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GovTrack launches MixedInk experiment: A collaborative letter to Congress on H.R. 45

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  • Josh Tauberer
    (Hyperlinked version here: http://www.govtrack.us/blog/2009/03/16/mixedink-experiment-a-collaborative-letter-to-congress-on-hr-45/) GovTrack launches MixedInk
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 16, 2009
      (Hyperlinked version here:

      GovTrack launches MixedInk experiment:
      A collaborative letter to Congress on H.R. 45

      Last week GovTrack launched an experiment using MixedInk
      (http://www.mixedink.com/), the collaborative writing tool, to see how
      members of the GovTrack community could come together to write a joint
      letter to congressmen. A large problem facing Congress is their
      inability to keep up with constituent communication, as the rise of
      electronic communications to Congress has far outpaced the increases in
      their office budgets. One of the many ways to address this problem is to
      have constituents come together on a single letter, an aggregated
      communication. Petitions were the aggregated letter of the past. In the
      future, we will see the letter actually being written collaboratively,
      and this is what GovTrack’s first-of-its-kind experiment is about.

      On MixedInk, participants have three tasks. First, they can write
      letters from scratch — this gets the process rolling. Second, they can
      remix the content from letters written by other users. This helps the
      community synthesize the best letter, and MixedInk tracks the authorship
      of the remixed phrases in a pretty cool way. This makes sure users don’t
      feel alienated by being copied; rather, they remain a co-author of the
      remixed version. Last, users rate the letters and remixes to pick the
      best one. The tool is well-suited to writing a joint letter to Congress,
      which was one of the motivations behind MixedInk.

      The experiment is in progress with 145 individuals contributing just in
      the last week to a letter expressing opposition to H.R. 45 [1], a gun
      control bill. You can follow the process on MixedInk, or join in, here
      [2]. I chose to start the experiment on a single issue, and a single
      side of the issue, because I knew that there was a critical mass of
      visitors to GovTrack that would want to contribute to such a letter. By
      no means does GovTrack endorse the content of the letter, and in the
      future we hope to facilitate letters on all sides of issues, provided
      there is a sufficient number of visitors interested in collaborating on it.

      At the end of the experiment I’ll take the letter and deliver it in
      person to appropriate congressmen. I haven’t chosen who I will deliver
      it to, but I suspect it will be the sponsor and cosponsors, the chairmen
      and ranking members of the committees referred the bill, and perhaps
      congressmen of districts represented by the signatories of the letter
      (see below).

      The experiment proceeds in three phases. The first phase going on right
      now is the writing phase. Contributors are writing, remixing, and rating
      letters on MixedInk. This will go on until April 8. From then until
      April 20 it will be a rating-only phase on MixedInk. This gives the
      community a final chance to pick the best letter.

      On April 20 I will take a look at the top-rated letter and move the
      experiment to the third and final phase. (In the event that I find the
      content inappropriate to be delivered, I may consider the
      next-highest-rated letter.) In this phase, I will provide the community
      the opportunity to sign on to the letter. Letters to Members of Congress
      hold no weight if they are anonymous. So I’ll have a sign-up form where
      individuals can enter their name, address, and congressional district.
      Signatories will have the option to keep their entry private — it will
      appear on the letter I deliver in person but not on the letter I display
      publicly on GovTrack.

      Wish us all luck!

      [1] http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h111-45
      [2] http://mixedink.com/GovTrackUs/111Hr45Against

      - Josh Tauberer
      - GovTrack.us


      "Yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation! Yields
      falsehood when preceded by its quotation!" Achilles to
      Tortoise (in "Godel, Escher, Bach" by Douglas Hofstadter)
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