President Obama is walking the talk by giving people the ability to ask and rate questions on whitehouse.gov. The process is very simple, as it takes just a name, surname and postcode to register. Questions can be submitted in a number of different areas, ranging from Jobs to environment, from financial stability to budget. This uses Google Moderator.
At the time of writing this post, over 7,000 people had submitted over 8,200 questions and casted over 280,000 votes. Clicking on the subject you see the list of questions with number of votes for and against the question, which you can scroll. You can also vote on questions that are highlighted at the top, and presented in what looks like a random order (as opposed to the list, which seems to be ordered by number of received votes).
Interesting initiative, but it suffers from the usual problem of these polls: just too many questions, and as they are presented in a list, it is likely that those at the top will always receive more votes. The random selection in the question highlight may help but, let’s face it, how much time would an average person spend to answer questions?
It is encouraging that the Obama’s administration is taking steps in this direction. It will take some more time and effort to understand how to best leverage the “wisdom of the crowd” on more targeted issues, and how to do so without too much intervention and moderation, not to affect the spontaneity of people’s contribution.