Freesteel Blog » PublicWhip loses again

PublicWhip loses again

Sunday, December 28th, 2008 at 7:55 am Written by:

Francis’s application to the £40million 4iP fund for a full rebuild upgrade of PublicWhip, including paid-for design by professionals who might know what they’re doing, plus investment in motion text editing, and implementation of all the features we’ve been dreaming up for the past five years that we haven’t had time to do, got answered on 22 December with:

Dear Francis,

Thank you for submitting your proposal to 4iP. Unfortunately, we’ve chosen not to proceed with this idea for the following reasons:

The differentiation between this project and its predecessor, and the differentiation between it and TheyWorkForYou, are not clear enough.

Do check out the aims of the 4iP fund and our submissions guidelines ( and please keep submitting your proposals.

Best wishes for your future submissions,

By the way, here’s the full list of points from the aforementioned 4iP guidelines numbered for convenience and without it’s cool stylesheet that makes inline links come out the same as bold text:

  • (1) 4iP is hunting for tiny, risky ideas as well as big, crunchy ideas.
  • (2) 4iP will help turn fabulous ideas into delightful running code quickly.
  • (3) 4iP will help products showing promise to deliver way more impact.
  • (4) 4iP won’t support products or projects on an ongoing basis.
  • 4iP wants proposals from as wide range of people and companies as possible. Nobody is too small, nobody too big. Nobody is too close, nobody is too far away.
  • (5) Your idea could make you a millionaire; your idea could earn you a knighthood for public service, but never turn a profit. Either way 4iP is interested in helping you get started.
  • (6) 4iP loves connecting people and organisations that otherwise would never get to work together.

4iP will ask the following questions before deciding whether or not to go with a proposal:

  • (7) Will it deliver 4’s public purposes?
  • (8) Will it stir things up in 4-like fashion?
  • (9) Does it meet a user need? Does it scratch an important itch?
  • (10) Is it 100% native to digital networks, with its centre of gravity in participation or collaboration?
  • (11) Can it thrive without ongoing financial support from 4iP
  • (12) Can it thrive without cross promotion from TV channels?

A few areas of particular interest

  • (13) “Hidden gems”: helping people discover stuff which could change their lives
  • (14) “Digital democracy”: new ways to let everyone keep an eye on money and power
  • (15) “Amplifying voices”: new ways to empower those communities that media could never previously reach.
  • (16) “Wise crowds”: connecting people who need to know stuff with people who know it already
  • (17) “Tools to make trouble”: developing disruptive media tools, then putting them in the hands of people that need them most.

To me it seems like PublicWhip fits all seventeen criteria perfectly (commenters to this blog are invited to disagree as long as they cite the number), so I guess we can conclude that our years of hard and materially un-supported graft on this project has merely succeed in converting it into something too old and uncool for these sorts of characters to associate themselves with. Maybe if we hadn’t done anything with it over the past five years, and only doodled bits of it on paper with crayon, we might have gotten it past this first frigging round of consideration. To me, the rejection really reads like:

Sorry folks, but your proposal isn’t new and interesting enough for us cool dudes and our awsomely huge forty million quid public service themed fund. Please take it away and bring us something we’re actually interested in. No, we don’t give a toss about what you do with it now, because it’s nothing to do with us.

In a better world, these media-savvy top-of-the-game and well-connected dudes could have provided a more humane project-centred rejection letter along the lines of:

Thanks for giving us a chance to be part of your proposed PublicWhip 2.0 revamping, which we know you’ve worked on for five years and which does appear to fit with many of the points listed in our guidelines. Unfortunately, we’re trying to steer clear of projects like this which have been around for a while, so we don’t feel we can go forward with it ourselves. However, as it’s obviously important and useful that someone carries on with it in some form or other, we recommend you try instead submitting your application proposal to one of the following organizations or foundations who might be of some assistance. Best of luck with it there,

Coincidentally, the 15 December 4iP blog post addresses the issue:

“Sorry seems to be the hardest word” – Most ideas, by now, have been not been given the green light… Where we can, we also try to help identify who else might be interested in the idea.

That link takes you to a pointless twitter post, which says:

4iP rejected my proposal, but also included some really sound advice about the idea, even though the idea wasn’t really suited to 4iP. Cool!

How useful.

And I’m thinking: What if all the potential funders in this “new” media sector take an equally self-centred attitude of chasing only after the cool new concepts that can be made temporarily hot enough to make the big impact when implemented and launched as fresh material into the celebrity-fixated cynically credulous media?

They can’t help us, like they claim they helped that twitter poster, by identifying who else might be interested in the idea, because they don’t know anyone!

We’ve blown it then, haven’t we? Better get back to work. There’s something liberating in the conclusion that you really are on your own.

I’ve now got two days of ferry journeys back from Oslo to England via Copenhagen. I have to finish the second round of elevation sketches in tunnel, then maybe work on the mother of all constant scallop bugs in hsmworks, and then perhaps a bit more work on the pylons conversion of undemocracy. At least Becka won’t accuse me of “wasting my time”, as a walk round the top deck of the ship is not considered as worthwhile as another 42km XC ski run along the Peer Gynt trail.


  • 1. Julian Burgess replies at 31st December 2008, 5:55 pm :

    I received a similar rejection from 4iP for Opening Times. Which essentially said that because existing big sites could copy the idea it would be hard to establish a “first mover advantage”. I would imagine this would apply to virtually any idea and surely defeats the entire premise of being a start up. I keenly await to see where the money goes in the end.

  • 2. Freesteel&hellip replies at 15th January 2009, 7:24 pm :

    […] I am trying to knuckle down for some machining work for a change, faced with yet more scallop algorithm problems obstructing getting on with anything more productive. It appears that my independent income (if I eventually get any) is likely to be the only source of funding for projects like publicwhip and since all the supposed public interest funding bodies appear not to give a damn. […]

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