Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Speedy Evoluation of

When I first discovered, I was impressed. The site had an impressive amount of information about the plans of the next administration, a blog and had some basic interactivity where you could apply for a job or suggest a story.

But, thinking more about it, what had the Obama team really done? They had put up a nice website. Is that really that impressive?

Before my criticism could really settle in, they added a new feature. They asked for suggestions about fixing the health care industry. And sure enough, people responded - 5,000 of them actually. This was impressive, as they were turning the site from strictly an information source into a place where people could give specific feedback on a specific issue. When was the last time the Bush presidency reached out to me and asked me my opinion on a topic?

But, thinking more about it, how useful was this? Can I really read through 5000 comments? Does my comment in the batch of 5000 really matter? Is this just an exercise in making me feel better?

And again, before my criticism could settle in, the Obama team published a video statement about their findings. If the video is to be believed, they went through each comment and people's voice's really did matter. They also presented a graphic to try to make sense of it all.

But, thinking more about it, is this whole comment and get their video response back truly useful? And again, before my criticism could step in, they launched Open for Questions. This is an area of the site where you can not only submit a question, but rate the ones you'd like responses to. Aha! Now we're talking. Let's put the wisdom of the crowds to use to find the most important questions we want answered.

This time, I didn't even have a chance to think about the criticism, someone else did that for me. Ben Smith, of Politico, reports that "Blagojevich questions censored on Transition site." According to Smith, pro-Obama fans were gaming the system by marking the Blagojevich questions as inappropriate. Turns out, the system isn't flawless. Never mind that there's no evidence that the Obama team is "censoring" anything and that all questions are being archived here. That's not the point, the point is that it isn't the system isn't perfect.

And what has the team done? They've issued this statement:

Pilot projects like "Open for Questions" depend on feedback from users to better understand how to make participation intuitive and productive. In case you missed the link at the bottom of the Open for Questions page, we have a feedback form for any ideas or comments you have about the tool.

Participation in Open for Questions outpaced our expectations, and we're looking forward to rolling it out again next week. We're tremendously excited about the promise of tools like this that offer Americans a level of access that has historically been hard to come by. By voting questions up, users have been able to convey to our team which major issues -- like the auto industry, health care, ethical standards, and others -- are the most important to this community.

In other words, they get it. The system didn't work as smoothly as they liked. They are going to be giving this a try next week. Hmmm, honesty - I could learn to like this.

Looking back, I realize that it isn't the individual changes to the site which are impressive. Sure, they're novel. But, they're going to have kinks associated with them. What I find impressive, and exciting, is how the team appears to be moving a Startup Speed to leverage technology. Remember, this is a .gov site we are talking about here, and they've moved faster than many companies. They're also being more open than many companies. This, I give them big time credit for.

No comments:

Post a Comment