Over the past few weeks we've been running
this little experiment with Darrell West of the Governance Studies program of the Brookings Institution to crowdsource ideas, feedback and insights
into how the federal government can go about promoting an innovation economy. I wanted to use this Labor Day "off-day" to highlight some of what the experiment showed.
- West provided us with an initial list of 96 items, and many of you added additional items as well. There were a wide variety of ideas, many of which generated interesting discussions.
- While we had wondered if the original 96 ideas would "crowd out" any new suggestions, in actuality the second highest ranked suggestion didn't come from West, but from a user, Josh Remer. Also a user-suggested item for putting in place an independent inventor defense for patents ended up pretty high up on the list, though that may be a function of Techdirt discussing that suggestion frequently.
- Education and learning topped the list. The top three items as per your voting, in order, were:
It appears that more open information in education, as well as better, more practical education programs were what had people most interested.
- Have educational resources developed with taxpayer dollars be licensed under creative commons license
- Encourage classes in critical thinking, analysis, statistics, and financial literacy in K-12 schools.
- Encourage more open access to data collected through federal grant dollars
- The next two items were really focused on government transparency:
It seems that greater transparency from government is definitely up there on the list of what people would like to see -- though some questioned what that has to do directly with innovation. I can see the thread that connects them, though. A more open government can help incentivize or enable greater innovation, while also limiting things that can become chilling effects on innovation.
- Ensure that local, state, and federal government procurement processes are fair, open, and transparent
- Improve transparency by publicizing government requests to remove Internet content, censor usage, or subpoena information
- The topic with the biggest splits (i.e., largest numbers of both "for" and "against" votes) all had to do with broadband. I find this to be interesting, because, in general it seems uncontroversial that increasing the amount of broadband available can and should be a boon for innovation. However, I think that the concern comes in from what the government's role should be there... and the fear that they'd only serve to make things worse (a decent possibility). In some ways, I'm afraid this highlights some of the problems that we do see in broadband policy today. Whether we like it or not, there are regulations on that market, and saying "no regulation" doesn't change the status quo that it is somewhat regulated. I also think that, unfortunately, issues related to "broadband" have been tainted with partisan fighting, thanks to the way things eventually came to rest in the net neutrality fight (which hadn't been partisan at all... until suddenly it was).
- The bottom three results, were all about expanding government programs in some manner or another (all three of them started with the word "Increase.") General distrust of the government? Or just a general feeling of keeping government size in check? Perhaps.
- A lot of the conversations were quite interesting. One of the more common complaints was that many of the items were "too vague." That said, I think there's still value in having a discussion around vague ideas before narrowing in on more specific ones. The goal of this exercise wasn't to zero in on a definitive and specific agenda, but to find out what issues, in general, were of most interest. Still, I can see where vagueness potentially made it more difficult for people to vote on items since it wasn't entirely clear what they'd be supporting (i.e., whether it was just "a good idea" or a "good program to achieve a specific idea.")
- There were some concerns about whether or not some of the items really had much (if anything) to do with innovation. It seemed clear that some were a lot more direct than others in terms of their impact on innovation, but personally I think there's value in having more ideas on the list, rather than fewer, in the interest of exposing a wide variety of ideas, even if not all of them were fully fleshed out in the single sentence descriptions.
- It was great to see widespread participation in the discussion. Nearly 200 comments were generated, creating some thoughtful and enlightening discussions. It was nice to see people like AOL founder Steve Case and writer Doug Rushkoff show up in the comments, along with many of you from the wider Techdirt community.
All in all it's been great to see how the process played out. Thanks so much to everyone who participated. We'll be back tomorrow, with our regularly scheduled programming...