Social comedians and comical crowd–sourcing

Municipalities are discovering that not everything can be crowd–sourced.

What do you get when you cross the logic of The Wisdom of Crowds with municipal experiments in social media? A whole lot of juvenile in-jokes and single-entendres, that’s what.

When the city of Austin, Texas, decided to rename its Solid Waste Services Department “to better reflect all of the services the Department provides,” it outsourced the decision to the citizenry, taking suggestions and allowing voting on a public web forum. Among the top contenders were “Department of Neat and Clean” and “Hufflepuff.” But the runaway leader (before the city shut the forum down) was “Fred Durst Society of the Humanities and Arts.” Fred Durst is the frontman for the rock band Limp Bizkit.

Meanwhile, when Fort Wayne, Ind., decided to crowd-source a name for its new government centre, the most popular suggestion was to name it after a man who was a four-term mayor from the 1930s to the 1950s. Except to the delight of television news reporters across the continent, that man’s name was Harry Baals, which prompted the deputy mayor to state that, despite the 17,000 votes in favour, they probably wouldn’t put the name of the city’s longest-tenured mayor on the centre. The people may get the government they deserve, but it seems they can’t have the jokes they desire.