I’m a policy advisor at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, in the final stages of writing a set of administrative rules (regulating composting facilities,) with a public comment period set to begin March 1. The rules have a number of unique, new governance features, and I would really like to have the broadest possible public distribution, comments, and conversation about the proposed rules. From all of the discussions here and elsewhere about the power of web-based government, this seems like a natural fit. I understand the theory, but I have almost no practical experience with web tools (fair disclosure, I’m a lawyer, not a scientist or a technology expert.) I would greatly appreciate any ideas you may have that would help me understand the tool or suite of tools to use to accomplish this most effectively, and what it would take to put them into practice. I look at this as a pilot, certainly for my agency, perhaps others, and I am willing to live with some uncertainty to see if this is possible and useful.
I am looking for a platform that will allow me to post the rules and supporting documents (yes, a big pile of paper) and allow broad public access to read the documents, comment on whatever people are interested in, and engage other commentors in discussions. I may join these conversations if it seems useful, or allow them to take their own course. I don’t think I especially want collaborative editing: I can always wordsmith the rules later. What I am more interested in is having commentors explain their ideas and concerns, and having those comments easily available for everyone so others can engage those ideas. A crucial component of this must be the ability to segregate discussion topics so commentors can follow the thread that interests them, and so I can keep track of the – hopefully- many different topics and threads. Some kind of a list of topics, with connecting threads, woudl seem to be ideal. And finally, I need the ability to capture this in some form – maybe download to cd or dvd? – for public records purposes.
Is the right tool for this a wiki? blog? bulletin board? some combination, or perhaps something I don’t know about? As you can see, I have a pretty good sense of what I want this tool to do; unfortunately, I have no real idea what it might actually be.
Oh, and if possible (I’m pretty sure in this world you only get what you ask for) I would also like to offer a web-based tool that would live on after the rulemaking has been completed. This would be a repository of final rulemaking documents, but more importantly would be a place where composting operators, DEQ, and others, could post information, work on problems, share ideas, create compliance strategies, etc. Perhaps this would be the same web tool used for the rulemaking, perhaps something different that would begin after the rules have been finally adopted (assuming I live so long!)
My friend Peat, always handy with a metaphor, tells me to think of govloop as a very efficient way to put leaflets on all the cars in a parking lot, the difference being this is a group of very smart folks with a wealth of knowledge,
who may read this rather than turning on their wipers.
Thank you in advance for any suggestions you may have, and if you have conducted a public comment period using interactive web tools, I would really like to talk with you. You can also contact me at [email protected]