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.

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