This is what Beta means: the first 48 hours of petitions

Since the petition system went out properly on Wednesday, we’ve been absolutely buried in an avalanche of changes, fixes, feature additions and massive massive amounts of email. I thought that you might be interested as to what sort of stuff has happened in the first two days:

  • Email has taken over our lives. Matthew has responded to over 200 emails since yesterday morning, and I was up at 4am last night just trying to cope with the rate of incoming of mail. Francis, who’s now in Canada, then heroically took up the baton and responded to mail all (UK) night! Many if not most of these mails are giving us suggestions, as well as bug reports, problems with email and bits of praise and the odd conspiracy theory.
  • Changes made to cope with expats and overseas military personnel.
  • Phoned Hotmail to stop their system from eating 95% of the confirmation messages being sent to Hotmail accounts!
  • Redesigned the automated mails no10 get telling them there’s a new petition (they’ve had over 500 of these mails, so they need to be clear and easy to read!)
  • Made the rejected petitions system more granular, so that if a petition has to be rejected, and part of it has to be hidden (say, if it is libellous), then it only hides that bit, not the whole thing. Maximum transparency is the goal, you see.
  • New options added to sort the list of all petitions in different ways, by number of signatures being the most asked for.
  • Limited the length of “more info” fields so people can only write long rants, rather than really really long rants 🙂
  • Special cased people with AOL accounts, so that their, erm, nonstandard email clients can actually cope with the confirmation links.
  • Made several fixes to the processes involved in sending out confirmation mails.
  • Made RSS changes and improvements.
  • Updated various bits of text, like providing examples of what “party political” means. The BBC initially wrote that this meant no pledges mentioning controversial issues like Iraq, which was grabbing quite the wrong end of the stick about the nature of the rules. Now we have some complaining emails saying we’re being too liberal!
  • Compiled a big list of user suggestions and fixes on the wiki.
  • Made the rejection criteria in the Ts&Cs actually match the ones in the admin interface.
  • Installed a stats packages to watch what’s going on.
  • Added facility to search petitions
  • Improved/fixed logging
  • Added link and text pointing to the open source code.

I’ve probably missed some – I’m sure Matthew, Chris, Francis and Ben will let me know!


  1. I wish you every success in what seems to be a hopeless task that many of you have been lobbying and working hard at for a long time.

    I know that Richard will not give up so it essential for us all to support him in his endeavours.

  2. Sirs,
    Under NAMES ;Only list names – not comments.
    Show names in Surname alphabetical order – show date of signing alongside.
    Thank you

  3. Tom

    I doubt if this is in your control but I think it would be much better if people could register support against a petition as well as in favour of it. This may move away from the conventional petition concept, but it would make responses to petitions much more interesting and therefore more impactful. (You could then highlight most controversial petitions (i.e. petition attracting highest level of citizen interest for or against) and separately most supported petition (on a net basis)). What do you and others think? Would this be an improvement?


  4. Anthony L Hall Dorothy Hall & david R Hall

    With reference to the ongoing ‘NO to road charging@ please attach the three (3) names as listed in the against figures.

    It would also be helpful if Mr Blair and the New Labour party actually managed to produce accurate figures to atempt to bolster their claims. eg, 26,000,000 vehicles on the roads, codswallop, garbage and other less acceptable discriptive words. According to government figures, there are aproximately 56, million people living in the British Isles, on the government figures this would equate to roughly 2 and a bit persons per vehicle. Not withstanding all those persons who do not own and drive vehicles, and all those persons who CANNOT own and drive vehicles, Babies, criminals in prison, Blind people, and a hell of a lot of poor people. Quite frankly, Mr Blair or which ever of his minions that may read this, you people need to realise that one day, maybe in the not to distant future, the British population could just contract the ‘FRENCH’ way of doing things and screw the government into the ground.

    Just remember the people put you in power and can just as easily VOTE you out for a long time