects such as the Linux operating system or the Firefox web browser, they will give you several replies. Among them will be the observation that people like doing things when they can see, directly, the effects of their actions. …

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