The offical blog of AskThem. The online network to ask questions and give answers with elected officals nationwide.

Open Debates 2016

Yesterday on Civicist, “Rethinking Debates” (hashtag on Twttr) researcher Christine Cupaiuolo wrote:

“While it was good to include different (and younger) voices… the use of “regular people” mainly reinforced the debate narrative. We need a more direct form of public engagement to drive different questions and to elicit more informative answers.”

That’s precisely the mission of our non-profit, bottom-up Q&A platform, AskThem. It’s free for everyone, its code is open to remix and improve, and it both uses and creates open data – helping to develop new dialogue and accountability tools in the future. AskThem works for continual conversation with public figures, issue groups, experts, and the media companies (such as ABC) who question candidates in the debate process.

In October, I wrote on the PPF Blog: “The debate managers between CNN (and other networks) and the DNC are ostensibly taking public questions over social media using hashtags, but AskThem is different. Instead of a few crowdsourced ‘internet’ questions, we’re open-source infrastructure for the idea that people in power should have continual, strong public conversation. We’re building the foundation for new tools for democratic trust & accountability, the kind of which we can’t yet imagine.

More specifically, we’re part of a growing coalition advocating for real open debates – at least half of questions from the public, as opposed to media-celeb moderators, and closer-to-real-time mechanisms to ensure that the public is sufficiently satisfied with the effort behind a response (if not necessarily its substance, of course) – towards not missing the opportunity to get good answers to good questions and follow-up during the crucial debate event itself!”

AskThem has not had any charitable funding support since a $35,000 Knight Foundation prototype grant in 2014. Please support our public-benefit work for civic engagement – we can promote questions on police de-militarization, money in politics, and more for an official response.

AskThem has free & open-source widgets, to enable visitors to any website to ask questions to public figures. They need technical support time and volunteer design help – please get in touch if you can help arrange a charitable grant to our 501©3 non-profit organization, a partnership to promote your issue-based campaign to our members, or a consulting contract for open-source web development.

Below, see examples of our widgets in action, to ask questions to Democratic Presidential candidates – contact us to use these for free on your own website.

Secretary Hillary Clinton:

Senator Bernie Sanders:

Gov. Martin O’Malley

Read more about PPF’s open-source projects and contact us to support our work. We’re a tiny non-profit and we need a foundation, philanthropist, media company or issue group to pay for our open-data development time. We don’t have revenue from clients or core funding support or even project-based support at the moment. Questions welcome, email david at Ask good questions to the GOP candidates too – handy links to their AskThem pages on the PPF Blog – we can provide open-source, custom-design widgets for all the Republican candidates as well. Even major media companies such as ABC and their debate reporters!

Connecting Congress Widget Demo

Here’s a demo of one widget for one member of Congress, as an example of what we can provide media partners (such as WNYC’s terrific Brian Lehrer show) for public dialogue. Free of charge, open-source code, non-profit for civic engagement.

Of course, AskThem has pages and widgets for every member of Congress from the tri-state area – see national map – happy to create more, or build your own JavaScript widget, it takes just a minute.

Contact: david at ppolitics dot org for more info, happy to chat. Go Brian Lehrer’s crowdsourcing community, open to input.

Ask Elected Officials to Collaborate on a Participatory Budgeting Program

Participatory Budgeting programs are growing and spreading across U.S. communities – as “a different way to manage public money and engage people in government”.

The benefits are huge, and the Participatory Budgeting Project has resources and assistance ready to help any area design and start a PB project of their own.

Ask more U.S. elected officials to collaborate on a participatory budgeting program here on AskThem, and we’ll help deliver your question to government for an official public response. It’s free, non-profit, and open to everyone.

Enter your street address below, and you’ll see your federal, state, and city elected officials (covering most major cities, using best data available). If you simply enter a five-digit ZIP code, you’ll see fewer elected officials. Click on one of them, and you’ll see the PB question already loaded to ask them:

Feel free to edit the question title and body as you like – add your personal story about why you’d like to see a healthy PB deliberation in your community.

Questions & feedback welcome, this is just a start – contact the PB Project, or PPF, makers of the non-profit These free & open-source question-asking widgets were supported by a Prototype Fund grant from the Knight Foundation – build your own widget, it’s open to remix and customize. Email us for more info, david at ppolitics doot orrrrg.

Ask Questions to 2016 Presidential Candidates

Fire up the question machine. It’s 2016 elections time, which means it’s AskThem time. First GOP debate is 9pm ET tonight.

Ask good questions to the Presidential candidates and we’ll deliver them over Twitter for an official response. We’re working to reinforce the expectation that candidates will regularly respond to questions from the Internet public – and that major media will raise them in every debate.

First, GOP debate participants, in random order (not strictly by polling or last name) – click the button on their profile pages to “ask this person a question”, publish your question, and we’ll help promote it.

Grab this widget and display it on any web page (that supports JavaScript):

<script class="at-widget-loader" src="//" data-tag-id="at-person-widget-900" type="text/javascript"
 data-headline="Ask Questions to 2016 Presidential Candidates"
 data-question-body="... #askthem2016"
 data-person-full_name="Donald J. Trump"

More to come… questions, feedback welcome.

AskThem Widgets Test Page

Please find below one version of AskThem widgets, free & open-source, supported by a charitable grant from the Knight Foundation Prototype Fund. Test edit.

A ‘person’ widget, to NYC Mayor de Blasio about whether he’ll support a plastic bag ban – with pre-set (but editable) question text:

Hear From Experts on Landmark Court Rulings

Is corruption limited to quid pro quo? Are athletes employees? Are corporations people? Are software inventions patent-eligible?

Now you can use AskThem to learn more about the implications of recent landmark court rulings.

Join the conversation about the future of campaign finance reform in light of the latest McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission ruling

Get the facts from #SCOTUSblog on hard spending disclosures

Sign on to hear from legal expert Jeffrey Toobin on the broken campaign finance system

Discuss the ramifications of the NLRB’s ruling in favor of Northwestern University’s football players’ right to unionize

Vote to hear about the impact of the NLRB ruling on the structure of massive sports businesses

Sign on and ask the NCAA about restrictive contracts, academic integrity, and minority student graduation rates

Join the conversation about the power of employee statutory rights in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores

Sign on and ask your own question about the stakes for commercial employers’ accommodations and the birth-control mandate.

Follow the Supreme Court’s cautious approach to software patent eligibility in Alice Corporation Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International

Sign on to hear about the implications of broad and strict patent eligibility

Questions, comments? Email maryam at askthem, or @AskThemPPF on Twitter.

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the Team