THE BLOG
19/08/2012 09:21 BST | Updated 17/10/2012 06:12 BST

Live Webchats: A Boring Waste of Time?

Were you watching yesterday's live A Level results day webchat with David Willets on the Telegraph's website?

Were you watching yesterday's live A Level results day webchat with David Willets on the Telegraph's website?

If you were, I bet you were BORED.

That's because live webchats - where users watch (and can ask) questions to an interviewee via a host - are usually rubbish. Especially as a vehicle for politicians to engage with the public.

They're generally boring, safe, overly-moderated and pretty much a waste of time. Here's why:

1. They're too slow

They take aaaages. In the hour-long webchat, David Willets answered sixteen questions. That's almost four minutes per question. It's too boring to sit and watch, and too distracting to do some work and keep coming back to.

Why not just ask a talented journalist just interview them properly with questions that readers send in? What it would lose in immediacy, it would gain in quality.

And is it really the best use of time for a pretty important and highly paid Minister?

2. They're too safe

Most Q&As or webchats - especially with politicians - come across as really 'safe'. That safety is probably a big appeal to elected representatives.

They can have their comfort blanket present (2 x policy experts from their Department, and 1 x press person) but it's pretty boring for everyone else.

3. They're too moderated

Often the host is really keen to get through as many questions as possible. Usually this means that any questions that haven't been answered, or answered adequately in the eyes of the questioner get ignored. For example, when - as part of an answer to a question in yesterday's webchat - Willets asked a question back. The host simply ignored this and went onto the next question. Really poor.

4. It's usually stuff we already know

Out of today's sixteen questions, Willets was asked seven practical questions about clearing and getting a place at university.

These are REALLY important questions, and although it's nice to have someone important answer them, the information, guidance and support organisations are already out there.

5. There's no conversation

If a question is picked, it's answered and things immediately move on. There's no chance to say 'I think that's wrong', or 'you haven't answered what I was asking'. Or even 'thanks, that reply was amazing'. Too often, it's pseudo-participation.

In conclusion, interaction between politicians and us lot needs to be encouraged.

But just because it's online it doesn't automatically make it cool, innovative, or actually any good at all.

I guess this list might be unfortunate characteristics of any interaction with a Minister. But given the choice, how do you think that a Minister could better use one hour online in a more collaborative and less boring way?

Live tweet? A simple video with pre-submitted questions? Would love to hear your views....