What is president-elect Barack Obama’s new transition site, Change.gov, going to become? Right now, the site just contains basic information that the campaign has already made public. But it promises to help make the U.S. government more transparent to its citizens. This is a key part of Obama’s tech platform, and implementing it will be a main responsibility of his soon-to-be-named chief technology officer. That platform specified that web features like open commenting would be one method of getting feedback from citizens about government actions.
Meanwhile, the administration and allies are preparing “a major expansion of the White House communications operation, enabling them to reach out directly to the supporters they have collected over 21 months without having to go through the mainstream media,” according to an article today in the Washington Post. It suggests Change.gov could somehow be combined with the database of 10 million supporters’ email addresses, “perhaps with an eye toward turning [the campaign's] following into the biggest special-interest group in Washington.”
The campaign also has a successful social network, at mybarackobama.com — more information that could be used to pre-populate Change.gov with user profiles. But given the diversity of opinions among Obama supporters, not to mention the influx of everybody else who would jump into such a site, it would surely become a place for intense arguments — not just an Obama love-fest. As long as the administration cares what people say on the site, this would be a good thing.
Such a site could rely primarily on user voting, similar the way that news aggregators Digg and Reddit work, as TechDirt imagines it:
Why not create an economic roundtable of sorts online that lets more people weigh in? Let ideas in the mix bubble up to the top using ratings systems (and maybe some White House moderators) and contribute them to the mix. If someone has a particularly good suggestion, why not invite them to a meeting with those “big shot” economic advisers as well? It doesn’t mean that every hare-brained scheme needs to be listened to, but if there’s a good way to allow the best ideas to bubble up and get recognition, it could be quite a powerful new way to govern.
Or it could use automated methods to try to sort out the best recommendations, as one of our readers thought. I’m not wedded to any particular methodology, I’m more concerned about getting a free flow of thoughts without the rampant trolling one sees in the comment section of most political sites.
Implementation in any case, will likely depend on who the new Obama CTO ends up being. Google chief executive Eric Schmidt is officially not in the running. Meanwhile, Valleywag hears the CTO has been in fact named more than a week ago, according to a tipster (so before Obama was elected on Tuesday?). In the event the decision is still up in there air, readers, vote in the poll, below.