Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Asking questions: an amateur's guide written by an amateur

Yoosk sounds like a great idea to everyone we talk to but for some people, faced with a blank screen and a waiting keyboard, somehow all those things you wanted to ask just don’t form themselves into a coherent question.

Questions often arise from chatting with a friend, from reading or watching news or mulling over something in a relaxed environment-then they are lost in the fog of everyday life, or more likely every day alcohol. So although we hope you will, you might not want to go to Yoosk and ask something now. But if you don’t, then please remember us, bookmark us and come back when something raises your interests or your passion.

But if you haven't gone already, let’s look at the processes involved in asking questions for a few minutes.

The first step is obviously what issues you feel strongly about or what famous people you most admire, or what people most fascinate you for either positive or negative reasons.

So, what issues do you feel most strongly about?

What part of the country are you interested in, what part of the world, what worries you, what excites you, what action do you want taken, what do you want changed, what do you want preserved, what progress do you want to see, what views would you like to hear, what reassurance do you want, what promises do you demand, what do you want stopped?

And who can change things?

Who are the key players, who can influence this, who is blocking this, who is the source of the problem, who is contributing to the problem, who could solve it, who has information about it, who is lying, who is telling the truth? Who should we listen to, who should we follow, who is hedging their bets and who is sitting on the fence…who is right, who is wrong, who gains and who loses? And you….what do you want them to change, to explain, to predict, to justify, to start doing or to stop doing?

What public figures and famous people most fascinate or trouble you?

The concentration of wealth and power into the hands of an ever smaller percentage of the world’s population is a fact of life. But on the bright side, so there is growing evidence that the internet and new media are quickly developing the power to harness public opinion to hold these extremely influential people to account. We are not used yet to using this power, just as the rich and powerful may not yet have fully comprehended the extent and implications of their power to do good as well as harm. Yoosk stands as a mediator. We are politically neutral, we just exist to provide a channel between those with power and influence and those who have the right to hold them to account through asking them questions. Maybe we'll convince them to do more good and less harm.

It still all feels a bit awkward

Of course it does, you didn't train to be a reporter. But to want to question a public figure a question does not make you are a stalker or a wannabe or a fan. It just means you want to ask something to another person whose actions affect your life a question.

Ok, so what then?

Think about this person and what issues they are connected with, what their position is and what power they have. Go to their page on Yoosk if they have one and look at the links we have. Who are they connected to and how can they make difference? What is it that you and the rest of us want to hear from them? If you want a bit of language to start off with, there are a lot of ways to ask in English....

Why do you, why don’t you, how can you, how could you….. when will you, how will you, what might you, what wouldn’t you…under what circumstances, when will you ever, haven’t you ever, do you foresee…why can’t you, isn’t it possible, don’t you think, can’t you see,…do you feel, do you do you sense, do you ever doubt …… how long have you, how long will you, when do you think….where in the world, what on earth, how in heaven and what in god’s name….. whether you would, have you considered, did it ever cross your mind…how much, how many, what toll, in what numbers and at what price…if you hadn’t, if they had, do you wish, if you could just….which person, which group, which incident, which place, which time ….what changes, what comment, what action, what measures, what sanction, what improvements….do you regret, do you apologise, do you enjoy, do you ever stop to think….would you change, would you explain, would you tell us, would you justify….was it good, was it bad, was it worth it….. when will you go, when will we change, when will you stop?And when will you start………?

Alfie will be eligible to vote and drink in 17 and a half year's time. What form will democratic participation take then?

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