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Community COUNTS Launches "Ask Congress"

BY Editors | Thursday, March 26 2009

Nearly two years ago, I helped pen a posting here, suggesting that politicians should embrace a new town hall format. The idea was that the Internet and user-ranked questions would help leverage a community's voice and provide real insight into the minds of constituents. Not only that, the Internet promised to grow the size of the town hall, putting more people "in the room" than ever before. This morning I watched the President's Internet Town Hall, comprised primarily of user-ranked questions, and I'm glad to see how far we've come. In fact, yesterday the General Services Administration announced agreements allowing the use of Flickr, YouTube, and Blip.tv by federal agencies, a large step in the right direction towrds meeting people where they're at on the Internet. However, these are only the first steps.

After we wrote that posting calling for a true two-way conversation, we also called for the construction of tools to help make it possible, and so with a good measure of serendipity, I would like to announce the launch of communityCOUNTS' National Town Hall. CommunityCOUNTS, an open source web platform, helps spark, collect, rank and compel discussion around an assortment of web content from text to video, including support for YouTube, MySpace, and Blip.tv. It can be used to run simple rankings or self-organizing Q&As. It started as a way for people to have a say in the YouTube Debates. (NPR story). It became the backbone of techPresident's 10Questions, a video forum for the Presidential candidates (Wired article), and last week, it was used by a broad coalition to collect questions for the President (National Journal post).

Now, with its town hall, CommunityCOUNTS is making available a dedicated communityCOUNTS forum to all sitting members of Congress for use as they see fit. Our hope is that they will choose to engage with their constituents as part of an ongoing Q&A. However, they may simply solicit feedback on upcoming legislation. Either way, these forums promise a real-time look at the concerns of constituents.

CommunityCOUNTS has always taken the long view. Our goal is to help nudge the discussion away from soundbites and towards substance. We hope this new endeavor helps move things forward, and we hope you'll help convince your elected officials that it's worth their time. To find a legislators' forum and contact information, simply visit http://www.communitycounts.com and search by name or zipcode. Here's to greater transparency and voter engagement, one step at a time.