Talking ourselves to death

FCW cartoonist John Klossner ponders how many useful suggestions it takes to make the Open Government Dialogue a success?

As part of my research for editorial cartoons, I like to read feedback forums. Getting opinions from nonprofessional voices often gives me an interesting point or unique take on a subject. Also, many letters are short and make quick, singular points – this translates well to cartoons.

In the print world this used to mean perusing the letters-to-the-editor sections of newspapers and magazines. These sections now seem quaint with their three to four entries on a topic that, by the time you read the letter, is at least several days old and often written by a professional in that particular topic who is essentially writing a responding op-ed piece. No, if you want the gut reactions in this world, you head to the online "comments" sections.

When they first appeared on the electronic scene, the comments sections were a rich source for information and ideas. There were fewer filters for a reader to get through with their thoughts, and electronic space allowed for more entries. But there has been a slow devolution in the comments sections. I can look through hundreds and hundreds of entries without finding any point other than a partisan brain spasm. In the words of Stuart McLean, the host of the CBC radio show Vinyl Cafe puts it, "That's the wonderful thing about e-mail; you can write without thinking." Or, as one of my friends put it, "even the people I agree with sound stupid."

I blame the Web 2.0 world. So many outlets have been created via social networks, wikis, etc. that all of the folks capable of making well-reasoned insights have their own blogs or sites, leaving them unavailable, or uninterested, in participating in comments sections. To paraphrase Andy Warhol, in the future, everyone will have a blog. That future is here, and the comments sections of the world are left in the hands of the two dozen people who haven't been able to wrangle a blog gig yet.

In the traditional, physical social gathering places – the diners, the gyms, the barber shops, the sports bars, the coffee shops, the salons, the book clubs, et. al., – discussions often included knee jerk, quick statements that didn't involve a lot of thought. This isn't necessarily a bad thing - people need a place to express their emotions, and we can't all be think tank eloquent. The beauty of the physical space discussions, though, was that in order to participate in them you had to have something either worthwhile to say or entertaining to listen to. A couple "leaders" often emerged in these forums and steered the discussion by making the majority of comments or by discouraging those comments that weren't enlightening or entertaining. Online forums don't allow for these editors to do their thing, resulting in knee-jerk comment after knee-jerk comment, with accompanying responses, to proliferate. It makes one think that a NYAAH NYAAH! button on the keyboard isn't too far off.

My small Maine town created a Web site/chat room featuring local news and events. In the first several months of the site's existence, the discussion quickly devolved into a series of name calling and partisan accusations, with only a handful of people involved. The moderator of the site instituted one rule – all comments had to have a name with them, no more anonymous or alias postings. Since that change, the comments section has thrived and the volume of postings hasn't decreased. I don't know if this would work on a stage larger than the 7,500 population of my community, but it is worth noting.

Was the Open Government Dialogue a success? It depends on the definition of success, doesn't it? I imagine the creators of the OGD assumed there would be a learning curve, so they must have been anticipating some reactions and alterations being necessary. I have to admit being impressed by the effort – there must be so many people with expertise in these areas that issuing an open invitation to the world at large probably wasn't enthusiastically greeted in all corners. (How'd you like to be the lucky intern whose job it is to read all the OGD entries? You'd be re-thinking your decision not to join the Peace Corps.) I would also think they probably expected that there would be at a point where they would have to eliminate a high percentage of the suggestions. Would the Open Government Dialogue be considered a success if, after months of process, they only found one useful suggestion?

Open Government Dialogue

NEXT STORY: Something to tweet about

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.