Will there be an API so that civic developers can visualize and analyze them to see if there are duplicates or emerging themes? "Not now; API's for analysis and extending petition functionality on a long list of features we we are considering for future," tweeted Phillips. "With [federal CIO] Steve upstairs now, thinking through how that can best work is … a priority."
Why build this when services like PopVox, Votizen and Change exist to create social e-petitions? "Developing We the People ourselves [...] offers the flexibility to adapt to the public response to improve engagement," tweeted Phillips. "It's a false choice to say _either_ We the People _or_ others - there's lots of collaboration ahead, this space is still young." There's another key detail: these e-petitions would go to the executive branch, whereas Votizen and PopVox are targeted at Congress and constituent communications.
We the People respond
The initial response online has ranged from celebration, including a "high five from PopVox," to extreme skepticism. Open government technologist and citizen archivist Carl Malamud took the long view: "Nice job on We The People," he tweeted. "Treading in the footsteps of the Founders, petitions have a long and honorable history in our republic!"
Nick Judd reported on the White House going E-to-the-People at techPresident, pointing out that House Republicans have already been experimenting with similar platforms in their embrace of technology for transparency, with ties to legislative action. Judd curated many more reactions to the news as well.
"What difference do they make?" tweeted FutureGov founder Dominic Campbell. "None. Just a distraction technique to pacify the masses. Need new politics not gimmicks. Backbenchers are generally as influential over [government] policy as my gran. And she's dead. Petition / precise tech tool is irrelevant, it's all about political culture. Petitions are lame. All power is in the hands of govt. Not game changing. More make u feel better/doing *something*."
While the UK petitions have come back, "You'd be hard pushed to find anyone in UK speak +vely of them. Waste of space... think they just reinforce status quo and reward loudest/best organised. Not democracy. "
The creator of act.ly, Jim Gilliam, offered some of his own perspective and questions. "I built a petition/priority tool White House 2 back in 2008. I learned a lot, happy to share," he tweeted to Phillips, linking to his post on White House 2.0. On this count, the White House was listening: Phillips asked Gilliam to "dm him his email address." Here's a look back at "imagining White House 2.0" from the 2009 Personal Democracy Forum: