White House petitions site: Is it crowdsourcing or not?

A new federal-government website called “We the People” invites users to submit policy ideas and collect digital signatures. Can it work as a crowdsourcing effort?

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This month, the White House launched a petitions website called “We the People.”

It works like this: A registered user (to register, people are prompted to enter their name, email address and ZIP code) submits an idea for reform. If 5,000 other registered users opt to “sign” that petition, it gets sent to a policy expert who reviews it. Then, the White House issues an official response.

The term “crowdsourcing” doesn’t come up anywhere on the site, but blogger Gini Dietrich at SpinSucks noticed some similarities between this site and online spots where Starbucks and HP generate ideas from public suggestion boxes. Even so, she wrote that the site doesn’t seem to be genuine crowdsourcing, because amassing a large crowd doesn’t mean anything in particular.

“This is bogus,” Dietrich wrote. “This isn’t crowdsourcing, nor is it a direct line to the White House. Not if all we get is an official response when 5,000 or more signatures are collected on a cause we really believe in.”

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