WashingtonWatch Becomes A Wiki

    April 25, 2007

America’s lawmakers are (in)famous for their bickering, but in the event that you’d like to join them – or even raise the level of debate – one site’s recent format change may help you do just that.  In other words, “WashingtonWatch.com Has Gone Wiki!”

If you’ve never heard of WashingtonWatch, its main goal is to provide a sort of cost-benefit analysis of various bills and laws.  As the site’s “About Us” section explains, “The resulting figures convey the significance to average Americans – in dollars and cents – of proposed changes to the nation’s policies.”

But thanks to a wiki makeover, users can now write up their personal interpretations of those proposed changes.  This will probably cut down on the indecipherable legalese, yet there is some cause for concern.

For starters, WashingtonWatch provides a 2,500-word introduction to its wiki that begins with “What is a Wiki?”  Um . . . anyone who doesn’t know what a wiki is at this point may not be a great resource on matters of national policy.

Some onlookers are also worried that the Wiki nature of WashingtonWatch will lead to a lot of unproductive, argumentative editing spats.  “I expect lobbyists, lawyers and congressional staff will get heavily involved in spinning legislation according to their own agendas, and we’ll soon see the beginning of a Washinton D.C. version of Wikipedia wars,” wrote Michael Arrington.

Given the mess that occurred over trends in the elephant population, it is scary to think about what a discussion concerning gun control or abortion might spawn.  And it will be more than a little ironic if this site ends up having to censor its users.

Nonetheless, WashingtonWatch has done something very interesting – and perhaps very beneficial – with this wiki renovation.