Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Social Media 101: Destination Website Fail

All quiet on the western front...Image by kimberlyfaye via Flickr

The ReadWriteWeb has an interesting article on people's lack of interest in the Obama Administration's open government initiative. It highlights the paltry participation numbers:

An Open Government Directive page for a drafting phase has now been extended until July 3. Although the OSTP blog states that "well over 100 drafts of open government recommendations" were submitted by users, contributors number just 201 users, and fewer than 1,000 ratings have been registered by the site.

For example, what should have been a hot topic (enabling citizens' participation in government using new media) on the wiki-like MixedInk site only had 18 contributors.

It then speculates as to some possible reasons for the failure:

Do you think the U.S. government did an adequate job of publicizing its Open Government efforts? Do you think political and technology bloggers with a critical mass of traffic should have done more to spread the word and encourage user participation, much in the way that music television channels consistently harass youngsters to "rock the vote"?

Do you think that trends of citizen apathy have finally peaked to a point that - even when tools for participation are free and available via a simple Internet connection - no one cares enough to weigh in?

Of course, the correct answer is none-of-the-above. All that has been proven, once again, is that it is extremely difficult to build destination Web sites. It doesn't matter who you are-- even the President of the United States with a community of 306 million. If you build it they won't come.

The failure says nothing about the people's penchant for open and participatory government, but everything about how the Internet is changing. If you want to engage with people you have to go to them. How many times must this failure be repeated before people get it?

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