Friday, January 9, 2009

Government by Wiki

Henry Farrell adds to the steep pile of reasons it would be difficult to be Barack Obama:

The Obama people combined very tight top-down message control and campaign coordination with a fair degree of openness at the bottom to independent initiatives by volunteers. As long as everyone agreed on the same underlying goal (beating the Republicans), this worked. But as that overwhelming imperative recedes, people are going to start pursuing their own objectives – and the ‘open’ architecture that the Obama people have constructed provides them with plenty of opportunities to do this.
The present dilemma is that under Obama's change.gov initiative, under which citizens were encouraged to suggest priorities for the incoming administration, tens of thousands of suggestions poured in -- and the leading suggestion is almost certainly not what the administration had in mind:
After votes from about 100,000 people, the top ranked question asks Obama whether he will appoint a special prosecutor to investigate allegations of torture and illegal surveillance by the U.S. government.
Obviously -- or I take it as obvious -- we have to arrive at the truth and demand accountability for the Bush-Cheney junta's violations of law, as discussed by Philippe Sands on NPR Wednesday.

That said, there is plenty else that requires immediate attention: the economy, war in Gaza, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, health care, on and on.

Prioritizing and managing all of this is a staggering task; prioritizing and managing it in the context of "open-source" citizen input and the expectations it creates is, well, whatever comes a few notches after staggering.

The third noble truth of web realism seems to apply here: namely, the web does not involve or produce any change in the volume or quality of human opinions, but only the accessibility of human opinions. If that's true, then citizen input on change.gov, however passionate, adds nothing fundamental to the situation.

Godspeed, President Obama. It sucks to be you.

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