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Why We’re Raising the Signature Threshold for We the People (whitehouse.gov)
124 points by imjared on Jan 16, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 133 comments



Wow, that infographic is misleading.

http://cl.ly/image/2n1H2Q0z1919

They quote that "162 responses" number right after saying "petitions must receive 100k signatures", when none of those responded to had to have received 100k signatures.

Additionally, 2.1 million signatures (responded to) divided by 162 petitions (responded to) is an average of 12,963 signatures per petition. The largest petition ever - obviously an outlier - received just over 300k. In fact, only one petition ever has cracked the 100k mark: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petitions/popular/0/2/0

Not only that, but the top three were related to an exceptionally charged issue that was sparked by an absolutely awful tragedy and then catalyzed by an awful group of people whose entire purpose in life is to cause controversy, which hints that outside of another elementary school rampage, nothing will gain the momentum necessary to meet this new threshold. I'd argue that the GMO petition is the first legitimate "issue" petition on that list, and it's nearly 40k signatures short of this new threshold.

This is more or less a guarantee that almost nothing else will reach the threshold necessary to receive a response.


There is one important number missing from the infographics in this blog post.

Difference Made: 0


Do you think it is better not to provide any website for registering opinions?


Of course. Without it people would be forced to contact their congressional reps, their senators, their local law makers, send letters directly to the president, and get involved with the media. All of which are precisely the sorts of ways you can actually effect change.


Indeed, I've always thought of them as a cunning way of soaking up some of the pressure.

The UK's version ( http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/ ) goes a step further as you have to provide your name and a full address, so regularly signing petitions will be giving the Government a nice set of data to mine to provide a political profile based on views on certain issues...

The site says "This information will not be used for any purpose other than in relation to the e-petition." but that doesn't fill me with confidence that they can't do mining...


With an increase in effort required is there also a corresponding decrease in people who follow through?

Could you not create a petition and then heavily promote it to gain media attention? I mean, look at the Death Star petition. That made the regular news everywhere.

I think this is just another avenue to voice your opinion. Anyone serious about effecting change is going to use all possible forms of media to do it. Anyone not serious would have done nothing petition website or not.


In a word? Yes. Providing the illusion of listening is actively deceptive, whereas not having the website won't trick people into thinking they're interacting with their government.


It might be interesting for an external party to have such a website but it's counter productive for the government to have one because clicking a link on an online petition accomplishes literally nothing.

How invested you are in an issue is displayed by how much work you're willing to put into doing something about it. Online petition is practically zero work so it's zero worth, regardless of how many people click what.


Neither better nor worse? We the people, already know what we the people want. Writing it down doesn't make much difference. Maybe for the sake of posterity?


Once a given petition crosses the threshold, there is much less pressure to recruit more signatures. Without data on the rate of new signers before and after the threshold, I can't prove it, but I'd bet this will not stop serious petitions.


By coincidence, I've been collecting just such a data set since Saturday afternoon. I suspect that in the case of the petition I'm interested in, the fact that it had almost no "earned media" before crossing the threshold is why the signing rate appeared to speed up once it had crossed the threshold.


Additionally, 2.1 million signatures (responded to) divided by 162 petitions (responded to) is an average of 12,963 signatures per petition.

That assumes people only sign one petition. I bet you could find plenty of people who have put their names to 5 or 10 petitions right here on HN.

Also, when you looka t the other petitions, it's obvious that a lot of them are a) duplicative b) bullshit and c) ignorant - like asking the Executive branch to 'repeal Obamacare,' when repeal is a legislative function.

I'm all for the petition process, but I'm also all for some kind of filter against teh dumb [sic].


Good catch on the multi-signatures. That would tend to suggest a higher number of signatures per petition, but even in that case, we're talking about an average of ~13,000 people engaged per successful petition.

I totally agree that there needs to be a filter against teh dumb (because the average citizen has an appallingly tenuous grasp of the basics of US civics), but it seems like all that this does is increase incentive to trump up phantom(/spam/falsified) support for a petition, rather than actually improving engagement with constituents and giving them a voice.


It seems like their goal is to maintain a threshold such that x petitions get responded to, where x is a number they can manage and afford. I highly doubt x is actually zero, so they will probably adjust the threshold in the future if needed.


Why not just say "We'll respond to the top X petitions per 30 days" then?


I'm guessing that's because saying something like "X signatures needed" creates an easier metric for people to know when a petition will get responded to.

"Top X/month" would assume that they would choose a time of the month when they would compare and respond to those which is probably not the way things work(they respond to things as they get around to them, whenever that is and as fast as possible).


Conspiracy theories about why your petition is always the X+1 petition.


That link seems to only show open petitions. The ones that have already been addressed are not shown. For example, the Piers Morgan petition went over 100k but is not on that list.


You know, after looking at these, there's a bunch of stupid and petty petitions there. I wonder if this one will just simply get lost in the noise of idiocy.


The founders of the United States knew that a representative democracy (what they termed a "republic") has some distinct advantages over direct democracy. This fact was discussed at length in the jointly authored Federalist Papers.

http://thomas.loc.gov/home/histdox/fedpapers.html

History shows that this fact is rediscovered in each new generation through hard experience, on a bipartisan basis.


But that doesn't mean republics can't have more direct democracy elements in them. For example I love the idea of citizens being able to create a referendum (in a certain state, I believe) in Germany. You still have a threshold, so people don't start creating one for all sorts of crazy ideas, but this is a great example of how citizens can help improve the laws in their countries. I think this referendum is usually added to the next election.

Such system obviously need to be fined-tuned to avoid having the population "abuse" them, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be pursued. I think they can be great additions to any democratic republic.


Another poster has said the same thing, but it's worth repeating: take a long hard look at California first. We have that here and it hasn't really worked out very well. It would be worth your while to visit CA in the month before an election, and look at the incredibly low quality of the political advocacy here (bullshit 30 second TV attack ads on every conceivable topic). The ballot pamphlet mailed to all California voters lays out the text of all proposed laws as well as arguments for and against, mentioning sponsor and source. Hardly anyone reads the whole ballot pamphlet.


California is much, much too big for direct democracy to have a Hope in hell of working. Representative democracy has enough problems running it. California is too big for it is not a killer argument against direct democracy.


Well it sort-of works, just not all that well. I don't buy the size argument because the same pros and cons exist at the municipal and county level - some stupid propositions do well, some smart ones do poorly, too few people are clear on exactly what they're voting for.


none of that is isolated to CA by any means


For conflicting evidence, I would point to the California initiative process, which is the reason California's government is nonfunctional and almost bankrupt right now.


California's government is nonfunctional and almost bankrupt right now because California is a One-Party State, and that party likes to buy itself votes with other people's money and then get people like you to blame everything wrong on someone else.

Give the Entitled Party credit: they've destroyed the state's finacial situation, but hey, they've got a total lock on the state. So its all been a big success on the one thing that counts.


This is an extremely simplistic and inaccurate view of California's political problems, which are in fact in large part related to initiatives that passed through California's direct democracy process. Proposition 13 is among the most significant: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Proposition_13_(1978...


California Republicans are essentially as bad as California Democrats, at least on the local level where Republicans sometimes win. I'd personally take Washington State Democrats over virtually any politicians in California. Politicians and voters in California are just terminally insane.


California became a one-party state in 2012. Prior to 2012, it was very much a two-party state, and the problems date as far back as the 1990s, when it was still considered a swing state.


"...this fact"? The only fact here is that the thing you're claiming is a fact actually isn't.

By the way, your celebration of this policy change is especially ironic considering the United States empire is completely buckling under the enormity of its failure as we speak. Right, we're "re-discovering the efficiency of representative democracy" by decreasing accountability...

America's governance system is very complex but it's hardly worth calling democracy in any meaningful use of the term. Money buys political results. Americans overwhelming see this to be the case. The state is made up of only the upper class and exists to serve the interests of the upper class. They run it, not the people in general.


America is not a democracy. It is a republic. The states are also republics, though feature some democratic traits, i.e., the initiative process.


When was the last time direct democracy was actually tried? I can't think of any examples. I don't disagree with your conclusion; any direct democracy substantially above the Dunbar number is likely to have a fairly short period of mob rule followed by adopting some other form of governent once the civil war/rioting stops.

We have been furnished a more perfect example of democracy than the USA though, one that's a lot closer to a direct democracy, that works wonderfully. And they're not joking when they talk about the people being sovereign.

All hail Switzerland!


When I look across the first world, the US government doesn't stand out to me as the best. In fact, it does stand out to me as one of the worst (at least in my personal experience). So I don't know how much should I care what men said who, IMO, have been proven wrong.


I clicked, and I see a long list of papers. Which one is the relevant one to this topic? I'd like to read them all, but can't afford that much time right now...


It's worth reading them all--in order is fine, so start with #1. There is no rush; they've been around almost 250 years already.


I'm of the opinion that this is in direct response to how quickly 25,000 signatures were raised to fire Ortiz.

How would they like it if the citizens of the US took the same tact: "Hey Obama administration, I'd like to inform you that I am choosing a different tax bracket arbitrarily with the same level of authority as you show me respect as a citizen."


Or maybe it was in response to the petition to build a Death Star =]

petition: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/secure-resources-a...

response: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/response/isnt-petition-resp...


Maybe there should be a new petition to build the Starship Enterprise so the 100k limit can hit by something silly too. Another petition that screams "We know this is a joke to you."


"This new threshold applies only to petitions created from this point forward and is not retroactively applied to ones that already exist."

So this will have no affect on the Ortiz petition.


I'm not saying it would have effect on it - but rather, an important step in quashing such actions in the future.

"Oh shit! look how easy that 25K for Ortiz was! We learned our lesson! let's up it to make it 4X as difficult to force us to issue a statement informing the populous that they have no voice!"

Thanks Waqf


effect


Thank you. Though, it won't cause them to speak their responses in a southern accent either.


I think that's a bit paranoid. I think it is simply because there are now loads of petitions, often at least partially redundant, that easily reach the 25k threshold. To answer all of those they'd have to expend an unreasonable amount of time and they want a more reasonable threshold to filter out those petitions that really matter to people.

For example, if I click on "popular petitions" right now, there are at least 5 petitions about the Westboro Baptist Chruch with more than 25k votes, and some of these are outright duplicates. Repealing Obamacare seems to be another popular topic.

Basically it seems that, because it is relatively easy to vote, you can find 25k people on the Internet to vote for more or less anything, overwhelming the administration with petitions that wouldn't actually find much support in the population.


Reality check: outside the tech news echo chamber, the Swartz case and everything related is a pretty minor thing.


"We were really hoping that you'd voice your dissatisfaction with government in a very limited way and over trivial things. Now that you're calling us out on real issues, we're going to make it much, much harder!"


Yes. Now that we're giving official responses on building a death star, it's just gotten too real.


What happened to cause that growth is that in mid/late November, the secession petitions went viral. This was a completely new audience of Red Staters and responsible for the hockey stick growth.


Wow, that is a pretty stunning change. Granted it wasn't another 5x boost, is the "within 30 days" requirement also new or has that always been the case?

The only thing that would have made this change remotely reasonable if it included language that the administration would, in the presence of a 100K sigs in 30 days petition, actually respond to the petitition. But I noticed there wasn't any more commitment above "official response" for which "no comment" is sufficient apparently.

Reminds me of the Steve Martin spoof on DUI tests: http://www.youtube.com/watch?annotation_id=annotation_183855...


I wish there was more resolution along the x-axis; I'd really when that inflection point occurred and what triggered it. There's exponential growth, and there's literal overnight success, and this appears to be the latter.

Also, generic vague whining about the government only pretending to care.


I did a quick search and it looks like it might be election related: "... eight different petitions requesting secession following the outcome of the November presidential election. The petition for the state of North Carolina to secede from the union earned more 31,835 signatures, while South Carolina's had just over 26,000."

http://www.wcnc.com/news/local/Official-White-House-response...


Which begs the question: why are people petitioning the White House to have their states secede from the Union? That's just stupid on so many levels that I don't even know where to begin.


I read it as evidence of the erosion of state's rights. Perception is reality and those folks clearly thought they needed Daddy DC's permission.

We nationalize too many issues on which our nation is deeply divided. If, instead of bickering for years over an issue in Congress, we pushed those decisions back to the states, then local initiatives would be put into place. With time, the right solutions would naturally develop. Competition is king.

Of course, doing so takes strength and wisdom from our Congressmen to admit they could not come to a national compromise. Many will call it failure. Thus, it will not occur.


I read it as evidence of the erosion of state's rights. Perception is reality and those folks clearly thought they needed Daddy DC's permission.

/sound of me slapping myself on the head/

I should have thought of that.


Of course the states do not need DC's permission to form the Confederacy... even grade schoolers know the Articles of Confederation provide the constitutional basis for secession. ;)


Not if you went to grade school in America!

/wishes I was joking.


I don't know. They already tried seceding without DC's permission, and that didn't work out too well for them...


They're people petitioning to secede. They're obviously not the brightest in the bunch?


The petitions all say peacefully as I recall.


Because they'd like to be less responsive to citizen concerns?

10,000,000 / 25,000 = 400 responses/yr. I'd like to believe our government could deliver slightly more than one well-considered response per day.


I think that's a really simplistic view of how government works. These are not simply problems being proposed. These require, in almost every single case, multiple departments working together along with (a) a lot of deep thinking by the parties involved, and (b) a measured response that must get run through no less than 20 people (my guess) before it becomes an "official response". You think they can achieve "more than one per day"? No chance.


> 10,000,000 / 25,000 = 400 responses/yr

Based on the last few months of growth the response rate won't remain static. It's reasonable to assume there will be continued growth, so they need to set the barrier to entry at a practical height.


what is the 25k here?


That is the old threshold for petitions.

Note that 400 is a strict overestimate if votes were evenly divided between petitions. But some petitions get 2x the vote total, and some don't reach the threshold. So the real number is significantly less. But the trend is clear.


The current amount of votes for a petition.


Thought I couldn't be less disappointed in the Obama administration but they don't cease to fail me.

I think the first new petition should be to require petitions to return to 25K threshold.


> I think the first new petition should be to require petitions to return to 25K threshold.

Given the increase in the number of unique users since late 2012 it makes sense to move the threshold, otherwise the signal to noise ratio will be too high. If the trend continues it would take only a few days to get the required signatures for Knee-high Socks With Shorts to be a compulsory uniform for the nation.


Why are you disappointed? Was it because they launched the site or because they raised the threshold? Since there has never been another site like this the effective threshold for past administrations was infinite. I think 100,000 is better than nothing.


This (decision by the White House, not your idea) is ridiculous, I'll definitely sign a petition to bring it back down to 25,000. It took an average of 18 days for petitions to reach the 25,000 threshold before it spiked after the election (because of all the secession petitions and Newtown and joke petitions like the Death Star).

Now if a petition doesn't cross the 100,000 threshold in 30 days they ignore it. Assuming the the number of petition signings falls back closer to what it was before the election, it will take an average of about 60 days to reach the 100,000 threshold, meaning most petitions will be ignored.


Most petitions should be ignored. It turns out that it's absurdly easy to gin up a 25,000-strong flash mob on the internet. I don't think things like secession petitions deserve a serious response. Things like petitions to deport some guy on CNN for expressing his low opinion of the second amendment are uncomfortable reminiscent of lynching.


Has anyone seen a good answer to one of these petitions? Or a policy change?


Yes I'd say about 20% of them get a well explained no, 20% get a yes based off something already happening, 10% get a yes on their own, 20% are things they can't comment on (active legal cases for instance), 20% get stupid responses, and 10% are really stupid petitions to begin with (like states leaving the union). More than anything I think the petitions let the administration know how to prioritize releases. It informs them what is 'hot'.

Some highlights:

Obama administration backs down on Marijuana Legalization: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/response/addressing-legaliz...

Army Stops using monkeys (this actually happened in response to this petition as far as I can tell): https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/response/army-no-longer-usi...

National Guard Joint Chief of Staff created: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/response/chief-national-gua...

This petition (and opinion polls probably) helped prompt the administration to appeal SOPA and PIPA: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/response/combating-online-p...

This petition (and some campaign promises) have slowly resulted in increased digitization, recently the house put much of their data up in XML: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/response/digitizing-federal...

This petition is well written if nothing else: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/response/doubling-and-tripl...

These petitions happened at the same time as (though it's debatable if it resulted in) the president declaring he would not defend DOMA: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/response/greater-protection...

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/response/repealing-discrimi...

This petition coincided with a policy change on student loan burden reduction: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/response/taking-action-redu...


No. It seems unfortunately another one of these initiatives, that pretend to take concerns serious - by putting them in a file. But it is a smart buffer to channel the voice of internet driven activism an direct it into a digital nirvana.


Good questions. I think they only promise to acknowledge the petition, not necessarily do anything about it. If they're raising the minimum number to 1 million signatures, I wish they would promise a bit more, though I don't know what.


Here is the reality. Serious concerns will get few votes. Things such as building a death star that are completely stupid and not serious get lots of votes.

So what this is really saying is, "We're going to raise the threshold so we won't have to waste effort replying to your death star petitions, and btw we don't give a fuck about the little man and never did. Fuck you. Case closed. Now if we can get the media to sponsor some petition we really care about like banning all assault weapons or raising the debt ceiling, then you can vote on that, and we'll be glad to tell you why you have a great idea."


The change in policy means that instead of needing 0.013% of the voting age population to sign your petition you need 0.052%.

http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=%28+25%2C000+people+%2F...

http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=%28+100%2C000+people+%2...

Please leave the hyperbole and fatalistic rhetoric on other sites.


Killed my other account last night as I swore again I'd stop posting to HN... that didn't work I suppose.

Do you not understand that raising the threshold 4x is going to reduce the chance of the little man getting his concern addressed by a factor of 4?

My point was that the petitions I've seen on that site getting to the top are too often just joke petitions, and yet there are many legitimate petitions that don't get enough votes to meet the thresholds but should be addressed. Joke petitions have given them a reason to not address serious issues, and the more the threshold gets raised, the less of a chance that serious issues will get addressed.

If you seriously think that you can get 0.52% of the voting age population to sign an online petition, think about how much money and time both political parties had to spend just trying to get people to vote for president and how they were pouring millions into swaying 1% of the population. 0.013% vs. 0.52% is a HUGE difference even though it might not seem like it.


0.052%


The first thing I thought when I saw this post was that it was a response to the success of the Carmen Ortiz petition. I understand the change doesn't apply retroactively, but it would help future officials face less public scrutiny from these petitions.

The growth over the last two months were clearly due to the election and I doubt that that type of growth will continue. We will likely see a drop back down to previous levels, resulting in it being more difficult to achieve the requisite number of signatures overall.


This just means that petition drives will need to be more organized and focused. I think the Carmen Ortiz petition was somewhat of a fluke. You aren't going to find that confluence of anger, focus, and clarity of target very often. And we have yet to see if it will have any effect. The Ortiz petition is only effective because she is a political appointee who serves at the Presidents pleasure. And while most of the presidents cabinet falls into that category; it is extremely rare for one to do something that justifies the intense public anger that we've seen here.


> The first thing I thought when I saw this post was that it was a response to the success of the Carmen Ortiz petition.

That's because it was the big topic in the HN echo chamber recently.


Wait, the most signatures ever received on a petition is 300,000, and they're setting the threshold for a response to a petition at 1/3rd of that?


Once a petition crosses the threshold, people are far less likely to continue signing it.


Is Aaron Swartz-related petitions the main reason for the recent peak in the total users number or is it just the service getting popular these days? If it is aaronsw related then the acceleration should slightly decline after a few days, hopefully I'm not assuming wrong.


I seriously doubt that Swartz-related petitions had anything to do with it. I agree with you that they will probably die down in a few days, but the story doesn't seem to have made it too far outside the tech industry.

I was quite surprised to hear a quick story on NRP about how his possible punishment may have been out of proportion. Has it even been covered during the major newscasts like NBC Nightly News, CBS News, Fox News, CNN, etc; at least for over 60 seconds?

I'd be willing to guess that even among those who watch a large amount of news, the average American didn't hear the story at all.


Congress should have a similar system, perhaps one for each representative and each senator. They could get a better sense for what the people they represent want. Rather now that's only done through e-mails (which probably never get read by the politicians themselves), phone calls (same thing, and a bit inefficient considering most people won't bother to call), and visiting in person (probably done by very few people).

They could even be done in a sort of Google Moderator/Reddit way, although perhaps more fine-tuned and with certain thresholds (but not too high, especially initially).


This would be great, though you would need some way to tie people's accounts to their residences, which would require them to work with boards of elections give out the elections with the voter registration receipts.


I fail to see a problem with voicing your opinion to an elected official, even if that person is not representing you. Especially when one state making a decision can set a precedent for others.

Although I do think that the votes should be tied to location, even if other locations are allowed in. I think a ZIP code is enough here; it's a letter, not a vote.


Why should a representative care about the opinions of people who aren't voting for her or contributing to her campaign? There are lots of opinionated people on the internet.

I simply picked the board of elections because they already are entrusted with the capacity to verify that a certain person lives in a certain ward or district. I suspect zip codes would not be fine-grained enough for local government fora, where this would be most useful.


They don't have to weight everything equally, but as I previously stated, politicians that actually want to do good and not just get re-elected (I hear some exist) might actually care about their precedent-setting decision and how it will impact non-residents.


I think there is certainly value in outside voices. Journalists and bloggers play that role now. I guess the issue I have is that any given district could get suddenly swamped by outsiders. Why not have it be the case that constituents would bring that voice in by linking to their post?

One idea that I have some sympathy toward is making the representatives responsible for moderating the fora as they see fit. They would then be judged at the ballot box if they pissed everyone off...or they would really skillful at creating false consensus.


This is a nice interactive visualization of the top 50 White House Petitions in tabular, map, and graph form. You can sort by most popular, greatest average signature gain, and male/female ratio.

http://roadtolarissa.com/whitehouse/

The top 5 have sharp spikes in Nov / Dec 2012. Here is some analysis of the Texas Secession Petition: http://www.unc.edu/~ncaren/secessionists/daybyday.html and


You can raise limit all you want, you will not dodge issues we are interested in. Even if we have to make our website(s).

I've been thinking how to celebrate accomplishments of Aaron Swartz and I think being active on Demand Progress is a good way, for start. There are some other ideas, but ideas are easy to come by, I think joining and propping already working ideas is more important.

Just my 2c.


I hate to be a cynic but the timing seems too coincidental with the death of Aaron and the petition to remove Carmen Ortiz from office. She was nominated to her position by the President, so there is an assumption (perhaps invalid) of close ties to the administration.


I think the idea that it was the Piers Morgan petition[1] getting 109k+ signatures was more likely to be the straw.

As mad as everyone online is about Aaron, I don't think it's actually that big an issue in Washington. The brouhahas after Sandy Hook sounds much more plausible as an issue big enough to cause a change.

[1] http://universe.byu.edu/beta/2013/01/14/white-house-rejects-...


From the article:

"This new threshold applies only to petitions created from this point forward and is not retroactively applied to ones that already exist."

So the Ortiz petition will be unaffected.


It's the other way around. The change to the petition process was affected by the embarrassing pace of the Ortiz petition.


Meaningless, insulting charade made more meaningless, insulting. Buzzfeed at 11.


Why exactly are they raising the signature threshold? It doesn't say.


It was explained the first time they raised the treshold [0]:

"The massive participation on We the People means that in the first week over 30 petitions reached 5,000 signatures, the initial threshold to generate an official response from the White House. At our first internal review meeting Friday, two things were clear:

(a) everyone is thrilled about this new challenge and excited to process the first batch, but

(b) this many petitions challenges our ability to offer timely and meaningful responses to petitions in the long term.

[...] This may not be the last time we change the thresholds, both in terms of signatures and amount of time."

So they're admitting that simply throwing more people at the problem won't work in the long run, since petitioners expect meaningful responses from people who are knowledgeable. See Mythical Man-Month [1] and PG's decision to limit the size of the YC W13 class [2].

[0] http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/10/03/good-problem-have-...

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mythical_Man-Month#The_myth...

[2] http://ycombinator.com/w13smaller.html


"Stop bothering us."


Why not make the threshold dynamic?


They could simply reply to the x most-signed petitions every y weeks.


This solution seems ideal. And if your petition gets screwed because it happens to be created at the same time as X other super popular ones you could always re-create it for the next cycle.


This works great for web-services, not so much for government.

A government service needs transparency. 'You get a response after X signatures' is simple, understandable, and transparent. 'You get a response if you're in the top Y' is opaque; my petition was #Y yesterday, how did it become #Y+1 today when it's time for the official count? It was #Y at 7am, why did it suddenly jump to #Y+1 for 5 minutes at 11am when they were selecting the winners?


I suspect they wanted to keep things as simple as possible. But yeah, shooting for 1 or 2% of the total amount of registrants would be a future-proof solution.


Well, I find the timing suspicious.

I know that gun enthusiasts have been creating dozens of them as of late and as silly as some of them aree, they are meeting the 25,000 signature goal.

The "fire Carmen Ortiz" took less than three-days to reach fruition and now that the White house has devalued the 25,000 number, I hope the petition can reach 250,000 by it's end date to really send a message.


The Carmen Ortiz petition passed the threshold for an answer before the requirement was raised.

It's right now (early Wednesday morning pacific time) crawling up toward 35,000 at the current rate there's a good chance that it will cross the 100,000 mark before 11 February.


Btw, can anyone confirm, how safe is this, against automated clicks, and paid clicks?


Can people in say, Saudi Arabia, sign up and petition?


So, what happened some time around late November 2012?

EDIT: One possible answer here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5064211


Westboro Baptist Church planned a protest of the Sandy Hook funerals. The petitions to denounce or strip the tax exempt status of the group got well over half a million signatures in December.


What I want to know, are there any petitions at all to which the official response was essentially, "Hell, yes. Brilliant idea! We'll get right on it!".


Not thrilled about the increase in the number of signatures required, but I do like that they are going to release an API for accessing the petitions.


I think the sign-up only requires an email verification step, so it's not clear how many people have actually signed up.


There's a hockey stick growth curve for you.


Wasn't the whole thing set up so the government could spam the signers - like every other petition site?


I've received no emails as a result of signing any petition. I think this is just a much more direct way for the government to pretend it cares what we want while continuing to do whatever it pleases.


Do you really expect the White House to unilaterally implement policy on account of a few thousand 'online votes', a significant number of which might be dupes or astroturf? Congress remains the way legislation gets passed no matter how many feedback websites the executive makes.


No, of course not. But if they've created this platform to make our voices heard, I expect them to listen. Just like writing my elected officials, every White House petition I've signed has gotten me either no response or a tactfully-worded "fuck you, go away"


Does this even matter?

Aside from beer recipes & death stars, what success stories are there behind these petitions?


tl;dr

Dear America, shut the fuck up.


Seems strange that the White House would use github.com and not just host it themselves ...


The Death Star petition and the Piers Morgan petition were the straws that broke the camel's back, according to a friend in the WH PR dept.


Alright, the Piers Morgan one I understand, but the Death Star one was awesome both because it was inherently funny, and because it gave the administration a chance to show a more human face (which those in the WH should appreciate). I find it odd that they'd look at a gift like that and decide it was a problem.


More like they've realized how easy and useless it is to create a petition and have people who "support" it spend 5 seconds clicking thru any petition that comes into whitehouse.gov, so they are raising the bar to cut down on the time they waste responding to nonsense.


Still, merely raising the vote threshold seems a poor solution. Unfortunately, I can't think of a better one.



It's certainly better than anything I'd thought of, but I don't really think of WtP as a user-based site in the same way that Digg is/was. People don't, I suspect, sign up for an account and then regularly visit and choose which petitions to sign. Rather, someone starts a facebook campaign, people go to the site, sign up, vote, then forget about it. I'm guessing regular emails from WtP inviting someone who once voted to ban abortion to come back and vote on a random issue probably wouldn't work out very well.

The site could, instead, be turned into a more community-oriented place, with discussions on the proposed petitions and a sense of being part of the in-crowd when one you've talked about gets answered.

In fact, this is starting to sound an awful lot like Wikipedia, with the same kinds of drives and motivations. Create a set of guidelines for community interaction and petition content, then let "contributors" monitor proposed petitions, cull the obvious crap, improve the writing and cases cited, then publish them to the "new" page. You could have a couple of White House interns be mods and settle any disputes between members.

I'm just brainstorming, here. In reality, it seems like an idea that's nice in principle but unworthy and unworkable in practice.


Really? Those seem like PR gimmes. You can't ask for better softballs.


I know, right? When else do you get to say "The Administration does not support blowing up planets"? I think that was my favorite piece of the whole Death Star thing.


The Piers Morgan petition was only a softball to those capable of rational thought. To the many people who signed it, it was a legitimate petition. The purpose of raising the signature limit was to prevent petitions like that from reaching the point at which the WH has obligated itself to respond.


They're fooling themselves if they imagine 100k will stop annoying petitions that 25k wouldn't stop. That's a blindness to the dynamics of how these things work.




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