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."
Unforunately, Federal action on petitions, and White House action in particular, does not "scale". If ten, then one hundred, then one thousand petitions cross the "response required" threshold, the Executive staff to develop those responses neither expands nor becomes orders of magnitude more efficient in developing those responses.
However, the building of communities and conversations around those issues can be made to scale.
Currently, WeThePeople provides no support for discussion around the petitions nor for the building of communities that care about these issues. Providing a discussion and resource facilities for each petition that reaches the public threshold would build conversation and community while each petition is private. Providing tools to allow later petitions to draw on the communities formed for earlier petitions would build the issue conversation and community across petitions.
**Facilities to support each petition**
1. Create a discussion board for each petition, modelled on sites such as Hacker News and Stackexchange Adapt the upvoting and reputation systems from these sites, but weight the reputation so that the preponderance (75%, say), is based on the discussion for this particular petition, 20% is based on discussions in this issue area (e.g. Telecommunications or Civil Liberties), at 5% is based on participation in any Petitions discussion. The goal is to create an incentive for people to participate in a useful way across the site, but also to give newcomers a way into the conversation without being drowned out by the old hands with high reputations.
To see what could be accomplished in terms of discussion breadth and quality, see, for example, this Hacker News discussion about Japan's current nuclear problems[http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2318980] and this Stackexchange discussion [http://diy.stackexchange.com/questions/9581/what-are-the-most-important-things-to-check-do-after-buying-a-home] about what to consider and test before buying a home.
2. Supplement the discussion for each petition with a pre-structured wiki, modeled on Wikipedia and Stackexchange, that can be elaborated by anyone - as regulated by their reputation.
Offices throughout the Federal Government should be encouraged to post resources relevant ot the issue, including feeds and mailing lists.
**Facilitaties to support conversation and community-building across petitions**
1. Notifications. Allow people who sign Petition X to "opt in" to notifications regarding that petition.
2. Community overlap rewarded with opt-in to opt-out transition. When more than, say 30 signers of petition X also sign petition Y, notify everyone who signed petition X and who opted in to general notifications of Petition Y and its discussion group. Of course, the X signers can still opt out of notifications regarding Petition Y. If, say, more than 30% of the X signers then opt out of "Y notification", turn off the automatic notification feature driving notifications from Y to X.
3. Interest area subscriptions. Allow WeThePeople members to subscribe to a feed or email list providing the newly published petitions in a particular issue area, filtered additionally and optionally by keyword. And of course allow people -- whether they have signed a particular petition or not -- to subscribe to notifications about that petition.
4. Provide RSS feeds of each petition's wiki and discussion that allow third-party sites to incorporate this content easily, to provide more ways for communities already active on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and elsewhere to follow conversations of interest to them.
[This draws on the discussion for Lucas's suggestion "Empower citizens to deliberate on each petition" - http://wethepeople.uservoice.com/forums/134454-improving-we-the-people/suggestions/2269580-empower-citizens-to-deliberate-on-each-petition]