Improving We The People

The White House recently launched We The People, a new e-petition tool that we believe can be an incredibly powerful way for the American people to express their ideas to the government. This feedback site is a place for those of us who care about creating a participatory and deliberative society to offer ideas and recommendations for the White House to ensure that We The People (a) incorporates a meaningful, transparent, healthy policy process for integrating public input, and (b) includes the functionality, usability, and design that can best enable the considered preferences of the American people to be heard.

Everyone is invited to post suggestions here on this feedback site for how to improve the White House’s petition process.

In response to a request from the WeThePeople team at the White House, we will summarize the results of this forum for them. We are in the process of generating a final document that will be signed off on by the convening organizations (and hopefully others) and shared with the White House.

We will request feedback from the White House on the usefulness of our recommendations as well as their implementation, and will share that information with you.

Convening Organizations: AmericaSpeaks, National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD), International Association for Public Participation—USA (IAP2 USA), Deliberative Democracy Consortium (DDC), Open Forum Foundation.

How can the White House's e-petition website and process be improved?

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  1. 1 vote
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    • metal detectors in schools

      Every school MUST have metal detectors coming into school. Shootings in our schools are no acceptable. I was just in school last year and I would not like it if I knew someone in my class had a gun.

      1 vote
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        1 comment  ·  Admin →
      • To get 150 without it showing on the site is hard

        please sign mine. I dont know how to start sharing it
        http://wh.gov/lR95O

        3 votes
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        • 1 vote
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          • Show the "new" (currently unlisted) petitions, raise minimum sigs from 150 to 1500

            150 signatures is a joke for some, and overwhelming for others. WH should add a tab to list ALL submitted petitions, and raise the 150 signatures to 1000 before petitions are shown on the "main" page. Default view should be closest to 1500 shown at top of list, and alternate view should be "hottest topics" to highlight the petitions receiving signatures the fastest.

            They raised requirement to 100,000 ; now raise the barrier to be listed as a serious petition. A majority of the petitions getting over 150 are simply aggravating to sift through and will clearly not get 100,000.

            1 vote
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            • 4 votes
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              • User signup is too complex!

                Verification via email is mandatory, but when you click the verification link, it should take you to the user page, or even better, ask you set a password.

                I would expect that the average, non-tech savvy user gets lost in this process.

                This happened when creating an account from the home screen, not from a specific petition or internal page. I can't speak to that process.

                8 votes
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                  1 comment  ·  Admin →
                • 2 votes
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                    1 comment  ·  Admin →
                  • 10 votes
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                    • Provide a public trouble ticket system, support forum, or bug tracker for issues with the platform

                      We The People seems to have embraced a release early and often approach to web development. I think this is actually a great approach, but it needs to be done so openly, to help set expectations and to manage feedback about problems or needed features. This is particularly true since the President has already pledged to make this platform open source for others to use. A public bug tracker is part of the backbone of an open source project and it should be for this service as well.

                      I shouldn't conflate the idea of a support forum and a software…

                      3 votes
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                      • Show participants how to write better petitions

                        Some petitions are poorly worded and not as good as they could be. Maybe there could be tools or instructions on the We the People website to provide participants with assistance of what makes a good/effective epetition.

                        5 votes
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                        • Establish a guiding mantra for this effort: Give all a voice. Allow all to speak and to be accurately heard.

                          All successful programs adopt a guiding principle for this project. I propose for this project the guiding mantra should be: "Give all a voice. Allow all to speak and all to be accurately heard."

                          ex animo
                          davidfarrar

                          2 votes
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                            1 comment  ·  Admin →
                          • Provide better disclaimers for new petitions that may violate the Terms of Use or are duplicates of other petitions

                            A significant portion of petitions that received enough signatures violated the terms of use and were not eligible for a response. This includes peititons that cover legal matters that the Executive Office of the President is legally prevented from commenting on. There are also many petitions that seem to be redundant with other petitions including ones that have already been answered.

                            The submission processes should do as much as it can to inform authors of new petitions of these issues to ensure that they don't feel misled by the opportunity presented by this platform.

                            A good example of a platform…

                            4 votes
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                            • 1) apply lessons from social networks, and 2) define standards for .com/petitions sites

                              Let's agree that a communication requiring .gov to respond has inherent value e.g. https://wwws.whitehouse.gov/petitions. The bad news is that unless this site catches on it will disappear in 1 to 5 years along with its value as the Internet voice of the 99% and 1% alike.

                              Minimally, 2 things are needed to enlarge user base and develop site loyalty so users become advocates for preserving this value.

                              1) People are at their best when they interact and collaborate. So, take a cue from social nets and encourage people to collaborate on every aspect of developing petition... from initial vague…

                              3 votes
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                              • Share metrics

                                Provide a detailed overview of all site activity (registered users, votes cast, petitions started, petitions past threshold etc.) and responses (number of responses, breakdown/categorization of responses).

                                13 votes
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                                • Expand "within petition" & "across petitions" deliberation & knowledge facilities to build issue communities and understanding

                                  The White House petitions capability has the opportunity to open up new conversations between Federal officials and all of the rest of us, conversations that bring new issues and new perspectives on those issues to the attention of the government and that educate people on how an issue is viewed not just by government but also by their fellow Americans.

                                  As JH Snider put it:
                                  "The democratic purpose of the We The People website ...should be to help put new issues on the public agenda that aren't already there by making it easier for politically underrepresented groups to mobilize themselves."

                                  8 votes
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                                  • Publicly archive all petitions that receive more than the 150 signatures limit; publicly state the policy for archiving such petitions

                                    The democratic value of creating, promoting, and signing a petition is not merely reaching the 25,000 signature threshold and getting the White House to provide an official reaction. Much of the value is educating the public that a critical mass of Americans believe an issue is important enough to sign a petition. This value is lost if the White House removes petitions from its public website after 30 days. The White House should not only publicly archive petitions after the 30 day deadline but clearly state in its terms of participation what its petition records retention and accessibility policy is.

                                    17 votes
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                                    • Offer comment/describe/discuss options to engage with sumbitted ideas.

                                      Currently site visitors can sign or promote a petition. Offer an opportunity for people to add links, examples, pros and cons to the petition.

                                      Most recent "what's being discussed" should be featured in a side bar on that petition page. Clicking on that sidebar would bring the user to a child page where people can add information (pros and cons) or discuss the merits of the idea with one another.

                                      10 votes
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                                        1 comment  ·  Admin →
                                      • Educate and decentralize: Respond to petitions by identifying the laws, regulations, agencies, and levels of government involved.

                                        The "We the People" site supports the popular conception of the White House as the Emerald City, with an all powerful wizard at the center. But the reality is that the Executive is constrained - as it should be - by laws and regulations, and that power is shared with a variety of Departments and agencies, Congress and the Courts, and state and local governments.

                                        Respond to petitions by identifying the various relevant constraints and pressure points for change. For instance, in addressing "Restore democracy by ending corporate personhood" <http://wh.gov/g5Y>, identify the role of the Supreme Court in…

                                        3 votes
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                                          1 comment  ·  Admin →
                                        • Create a simple, transparent process for combining very similar petitions, adding signature totals, and consolidating the responses required

                                          There are already a number of overlapping petitions that could easily be consolidated into a single petition (particularly relating to marijuana). Combining petitions would make it more likely that the petition would reach the 5,000 signature threshold. It would also be easier for the White House to offer a single response rather than two separate responses in cases where multiple petitions with the same message reach the threshold.

                                          The process for combining petitions, however, must be clear and transparent. It must avoid the loss of the intent of either of the original petitions.

                                          21 votes
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