White House tries hand at wiki-style policy development

In third phase, the public is asked to collaborate on drafting policy recommendations

The Obama administration has kicked off the third and final phase of its Open Government Initiative, asking the public to help draft recommendations for making the federal government operations and information more transparent.

The goal of this phase, running through June 28, is to take ideas that surfaced during the brainstorming and discussion phases, and actually draft policy recommendations.

For the drafting phase, the Obama administration is using a platform called MixedInk, which enables participants to post content in collaboration, as is done on Wikipedia. For example, one user can take a snippet from content posted by others and use it to draft a new document, with the technology keeping track of who originally wrote the snippet.

The system is designed to encourage participants to build on, rather than simply repeat, each other’s contributions, said David Stern, founder and co-chief executive officer of MixedInk. If someone is writing on a topic on which others have already written, such as the Freedom of Information Act, the system will provide that participant with a link to the other FOIA-related content.

The software also enables participants to rate each other’s contributions.

This is the first time a government agency is using MixedInk, Stern said. Slate magazine used the technology to let readers collaboratively draft the inauguration speech they would have liked President Barack Obama to deliver.

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

Reader comments

Wed, Jun 24, 2009 KSJ Washington, DC

Geez...Are you bitter about the strides this Administration is making? Or are you just ticked off at your REPUBLICAN party members that can find their heads from their other body parts?

Tue, Jun 23, 2009 John R Napa

This is ridiculous. First, examine how unsuccessful California's attempt at plebian democracy is at accomplishing anything. There is a reason citizens have elected officials, and that is to be their advocates, represent their view, and write those policies, laws, and other legislative works which serve the best interest of the majority. Second, this pathetic attempt to shirk responsibility is akin to a survey. Anyone who has taken even a basic marketing class understands that surveys in general are not appropriate means to gather information in and of themselves, as the respondents typically have a negative view of the topic. Subjects with postive views typically are not responsive (as they have little to disagree with on a topic, so why spend the effort responding), which leads to biased results.
Americans need LEADERS with vision, clarity, judgement, decisiveness, and endurance. This country will not tolerate an ambiguous government bent on providing distractions to real problems by pretending to allow Americans the opportunity to "draft policy". Our current set of politicians, including the President, do not take the time to read what is set before them before abrograting well-established precedent and forcing items like the stimulus bill down the throats of millions of Americans. None of them read the entire document; it would have been impossible to do so. To imply with this "wiki for policy" that politicians will read and care what the American people believe in is a farce. If that was the case, the Democratic party and the President himself would have made the stimulus package process more open to vote on the floor, would have involved the Republican party in the bill's formation, and would not have had to explain, AFTER THE FACT, that the bill containe 8000 or so riders which the American public did not get the opportunity to even read, let alone vote on, before we were stuck with the largest single issuance of debt in American history.
This type of distraction typifies the Obama administration, and unfortunately, the American public just doesn't care enough to do anything about it. As long as they have their latte from Starbucks, they could care less about happens in the halls of power.

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