Regulations.gov is the US federal government web site giving the public access to all regulations and rulemakings, allowing people to post comments to documents that are open for comment. The site has been in existence for a few years, but has never enjoyed great success – a fate that is common to many official web sites aimed at citizen participation.
As part of its various initiatives to promote a more open and transparent government, the US administration decided to engage the public in improving the site, by allowing people to submit comment about and rate suggested site improvements for two months, ending July 21st.
Unlike previous attempts at crowdsourcing, like the one for Recovery.gov (see my earlier post), this one seems more focused on gathering comments on specific solutions rather then unstructured ideas about how the solution could be built. This is quite natural, since Regulations.gov has quite a long history, while Recovery.gov is brand new and deals with a completely new problem (providing a transparent and detailed tracking of how the stimulus package money is being spent).
What is also noticeable is how active moderators are in responding to comments and suggestions. This is probably made easier by the discussion being structured and driven by specific areas of improvement, and by the fact that this is a two-month rather than one-week consultation (like it was for Recovery.gov). This also helps providing an easier tracking between suggestions and actual implementation and keeping down the cost of the whole process, a problem I raised in a previous post.