Make it Flow: CrowdHall Brings Order to Online Policy Discussions

Friday, April 26th, 2013

By Christina Crawley

First there was the bulletin board. Then there was the Internet forum. Today there is (additionally) social media in its various forms. Whether it is a Twitter hashtag, Facebook post, or more traditional online forum thread – people are talking more than ever. In the policy space more specifically, a government representative poses a question, and - if the timing, interest and/or frustration is right – a rapid fire of questions, answers, retweets, likes and +1s then ensues. But after 200+ comments, how do you get even back to the point that the 17th comment was making? As people continue to talk, we too must strive to make it a conversation - not a dartboard.

This week at the OpenGov Hub, our friend Kat Schmermund at CrowdHall came by to lead our most recent Brown-Bag Lunch (BBL) and demonstrate how to bring a little order to popular, yet many times chaotic, online policy-related discussions. CrowdHall takes what is often a “noisy problem” and puts some order to it so that discussion may flow.

Roughly six months in, CrowdHall has already been the venue for a number of online policy conversations, with political figures such as Rep. Paul GosarCincinnati councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, and Arkansas Rep. Tim Griffin. In all cases, the crowd itself has been responsible for shaping large discussions by pushing certain questions forward so that the hosts are able to best reply to them.

Having spent many hours myself creating and moderating online discussions, I’ve seen how threads can multiply at an incredible rate and (in many cases) loop over themselves. The ability to shape and group so many voices can be majorly supportive and allow for online discussions to have a impact rather than just a presence. After all, wasn’t that always the point?