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The American Dream 2.0 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rob Guerriere   
Dec 09, 2009 at 03:59 PM

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You have nothing to lose but your own limitations.  You have the world to win.

You are already familiar with Facebook, Wikipedia, YouTube, Google, Yahoo, LinkedIn and blogs.  But do you know Jive, Ning, Lithium, Cognizant, Rollstream, and CafeMom?  Do you know that next year, 2010, you will be protecting your civil liberties on a web 2.0 platform called YOUROWNDEMOCRACY.ORG?




Two heads are better than one, but what about two hundred million heads?  Congregate wisdom is the new best friend of democracy.  Thanks to a new breed of collaborative technologies being employed today by businesses, non-profit organizations and government agencies, we, citizens of the good old USA, and potentially other countries, will be empowered with intelligent political and economic information filtered and organized to our own interest, with the right to place a weighted vote.  Democracy will work like never before.

With the convergence of threaded messaging, RSS/XML Feeds, wikis, blogs, file sharing, mobile web applications, intelligent search, and application integration, businesses have been doing more with less while fostering novel ideas.  Companies and Organizations like: IBM, SONY, Canon, Fox, CNN, GE, SAP, Nike, Bank of America, Nestle, United Health Group, Toyota, Walgreens, McKesson, Lockheed Martin, NASA, Department of Defense, and the CIA (Intelligence agency not the cooking school).   They are using social business platforms to interface with customers, give better customer support, to connect experts within an organization, to share resources between silos, to cut down on replicating business processes, to help communicate projects, and to help the corporation retain a personality and identity as it grows internationally. strategic applications

On the business side the technology leader is Jive Software with over 2,500 major customers.  On the non-profit, user group, and social media side, there is Ning.com with nearly 2MM communities and over 60MM users.  Rollstream, a much smaller start-up company, has a specialized niche market focusing on trading partner community management mainly in a supply chain arena.  CafeMom.com is one popular example of the uses of web 2.0 technology for a common interest community, one million strong, which makes money from major advertisers on the site.


Gong Szeto, a professional designer of option trading systems and the founder and designer of YOUROWNDEMOCRACY.ORG, asks, "Is Democracy a Design Problem".


Comparison China US Sweden

Mr. Szeto was born on May 18th, 1967; one year and two days after Mao Zedong officially launched the tumultuous, bloody, and destructive Cultural Revolution.  His parents fled 6 months after he was born, immigrating to the United States.  Gong and his family have a strong appreciation of the "American Dream", to have the freedom to pursue happiness, liberty, the right to vote, free speech, a fair wage, start a business, choose an education, get a house with a garage and buy a color TV.   So he sat down with his thoughts on making democracy more transparent and together with his day job experience in designing equity and options trading system, designed a new online platform YOUROWNDEMOCRACY.ORG.  He then submitted it to the Buckminster Fuller Idea Challenge which he is a finalist.  Gong states, "Basically, I think democracy itself needs to be a really kick-ass app shared and owned by millions."

Since then, utilizing web 2.0 technology itself, Gong's grand idea organically rose to the top, and was followed by conference speaking engagements, private equity and venture funding.  The system is now in development.  Here is how it is going to look.

Overlapping Idea Circles

YOUROWNDEMOCRACY is a powerful new web-based application geared to empower citizens of any democracy in the world to directly engage one another and their elected leaders on important issues on local, state, and national levels.


- Apply today's social networking, multimedia, and financial markets technologies to create a collaborative infrastructure that records and displays a population's real-time sentiments.

- Utilize sophisticated, but user-friendly design to explain complex issues and legislation to a broad voter base.

- Constantly measure and visualize voter sentiment data for the benefit of the populace, elected leaders, and the media.

- Make all issues digestible and actionable, thereby increasing voter participation in a complex democratic society.


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Simple homepage with user login showing a map of the country and icons representing types of legislative actions or "hot issues" happening across the country.

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MY VIEW is the citizen's personal dashboard that consolidates issues that are important to them. This view captures real-time sentiment of issues and legislation to give context relative to the rest of the country. MY VIEW also displays the voting activities of a citizen's social network. All in real-time.

1) Ever-present list of top issues, highlighted to show a citizen's preferences

2) Updated list of user voting and democracy engagement statistics

3) Citizen Profile

4) Real-time voter sentiment on government branches down to local level. Macro Indices.

5) Issues Tracking Panel. Voting Record. Updated MSM articles and blog posts

6) CitizenFeed: Chat with friends, see what your network members are voting on

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COLLABORATIVE BILL DEBATE VIEW allows citizens to view bills that are in the process of legislation and to express views on the bill in favor or in opposition. The user interface allows a user to vote on it at any time.

1) Bill title, sponsor and current voting statistics on a bill

2) Citizen comments in oppositional format

3) Bill displayed verbatim. Broken down into collapsible and indexable sections

4) Visualization of citizen presence

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MULTIMEDIA EXPLANATIONS are needed to explain highly technical and complex legislative documents to the layperson. Local, state, and national issues are presented in a familiar format utilizing the best techniques in editorial design and video and multimedia technologies.

1) Editorial style explanation of the bill in layman's terms, extensively illustrated

2) Current video content related to the bill's subject matter provided by objective media partners

3) Relevant at-a-glance facts and statistics relevant to the bill

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THE SHEER NUMBER of active issues and legislation and a means to address them all is overwhelming. Only through a simple and organized interface can a citizen quickly and efficiently browse through the many bills that are currently in play. By organizing these bills via the pre-configured issue categories and on national, state and local levels, a citizen can easily see the interrelationships between various initiatives.

1) Pop-open any of the pre-categorized bills in the list and see at-a-glance the current voter sentiment for that bill, and compare it to the sentiment of elected officials

2) The comprehensive and up-to-date list of bills is organized under House bills, Senate bills, state and local legislative actions. All categorized under the major issue categories.

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ONE-VOTER-ONE-VOTE is what the Constitution confers as a citizen's right in major elections. However, an interactive system such as this can also allow a citizen to register the strength of one's convictions about an issue. A user of this system accumulates points for every way he or she participates in democracy: posting opinions, commenting on other opinions, voting regularly and on many issues, favorable ratings from other citizens, etc. The net result is a growing balance of "Citizen Points" that can be applied to a vote to express the strength of a vote.

1) A citizen can easily apply accumulated "Citizen Points" to a vote to register strength. The system records all votes as 1:1, as well as via strength. Two ways of visualizing voter sentiment are always accessible to all. This method captures a vote along with the passion of the voter.

An example of how the point-system works in a typical session:

1) User logs in...+10 pts. ----- Balance: 10 pts.

2) User comments (civilly)on a post she reads...+100 pts. ----- Balance: 110 pts.

3) User comments (civilly) on a dissenting opinion...+200 pts ----- Balance: 310 pts.

4) User flames someone...-200 pts. ----- Balance: 110 pts.

5) User receives 10 positive ratings...(10) x 200 pts. ----- Balance : 2,110 pts.

6) User reads 10 articles...(10) x 200 pts. -----Balance: 4,110 pts.

7) User votes on 10 bills...(10) x 500 pts. ----- Balance: 9,100 pts.

8) User applies STRENGTH to a FOR Vote....1,000 pts. -----
 Balance: 9,100 pts: 8,600 pts. Available (+500 for voting); 1,000 pt. Position in a FOR Vote

9) User applies STRENGTH to an AGAINST Vote....5,000 pts. -----
 Balance: 9,100 pts: 4,100 pts. Available (+500 for voting); 1,000 pt. Position in a FOR Vote;
 5,000 pt. Position in an AGAINST Vote

And so on..."Citizen Point Balance" is always growing, unless a citizen behaves like a total meathead
and gets points deducted for being a bad citizen.

The purpose is to always accumulate points by interacting with the system. By debiting points on strength-votes, a user has to parse the value of the vote relative to her available balance (they have to think about it). If the available balance is depleted, the only way to build it back up in to go interact productively with the system again. The growing total Citizen Point Balance, over time, will develop symbolic value as to how active a participant one is in this system.  

American Dream 2.0 Becoming Reality

I asked Gong what his revenue model was, and I got a ‘no comment' from him.  I don't know how he plans or his investors plan to make money, but it's a wonderful idea and I look forward to seeing it in production.  With $800B in Recovery Act funds out there, I hope some of those funds find the way to make YOUROWNDEMOCRACY.ORG property of US Citizens.  There is a presidential directive for collaborative and participatory government that crosses government silos, engages citizens and partners with industry.  Also the 9/11 commission has concluded that "the system was blinking red, but we could not connect the dots due to too many independent silos of non-information sharing".  The CIA is now using Jive Collaborative Community Software. 

Gong, if you need a pitchman to hit up the Oval Office, shoot me an email.   If you are interested in Gong Szeto's company, you can find additional information on his blog, GONGBLOG, http://www.gongszeto.com/

Points of Interest


There is an endless amount of information on the Internet about web 2.0 technologies.  I would start with the companies that were mentioned in this article.  There is also a new book out from Harvard Business Press, Enterprise 2.0 by Andrew McAfee.  It's not highly technical and it's well written.  I would recommend it as a must read to any CIO. 

Andrew starts with his own doubts about the 2.0 buzz.  He asks if the benefits are that paramount to require a new version number for the web.  He goes through multiple business case studies.  He takes you through the evolution of web collaboration tools.  McAfee referenced major sociology schools of thought, including a 1973 book by Mark Granovetter, titled "The Strength of Weak Ties" and tied it right back to web 2.0 collaboration technology.  McAfee makes the point that companies that lack a system of weak ties, will be handicapped.  The last half of the book goes into how to best implement a web 2.0 system in one's organization. 

My two cents worth

Will the congregate wisdom of two hundred million informed citizens be the new best friend of democracy?   Today, the feedback loop is of segmented efforts, of limited pools of surveys, pools of special interest groups, and then there are a handful of information gatekeepers that filter the data, place opinion, then disseminate to the masses.  Ultimately one's vote is the feedback loop.  But for immediate voter sentiment on issues, YOUROWNDEMOCRACY.ORG is the purest platform for coming as close as possible to finding the truth of the matter at hand.

I still see ‘Hubs' of political think tanks and special interest groups using the system to rally votes from members that subscribe to their opinions.  But one of the values of the system is to arm that member and citizen, in a user defined web 2.0 platform, of competing points of view coupled with system generated statistical information, and allow them to make their own decisions.  Isn't this what democracy is about? 

The fear to this argument is that immediate sentiment from the uneducated masses results in a mob mentality void of any long-term strategic thinking.  Perhaps a feedback loop limited only to voting every four to six years is the best means that gives the benefit of the doubt to a professional who we trust will perform in the best interests of our nation.  Looking back over the last 40 years of the performance of our nation, the value of our currency, and our nation debt level of biblical proportion, you wonder how much long term planning really goes on. 

Gong, perhaps you should add a couple of long-term widget windows to the dashboard.  Could you show a debt clock or a budget meter that adjusts to show the monetary effect of each voting issue (based on the CBO office)?  Will some of the charts expand to long term views, like interactive stock price charts?

I wonder what the effect would have been if we had the YourOwnDemocracy platform when members of the U.S. government claimed that Iraq was involved in the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  They insisted that all the prisoners held in Guantanamo prison were hardened terrorists.  They swore that the United States does not torture its prisoners.  What is striking in all of these claims is not that we now know them to be false.  Rather, it is that at the time they were made, repeated, and accepted, facts already existed that showed these assertions to be false.  {from Harper's interview of Roger Berkowitz}  Could the YourOwnDemocracy platform have influenced the direction our nation took?

As far as mob mentality goes, I look to an example that Andrew McAffe brings up in his book, Enterprise 2.0, that is Wikipedia.   If someone came to you ten years ago with the idea that anyone, the masses, can update an encyclopedia, and do it in an accurate and organized manner, you would not believe them.   But in late 2005, the scientific journal Nature conducted a study comparing the accuracy of science articles from both Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia.  They found errors in both and found Britannica to be more accurate but only by a thin margin.  In Timo Hannay's, publishing director of nature.com, opinion, "Wikipedia could surpass Britannica in quality, but we have to wait and see."   Founder Jimmy Wales summarized Wikipedia's norms this way:
"Our community has an atmosphere of love and respect for each other, a real passion for the work , a real interest in getting it right.  We make it fun and easy for good people to get involved." {from Enterprise 2.0}

In my opinion YOUROWNDEMOCRACY.ORG has great potential.  Now, if we can just get those neophytes in Washington to use it to listen to its citizens, we would all be better off. 

Gong Szeto Summary

Democracy as an institution is influenced by the political zeitgeist, where complex issues are not all agreed upon, much less their solutions. Another troubling reality of modern democracies is corruption in government, leaders enacting laws that are not necessarily in the best interest of their constituencies, often influenced by corporations and their army of lobbyists that seek their own competitive marketplace agendas using public policy as a means to advance and protect their market positions.

Government is a very complex, multi-layered endeavor, and the political climate du jour often determines the modus operandi on how policy is created. Bills, legislation, and lawmaking is a highly technical pursuit, the issues and language often beyond the reach of the average citizen. Even with the Constitution's mandate for checks and balances between the respective branches of government, there lacks a system whereby the populace is able to keep up with everyday political forces and inertia of lawmaking.

There are several important grassroots initiatives (most notably the work of the Sunlight Foundation, among others) that address individual aspects of the system described here, however, none exist that incorporates media and real-time measurement and recording as this proposal describes. In addition to voting behavior feedback loops, few or none of existing government transparency offerings seek to de-mystify issues and bills to the layperson. The participation-incentive/voting-strength algorithm featured in this proposal is a new invention in this space.

Today's technology allows for innovative online collaboration, networking, transactional, and information visualization. Integrated together in a coherent set of solutions for the citizens of democracy, it is now possible to conceive of a single-platform which is an independent non-partisan party whose sole mandate is to harness the power of these technologies into an accessible framework that will allow citizens the ability to stay informed about complex issues and to register their votes in favor or in opposition to processes in government. Transparency will lead to a stronger, more active and informed citizenry and more accountable government.

The humble hope and ambition of this system is to give the citizens of a democracy a robust platform to become more educated and informed about our representative government and to be able to influence the machine of government in positive ways. The end game is simple: By interacting with this system over time, a user will automatically become orders of magnitude more engaged with issues of society than before she had been before becoming a user. On Monday, it was a normal day in Sally's life. Then she signed up on Tuesday. By Friday, Sally connected with 100+ people who shared her concerns about an issue, knows their names and their passions, voted on 10 active bills, made her concerns known, finally got a sense of what what happening in her very city and community, and began building a "Citizen Point Balance" which is the only known quantified measure of citizen engagement in the world. In one week, the way she became more informed and active in democracy grew a hundredfold. Now, multiply this single-person phenomenon times 100 million registered voters. Wow.


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Last Updated ( Dec 09, 2009 at 06:34 PM )

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