The Obama Campaign was praised for the way that they used the internet during the campaign to recruit support, raise money, communicate from the center to the edges, and coordinate messages. The most famous example was the decision to SMS the vice-presidential choice to all of the campaign workers at the same time that the media was informed.
There has been speculation that when it came time for governing, all of the Web 2.0 soft-social collaboration would be abandoned for the real (and secretive) business of making policy.
Thus, I was interested to get the following email today:
The Citizen's Briefing Book is an online forum where you can share your ideas, and rate or offer comments on the ideas of others. The best-rated ones will rise to the top, and after the Inauguration, we'll print them out and gather them into a binder like the ones the President receives every day from experts and advisors. If you participate, your idea could be included in the Citizen's Briefing Book to be delivered to President Obama.
This sounds like fluffy blue hype, so I spent a bit of time trolling through the site this evening. It’s actually sort of intriguing: I read suggestions in a couple of policy areas that I care about (Healthcare, Education) sorting by the Most Popular entries.
The ideas were to-the-point and fairly well written, covering a variety of views with a smattering of related comments. There’s a button for voting an idea up or down, a bit like Digg. The whole site is encouraging, but I hope that they are actual ‘citizen suggestions’. It would be very effective on a local level, but with a national audience, someone is monitoring this pretty closely to keep it clean.
I don’t know if this will reach the new president or make any difference, but it’s civilized enough to be an attractive alternative to starting an initiative drive or calling talk radio stations. The Obama administration may not live up to the idealistic hype, but they are taking some interesting first steps.