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Obama Gets Interactve With Governance

November 26, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

Here’s a promising first sign that the next administration will have a more participatory style of governing:, the official website of the Obama-Biden transition team, has gone interactive. In a blog announcement on Tuesday, the public was invited to join the discussion:

>Today we’re trying out a new feature on our website that will allow us get instant feedback from you about our top priorities. We also hope it will allow you to form communities around these issues — with the best ideas and most interesting discussions floating to the top.

The first discussion that we’ve all been invited to participate in is about health care reform. Specifically, the transition team has put out the question, “What worries you most about the health care system in our country?” As of Wednesday night, there are 2,430 comments, running the gamut from well-researched arguments to personal stories about experiences in the U.S. health care system.

The amazing thing about this to me is that the Obama team isn’t just throwing up a standard comment board that require administrative approval before posting (like some other government sites). They are using discussion software, made by IntenseDebate, that allows commenters to build profiles, earn followers and reputation points, vote up helpful comments and vote down comments that are not helpful, and, by integrating OpenID, to take their followers and reputations to discussions elsewhere on the Web.

This is a fantastic start to a new kind of governing that is more open and representational than what we have seen before. As he hinted at on the campaign trail, this is Obama taking the community organizing style of his campaign and moving it into governance. If the success of his internet tools during the campaign are any indication, his continual use of tools like this could force lawmakers to make policies that better reflect the views of the nation.

But the Obama team should take it a step further than asking broad questions about hot-button issues. The new government should allow people to be active players in politics at the legislative level.

When people really care about an issue, they want to get into the details. A few quick examples would be N.Z. Bear posting the comprehensive immigration bill with section-by-section commenting, posting the financial bailout bill for public review and commenting, and the community around the unemployment bill on OpenCongress, where thousand of people worked together to understand the legislation and organize for its passage in Congress.

Again, I’m thrilled about this step the Obama team has taken. Now let’s see a copy of the $600 billion economic recovery plan/stimulus, which is scheduled for a rush job in January, posted online for public discussion before any votes take place!

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