With President Obama’s open government initiative gaining exposure in mainstream media, an important question about feasibility of such a program has been posed in Saul Hansell’s piece in the New York Times Bits section, entitled “Can the Wonks Beat the Trolls on Government Sites?”
The article mainly focuses the government’s ability to open up a public forum that would produce “useful” discussion. One criticism of the President’s open government campaign is that it allows anyone to voice his or her opinion, be it tenuous or poignant, absurd or revolutionary. However, as Mr. Hansell points out the White House is “hardly naïve in its foray into…the web.” As he notes, Beth Simone Noveck, the deputy chief technology officer in the Office of Science and Technology Policy of the White House and creator of the New York Law School Peer-to-Patent project, is more than equipped to spearhead this initiative and the system upon which it relies on. The goal for her is to shape the debate, create a system that guides an appropriate standard for policy debate and public input. It is less about a pubic discussion board to rant and more about shaping a culture on the web that can facilitate public discourse on policy issues that this administration should face. In fact, Peer-to-Patent is cited as a prime example of the type of professional discourse that can occur or successful Open Government sites.