The spamosphere already have their eyes on Number 10's E-Petition site

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 22 November 2006

In the last week or so the British have had the ability to petition their Prime Minister via the internet, using a beta site developed in partnership by mySociety with the the civil servants at the 10 Downing Street site.


Despite it being a 'beta', it was prominently linked to from the homepage of the 10 Downing Street site - although to be honest the thing that caught my eye was trying to sell to children the concept that Government officials still entered the door of Number Ten wearing top hats and looking like the business man out of Monopoly.


(Looking at the icon a second time, I guess with the V-flicking it is meant to specifically be Churchill)

The e-Petition site itself hadn't been up long before the fringes of the spamosphere were eyeing it up - after all, getting a dedicated URL on a USA .gov domain was worth enough for someone to purchase it on eBay, so surely getting one for free on the UK .gov varient must be worth something?

With a bit of imagination and lateral thinking, why not get a nice link for free - how anyone would benefit from having a link on .gov site though, I can only imagine? ;)

I've put one in, but you have to wait for a manual approval so I'm not yet sure how effective it is, thought the heads up would be appreciated. I'm sure the talented threadwatchers out there could quickly set up campaign related page on the site and pull a bit of the old bait and switch if accepted.

Of course, that kind of lateral thinking presents a challenge to the mySociety team behind the system, who, I'd assume, want the individual petition pages to be as search engine friendly as possible.

Back to the site itself, they have posted on the mySociety blog about the overwhelming level of correspondence they have been receiving about the site - no doubt with a lot of feature requests.

For my couple of Austrian minted Euro-cents, the two things I'd like to see would be a top five of the most popular petitions right now, i.e. not the most effective lobbying over time, or the most recently added petitions, but the most new signatures in the last few hours. I'd also like to see the unloved petitions with the least signatures highlighted.

Flicking through to the end of the search results you get a glimpse into the ultra-local, the ill-defined, the duplicated and the downright unpopular - a call for the cancellation of the London Olympics, an urge to veto the EU veto ban, a contradictory plea to Go 'full steam ahead' with European Union, a request to recognise that Cornwall is the fourth nation of Great Britain and a demand (not by me) to Improve Open Source use in govenment and local govenment work places.

Bringing back the stocks for young offenders and their parents also made a showing in the unloved files - though I cynically suspect that these days kids would just get their appearance uploaded onto YouTube and wear the number of times viewed as a badge of honour.

The petition that amused me most by far though belonged to Dave Hedgehog. Under the shortform name of sitescrub it asks the Prime Minister to Abolish this e-petition site as it's a waste of taxpayers money and distracts from debating real issues


What's amusing about the spam-wankers is they haven't checked the code. Campaign URLs have rel=nofollow attached so Google will ignore them. Duh!

True, but an outbound link from to will I guess make the my-spammy-keyword site look like it is linking out to quality sites, which is considered to give a ranking boost

Firstly, WTF? That's kinda dumb.

Secondly, in reference to the original post, surely they can do this anyway regardless of whether there's a neutered link on the gov site?

To be honest I try to limit my exposure to spammers and their evil tactics as much as possible so I might not be fully understanding this.

>> Firstly, WTF? That's kinda dumb.

Not necessarily, where you link to is a very good indicator of what kind of site you've got.

A site that only or mostly links to .ac or .gov is likely to be a better information site than one which only links to pr0n, viagra and "I'm in your PC stealing your internets" sites

Keep up to date on my new blog