Jan 8, 2009

Wisdom of the Pot-People

Wonderful lunch today with some of the smartest people working on the web in government. We talked about how critical it is to take risks, the power of great leadership (and what to do when that is less than available) and a bit of the happy dance on the promise of new media/Web 2.0 for improving government (with a small side of concern that we still have a long way to go on "web one-point-oh").

We were talking about innovations on change.gov, the official web site of the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Team, and tried to read it as if it were the tea-leaves predicting the tools and expectations of the new administration. Like the interactive content "Open For Questions" section where folks can ask questions and other readers can rank the importance of the topics.

Me: What do you think was the top question?
Smart People at Lunch: Jobs! Definitely the economy. Health care.
Me: Nope.
SP@L: The bailout.(s). Environmental.
Me: No.
SP@L: (frowns and not such smart looks)
Me: Legalization of marijuana.
SP@L: I missed that part of the debate, I guess.

Yes, it was true. Take a look. Round one of questions had 978,868 votes on 10,302 questions from 20,468 people (about 48 votes were cast per person).

The question reads, "Will you consider legalizing marijuana so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?"

AND, m
ore than a dozen of the top 50 vote-getting questions pertained to amending America’s drug policies. See more on The Hill.

I want to be clear that I am not evaluating the value of this question, but I did want to offer the results of this effort as something to consider.

Is this the most important issue to the American people?
If it is, why didn't anybody know it?
If it's not, why does it appear to be the most important?
What can we learn from this analysis to help build participation into dot-gov?

I blogged on a quote from Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia founder) a few days back:
I recommend to try and fail, try and fail, try and fail, but to never give up on the objective of the political process becoming more rational and less prone to hidden pressure group agendas.
And this will include trying and trying and learning and learning until we get it right. In the meantime, we need to figure out what we do with the results.

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