Update on the online consultations on open gov happening in the US, mentioned in my last post.
With a little more than one day to go, 590 ideas have been submitted, nearly 1000 comments have been posted, and over 20,000 votes have been cast.
To see the full list, ranked by vote, click through to the Open Government Brainstorm – by IdeaScale.
The choice of using a third party site to host the consult is interesting — shows a willingness to use what’s out there, rather than re-inventing the wheel.
And based on the branding of the consultation site, the management of the consult appears to be by an arm’s length think tank (the National Academy of Public Administration). To my mind this enhances the validity of the process — shows that the White House is letting the professionals manage the consultation process. (Or to be less charitable, doing it this way at least puts some distance between the administration and the consultation process. Which can mitigate the usual concerns about “government meddling” in this as it unfolds.)
In terms of the actual brainstorm, many of the ideas that have been proposed are vague and sweeping. That’s to be expected, so it will be interesting to watch how this unfolds in the second step in the consult, when “the most compelling ideas from the brainstorming will be fleshed out on a weblog in a discussion phase.” Presumably the most compelling ideas are those that got voted up to the top.
Another interesting angle on this consult is that it’s open worldwide (as long you as you can participate in English), even though it is specifically about ways to improve the US government. What’s more, the consult was initially set up to allow anonymous contributions, although that was quickly changed:
Please note: On Saturday morning, we made a small change to this site. Posting, commenting and voting on ideas now requires users to log in. This change was made in response to concerns that settings that allowed anonymous posting may also have allowed users to vote more than once on the same idea. Our moderation policy can be accessed here.
(I see this change as a recognition of the limitations of current technologies to prevent voting up/down from being gamed, rather than an admission that allowing anonymous contributions is an invalid approach.)
I find the worldwide/anonymous angle interesting as a more conventional decision would have been to limit input to American citizens, since the consult is about their how their government works. However, opening up the consultation to a worldwide audience shows a recognition that the best ideas about how to improve government transparency, participation and collaboration could come from anywhere–so why limit your options?