As a community of developers and technologists, we have to build powerful, indispensable apps and services on top of this data. Killer apps that save lives. If we can make ourselves invaluable, they won’t have the chance to try to cut off our oxygen.
TNR: Lawrence Lessig: Against Transparency: The perils of openness in government.
Yes – you read that title right.
Lessig connects the dots from newspapers to the music industry and the ripple effects taking place – everything having to do with the architecture of the Internet and the dynamics set forth.
You need to read the full piece because it is not ‘against transparency’ – far from it – but it does call for a sense of concern and realism to settle into conversations about transparency as means to an end. Ultimately, in regards to government, it is a call to reform, specifically election finance reform – and I agree with much of it.
Reformers rarely feel responsible for the bad that their fantastic new reform effects. Their focus is always on the good. The bad is someone else’s problem. It may well be asking too much to imagine more than this. But as we see the consequences of changes that many of us view as good, we might wonder whether more good might have been done had more responsibility been in the mix. The music industry was never going to like the Internet, but its war against the technology might well have been less hysterical and self-defeating if better and more balanced alternatives had been pressed from the beginning. No one can dislike Craigslist (or Craig), but we all would have benefited from a clearer recognition of what was about to be lost. Internet triumphalism is not a public good.
Likewise with transparency. There is no questioning the good that transparency creates in a wide range of contexts, government especially. But we should also recognize that the collateral consequence of that good need not itself be good. And if that collateral bad is busy certifying to the American public what it thinks it already knows, we should think carefully about how to avoid it. Sunlight may well be a great disinfectant. But as anyone who has ever waded through a swamp knows, it has other effects as well.
O’Reilly Radar: Carl Malamud: Larry Lessig and Naked Transparency
Aaron Swartz: Transparency Is Bunk
Tim O’Reilly: Radical Transparency: The New Federal IT Dashboard (and check out the site itself at it.usaspending.gov)
EveryBlock blog: EveryBlock source code released
Tim Bray: “Hello World” for Open Data – Tim Bray reviews, and is inspired by, happenings in Vancover.
And locally SEPTA has started to work with Google to help riders plan trips online
A huge round of thanks needs to go to the folks behind iSepta for showing just what is possible.
This and more was discussed at this year’s Personal Democracy Forum – which I missed, which I hopefully won’t next year. Sounds like it was a great event.
O’Reilly radar: John Geraci: The Four Pillars of an Open Civic System
Ignite Philly 2: Geoff DiMassi and Paul Wright “Open Source Philadelphia”
Technically Philly posted two followups: City CIO’s $100 million Digital Philadelphia vision and Editorial: City government calls for tech support
Jonny Goldstein, on his blog, envizualize, had literally, visualized the discussion with some art live at the discussion that is just terrific, you got to take a look: Visual Notes From Philly CIO Allan Frank at Refresh Philly
Two efforts to collect what people want from Philly governments online efforts and the data it makes available have been launched by participants in the discussion:
Google Moderator: Philadelphia – What can we do for you?
Hey it’s not me, it’s John Perry Barlow saying that in a recent interview. He precedes this by saying, “There are a million virtual streetcorners with a million lonely pamphleteers on them, all of them decrying the war and not actually coming together in any organized fashion to oppose it. It strikes me that existing political institutions — whether it’s the administration or Congress or large corporations — only respond to other institutions. I don’t care how many individuals you have marching in the streets, they’re not going to pay attention until there’s a leader for those individuals who can come forward and say I represent the organization of those individuals and we’re going to amass the necessary money and votes to kick you the hell out of office. Then they pay attention. But not until. And so right at the moment it would strike me that the Internet is counterproductive to peace.”
Wow! Great quote!
John Perry Barlow, if you are not familiar with him, is co-founder of the Internet-legendary Electronic Frontier Foundation and a former songwriter for the Grateful Dead.
Will there be a mass movement to utilize tools like MoveOn.org or will the prevailing me-too trend continue where individuals refuse to come together and decide to create their own competing efforts? Everyone shouting the same things – but seperate from each other. Barlow says there needs to be a leader to represent an institution. What I think he fails to see is that we’ve been taught not to trust leaders, even from amoungst us. Leaders fail and leaders fall. So do institutions. So we go our own way and trust in only ourselves. You can’t attribute that to the Internet. It’s the way our generation thinks. Decentralized. Individualized. The Internet is an expression of that. A multitude of choice and the freedom to us it.
The demographic trends do not favor one-size-fits-all news products,” said Peter Francese, founder of American Demographics magazine, which tracks population changes. “There isn’t one community to serve. It’s gone. … It’s now a matter of serving niches rather than trying to be all things to all people,” he said.
That’s from an article about 18-34 year olds rejecting traditional media and switching to the Internet for their news. The same trend has taken place in TV and Music. More choices. Smaller audiences. Less and less shared experience and information. It’s all out there – but it’s up to you to find it or the martketers to find you and lead you to it.