and Open for Questions

by has released another ground-breaking feature.

This time, it’s “Open for Questions“, a digg-like feature for voting up questions for the administration-to-be.

Somewhat similar to the example set by the British, No. 10 Petitions, Open for Questions is part petition, part comment thread, and part internet press conference.  By allowing anyone to submit questions, and then allowing votes on the best questions to rise to the top, the transition team is experimenting with one answer to the question “What are you going to do with all of those comments?”

This is a real question, since the healthcare conversation, as of this writing, has racked up over 5,000 comments.  A reporter asked me today how one can possibly benefit from an overwhelming number of comments.  My answer was that it can be a challenge, especially as the response increases.  More important than initially designing a perfect system, though, is to experiment with what might work.  Expertise and knowledge are distributed throughout the country, and no matter how extensive the team’s outreach efforts, tapping into all of the ideas is impossible.

Tools like Open for Questions are at least one step toward solving that problem, of creating more meaningful interaction between citizens and government.

As Sunlight consultant Micah Sifry wrote on TechPresident this morning,

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the lesson of the story is we collectively need much better tools for mass collaboration than we now have. How do we scale up relationships of trust and accountability? Are we bound by what our brains are capable of–face-to-face relationships with a few hundred peers at best? Or can we develop effective communications and reputation systems that would enable much larger groups to connect effectively?

While the answers won’t always be obvious, addressing them can only happen through measured experimentation.  We’re happy to see another step in that direction.