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Text Comments Out In YouTube "National Discussion" of Health Care 287

Posted by timothy
from the you-could-always-talk-with-your-friends-and-neighbors dept.
theodp writes "While the White House has invited the nation to Join the National Online Discussion on Health Care Reform, it is currently only accepting 20-30 second YouTube video responses — text comments have been disabled. Which raises a question: Should a video camera be the price of admission for participating in an open government discussion, especially when issues may hit those with lower incomes the hardest? BTW, the response-to-date has been underwhelming — 101 video responses and counting — and is certainly a mixed-bag, including a one-finger salute, a talking butt, a woman "Showing my Apples", and other off-topic rants and unrelated videos."
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Text Comments Out In YouTube "National Discussion" of Health Care

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  • Sounds bytes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @03:40PM (#28506777)

    It sounds to me like the administration is looking for raw material they can put into commercials to run in districts that oppose Obama's plans.

    I.e,. this might be a huge casting call in disguise.

    I'm fairly skeptical these days when Obama says he wants to involve the general population in a discussion. His modus operandi became evident when he ignored the highly voted Internet town hall topic of legalizing marijuana. It appears that at least sometimes, he's only pretending to take the general citizenry's views into account, even when he's saying otherwise.

    • Re:Sounds bytes (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @03:50PM (#28506849)

      I'm fairly skeptical these days when Obama says he wants to involve the general population in a discussion.

      Skeptical is good.

      His modus operandi became evident when he ignored the highly voted Internet town hall topic of legalizing marijuana. It appears that at least sometimes, he's only pretending to take the general citizenry's views into account, even when he's saying otherwise.

      I have little doubt there was significant internal discussion about the issue. It probably resulted in the consensus that the topic is political poison and they should avoid any public commentary. They still are concerned about the next election and need a longer period for policies to take effect and show a difference if they want many of their initiatives to last for the long term. I've been underwhelmed by the public participation programs put into place. It is hard to distinguish between the administration not hearing and the administration willfully pretending they did not hear anything, but at least on the marijuana issue it is pretty likely to be the latter.

    • by Necreia (954727)

      ... His modus operandi became evident when he ignored the highly voted Internet town hall topic of legalizing marijuana. It appears that at least sometimes, he's only pretending to take the general citizenry's views into account, even when he's saying otherwise.

      President Obama did come out and speak to the Marijuana question, but he answer it in a non-serious manner. See here: Legalizing Pot Won't Grow Economy [cbsnews.com]

    • by bjourne (1034822)
      So if you cynically think that soliciting debate through youtube videos is a bad thing, then maybe you can suggest a better alternative? Has any other prime minister/president in any other country ever done something similar? Remember, it was only a year ago that Bush only held heavily moderated press conferences in which only selected journalists where allowed to ask any questions.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by superwiz (655733)
        As opposed to 100% moderated filtering of questions (for further dissemination as coming "from the people")? Questions which are collected from a heavily a polarized population (of youtube viewers) which lacks no lackeys? That makes him a MORE effective propagandist -- not some man of the people that you are trying to convince us that he is.
    • Super'bama! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TiggertheMad (556308)
      His modus operandi became evident when he ignored the highly voted Internet town hall topic of legalizing marijuana.

      Or perhaps, he is just waiting for the right time to take up the topic. Just because he hasn't legalized weed in the first few months of his presidency does not mean he is ignoring the issue. Don't you suppose that, while anti-drug laws are pointless and archaic, they are SLIGHLTLY less important making sure that the economy doesn't implode further, getting out of the Iraq war, winning the
      • by wellingj (1030460)
        I consider President Obama a failure because he still thinks he can fix the largest and most complicated economy.

        A) That's not his job.
        B) If he wanted to help fix the economy he should bring troops home to reduce spending.
        C) The people who are going to fix the economy are people like you and I.
        D) Legalizing marijuana would also help reduce spending.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by WAN Rover (1221570)

      His modus operandi became evident when he ignored the highly voted Internet town hall topic of legalizing marijuana.

      Are you serious? Of course Obama didn't make weed legal even though it's quite popular in some circles. Popular opinion doesn't dictate good governance!

  • by phantomcircuit (938963) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @03:41PM (#28506781) Homepage

    Apparently it's not working.

    • Ya, and when lampposts where first invented, the crazies took turns seeing who could sit atop them the longest.

      Remember - Youtube didn't even exist for the 2004 US Presidential election. We have a long way to go, but probably within our lifetimes, such behaviour will become the exception rather than the norm.

      Certainly within those individuals lifetimes prospective employers will commonly and frequently use the simple tools required to determine a candidates "internet retard" score, automagically picking up

    • So...it's crazy if I write "jews did wtc you are Muslim, not American" but if I say it on a camera it becomes sane?

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Using YouTube is an attempt to filter out the crazies? That's even crazier than the finger guy!

  • thank god (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 28, 2009 @03:42PM (#28506787)
    Have you ever looked at the comment section of a YouTube video? I wouldn't want a low-level staffer to spend half a second wading through that pile of drooling morons. Posting a video at least requires minimal effort.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ChienAndalu (1293930)

      This (and this [xckd.com])

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ceoyoyo (59147)

      True... but have you ever looked at the average YouTube video?

      Unfortunately nutjobs usually have lots of time on their hands and are masters of minimal effort.

  • by Curien (267780) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @03:42PM (#28506789)

    From TFA:

    Don't know how to respond to the President's video with your question? Check out this tutorial from YouTube about how to create your own and add it as a response.

    If you are a Twitter user, you can also ask your question with this hashtag: #WHHCQ or head to Facebook and ask your question there.

    If I were the staff member in charge of wading through the discussion, I wouldn't want to have to use Youtube's craptastic comment system either.

  • by Lorcas (1299955) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @03:47PM (#28506827) Homepage
    You can open up your favorite video editing software and just put some slides of text. No camera involved.
  • Price of admission (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mononoke (88668) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @03:48PM (#28506831) Homepage Journal

    Should a video camera be the price of admission for participating in an open government discussion, especially when issues may hit those with lower incomes the hardest?

    Looks to me like a computer is the greatest part of that admission price. The camera (assuming the computer didn't come with one) is just an extra fee.

    • Except that, as other have pointed out, you can use a computer in a library for free or an Internet cafe cheaply, but these may not come with a camera. Even if they do, they are generally not good places for recording a video.
  • by Ihmhi (1206036) <i_have_mental_health_issues@yahoo.com> on Sunday June 28, 2009 @03:48PM (#28506833)

    MS Paint and Windows Movie Maker.

    Say it in 24 bit color, baby!

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdotNO@SPAMhackish.org> on Sunday June 28, 2009 @03:48PM (#28506835)

    Yes, as a technical question it's now easy for everyone to communicate with their public officials! But what exactly are these officials supposed to do with ten thousand poor-quality comments? Institute a Slashdot-style moderate system? A digg-style voting system? (Obama did actually try that last one.) Develop a new version of spam filter that is some sort of "shitty comment with no useful content" filter? It seems what they're trying here is exactly what the submitter criticizes, a "barrier to entry" filter, with the hope that people who bother to make a video about their idea at least have an idea they've thought through for 5 minutes. Looks like that may have failed, too, but I can't blame them for trying.

    In a different context, Gerhard Fischer pointed out [illinois.edu] in 1996 something similar about the internet not being a magical solution for education:

    The "Nobel Prize winner" myth: Every school child will have access to a Nobel Prize winner. --- This was one of the selling points for the information superhighway. While this argument is true (or will be true soon) at the level of technical connectivity, it is doubtful that Nobel Prize winners will look forward to getting a few thousand e-mail messages a day.

    • Video lectures (Score:4, Informative)

      by TheLink (130905) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @04:14PM (#28507037) Journal

      > The "Nobel Prize winner" myth: Every school child will have access to a Nobel Prize winner

      In some ways yes:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qn8PNMTSlwo [youtube.com]

      Plenty of other lectures/talks from MIT, Stanford, and other universities around the world are available online.

      > it is doubtful that Nobel Prize winners will look forward to getting a few thousand e-mail messages a day.

      I'm sure Feynman isn't too worried about that :).

      FWIW, you can learn a lot from people without sending email to them, or communicating with them.

      • by Trepidity (597)

        That's something you could do in the pre-internet era, too, though: it's not like we just invented the idea that you can make some sort of video recording of lectures. There's an improvement in accessibility, since it's now easier to widely distribute those videos for free, versus charging even nominal fees to duplicate and mail out VHS tapes. But there's no fundamental change in what kind of communication it is.

        There had been a lot of educational buzz in the 80s and 90s about how the communication itself w

  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @03:49PM (#28506839)

    I often hear (on NPR, usually) politicians calling for a "national discussion" or a "national debate" on some topic.

    Exactly what is a "national discussion/debate"?

    It seems to me like things usually work out this way: news organizations cover some topic, congress and the President start discussing it, lobbyists come onto the scene, and in the end the Congress either (a) sells us out to lobbyists, or (b) makes a completely irrational piece of legislation.

    So is calling for a "national discussion/debate" really just an attempt to dress, as democratic, a decision which the common citizen has no capacity to influence? That is, like what happens with so-called "town-hall meetings"?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Excellent point. Its ridiculous to think that we the people have any control or influence over our government. They do what they want and make it appear as if you asked for it.

      They rarely ever do what the people ask them to. They instead will give them a bill for example: "National Health Care reform act" which sounds great on a glance but it will be full of corporate hand outs and designed in a way that doesnt help the people at all get what they voted for.

      Its all a magic trick with lots of misdirection. P

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Surely it raises another question: Should internet access be the price of admission for participating in an open government discussion, especially when issues may hit those with lower incomes the hardest?

    If you're going to restrict discussion to those with access to the web it doesn't seem a giant leap to expect them to have a cheap and cheerful webcam.

    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      So long as you can get a library card, you can get Internet access at your local library.

    • by PachmanP (881352)

      Surely it raises another question: Should internet access be the price of admission for participating in an open government discussion, especially when issues may hit those with lower incomes the hardest?

      If you're going to restrict discussion to those with access to the web it doesn't seem a giant leap to expect them to have a cheap and cheerful webcam.

      Well the other options are travel to DC and testify or write in a letter. Neither of these are eliminated anyway. The former is way more expensive than internets and the latter makes two way discussion more difficult.

      Doing it this way isn't raising the barrier to only include people with internets/webcams. It is lowering the barrier to include at least the people who have them.

  • by OrangeTide (124937) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @03:49PM (#28506843) Homepage Journal

    If your opinion is so valuable then write a letter and mail it to the President or your elected representative.

    • by nametaken (610866)

      I've gotten those pre-printed responses too. They don't even take the time to sign the replies with their own hand.

      No thanks.

      • by antic (29198)

        There can be no winner.

        If they accept online text-based comments, they get trash from birfers and the like.

        If video responses, they get trash and criticism of creating an expensive barrier to entry.

        If paper comments, they get pre-printed junk and criticism of wasting paper.

        A solution is not to go to the masses (where it is the unemployed loons who have all the spare time), but to have a summit to which people (from all areas) are invited. Take away as much of the tribal clumping as possible, and bring it ba

    • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Sunday June 28, 2009 @06:51PM (#28508105) Homepage Journal

      Dude, I'm sure he gets letters from everyone. So if you really wanna make an impression, you need to give him a present. I think a chocolate gun would be a good present and you should run up to him really fast to give it to him.. because he's so busy.

  • Video Camera's aren't the barrier of entry, owning a computer/mobile device that has internet access is. Even if they did allow text comments I still need blow a few hundred bucks on a cellphone contract or a computer. Requiring video just makes sorting through the responses easier. And it doesn't prevent you from participating in government. You can still call your local congressmen/senator for a few cents on a pay phone.
    • Video Camera's aren't the barrier of entry, owning a computer/mobile device that has internet access is.

      What? Don't they have computers in cafés or libraries in the US?

  • Given the average IQ level of YouTube commenters, they should have blocked responses altogether and provided a URL to a forum on whitehouse.gov. That would at least eliminate the morons who can't read carefully.
    • Disabling youtube comments can only serve to raise the level of discussion in any context. Yes, I am aware that without comments enabled there will be no discussion.
      • There will be a discussion, but it will be via video clips. Literacy is no longer a requirement for engaging in political discourse. Welcome to America 2.0.
    • I once submitted something to a trivia database and I liked their system:

      An inconspicuous line in the before-you-press-submit spiel that says "Put ## at the start of your writing" with an implied "This tells me you aren't some kind of moron who doesn't read or follow basic instructions before flapping his jaws. If you don't your submission goes on the bottom of the crap pile."
  • by writermike (57327) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @03:52PM (#28506867)

    Color me trolled.

    Look, this is plainly a compromise that tries to cull wheat from chaff. Don't believe me? Go look at any major American newspaper website. Pick any random story and dive into the comments. Now, take note of the insults, the extremely partisan rhetoric (from all sides), the bad grammar, the incredible misunderstandings of the entire point, and, yeah, even hopes that one or the other subjects go die.

    It's simply much easier for anyone to click reply and type out, "HURR DURRR UR A FAGGG." Sure, you can do the same with with a web camera -- and apparently some folks are doing so -- but I bet there are going to be much less to go through than if everyone could pop a comment under the story.

  • In the democratic system, and people and general. But lately I've taken the stance that while some individuals may be smart, people as a whole are panicy and stupid. This whole "Open Government" thing, while honourable, is beginning to look like a futile attempt.
  • by Skapare (16644) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @03:56PM (#28506891) Homepage

    ... only from Facebook users via their Facebook site. The link is on the referenced page.

  • A video camera, computer, internet connection and YouTube account?

  • Moderator? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @03:57PM (#28506899)

    "While the White House has invited the nation to Join the National Online Discussion on Health Care Reform, it is currently only accepting 20-30 second YouTube video responses â" text comments have been disabled.

    Am I the only person who's concerned that the Whitehouse has been allowed to be the moderator of such discussions?

    After all, the administration has a political agenda, and therefore an incentive to bias the discussions on any particular topic of debate. Deciding details such as the length and form of submissions can be a powerful device for controlling the topic and direction of debate. At that point, it's a rather useless vehicle for arguing a side that the administration doesn't want advanced.

    • by Trepidity (597)

      They're hardly the moderator of such discussions. Dozens of other newspapers, TV channels, and websites are also moderating discussions on the subject.

    • It would bother me if there were no other way to put videos on youtube......

      The more any one group tries to abuse their power to control the means of communication (or abuse their power in any way, really), the faster people will start to see through it.
  • by QCompson (675963) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @04:13PM (#28507023)
    ...and such was the case with the "one-finger salute" video. That intellectual powerhouse thinks Obama somehow snuck into the White House even though he is a Kenyan citizen, and mourns the loss of the Pontiac Firebird.

    I think I'll cry.
  • Weedout? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by theurge14 (820596) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @04:15PM (#28507047)

    Raising the technical bar weeds out the sincere from the rest.

    At least that was the idea until the talking butt came along.

    • "Weed." Ha ha.

      That's exactly why they did this, btw. I guarantee. Everytime the government asks the people ANYTHING in a context where their comments don't have to be associated with their face, probably around 70% of responses revolve around legalizing marijuana. They're not doing it, so they don't want to read twenty thousand copies of it again. If they un-democratize the process, they only have to watch the first five seconds of a thousand copies of it.
  • Ok, so am I the only person on slashdot who thinks slashdot's "ask slashdot" system is by far the best way to solicit responses from people on a mass scale (not sarcastic)? So far the government's attempt at getting "public input" has been ignorant of the better options... have you seen their open government website (http://mixedink.com/OpenGov/)? You can't even post more than a page for a draft on what you think should be done about something. There's a huge god damn difference between "I think you should
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      I'm beginning to see what they're up to. If the nut cases are busy writing hundred page rants (or making creative talking butt videos) then they're probably not out causing trouble.

  • by joib (70841) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @04:24PM (#28507097)

    Just as intellectual as the rest of the farce known as politics. The only difference is that the professionals wear fancy suits and genuinely think they are saying something insightful.

    • Just as intellectual as the rest of the farce known as politics. The only difference is that the professionals wear fancy suits and genuinely think they are saying something insightful.

      Sounds a lot like slashdot to me.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by ceoyoyo (59147)

        Sitting in front of a computer in your underwear is NOT a fancy suit. Yes, it's fancier than a birthday suit, but it's still not fancy.

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @05:18PM (#28507507)
    If you actually watch many of those videos, it is easy to see that the vast majority of them are people asking, "How can this benefit me?? (Or my sister, or my uncle, or...)"

    Very few have been asking the hard questions, like "What part of the Constitutional gives you authority to do this?"

    For someone who is supposed to be a "Constitutional scholar", Obama does not seem to have much understanding of it.
  • by tulmad (25666)

    Wait, they put out a call on YouTube and they expected anything other than this as a response? It's *YouTube*, wtf did they expect? Have they never read the comments section on any random video on the site?

  • BTW, the response-to-date has been underwhelming â" 101 video responses and counting â" and is certainly a mixed-bag, including a one-finger salute, a talking butt, a woman "Showing my Apples", and other off-topic rants

    Yes but at least the Republican senators were willing to voice their opinions in the most eloquent manner they could.

  • In response to your concern over responses from people with lower incomes: I think this is rather unfounded given that webcams go for as little as $10-20. That is certainly minute compared to the cost of the computer and the internet connection itself.

  • by roman_mir (125474)

    The elephant in the room is of-course this: in the time of the largest US economic meltdown, in the time when the government must do one thing - cut spending and shrink to cut costs and stop printing money, in this time how is this reform going to be paid for? One most likely possibility is of-course the printing press.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      If the US is still in the midst of economic meltdown, cutting spending is the last thing they should be doing.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by superwiz (655733)

        If the US is still in the midst of economic meltdown, cutting spending is the last thing they should be doing.

        If I recall, the government of the Soviet Union spend quite a bit of money on the Soviet Union economy. Some might argue that is what caused their meltdown. But then again, some might argue that the only thing that anyone learns from history is that no one ever learns from history...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by roman_mir (125474)

        The US is in economic meltdown and the only thing that it can do to save itself is to stop spending. Well, that and it must stop printing short term and long term money so that dollar inflation will stop. Then, if it cannot pay its debt, it must default, which will inevitably happen anyway. It will either be done honestly (unlikely) or dishonestly (most likely) - by printing money and inflating the dollar so that the bonds and dollars held by the debt owners will become worthless.

        One way or another the o

  • by rlp (11898)

    The pattern so far is to pass complex pieces of legislation along strictly partisan lines so quickly that Congress can't read it and the public can't react to it. The last thing the administration wants is real public comment on this.

  • The notion of a "town hall" at the Federal level is bunk. The comments or pithy videos selected will likely be produced or pushed by interested parties anyway, so the notion that poor people are being disenfranchised is irrelevant, since all citizens lack franchise in the propaganda state.

    The government that the Democratic majority and presidency is practicing is the type of behavior that is common in the legislatures of states like New York. The "leadership" provides plums in the form of committee assignme

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