If Wikipedia basically works–why not use distributed Web contributors to decide how to run the free world, too? That’s the premise behind a pair of new websites inviting people to make policy proposals for President-Elect Obama and then vote on them. The first of these,The Whitehouse 2 was launched a few days ago by Jim Gilliam. The idea is that if enough people get involved in supporting causes–like “encourage school districts to offer Latin to college-bound” students–Washington can’t ignore it.
The second, Obama CTO, tees off on one of the planks in Obama’s technology platform: creating the position of a national Chief Technology Officer. The new site, from the founders of FrontSeat, a platform for civic participation, invites people to suggest top priorities for the job. “We are always looking for ways to enhance civic life, and we think this type of user voting is a great way for citizens to get in there and influence government,” Matt Lerner, Front Seat’s chief technology officer, told me today. “We really do hope that this helps the CTO with his to-do list.”
Of course, skeptics might say that Web-based solicitations for technology ideas will wind up emphasizing Web-centric issues, like repealing digital copyright protections, over arguably more important ones, like building a better electric grid for renewable power. They might say that appeals for policy ideas on any subject might just produce more votes for legalizing marijuana than, say, for stopping torture. Well, guess what: that’s just what’s happening. But if you don’t vote–as often as possible–you can’t complain.