View Thread > H2O Meta > Interesting Uses > Great use!
We've had the Rotisserie running for almost a year now, and we've recently gotten a bunch of new users who've had a chance to try the system out. For those of you who have already hosted rotiseries, how have you used the rotisserie and what lessons have you learned? For those who are pondering using the system, what interesting uses for the rotisserie do you have in mind?
I have not used the system yet (this is my first post), but my primary interest is in providing meaningful dialogue between local elected officials/policy makers and the people they represent.
We've been running Winona Online Democracy for almost three years now. It is an email discussion list that includes about 220 community members, elected offficals and media within the Winona, Minnesota community (see www.winona.org). It's worked quite well, but limitations of the system have become evident. Some of these are: posting by only a small number of participants, inflammitory dialogue, and one item that I think is key -- an inability of elected officials to participate in a meaningful way due to the volume of messages and a fear that their participation would cause them to be inundated with emails to respond to.
My underlying thought is that if the elected official were a participant in a discussion (and people knew that what they were writing was being read by an elected official) it might actually reduce the overall volume of email that an elected official received (and had to respond to), while actually making the dialogue more meaninful. I think this would be a change in the paradigm of how constituents interact online with elected officials -- one which would make it more useful to both the elected official and the constituent.
I'm inclined to agree that an elected official would be much more likely to participate in a discussion that is structured (as H2O is). There is a discrete beginning and end point--so in some senses, it is more like participating in an off-line forum than an online one. Too, it takes a certain level of buy-in to become part of an H20 discussion--so people may be less inclined to flame.
The problems you describe with your current system (uneven participation, inflammatory discussion, lack of scalability) are precisely the problems that the rotisserie is meant to solve. The rotisserie encourages participation by democratizing the participation -- everyone who posts knows that her post will be sent to at least one other user to specifically respond to and won't get lost in the ether. More pratically, the system sends out alerts are the beginning of each round and shortly before a round ends if we haven't gotten a response, so the system is more active in encouraging participation.
We find that the slowing down of the discussion and the change in context from everyone standing in a room shouting to having lots of individual conversation decreases the amount of flamage and increases the thought put into posts dramatically. Take a look at our current Iraq War project for an example of how the system allows thoughtful discussion on difficult and divisive topics.
I think you get the scalability part inherently. In fact, we've used the rotisserie in law school classes to include topical luminaries every week in the discussion, and the folks are willing to participate only because they know they just have to respond to the one post they are assigned rather than try to address the whole board.