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January 14, 2009

Barack Obama goes all the way into the Groundswell

by Josh Bernoff


Just as we had hoped, Barack Obama's change.gov has implemented an idea site, complete with voting and viewing of others' ideas.

It's working. But the people are having their say. Right now the second most popular idea is to decriminalize marijuana possession.

Let's see what happens to these ideas. In any case, a great step in the right direction.


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Jon Garfunkel

Governor Deval Patrick had launched something similar 2 years ago-- "MyIssue".

My sense is that any crowd site has to serve one of two purposes:
- Allow community members to caucus together
- Create a compelling and original narrative

Deval Patrick's MyIssue page couldn't do the former because it lacked the social networking tools. And it couldn't succeed at the latter because new issues couldn't break through, and never really effectively aligned with the news of the week. If an original idea came to Patrick via MyIssue, I'm not aware of it.

I'll keep an open mind, but I just wanted to report on some prior experiments with this.

Josh Bernoff

Jon, you're right. Patrick had big ideas on open government, but very little came of it.

I remain cautiously optimistic on Obama's plans.

Tom Powell

My guess is this will not amount to a whole lot, but I love it nonetheless and truly hope it does emerge as something significant. For it to even register they will need much greater participation, for example: at this point (since each vote is 10 points, for some reason) the differential (up votes - down votes) is only 9K people. For a company that might be a significant number, for the US population, it's nothing.

If this is to be sustained, it seems they will need to evolve the tool as well as come up with some way to retire or move certain issues to the side. (Dell does this brilliantly with their categorizations of Implemented, In Progress, Under Review, etc.) If the top suggestions sit their with no action and just accumulate votes, it becomes an exercise in futility.

Questions remain as the project moves forward: how do thet continue to surface quality and new entrants? how do they handle duplicate suggestions (merge them, perhaps)? Will they engage sufficiently with the participants to show that, yes, they are listening?

Tom Powell

The differential on the currently highest ranking idea, that is....

Jon Garfunkel


This might interest you, my explanation of how the "Open for Questions" feature was *somewhat* gamed.


(After you read it, you'll see why "gamed" may not be the right verb, but I don't know the right verb here at all.)

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