Did YOU know the USA has a Federal Data Strategy? Or that it’s part of National US Plan for Open Government? This President and White House should have told you, instead of failing to engage Americans. I participated in another … Continue reading
Why did President Barack Obama go on “Between Two Ferns,” an irreverent talk show hosted by comedian Zack Galifiniakis?
The context comes about two thirds in, when the president talked about HealthCare.gov, young “invincibles” and health insurance that costs about as much as a cellphone bill: young people are still not aware of the policy or going to the site.
According to White House officials, the appearance on the show made FunnyOrDie.com, the comedy site that hosts the show, the number one referrer of Traffic to Healthcare.gov today.
— Tara McGuinness (@HealthCareTara) March 11, 2014
Update: According to an unnamed HHS official on a conference call today, some 19,000 of the 3 million people who have watched the video clicked on Healthcare.gov.
— John McCormack (@McCormackJohn) March 11, 2014
Update II: McGuiness tweeted that traffic to Healthcare.gov was up 40% compared to the previous day.
Funnyordie video has 11 million views. http://t.co/a7HUExG0vg traffic for yesterday was up almost 40% from Monday.
— Tara McGuinness (@HealthCareTara) March 12, 2014
In other words, it worked. I’ve asked for more comment from the White House on traffic and conversions and will update this post as necessary.
In the meantime, the answers to whether the president should find young audiences online, the White House should be making animated GIFs or the Department of Health and Human Services should be dabbling in doge memes are all a qualified yes: social media and online video are crucial mediums for outreach to a younger generation that has grown up digital, sharing what they read and watch with their friends and family.
Time Magazine’s’s sharp television critic, James Poniewozik, captured why the President of the United States going onto this particular show and adapting his delivery considerably from what Americans might see in other contexts worked better than, say, a Super Bowl interview:
It’s the tone of the comedy as much as the online medium that really targets the young audience Obama is pitching to here. There’s a cringe-humor generation gap; if you’re over a certain age, or simply haven’t watched much of a certain kind of contemporary comedy, you’ll probably watch it thinking that the segment is bombing and Obama is getting legitimately angry. But it’s a good fit for Obama’s sense of humor, which is a little dry and a little cutting–in ways that don’t always play in rooms when there are no ferns present.
Over at The Verge, editor-in-chief Nilay Patel is urging his readers to contact the Federal Communications Commission and urge the regulator to stand up for consumer protections, competition and to classify the Internet as a utility. The post includes a big graphic with the FCC’s phone number and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s email, encouraging readers to weigh in.
The passionate post and call to action is missing a key component, however: a link to the new public docket on the Open Internet where people can submit official comments through the commission’s electronic file system. As useful as it might be to get the FCC’s phone’s ringing — and as entertaining as it might seem to make the FCC chairman’s ability to get to Inbox Zero impossible — not sending a river of traffic to that docket means that people won’t be adding their voices to those of the companies that are being regulated.
That’s a shame: These comments are entered into the public record and are legally binding. If this is something you care about, on either side of the issue, go weigh in here.
Unfortunately, people are continuing to comment on docket for the first open Internet rulemaking, from years ago. Given that the FCC has no indication on thus FCC.gov webpage that it’s the old one, you can hardly blame them. You can still see all of the old filings online from 2009 at the FCC’s ECFS system, from Level 3 Communication’s recent plea to avoid “anticompetitive, monopoly rent-seeking conduct” one from one B.Davis”: “It is vital that the internet stay neutral and an open field without influence forced upon consumers by internet providers. The internet should be considered as a utility.”
The relaunch of FCC.gov years ago was supposed to make all this easier.
““It is our intention that every proceeding before the agency will be available for public comment,” United States Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel told me. (He was the managing director of the FCC then). “If we think of citizens as shareholders, we can do a lot better. Under the Administrative Procedure Act, agencies will get public comments that enlighten decisions. When citizens care, they should be able to give government feedback, and government should be able to take action. We want to enable better feedback loops to enable that to happen.”
As he noted then, comments from Broadband.gov or OpenInternet.gov were entered into the public record. “Today, you can take us to court with one of the blog comments from Broadband.gov,” said VanRoekel. “More than 300,000 citizens gave comment on the Open Internet proceeding.”
Unfortunately, the FCC is not going the extra mile to get people onto the docket. While the commission has tweeted links to the chairman’s statements and fact sheet, they haven’t tweeted or put up a blog post that will lead people directly there. To be blunt, not doing so looks like public engagement malpractice to me, promulgating press releases but failing to directly engage the American people on an issue of public interest using free social media tools and considerable platform the agency has built over the years.
The FCC may be seeking public comment but anyone clicking this tweet would be hard pressed to figure out how to give it: there’s no link to the Open Internet proceedings on the page.
— The FCC (@FCC) February 19, 2014
— The FCC (@FCC) February 27, 2014
As of March 5th, there were 9,341 comments submitted to proceeding 14-28.
UPDATE: As of May 15, the day of the FCC Open Hearing on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the Open Internet, the 14-28 docket had received 21,017 comments. Watch live online at FCC.gov/live.
Yesterday, I participated in a short teleconference with Canada’s open government advisory panel considering the next version of the country’s open government “action plan.” As readers may know, I accepted an invitation in 2012 from Canadian Minister of Parliament Tony Clement, the president of Canada’s Treasury Board, to be a member of Canada’s advisory panel on open government, joining others from Canada’s tech industry, the academy and civil society. (I shared several recommendations for open government in the first meeting, held on February 28th, 2012, and in another in 2013.)
In preparation for yesterday’s discussion, I downloaded the Open Government Partnership’s Internal Review Mechanism’s report on Canada, which highlights progress in meeting the country’s (largely self-defined) goals for open government, particularly with respect to open data, and identified significant weaknesses in the public consultation taken to date.
The consultative process during the development of the action plan was weak. The consultation, which was only done online, including a Twitter chat session with the TBS President, took place during a public holiday and no draft plan was circulated in advance for discussion. There was minimal awareness raising around the consultation process, which resulted in low participation.
The IRM researcher found minimal evidence of attempts to engage civil society during implementation of the action plan with the exception of the consultation on open data and the Open Government Licence. Consultation on commitments in these areas was seen as significantly stronger and more productive than the consultations for development of the action plan and the year one government selfRassessment.
Consultation of the self assessment report was carried out online and was not widely publicized, resulting in a limited level of participation.
Based upon this report and my own observations, I made three suggestions on yesterday’s call:
1) Adoption of an open source e-petition platform from the United Kingdom. While many people remain dubious about online petitions, the tool could be seeded with proposed open government reforms and solicit new ones.
2) Acknowledgement of ongoing debates about electronic surveillance. The Harper administration should launch a more proactive public discussion of what the Canadian people have a right to know about how their electronic communications are being collected, stored and used. Any broad consultation around open government Canada will include this issue.
3) More civic engagement with the media. If improving public consultation is a priority, government officials must go onto television and radio broadcasts, along with sitting down for print interviews. Public engagement through social media and government websites are simply not enough.
The Canadian government should also engage journalists who are making information requests, specifically data journalists, as they are key players in the ecosystem around confirming data releases and quality. If the government faces significant doubts, it will have to turn to more trusted third parties to validate its programs and their efficacy.
While officials are bound to take heat from skeptical journalists, if the Harper administration is serious about open, more accountable government, its representatives should do so to address criticisms regarding silencing scientists and eliminating Canada’s long form census, a choice that will ironically weaken the quality of the open government data releases that the government itself touts.
Minister Clement acknowledged my concerns, feedback and criticism.
[Image Credit: Open Government Partnership]