When technology becomes too popular: ‘We the People’ perhaps a case in point

For those of us rounding up our 25,000 closest friends for a ‘We The People’ petition in the USA, we have some bad news. Only a few days after we posted about the now infamous ‘Death Star’ petition, the White House blogged that due to the popularity of the site, the numbers needed to obtain a response from the White House have now jumped to 100,000 (a 75% leap for those with a statistical bent).

‘Death Star coincidence’?  You be the judge.  The White House Blog shared some attractive graphs to help explain its decision.  These illustrate a leap in users.  It was further indicated that, whereas in the first 10 months of 2012 it took an average of 18 days for a new petition to cross the 25,000 signature threshold, in the last two months of the year, that average time was cut in half to just nine days.

Dailycaller.com has suggested that White House staffers now realise that their petition website “is just one big dumb waste of time”.   Reactions of insiders are said to include: “Sometimes, I find myself thinking, ‘My God, what have we done?’” or “If you had told me a year and a half ago that the White House would be devoting time writing [an official statement] on how Lord Vader could fix our economic woes, I would have just laughed loudly at you.”

Importantly for supporters of Aaron Schwartz, the new threshold requirements are prospective, which means at least one petition (see below) has well exceeded the former 25,000 threshold and will receive a response from the Obama Administration.  We previously posted on the petitions concerning Aaron Schwartz, the 26 year old champion of an open source Internet who died after he had been charged with numerous criminal offences concerning his methods.

An interesting twist at the conclusion of The White House blog is the following announcement: “This increasing adoption strengthens our resolve to build new features, including an API that would allow other popular online petition platforms to integrate with our official one.  To that end we’ve release the source code to We the People and would love to connect with any enterprising engineers who want to help out.”