Federal Government Wrestles With Crowdsourcing Problems

Posted by Mitch Wagner on September 22, 2009 01:06 PM in Information Week

The problem with letting everybody contribute ideas to an open forum is that everybody does. White House-led open government initiatives are learning that lesson, as forums set up to let American citizens contribute suggestions for government actions are being hijacked by potheads, conspiracy theorists, and anti-Scientologists.

The White House turned to crowdsourcing as a means of achieving a Utopian ideal of direct democracy, using the Internet to allow citizens to participate in every government decision. But the initiative is in trouble, as idealism crashes up against reality, the New York Time reports.

The Times draws a parallel between the open government initiatives and a gnomic utterance made by candidate Obama made in 2008. Responding to people who viewed him as a messianic figure, Obama said, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

During the transition, the administration created an online “Citizen’s Briefing Book” for people to submit ideas to the president. “The best-rated ones will rise to the top, and after the Inauguration, we’ll print them out and gather them into a binder like the ones the president receives every day from experts and advisors,” Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama, wrote to supporters.

They received 44,000 proposals and 1.4 million votes for those proposals. The results were quietly published, but they were embarrassing — not so much to the administration as to us, the ones we’ve been waiting for.

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Profile Photo Steve Guengerich

Sam, I think great minds are thining alike today: https://www.govloop.com/profiles/blogs/idea-generation-who-cares-i. But, I think like any experiment with new media, there are all kinds of unintended (and underachieved) consequences which get corrected via technology, process, and problem qualification…meaning if it looks like a nail, use a hammer, not pliers.

I’m not against crowdsourcing in principle: I think forms of it are here to stay. But, there ways to do it and NOT do it. And, when you experiment on a national scale, the ways to NOT do it are amplified.

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