Give the people what they want!

Ed Note: Boingboing's current guest blogger Steven Johnson is the author of six books, most recently The Invention Of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution and the Birth Of America, for which he is currently on book tour. He's also the co-founder of the hyperlocal community site outside.in.

Ever since the heady days of the pre-scream Howard Dean campaign, a lot of us who are interested in decentralized systems and emergent behavior have wondered when politicians would start to use new collaborative technology to do something other than organize rallies and raise money. Sure, it was exciting to see Web 2.0 concepts transform political campaigns, but wouldn't it be even more exciting to see them transform the way we govern?

So it's cool to see on the always-interesting Change.gov site the newly released Citizen's Briefing Book, which is effectively a Slashdot/Plastic/Digg take on public policy. (The underlying technology is Salesforce.com's Ideas product.) Here's the description on the site:

Share your ideas on any issue facing the new administration, then rate or comment on other ideas. The best rated ideas will rise to the top -- and be gathered into a Citizen's Briefing Book to be delivered to President Obama after he is sworn in.
Right now, the top three most popular proposals are: 1) Ending Marijuana Prohibition, 2) Bullet Trains and Light Rail, and 3) An End To Government Sponsored School Abstinence Programs. In other words, what the people want are stoned kids having sex on bullet trains. Sounds about right to me!