7 thoughts on “Using New, Widely Available Tools At The White House”

  1. I agree that the virtual town hall meeting was an interesting experiment which, like every other prototype, could use some fine tuning. One of the important shortfalls of this first effort is the self-moderating feature it used to select the most popular questions to be asked. That almost assures the questions finally voice will be the lowest common denominator of the whole and that questions based on minority viewpoints would never be asked.

    Case in point: “Without using the “too big to fail” argument, why do you believe it is ethically or morally right to use Federal tax revenues to rescue financial corporations whose own unethical practices led them to the brink of financial failure?” I believe that question would never float to the top of the list since the majority of people linked into the meeting would already have bought into the “too big to fail” argument. So, the format this first experiment rolled out automatically prevents dissenting views or more thoughtful questions. In my opinion, the only way to give thoughtful or minority questions a chance is to select them in the same manner the audience was selected: Randomly.

  2. Randomness in selecting questions for an electronic town hall seems reasonable, however, we must consider the following:

    1) Who is in the meeting place?
    2) How did they come to be in the same place?
    (i.e., formal invitation, self-selection, informal invitation among like minded people…)
    3) What are the “hot” issues of the day?

    These are factors that influence the topics and perspectives that will potentially be present or excluded from consideration, even with randomness. We have become aware in recent history that questions can and are sometimes planted. For any forum, whether physically present or in psyberspace, the legitimacy of the exchange of ideas and potential tradeoffs is of critical importance. People can see the void in dialogue and will judge the outcomes by such missing information. In other words, anytime a forum excludes pertinent information and viewpoints it runs the risk of being seen as propaganda and disenfranchises those whose views are not present. Therefore, who is present and how they came to be in the townhall (for what personal or private purpose) is often determined by who holds the keys to the meeting place and what they hope to gain.

  3. I second Stephanie’s cautions and agree there is much more behind the curtain than otherwise would appear. Here are other observations that seem to puncture the innovation bubble of the new “Cyber-Hall” approach President Obama has just unveiled:

    1. Of the approximately one dozen subjects listed on the White House “Open for Questions” site, all of them are closed to further questions, having already been filled up in advance and “democratically” prioritized.

    That doesn’t seem to be what the President represented to us as his all-inclusive public debate. It sounds more like Team Obama already used their famous grass roots Web mailing list to stack the audience in advance.

    2. The approximately 93k people previously enrolled in the program asked 104k questions, finally voted for or against 3.6M times.

    At one time I was a math major in college, but I sure don’t get those ratios.

    3. Google, who provided the mechanism for the White House Web-based forums also designed a Google system for the Chinese government’s “IntraNet”, helping them to further suppress the Chinese people, doing so at a profit I presume.

    Both the words “Google” and “Good” begin “Goo”. That’s where the similarity ends.

    Finally, and then I’ll go back to join the hundreds of millions of people not previously invited to Obama’s “transparency forum”: I originally liked this initiative, I’m not opposed to innovation, I even voted for the dude. But, I believe it is incumbent on every citizen to be skeptical of his government. To me, this initiative is beginning to smell more like social engineering than sweet freedom.

    PS: Butt out Brad. Stephanie and I have something going here

  4. Is that an invitation, Leo?! LOL I get your grin just fine. I concur with what you have said above. Caution is part of discernment. Too bad I didn’t have a chance to speak with you after I came out of the final America Speaks televised forum last fall scratching my head and wondering, “What was that, really?!”

    My husband brought up a valid point. He said that “town hall” forums are meant to be local. Citizens should be asking, “Where’s my congressman or senator, Mr. President?” We do have a republic, not a true democracy. It’s up to our representatives to field our questions and comments.

    What we are witnessing is a cutting out of our elected representation which leads not to a bottom up decision-making process (as comes from the millions of perhaps staged questions from only certain parts of the populace), but rather gives credibility to a top-down authoritative form of government. Essentially it strips citizens of any real voice and the massive quantity of “citizen input” becomes impossible to digest. So, we should ask what happened to the “town hall” where many societal issues could be settled in a community or state, closer to the people, and what is the role of a president when seeking a direct connection to the people without going through their representatives to gain the citizens’ input.

    (Sorry to take so long to get back to you.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s