May 25

The Access2Research We The People petition has been a far greater success in its first week than I at least dared hope, when we hatched this plan and took this picture:

We’ve crossed 17,000 signatories from late Sunday night to mid-day Friday of the first week, measuring in US Pacific time. Signing is tailing off significantly, as we expected - we’re heading into the weekend, which is a long holiday weekend here in the United States for Memorial Day. I would have been thrilled with 10,000 this week, honestly. So we’re set up well for the next big push to the summit. Everyone who signed, who recruited, who tweeted, who blogged, who shared - thank you. I am going to celebrate with a nice beer tonight and take a break from constant monitoring of the stream for a day or two. There’s a toddler I’d like to spend some time with, and a spouse coming home from a long business trip who I can’t wait to see.

Before that though…some color commentary on the campaign that came out of nowhere.

We have received a plausible batch of criticism, from not going far enough in the petition (asking for liberal copyright licensing on articles, or specifying a maximum embargo) to not having enough detail about the petition on the website. These are good points. We looked at them, and chose not to go after them. Here’s my view on why we chose that - the others may have different views of course.

The petition is simple because of two reasons. One, you only get 800 characters to work with. That’s not something conducive to nuance. Second, it’s simple because we want a positive response from the Administration, and by staying simple we allow a little bit of flexibility to them as they respond. Sometimes detail doesn’t help; we believe this to be one of those cases. That belief may or may not be true, or best, but it’s what we went with, and we did a lot of behind-the-scenes canvassing and draft review of the petition before we posted it.  

The website is simple for similar reasons. We’re not creating an effort to educate the public about open access, or public access, or taxpayer access. We’re trying to influence executive policy by getting a certain number of people to sign a short petition. Those people often have to suffer a miserable user experience on the petition website (horror stories of failed registration and browser crashes are commonplace enough to make me think we’d easily have passed 25K if the White House knew about OAuth). They have to fill out email addresses, solve captchas, wait for an email confirmation, and then sign. 

Again, our belief was that simplicity makes that action easier than detail. There is an enormous amount of information on the web about OA. We could copy and repost it to teach signers more, or we could be polemic. Polemic was the choice.

None of this matters much in the end. We’ll get our 25,000 by June 19 even if we have to drag the twitterverse screaming across the finish line. Hopefully long before then. 

What matters now is what the Administration does in response. The total number of people who care about this issue has radically expanded in the past week. Wikimedia’s endorsement means we’re only starting to see the impact of that expansion. 

If the White House wants us to take We the People seriously, this is a great chance to make us believe. This is a proposition we know is under consideration, that is in the power of the executive office to achieve, and that has demonstrated broad public support. 

As an #OAMonday wit said early on, Mister President, tear down this paywall.