GovTrack launches MixedInk experiment: A collaborative letter to Congress on H.R. 45
- (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 , a gun
control bill. You can follow the process on MixedInk, or join in, here
. 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
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!
- Josh Tauberer
"Yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation! Yields
falsehood when preceded by its quotation!" Achilles to
Tortoise (in "Godel, Escher, Bach" by Douglas Hofstadter)