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New website collects open letters to Mayor Ford

A new website aims to make good on Mayor Rob Ford's claim that he wants to hear from his constituents. Called Dear Mayor Ford, it aims to foster political engagement by enabling users to read and write open letters to the city's leader. It went live early this morning, and as of the time that I write this, already has 17 letters published to the site.

According to the about page, the website "has been built, and is maintained by Constituents of Toronto on behalf of all Toronto Constituents with the sole purpose of providing a unified public forum where we may post open letters to the Mayor's Office." That's a little vague, of course, but one assumes the idea is to make the project as open and democratic as possible, so why advertise a single author as creator?

Many of the letters thus far could be termed predictable — there's a lot of frustration on display — but others genuinely address the mayor and ask him to explain or account for his decisions and policies. These are the most interesting to read, but you have to surf through the lot to get to them.

Given how easy the site makes it to write a letter, it'd be beneficial to have some sort of filtering system for those that have been uploaded. Should the site get up to 100s of letters, too many good ones will get lost in the plot because readers won't have the time to sift through them all. Perhaps, then, it would make sense to sort them by topic or to implement a reader-voted ranking system to bring the most pertinent to the top of the heap.

In the absence of such a strategy, I suspect it'll be tough to engage the public in any meaningful sense. Writing a letter involves more than signing a petition. People want to know someone's going to read it — even if it's not Rob Ford.

For more info about Dear Mayor Ford, check out the site's Facebook page


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