Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Suggested reading for elected officials

Despite the politically charged name of this post, Welcome to Obscurity will remain a non-partisan blog. It just happens that my most recent idea relates to my elected officials.

How many times have you shared an article with your friends or followers? If you're like me, you've probably forwarded plenty of interesting stuff to your social network. On the other hand, how many times have you contacted one of your congressman? I've sent less than ten messages to my elected officials, and I consider myself relatively politically active.

Despite the massive improvement in communications technology, few people bother to communicate with their elected officials. And why should they? One person's suggestion is unlikely even to be considered. It takes a coordinated effort to make an impact on a powerful politician, and few people have the time or resources to gather support.

To solve this problem, I propose a website for people to suggest articles for their elected officials to read. A worried elector could use a website, bookmarklet, or browser extension to mark articles they believe should be read by their elected officials. He could send the article to a specific politician or to every politician responsible to the elector.

The first time an article is suggested to a politician, a page is created for him that contains a link to the article. As more and more articles are suggested, the system sorts the articles by their popularity and specificity. An article's popularity will be based on the number of people who have suggested it. An article's specificity, on the other hand, will be determined by the number of other people to whom the article has been suggested. If a voter suggests an article to every one of his politicians, that article will have a lower specificity than one that he forwarded to a specific politician.

A politician will be able to confirm his identity with the service and respond directly to the suggested articles or subscribe anonymously to the RSS feed of his reading material. The politician could set his suggestions to expire quickly if he has a large volume of them or stay on his page until he responds. Normal people could also subscribe to the RSS feeds of politicians to learn which political articles are popular.

What do you think? Is this idea a potential world-changer or an insignificant pebble thrown against a Mack truck?