Your Freedom – more government crowdsourcing

A new government crowdsourcing initiative was launched on July 1:  Your Freedom. This time we are invited to participate to “create a more open and less intrusive society” by suggesting “ideas for removing laws and regulations”. The way it works is simple enough: interested participants can get involved by submitting an idea or by rating, commenting on, and voting for ideas that others have submitted. Anyone can read previous suggestions, which are grouped under various user-generated key words/tags, but you need to register to add ideas or comments.

The initiative has received a certain amount of attention, and is commented on in the press, in blogs, and on Twitter. Although there seems to be a certain degree of scepticism there is also a sense of something new becoming established:

Where previously we voted for leaders and simply then got led, now there’s a sense of judgement far more sophisticated than a mere five-yearly vote. That would not have been possible on this scale without the internet, …” ( 2 July 2010)

Not everyone is positive. On his blog, Chris Applegate offers some suggestions for how it could have been done better and concludes “they had their chance to make a valuable public resource, but we’ve instead got another poorly-designed, poorly-maintained failure“.

Some want the government to take this even further: “We believe that the government should go beyond using Crowdsourcing just to source public feedback and opinions and drive Crowdsourcing initiatives into the way in which they govern.” blur Group blog.

There have been technical issues with the Your Freedom site – the site crashed repeatedly on the first day, and there were performance issues also after that. Despite this, it is reported on the site that over 2,200 ideas were submitted the first day together with some 7,000 comments and 18,000 votes. It will be interesting to see what happens now – if these kinds of crowdsourcing exercises will be considered worthwhile by the people initiating them as well as by those who participate and offer their input.

Whenever anything like this launches it is easy to mock (…) or be the first to dismissively declare it has backfired (which may not happen till later). Whether it does or not depends on if the exercise continues and how – or if – the government chooses to act on the suggestions.” Guardian politics blog 1 July 2010

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