Obama's Change.Gov Site Offers Open Questions Based On Google Moderator

…and the transparency keeps on rolling in.

Showing a pretty remarkable appetite for both experimentation and public input, the Obama-Biden transition site, Change.gov, today launched a feature called “Open For Questions.” It allows any registered user to pose or vote on questions that the administration should answer. For each proposed question, you get to decide your response to “Is this a good question?” with:

  • Yes
  • No
  • Skip (when you mouseover “Skip” the title changes to “Meh”!)
  • Flag as inappropriate

This is an pretty remarkable and risky concept (see TPM for a related take). The transition team is assuming that wacky questions will get voted down by the community. It’s also taking a risk that incredibly difficult or embarrassing questions might rise to the top.

Obama said he wanted our help in governing, and he is following those promises up with tools that allow us to do just that. Some of you will recall this was the major reason I supported his candidacy. This is what I wrote on February 29, 2008:

My faith in his presidency is not merely in him as a smart, decent and exceptional person, but in his ability to galvanize the American people into doing more to reclaim their society and their government. He not only talks about this but offers to the tools to realize increased civic engagement with a revolutionary plan for government transparency and technology innovation. If you follow the money behind him, it’s increasingly clear that he is backed less by corporate interests (although they still exist) and more by a massive base of ordinary citizens.

If he gets elected, it will be because of us. If his administration is successful, it will be because we picked up the tools he planted for us and used them both to hold him accountable — what politician directly offers voters tools to hold him accountable?? — and to better this country and collectively get about the business of solving our problems.

The particular tool is powered by Google Moderator. It began as an internal tool for Google employees to submit and prioritize questions they would ask Larry and Sergey during weeking “TGIF” company meetings.

I urge all of you with legit questions for the administration to join Change.gov and submit or vote on questions. Let’s be the change we want to see. I can’t believe this is actually happening. What an exciting experiment we’re all a part of. I believe it’s called democracy.

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