Once again Open for Questions: the pilot continues

Round two of change.gov’s Open for Questions is up.  Not a lot of details … last time, it was open for about three days, and there were brief answers to the top five questions, and a more detailed post and video on at least one topic (bailout transparency).

Dan McSwain, on the change.gov blog, describes one change:

In this round, you can still view all of the questions that have been submitted—or you can break down the questions by category for easier navigation. For instance, you can read the top-ranking question regarding Energy and the Environment and browse through other questions on the same topic by clicking on that issue.

Also it seems that there’s a subtle difference in how URLs are handled that makes it harder to send out a link to an individual question.  This change cuts down people’s ability to promote their ideas in email and blog posts, which fits in well with Open for Questions’ role of routing around different kinds of “gatekeepers”: making it harder to link to a question cuts down the influence of bloggers and organizations with large email lists.

There were only about 500 questions when I submitted mine (45 minutes later, there are now over 3000) so it was an interesting snapshot for what the quickest people to react are most concerned about.  Eight of the top 10 were about the economy, with JGP of Seattle WA’s “What strategies other than bailouts can we employ to keep jobs in America?” leading.

As usual there isn’t a category for civil liberties but these issues dominate the National Defense category with Dave D of Santa Clara leading with the twofer:

Will President Obama eliminate domestic warrantless wiretapping of US citizens by modifying the “Terrorist Surveillance Program” (TSP)? Is the Fourth Amendment going to be restored, or weakened further by the Obama Administration?

Good questions!  Overall the quality of questions is impressively high, with a few duds but most well-worded and on important topics.  They’re mostly more specific than last time; it’s obviously sunk in that the Obama campaign is going to respond to the question as asked.

Disappointingly, there hasn’t been any improvement on the privacy front.  The change.gov front page still points off to Google’s misleadingly benign Google Moderator on Change.gov Privacy Notice and you still have to follow a few more links until you get to the stuff about Google selling the aggregate information and potentially sending personal information overseas.  (More here.)  It would have been easy enough to have a clearer disclaimer — or to require more transparency from Google.  Ah well, it’s a pilot; still, it’s hard to shake the impression that the Obama administration really doesn’t care about privacy.

Other than that, though, it continues to be a fascinating experiment in cognitive diversity — particularly in combination with change.org’s Ideas for Change.  Check it out, vote questions up or down, and submit your own.  The best way to understand democracy 2.0 is to participate in it!



PS: Speaking of participation, here’s my question, from Jon P in Seattle WA:

What concrete actions will you take to disclose and reduce government surveillance of Americans (bulk wiretapping, etc.) in your first hundred days?

It’s got about 100 votes so far in its first hour, which puts it in the top 10 of national security questions and probably the top 100 overall.  Encouragingly there are several other civil liberties questions doing better than mine; while not at the urgency or intensity of questions about the economy, it’s clearly one of the major issues on people’s minds.