I’ve previously whined that it’s going to be a lot harder for President Obama to take advantage of social media than it was for the Obama campaign to do so.
I’m afraid to report that proof is beginning to emerge.
Over at change.gov, the web outpost of the Obama/Biden Provisional Gover. . .I mean, Privately Funded Transition Operation, there was an earnest public solicitation of ideas about healthcare. Over 3,700 comments came in.
On the change.gov blog, you will find a 3-minute video hosted by Tom Daschle, incoming Health Care Reform Tsar [I prefer the retro spelling; it adds a certain monarchic je ne sais quois].
In the segment, the former Senator summarizes some of the extremely
valuable citizen input that came in. [He presumably read all the
comments over the holiday weekend. Someone smarter than I [[sorry, I
can’t find the link]] determined that this task would consume 29 hours.
Knock yourself out, Senator!]
Frankly, it’s patronizing for Daschle to pretend that citizen
suggestions like “emphasizing prevention” and “making care affordable”
for small businesses are “great ideas” that the public has provided.
For god’s sake, they are right there in Obama’s healthcare platform. Yeesh.
But it gets worse: the blog entry summarizing the previous discussion says this:
As we continue to cultivate an open
conversation with our online community, we’ll be taking steps to
facilitate these discussions in new and innovative ways.
We want to hear your voice. Use the
discussion tool below to let us know what you liked about the health
care discussion, and suggest ways to keep the conversation going in the
Which is to say: Now that we’ve had the discussion, go ahead and discuss the discussion!
And as of this writing, over 4,500 additional comments had been made.
This isn’t citizen engagement,
it’s government rope-a-dope–a way to conserve energy and let the other
guy punch himself out while you figure out what you’re really going to
Look, the administration’s efforts are
admirable. I’ll be the first guy to say that using social media to
harness collective intelligence is one of the toughest acts in show
business. I think it’s great that the Obama people are committed to
trying, and to involving people with the process by some means other
than providing their credit card numbers [which by the way I wish
they’d quit asking me for]. I believe in open government, sunshine and
public access. Hey, I’ve applied for a position with the Obama administration!
But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The
magic value of social media tools is that they let people communicate
among themselves, not that they let them communicate with a big
Social media lets you listen in when
people talk among themselves. The social web helps people self-organize
into groups and movements. It helps them share collective intelligence.
If used by government itself, these tools can open up government
process to public inspection. It’s socially transformative technology
that enables a constant, real-time, global conversation. It will change
the world in ways we don’t yet appreciate.
But it’s intellectually dishonest
to lay these tools out there and pretend to listen attentively to the
incoherent rumble of a billion fingers pounding keyboards all across
That is not, to coin a phrase, the change.gov we need.