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Putting the “public” in public comments

June 18, 2008

Kudos to the Environmental Protection Agency for using social media to collect feedback from the public. According to FCW.com, the Office of Environmental Information set up a blog to collect comments from the public and other government agencies, seeking new practices and tools to make environmental information more accessible.

From the article:

To collect comments, EPA launched a temporary blog on the agency’s Web site. The blog ran from June 9 to June 13. EPA will release a summary of the comments June 20.

The short timeframe of the blog encourages more contributions, said Frank DiGiammarino, vice president of strategic initiatives and business development at the National Academy of Public Administration.
“Have the conversation, get the data, then find the next thing that’s hot and go with that,” DiGiammarino said.

The blog isn’t the first time that EPA officials have asked members of the public for advice. The OEI launched a temporary wiki, which it kept up for 36 hours, to gather information about how best to clean up the Puget Sound in Washington state. That effort, even with its short duration, attracted more than 17,000 page views and 175 good contributions.

Government should use social media more to collect public comments. After all, Seventy-five percent of all adults say they use the internet. The Federal Register lists thousands of notices for public comment. Could you imagine how many more comments would come in if social media tools were used?

The EPA is leading the way. My only question to them is…why take these communities down? I’m not convinced the short timeframe encourages more contributions. Let the conversation grow. I read about the EPA initiative after the fact and now I’m out of luck. I guess I’ll wait until the next time.

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