As we mentioned, the Netroots (i.e. online progressives) have been using MixedInk to draft their platform online. This was the first time our beta tool’s been used by the general public, so this was a big moment for us – and it kicked butt!
Whether you agree with the Netroots or not, there’s no denying that the final result is a remarkably eloquent 29 pages of rhetoric, ranging from the lofty to the highly specific, that seems to capture the community’s viewpoint pretty well. Check it out!
From Nancy Scola’s write-up at Tech President:
How do you effectively harness the wisdom of the crowds when the goal is political ideas, not pinning down the weight of an ox at a county fair? [link added]
Does MixedInk point to a way of governing that effectively harnesses the intelligence and energy of bigger groups than we’re used to? It might offer some direction to a campaign like Obama’s that claims to tap into the wisdom of, for example, more than 300 foreign policy advisors. Managing all that smarts can’t be easy.
Here’s the press release we put together with a few members of the Netroots Platform committee.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PROGRESSIVE ONLINE ACTIVISTS ENGAGE OBAMA CAMPAIGN ON POLITICAL PLATFORM
Netroots Develop Policy Platform Aimed at Influencing Obama/DNC Platform Using Participatory Online Process
WASHINGTON, DC, August 13th, 2008 – Members of the “Netroots” – a loosely affiliated group of progressive bloggers, activists and private citizens-released their political platform this week, after three weeks of online collaboration.
The Netroots Platform was first proposed by Jerome Armstrong, a prominent progressive blogger and founder of MyDD.com. “The idea was for the Netroots to speak to the Obama Campaign and the DNC with a collective voice.” The project seemed to take on a life of its own after being introduced to the progressive blogosphere, as members of the Netroots used progressive community blogs, listservs, social networking sites and the MyBarackObama site to invite greater participation and keep each other updated about the Platform’s progress.
The platform was developed entirely online at www.NetrootsPlatform.org, a site where anyone was able to participate in the process and contribute their ideas. MixedInk, an Internet startup, created the democratic, collaborative writing tool that was used for the project. The company aims to empower the public to participate meaningfully and democratically in discussions once limited only to political insiders. “The process itself was truly a metaphor for the Netroots ideals of openness, transparency and democracy,” said Armstrong.
The final Netroots Platform includes 10 different policy planks addressing everything from National Security & Foreign Policy to the Economy to Food & Agriculture, in addition to an introductory “General Principles” section. Community members contributed by writing new planks, editing existing submissions, and remixing the best ideas from different versions to create new ones. Contributors also rated planks on a scale of 1 to 10, and the version with the highest average rating within each category at the end became part of the final platform.
While the official DNC draft platform and the Netroots platform overlap significantly on some policies, including net neutrality, the patients’ bill of rights, and greater federal investment in renewable energies, other policies advocated by the Netroots – amending the recently passed FISA bill, military budget cuts, and the abolishment of the electoral college – diverge significantly from the official Democratic party line.
“The people who participated support Senator Obama overall, despite some differences in our approach and results,” said Ellen Mendlow, one of the platform’s contributors and a member of the organizing committee. “Our platform is unique because of the collaborative way it was drafted. It’s a very positive step forward that we are part of the process, and I think we are all looking forward to developing even more rigorous opportunities for two-way dialogue between citizens and our government in the future.”
According to MixedInk, over the course of the process, thousands of people visited the site, 246 registered, and 164 contributed a total of 167 planks and over 925 ratings. “The Netroots Platform covers general principles as well as very specific language advocating the expansion of “the Nunn-Lugar program to guard nuclear weapons” and “catalyzing innovation by private space entrepreneurs.” “Some really smart and well-informed people participated in the process,” said David Stern, co-founder of Mixedink.com. “The fact that the most articulate ideas rose to the top shows how wise a crowd can be.”
The platform site launched on July 18th, in tandem with two workshops held at the Netroots Nation conference in Austin to introduce the idea and discuss the process. It ended three weeks later, on August 9th, with the submission of the platform to the National Democratic Platform Committee. The committee has acknowledged receiving the document and will be holding a conference call with the activists shortly.
The Obama campaign had previously asked supporters to contribute their platform ideas through its “Listening to America” initiative. Small groups of supporters met all across the country to develop short planks to be submitted through the campaign’s website.
“This project dovetailed nicely with the Listening to America platform sessions but with a spin that’s unique and that fits the collaborative, ensemble nature of the blogosphere perfectly,” said Mendlow. “We’re fully transparent and democratic in our approach to politics.”
# # #
About the Netroots Platform Committee
Support for the Netroots Platform was loosely organized by an ad-hoc committee of citizens that formed at the Netroots Nation conference held in Austin, Texas, in late July. It initially consisted of six individuals and grew to nine members over the course of the project.
To contact the committee or schedule an interview with one of its members, please email netrootsplatformcommittee [at] gmail [dot] com.
MixedInk LLC is an Internet startup that provides an online tool for democratic, collaborative writing. MixedInk enables large groups of people to brainstorm and express a collective point of view by weaving their best ideas and opinions together.
The company was founded in April 2007. After launching in September 2008, its application will be available for free at www.mixedink.com. A white-label, enterprise version of the service will also allow organizations to integrate the application within their own websites.
For more information about MixedInk, or to schedule an interview with one of the founders, email press [at] mixedink [dot] com.
Got ideas for how MixedInk could be useful to YOUR group? Send us an email at info [at] mixedink [dot] com!
Update – an fairly heated exchange about the Netroots Platform is happening on some of the leading progressive blogs: