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Kudos to the Change.gov New Media Team

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, December 12 2008

It's worth taking a moment to applaud the work of Macon Phillips and the other members of the Obama transition new media team, for how they have hit the ground running and built a dynamic, responsive and refreshingly open and creative government website. Every day, it seems, some new element appears on Change.gov:
-Discussion forums on health care, the economy, and just today, community service;
-Community rating of posted comments using IntenseDebate.com, a third-party service;
-Responses from transition staffers on YouTube;
-A quick and friendly shift from copyrighting everything to using the most open Creative Commons license and formats for sharing content;
-Posting the names of the outside groups lobbying the transition as well as the text of their position papers, asking for comments on same;
-An invitation to readers to host community-led health care reform discussion groups; and the
-Creation of "Open for Discussion," a gigantic open forum for people to share the questions for the transition and vote the best ones to the top, which garnered 978,947 votes on 10,303 questions from 20,460 people in its first run this week, and which is due back next week. (Sources tell me to expect some useful tweaks to the Google Moderator tool that is running the discussion, including the ability to link to individual questions. Hopefully they will also find a way to randomize the visibility of top-rated questions so the early leaders don't get so much of an advantage.)

Phillips' new media team is also showing its peers across the government web community that it's OK to built the plane while you're flying it, and that small errors are easily corrected online when everything is understood to be in "beta" as opposed to perfect from the start. To wit, see their correction to a bit of minor confusion on the launch of the health care discussion groups:

A Clarification
Judging from some of the submissions we've seen, we wanted to clarify something. There is no signup process on this website to attend an event -- just to host one. We'll provide you with a special moderator kit, including everything you need to get the conversation going. But it's up to you, the discussion leader, to invite your friends and members of your community to join you. Health care reform will come from the grassroots, and we're counting on you to take the lead in your communities.

Nice, huh?

It's also worth a look at the Presidential Inaugural Committee's website, which looks and feels like it was also done by Phillips' team. Today, it launched a searchable, public database of donors to the Committee, that allows a "virtually real-time" search by the donor’s name, employer, city or state, as well as who has bundled contributions for the committee. The list allows for dynamic displays, if you want to order donors by size or group them by employer. If only other government disclosure sites were this easy to use! (OK, I wouldn't mind a public API into the data...)

All in all, it's a very impressive start and hopefully a good sign for how the Obama Administration will be using the web going forward.