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One more week to add to the ExpertNet RFI – ends Jan 23

For those who have been contributing to the ExpertNet RFI, thank you very much. 

The RFI closes on January 23, so there is still one more week to contribute.

I have been a very active participant and have found the overall process to be extremely well executed.

Below are some of the key discussion threads in my view, although there are many more good ones ranging from voting and moderation strategies to intellectual property to synthesizing the input.

I encourage everyone to get involved on the ground floor in helping to design what I feel is key to the long term success of OpenGov.

Background, Principles, References, Requirements – add Scope to this section

Should Congress use it too?

OpenSource or OpenSocial?

Identifying Experts

Suggest a New Name

Self-selection vs. Appointed Experts

Social Networking Features

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Tim Bonnemann

Thanks for the reminder.

I’ve also been a fairly active participant and find the process to be extremely lacking. For example:

  • No interim summaries available. Short of reading through the entire site, how can participants, especially those joining late, know what has been discussed and with what outcome (if any)?
  • Convener team involvement often too little and too late.
  • A lot of the participants’ time and energy is being spent on discussing secondary aspects such as naming, various social networking features and all kinds of rating systems when some of the core aspects of the proposed tool remain fuzzy. There is still no clear and shared understanding of the purpose, the exact scope and the requirements of ExpertNet.

The list goes on.


Ok good comments, I agree with some of that.

Some of the shortcomings of the RFI may be due to the limitations of the wiki, but in spite of that, I feel that the openness of the process is what adds to the success.

For example, why don’t you try to scope it?? That is the whole point. The site is being designed by the participants so the Convener team has left it openended for that very reason. Go into the wiki and add what you feel are core features to the requirements.

The summation of the process after January 23 will be critical, and this will require finessing. I hope they bring in an outside consultancy to do the rollup to keep it as impartial as possible:

What were the key messages? Recommended outcomes? Next steps? Participants for Phase 2? etc.

Would have been nice to see interim reports but perhaps that can come during the second phase. The window to comment was a fairly short, about a month.

Tim Bonnemann

I don’t think the tool is to blame here. The combination of wiki and forum that Wikispaces offers (note that the vast majority of the discussions happened in the forums, not on the wiki) should have been more than sufficient to create a much more focused consultation. It’s not over yet, a lot can still come out of the final summary, so we’ll have to wait and see. So far, I’m not impressed.

Defining and managing the boundaries of the consultation is the convener’s job, since they know best what they want to achieve within any given constraints. This doesn’t mean they can’t engage the participants in scoping to some degree, but if they do they need to be even more involved in guiding the process. So far, I haven’t seen that kind of guidance. I tried early on to help clarify what I see are some of the defining parameters but the answers were not particularly helpful or simply took too long.

Do you know anything about a second phase?


I’m just guessing here based on what I’ve seen so far, but I think this is basically an online “uncamp” where the participants guide the process.

I’ve added a section to the “Background and Principles” in the editiable wiki as a placeholder for scoping and phasing the project.

Can you take a stab at it? If not, I’d be happy to do so.

Tim Bonnemann

It’s hard for the participants to guide the process themselves since they can’t really know which direction they should take.

A lot of times they will go in a direction that weeks later turns out to be “out of scope” (as could be seen with the discussions around whether or net ExpertNet should be a wiki and how that approach might work). That was a lot of time and energy wasted right there, both for the people contributing as well as those trying to stay on top of the conversations.


The title “Designing for Democracy” was a hook for those who design and launch websites (like me!) so it wasn’t difficult for some of us to see what direction would make the most sense. I’d been thinking along the same lines for a couple of years, and found the ExpertNet RFI to be in alignment with some of my own ideas.

Perhaps some discussion around wikis and the limitations of wikis was actually useful for participants who don’t have a good sense of the various options. I agree though that the wiki is rather overwhelming with so many divergent discussions.

I like the idea of zeroing in on a few key issues for the beta. I’ve sketched out a few high level ideas for scoping and phasing, feel free to edit and add your own thoughts.