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New Director of Citizen Participation Brings Google-ology to 1600 Penn

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, January 29 2009

kstantonSpend some time on the new WhiteHouse.gov and the realization hits you: this is no Change.gov. Launched barely over a week ago, the Obama Administration's online home is missing much of the interactivity that made Change.gov such a breakthrough in how an American elected official mixes it up with the people he or she represents. Change.gov projects like Open for Questions, Seat at the Table, and Join the Discussion fueled hopes that we were in for new kind of presidency: one eager to engage in a constant and vibrant two-way conversation with the country. (To be fair, Change.gov didn't launch with those wizbang features either. And it was operating under far fewer strictures and far less pressure than the new White House site.)

Hopes are raised today that Change.gov's sort of citizen engagement is on its way to WhiteHouse.gov. As first reported by MediaMemo's Peter Kafka, Google's Katie Jacobs Stanton will be joining the White House as the new Director of Citizen Participation, starting in March.

Stanton, sources say, will be part of the White House New Media Team headed up by Macon Phillips -- putting "citizen participation" under the White House communications umbrella, it seems.

What's fascinating is that in bringing Stanton in-house, the Obama Administration is bringing in the mechanic to drive the car (or some less clunky phrase). Stanton, reports the TechChuck blog, was part of the team that brought to life Google Moderator. That's the tool that powered Change.gov's Open for Questions. And during the presidential campaign, Stanton worked on the company's Elections and Moderator team. Back in September, Stanton detailed on the Google blog how Moderator might be used to to bring more people into a closed political process:

While we're not officially part of the Commission of Presidential Debates, a few days ago we launched Google Moderator. It's a free tool which enables communities to submit and vote on questions for debates, presentations and events. This way, the best and most representative questions rise to the top.

...

Do these questions represent your concerns? What would you ask the Presidential candidates? Who knows, maybe NBC legend Tom Brokaw will have a look at what you're asking before he moderates the next Presidential debate on October 7th in Nashville!

Stanton also has reportedly worked on Google's Finance arm and Google Blog Search. She's also spent time on OpenSocial, the Google-backed effort to use open APIs to share social information. Before moving to Google, she spent time at Yahoo! Finance. And Stanton is, unsurprisingly, on both Twitter and Facebook.

We'll keep you posted with what we learn about the job.

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