Obama Crowdsources Daily Ideas with Citizen’s Briefing Book

Change Force

I just learned from Leverage’s Mike Walsh that Obama will receive a briefing from the top voted ideas that were submitted by the American people each evening see Change.Force.com (a play off . This method of keeping in direct communication by ‘listening’ to the citizens leans on voting style technology similar to Dell’s Ideastorm. My colleague Josh Bernoff will be pleased, as he requested this feature a few months ago.

You’ll need to login and register (I suspect they can use IP addresses to determine point of origin within US) in order to confirm location but that’s not completely accurate. How can Obama extend this further? Make a similar site for all other nations to submit ideas for foreign policy. This doesn’t come without challenges of course, the system could be gamed, and there’s no promise he’ll make changes based on our feedback, we’ll see.

I talk to the executives of the world’s largest brands, after Obama won the election, I get a lot less push back –it’s rare I have to have discussions now about the validity of social technologies. Of course, social technologies still come with risk, but for some reason this feels really good, we’re all a bit more connected and the internet helps to bring us together.

Related Resources

  • You can see the top submitted ideas, the first one is “Ending Marijuana Prohibition” with 81080 Points, 2719 comments, and submitted on Jan 12th, which is the earliest submittal date I can find.
  • I just logged in and voted for ending of torture and request for bullet trains, each vote cast 10 points.
  • If you know who the vendor is who is doing this work (platform and development) please let me know, I checked source code but didn’t see anything real obvious (Updates: a few that I know have confirmed this is Sales Force, in the comments.)
  • 48 Replies to “Obama Crowdsources Daily Ideas with Citizen’s Briefing Book”

    1. agreed. Now the people who show up to play may get rewarded with time in the game…. This is a step forward. We must include each other in our thoughts and decisions…. of course, without giving away the power to make the decisions.

      Kudos for people thinking outside of the box.

    2. Jeremiah,

      We’re beginning to talk with many in government about the power of the people through crowdsourcing. Have a look at the initiative led by Governor Sebelius of Kansas – she clearly understands the importance of conversation as shown through this site http://ktoc.net/news.aspx with her outgoing message here http://tinyurl.com/754rja

      It’s exciting to see this happen at the very top levels.


    3. I am wondering how voting can be made unbiased. I would think that as an idea gets voted to the top it would naturally get more votes since it is so visible (at the top of the list). How can people make sure they get a sense of all the ideas so they can parse out the best ones.

      I am also wondering how the analysis is done. Do they have some kind of engine which does semantic analysis and groups like ideas.

      BTW, I do think it is great that he is opening up the government in these ways. I want to make sure the dialog is open and unbiased, say by the echo chamber.

    4. Awesome! Kind of…

      I’m a big fan of the capitalistic use of crowd-sourcing for the betterment of business and the creation of products and services that directly improve consumer needs, AND I see the “Consent of the governed” play here but frighteningly too often it seems as if crowds are wrong… Right? Is it best to follow the crowd? I.e. the recent real estate boom/bust. Isn’t the extraordinarily madness of crowds the fundamental equation for every wrong doing in history?

      Love the fact that “they’re listening,” curious to what they do with this info…

    5. I love and support the idea-generating and voting approaches, it is a good crowd pleaser. We have a similar program at work, where it hits the wall is on the execution of top ideas. I am curious as to the transparancy around execution of the backend of this program. How will they prioritize and fund any of these ideas. It seems they need another level of crowdsourcing, that internal to the government, maybe have the house, senate, or committees further evaluate somehow?

    6. On the surface this looks great, however, putting something up and then actually moving forward with specific actions that make a positive long term difference in the lives of ALL Americans are two different things.

      Congress received calls on the original bailout from the American people at a 400 to 1 ration AGAINST it. Yet it was passed. The 2nd half of the bailout, a full 61% of the American people are against it, yet the Administration and Congress are going to release it.

      So let’s take a look at the top 5 most popular:

      1. Ending Marijuana Prohibition – OK the top vote getter? Seems the people voting on this are living in a different reality. This is the most pressing thing on the minds of Americans?

      2. Commit to becoming the Greenest country in the world – we now know that man made global warming is a complete hoax and that billions of dollars were and are being wasted to promote something man cannot do – change the climate. We can be good conservationists and stewards but we can’t change the climate.

      3. Stop using federal resources to undermine states’ medicinal marijuana laws. Another top one concerning marijuana? See my response on #1

      4. Bullet Trains & Light Rail. I would actually like to see this but not with the tremendous wasteful spending that has always accompanied these projects. I lived in Houston when they started their light rail project – now 7+years later and traffic has gotten worse, more cars on the freeways. Now I live in Phoenix and we just got done spending $1.4 billion on 20 miles of light rail that has a MAX speed of 28mph. The waiting stations cost 650,000 a piece – the ones where you just sit at.

      5. An end to the government sponsored abstinence education to be replaced by an introduction of age appropriate sex education – So we want the government to keep on sponsoring abortions of unborn human beings, to keep on funding Planned Parenthood so they can ‘advise’ children to cross state lines to avoid parental permission? Yet we want to use taxpayer dollars so kids can learn about STDs, how to put a condom on,etc?

      In closing, this Citizen’s briefing book, which will shut down Sunday at 6pm, is really nothing more than a glorified data acquistion program of voters for the next election to raise another $650 million for a rhetoric and propaganda program.

      No value will come out of this because the people that it’s going to (the new admin) don’t care.

      If they did this program would,at the very least, continue for the next 4 years. Obama’s daily evening briefing stops at 6pm Sunday. Ideally it would deliver real measurable value to all Americans.

      Instead, IMHO, the Citizens’ Briefing Book is just one huge blog aimed at creating a database of future donors.

    7. Peter

      Given the amount of emails I get from the Obama team requesting I donate, buy Tshirts, mugs, plates and calendars, I wouldn’t be surprised how this could be used as direct mail marketing.

    8. Using crowdsourcing to solve problems works best when the target is specific. This could not be more general.

      Perhaps this is a case of novices knowing just enough to be dangerous.

    9. Jeremiah,

      Don’t feel bad. I get emails from the RNC and John McCain for the same – STILL! 😉

      It seems both parties don’t get or don’t care about reality in everyday America. They don’t realize that a sleeping dragon is going to awaken come 2010 or sooner – The American people.

    10. “Make a similar site for all other nations to submit ideas for foreign policy.”

      Hey, while we’re at it why not just fire all the diplomats and eliminate the Secretary of State position. Do you really think that it’s wise that foreign and domestic policy ideas be implemented as a result of a voting system on a website?

      I believe in our current system of government. I voice my preferences by voting for and communicating with local elected officials who represent me at the state and national level.

      Stick your head outside the bubble for five minutes so you can realize that YouTube, FaceBook and Twitter aren’t the answer to getting everything you want in the world.

    11. Alexander,

      What does that have to do with Obama’s Citizen Briefing Book? Or are you blaming Bush in advance for the largest spending of taxpayers dollars in the history of the world by the new administration and congress?

    12. Rob

      I agree with you more than you may think. We have experts for a reason. Politicians are experts at what they do.

      They were put in place as we they are elected reprenstatives of the people.

      Now that the technology exists for people to voice their own opinions, this can only add to helping them make decisions.

      I wasn’t suggesting we get rid of government, but the more connective communications we can have that make sense, the better.

      -bubble boy

    13. @Ralph (#3)

      You are correct. All tools used on Change.gov so far (IntenseDebate, Google Moderator and now Salesforce CRM Ideas) seem to show significant bias towards those items that manage to gain a lead early in the process.

      The items exposed as most popular (e.g. top ideas, top questions) tend to receive a disproportionate amount of the participants’ overall attention (in terms of views, votes, comments).

      It’s interesting to note, however, that each e-participation effort on Change.gov came with minor improvements:

      The second installment of “Open for Questions” (Google Moderator) added categories as additional views into the data.

      The Briefing Book added “most recent items” as an additional view into the data though that still wasn’t enough to outweigh the bias towards the early leaders (see here for more details http://bit.ly/103j5).

      What’s missing in order for something like this to scale in meaningful ways — and this is a real challenge — are processes that allow the participants to spend some of their energy on collaboratively improving (e.g. to review, revise, clarify, categorize etc.) and synthesizing (e.g. to de-dupe, group, merge, summarize etc.) the massive amounts of content that they create.

    14. i absolutely love the idea/concept. getting citizens to voice their opinion is essential, and may revitalize any democracy. i guess i would call it “citizens in the cloud”, borrowing from the cloud computing term. yet, this is only one step, a necessary step in my mind, but not the step. once data has been collected, once feedback is sent and sorted, obama’s team has to do something with it. a process that will take care of how the data is used, how citizens providing feedback are engaged, how communication takes place, how cross collaboration takes place at different levels will be essential. absent these, i am very afraid that this or other initiatives to elicit citizen feedback will fall flat on its side.

    15. The first thing I thought when I saw “end marijuana prohibition” at the top was that surely someone is creating a crowdsourcing wave to get their idea bumped up the list. And that makes me think lists like this are going to be full of false returns. They are just too easily manipulated, being prone to Myspace type marketing techniques. Lets face it, a high list ranking here is probably an indication of who has the strongest social media marketing operation.

    16. I want to amend what I just posted; I don’t want to come across as devaluing social media or crowdsouring, I just think that an operation like this, while seeming open and democratic is actually an open invitation to outside manipulation. There are just too many groups with competing interests and large marketing budgets who have an incentive to invest themselves in skewing the data here to trust the returns, it creates an environment conducive to false reads.

    17. @Scott (#18)

      The first time this happened was during the first installment of “Open for Questions”. A few hours before the cut-off, a couple of questions related to the legalization of marijuana entered the otherwise impenetrable top 10.

      A Google search (screenshot: http://bit.ly/tD8W) revealed a lot of word of mouth activity among members of this particular community trying to get people engaged and push their questions to the top.

    18. Jeremy,
      I just wrote about crowd sourcing for non-profits in my latest post about an “idea portal,” but didn’t know about Obama’s change.gov idea portal. Thanks so much for writing about it; I added it to the post. Now, wouldn’t it be great if non-profits also embraced this?

    19. Wow, I loved the idea of these things when I found out about Dell and Starbucks using the platform. I never thought it could be applied on such a large scale. Really cool stuff. I wonder if any of it will actually get noticed by the administration.

    20. ~ think its childish they keep hitting reset when marijuana makes it to the top every time…..ask a 13 year old..they never card you for pot….reset…

    21. Well, at least he’s listening to the American people. I feel like we’ve been ignored for at least the past eight years. Maybe he will do some good. I guess that we’ll just have to wait and see.

      Misty Faucheux
      Community Relations/Social Media Manager, Viscape.com

    22. Smart idea from a man who is either smart or a man who listens to smart people. Either way I like it & think this is a good omen of things to come


    23. Why do some of you doubt that America’s number one concern might actually be ending the marijuana prohibition? Most educated people are aware of the fact that alcohol and tobacco are far more dangerous, and most of you use these things on a daily basis. Ignorance is bliss, keep believing the biased, racist, negative ideals of marijuana that you’ve crammed into your moronic little brains. For you ~TaRdS~ out there, look into some scientific data.

    24. I totally agree with Adam #36. Is it really so far fetched to believe that this is a SERIOUS concern with the American people? Ending prohibition would reduce gang violence and give an ENORMOUS boost to the economy–just like it did when alcohol prohibition was repealed years ago.

    25. What is so dangerous about marijuana that it prompts innocent people’s lives to be destroyed? Marijuana has been scientifically proven as one of the safest substances on the face of the earth and honestly I think the only dangerous thing about it is the fact that you can have your life ripped right out of your hands over it.

    26. about marijuana… every arrest costs the tax payers $2,000, in my town alone there about 280 arrests per year. our government could produce over a billion dollars by taxing it. taxing growers for growing permits, stores for sales permits and building taxes, consumers charged sales tax and the initial cost to obtain a license through their doctor.

      this also frees space in our prisons and allows our police forces to focus on bigger things like rapists, sex offenders, hard drug dealers, etc.

      Our government is wasting money dealing with non-violent marijuana users.

      I mean, they could still arrest people for possesion without a license and for having mass amounts without a sales permit.

      Ponder that.

    27. and honestly, if it were to happen across the U.S. at once, the money from everyone applying for these permits and licenses themself would give our economy a nice little jolt.

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