This book Open Government, which publisher O’Reilly released to memorialize hacker Aaron Swartz, is just a fantastic smorgasbord of writing about government and participation and technology, some of it dated or auxiliary but all top notch and thought-provoking. Particularly, so far, Beth Noveck’s chapter on deliberative versus collaborative government. Hope to write more reading notes as I go.
But right off the bat I was struck by what a great bibliography the book assembles, and so I wrote a little script (
xml.etree.ElementTree) to scrape all the web references out of the ebook for looking into later. Those references are published below in quickie fashion, were extracted from the EPUB version I’m in the middle of now.
Chapter 1. A Peace Corps for Programmers
- Code for America. CFA recruits coders to work with government offices for set terms, but at the municipal level instead of federal. About to enter its inaugural iteration, CFA’s participants will work with their respective governments remotely from a shared space in California. This communal coding environment will let participants enjoy networking events, guest speakers, and the creative energy generated by each other’s ideas.
Chapter 2. Government As a Platform
- The Cathedral & the Bazaar, Eric Raymond uses the image of a bazaar to contrast the collaborative development model of open source software with traditional software development, but the analogy is equally applicable to government.
- Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which committed the United States to building an interstate highway system, was a triumph of platform thinking, a key investment in facilities that had a huge economic and social multiplier effect. Though government builds the network of roads that tie our cities together, it does not operate the factories, farms, and businesses that use that network: that opportunity is afforded to “we the people.” Government does set policies for the use of those roads, regulating interstate commerce, levying gasoline taxes and fees on heavy vehicles that damage the roads, setting and policing speed limits, specifying criteria for the safety of bridges, tunnels, and even vehicles that travel on the roads, and performing many other responsibilities appropriate to a “platform provider.”
- Data.gov initiative, a portal for open APIs to government data, takes this idea to a new level.
- Data.gov, a collection of APIs to government data. Kundra realizes that rather than having the government itself build out all of the websites and applications that use that data, providing application programming interfaces to the private sector will allow independent developers to come up with new uses for government data.
- Data.gov was laid out convincingly by David G. Robinson et al. in “Government Data and the Invisible Hand” (see
- Data.gov reflects another key Gov 2.0 and Web 2.0 principle, namely that data is at the heart of Internet applications. But even here, the goal is not just to provide greater access to government data, but to establish a simple framework that makes it possible for the nation—the citizens, not just the government—to create and share useful data.
- Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, is no stranger to the importance of default choices in public policy. In his book, Nudge, coauthored with economist Richard Thaler, he argues that “choice architecture” can help nudge people to make better decisions.
- FixMyStreet, a project developed by UK nonprofit mySociety, made it possible for citizens to report potholes, broken streetlights, graffiti, and other problems that would otherwise have had to wait on an overworked government inspector. This concept has now been taken up widely by forward-thinking cities as well as entrepreneurial companies like
- SeeClickFix, and there is even a standard—
- Open311—for creating APIs to city services of this kind, so that third-party developers can create applications that will work not just for one city, but for every city.
- HousingMaps.com, taking data from another Internet site,
- Craigslist.org, and creating an application that put Craigslist apartment and home listings onto a Google Map.
- ProgrammableWeb.com, which tracks mashups and reuse of web APIs, Google Maps accounts for nearly 90% of all mapping mashups, versus only a few percent each for MapQuest, Yahoo!, and Microsoft, even though these companies had a huge head start in web mapping.
- Apps.DC.gov, the “App Store” for the city of Washington, D.C., provides a better Gov 2.0 platform model than the federal equivalent
- Data.gov (see
- Apps.gov provides a huge service in opening up and promoting APIs to all the data resources of the federal government, it’s hard to know what’s important, because there are no compelling “applications” that show how that data can be put to use. By contrast,
- Apps.DC.gov features a real app store, with applications written by the city of Washington, D.C.’s own technology team (or funded by them) demonstrating how to use key features. D.C. then took the further step of highlighting, at a top level, third-party apps created by independent developers. This is a model for every government app store to follow.
- Data.gov. Once again, consider health care.
- Data.gov, you must first adopt a data-driven, service-oriented architecture for all your applications. The “Eight Open Government Data Principles” document outlines the key requirements for open government data.
- Data.gov for federal APIs and creating state and local equivalents. For example, cities such as San Francisco (
- DataSF.org) and Washington, D.C. (
- Data.DC.gov and
- Apps.DC.gov) include not only data catalogs but also repositories of apps that use that data, created by both city developers and the private sector.
- Code for America is a new organization designed to help cities do just that.
- O’Reilly Radar, “watches the alpha geeks” to determine emerging technology trends, and serves as a platform for advocacy about issues of importance to the technical community. Tim’s long-term vision for his company is to change the world by spreading the knowledge of innovators. In addition to O’Reilly Media, Tim is a founder of Safari Books Online, a pioneering subscription service for accessing books online, and O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, an early-stage venture firm.
- The Founders’ Constitution, Chapter 4, Document 34.
- The Cathedral & the Bazaar, Eric Raymond, O’Reilly, 1999.
- DOD Standard: Transmission Control Protocol report.
- “Government Data and the Invisible Hand,” David G. Robinson, Harlan Yu, William Zeller, and Edward W. Felten, Yale Journal of Law &
Technology, Vol. 11, 2009.
- Nudge-ocracy: Barack Obama’s new theory of the state.
- “M.T.A. Is Easing Its Strict, Sometimes Combative, Approach to Outside Web Developers,” New York Times, September 27, 2009.
- “Does A Private Company Own Your Muni Arrival Times?”, SF
Appeal, June 25, 2009.
- “The Cost Conundrum,” Atul Gawande, The New Yorker, June 1, 2009.
- “Falling Far Short of Reform,” David Leonhardt, New York
Times, November 10, 2009.
- “Government Data and the Invisible Hand,” David G. Robinson, Harlan Yu, William Zeller, and Edward W. Felten, Yale Journal of
Law & Technology, Vol. 11, 2009.
Chapter 3. By the People
- Public.Resource.Org, a nonprofit that has been instrumental in placing government information on the Internet. Prior to that he was the Chief Technology Officer at the Center for American Progress and was the founder of the Internet Multicasting Service, where he ran the first radio station on the Internet.
Chapter 4. The Single Point of Failure
- Carrotmob project in San Francisco uses the “carrot” of consumer buying power to encourage small businesses to help the environment. Web-based tools are used to organize a consumer “flashmob,” which channels business to stores that commit to environmental improvements. Carrotmob organizer Brent Schulkin asked local businesses how much they would be willing to invest in environmental improvements if the group he convened were to organize a buying spree directed toward that business. The result for the winning bodega in San Francisco’s Mission District: more than triple the sales of an average Saturday, lots of free advertising, oodles of community goodwill, and a scheme to pay for improvements that, in turn, will save the business money over the long run.
- Obama Works, a corps of self-organizing citizen volunteers with no connection to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, used Internet technologies to organize neighborhood cleanups not only on a local scale but also on a national scale.
- Tech for Obama similarly galvanized support for the campaign within the techie community. Supporters, independent of the campaign, even went so far as to create “campaign offices” to recruit volunteers and organize voters. The largest one, in Silicon Valley, California, started on December 15, 2007.
- WashingtonWatch program to track bills in Congress and estimate their cost or savings, if implemented into law. The Center for Responsive Politics started
- OpenSecrets; and the New York Gallery Eyebeam launched
- FundRace (now part of the Huffington Post blog) to make the Federal Election Commission’s databases easier to understand and search.
- PublicMarkup.org used collaborative editing software, known as a wiki, to mark up the Transparency in Government Act of 2008 and the various economic stabilization and bailout proposals floated during the economic crisis in the fall of that year.
- MAPLight.org shines the light of transparency on money politics by illuminating who contributed to which politician and how he or she subsequently voted.
- Peer-to-Patent, provide an opportunity to rethink the closed practices by which agencies gather information and make decisions. In 2007 the U.S. Congress mandated, and the president signed, a complete changeover by 2014 from incandescent bulbs to new, energy-efficient but mercury-containing lightbulbs. Congress instructed the EPA to implement the law into regulations. The agency, however, did not yet have a plan for disposing of the 300 million new mercury-containing bulbs sold in the United States in 2007—a number that will only increase as the mandate approaches.
- http://www.whitehouse.gov/open. She is on leave as a professor of law and director of the Institute for Information Law and Policy at New York Law School and McClatchy visiting professor of communication at Stanford University. Dr. Noveck taught in the areas of intellectual property, technology, and first amendment law and founded the law school’s
- “Do Tank”, a legal and software R&D lab focused on developing technologies and policies to promote open government. Dr. Noveck is the author of Wiki Government: How Technology Can Make Government Better,
Democracy Stronger, and Citizens More Powerful (Brookings Institution Press, 2009) and editor of The State of Play: Law,
Games and Virtual Worlds (NYU Press, 2006).
- “Industry-Packed Federal Advisory Board Told DOE to Double U.S. Coal Consumption,” Joaquin Sapien, May 19, 2008.
- “EPA Axes Panel Chair at Request of Chemical Industry Lobbyists,” Sonya Lunder and Jane Houlihan, March 2008.
- “Restoring Scientific Integrity in Policy Making: Scientists Sign-On Statement,” Union of Concerned Scientists, February 8, 2005.
- “Interference at EPA: Science and Politics at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” Union of Concerned Scientists, April 23, 2008.
- “More People See Federal Government as Secretive; Nearly All Want to Know Where Candidates Stand on Transparency,” Sunshine Week, March 15, 2008 (accessed October 2008); Nation of Secrets:
The Threat to Democracy and the American Way of Life, Ted Gup, Doubleday, 2007.
- “Bush Administration Hides More Data, Shuts Down Website Tracking U.S. Economic Indicators,” Amanda Terkel, February 13, 2008.
- “Bush Admin: What You Don’t Know Can’t Hurt Us, 2007 Version,” Paul Kiel, November 23, 2007.
- Silicon Valley for Obama.
- “You Can Markup the Bills on the Mortgage Industry Bail Out,” Ellen Miller, September 22, 2008.
- http://www.city-scan.org (accessed October 2008).
- “Summer 2008 Goals,” Mitchell Baker, Mozilla Foundation chairman of the board, May 14, 2008.
- EPA website. For more on the congressional mandate, see “A U.S. Alliance to Update the Lightbulb,” Matthew Wald, New York
Times, March 14, 2007.
- “Bush’s 69% Job Disapproval Rating Highest in Gallup History,” Frank Newport, April 22, 2008;
- “Congressional Approval Falls to Single Digits for First Time Ever,” July 8, 2008.
- “Series of Tubes”. Also see the
- Series of Tubes weblog (accessed October 2008). The remark also spawned a graphic,
- “Series of Tubes as a Tube-map”.
- “A Democracy of Groups,” Beth Simone Noveck, First Monday, December 2005.
- Center for Tele-Democracy. See also
- Direct Democracy League.
- “The U.S. Congress Votes Database”;
- “New Opportunities for Involving Citizens in the Democratic Process,” Darlene Meskell, USA Services Intergovernmental Newsletter, Vol. 20, Fall 2007: 1–3.
- “In Search of Microelites: How to Get User-Generated Content,” Andy Oram, November 14, 2007.
- “Big Content Gloats as Bush Signs Pro-IP Act,” Nate Anderson, Ars Technica, October 14, 2008;
- “RIAA Settles with 12-Year-Old Girl,” John Borland, September 9, 2003;
- “RIAA versus Grandma, Part II: The Showdown That Wasn’t,” Eric Bangeman, December 16, 2007. See also MGM Studios Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd., 545 U.S. 913 (2005) (peer-to-peer file-sharing case), and also
Chapter 5. Engineering Good Government
Chapter 6. Enabling Innovation for Civic Engagement
- “Government Data and the Invisible Hand,” Yale Journal of Law &
Technology, Vol. 11, 2009.
- GovTrack.us, a website that mines the Library of Congress’s (LOC) THOMAS system to offer a more flexible tool for viewing and analyzing information about bills in Congress (see
- eight desirable properties for government data.
Chapter 7. Online Deliberation and Civic Intelligence
- Danish Board of Technology (DBT), deliberative polling,
- http://americaspeaks.org). The DBT is currently coordinating the
- Worldwide Views on Global Warming project with approximately 50 countries to engage their citizens in deliberation about climate change: other deliberative projects are also targeting climate change, including MIT’s Collaboratorium
- Global Sensemaking project. While I do not have the space here to discuss them, people have experimented with video teleconferencing, live television, special-purpose-outfitted rooms, and so forth to assist deliberative processes. These efforts, however positive some of the results may have been, are often stymied by high costs and other challenges and have yet to be adopted widely.
- http://publicsphereproject.org/e-liberate/demo.php for a transcript of an entire sample meeting.
- http://www.e-soccer.opendcn.org/). The
- http://www.68cittastudi.retecivica.milano.it/), while the
- http://flc-cgil.retecivica.milano.it/). Additionally, openDCN has been used to support teaching and learning in the virtual community course at the university (
- http://jlidcncv.lic.dico.unimi.it/ and
- http://www.publicsphereproject.org/ncn/) and Liberating Voices: A Pattern Language for Communication
Revolution (MIT Press, 2008), a civic intelligence undertaking with 85 contributors (
- “Coordinated Information Services for a Discipline- or Mission-Oriented Community”, Douglas Engelbart, 1972.
Chapter 8. Open Government and Open Society
- USASpending.gov, laying the groundwork for making the economic stimulus and recovery expenditures public, and creating a high-level process—
- “Transparency and Open Government,” President Barack Obama, Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, January 21, 2009.
- American National Election Studies, The ANES Guide to Public
Opinion and Electoral Behavior (University of Michigan, Center for Political Studies). In a similar vein, Tocqueville famously noted, “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” (Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America [1838, reprinted by Harper Perennial, 1988
- Google Public Sector, which focuses on developing new applications for public sector organizations.
Chapter 9. “You Can Be the Eyes and Ears”: Barack Obama and the Wisdom of Crowds
- Data.gov and
- IT.usaspending.gov by White House CIO Vivek Kundra, and the “open government initiative” launched by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and led by deputy CTO Beth Noveck. Each of these efforts represents the finest distillation of Obama’s principles into practice, and their emergence in the first six months of his administration is a sign of real promise.
- Federal Computer Week, however, that after an initial burst of participation by members of the public who wanted to contribute constructive suggestions, the IdeaScale phase of the initiative hit some turbulence. She noted, “Part of the theory behind the site was that the community would help moderate it. Well, the challenge that you have is, when a large part of the constructive community goes away, you’re left with people who may not have the full context of what you are trying to accomplish or they may have their own agendas. And that’s just something we need to know and understand if we are going to be using more of these tools and approaches in the policy evolvement process.”
- Personal Democracy Forum, a website and annual conference that covers the ways technology is changing politics, and
- TechPresident.com, an award-winning group blog about how the American presidential candidates are using the Web, and how the Web is using them.
- http://www.pollingreport.com/drugs.htm. For example, 46% favor the legalization of small amounts of pot for personal use (Washington Post poll from April 2009), and 44% are in favor of making the use of pot legal (Gallup poll from October 2009).
Chapter 10. Two-Way Street: Government with the People
- GovLoop was developed by a U.S. government employee in his spare time on the popular platform Ning. In the span of just one year,
- U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s blog; true, he isn’t as famous as Tom Clancy, but he’s been empowered by his organization to write with a personal viewpoint that showcases the personality of a human being rather than the coarseness of official jargon.
- “Transparency and Open Government,” President Barack Obama, White House Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, January 22, 2009.
- “Government 2.0: The Rise of the Goverati,” Mark Drapeau, ReadWriteWeb, February 5, 2009.
- http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0907/0907.1317v1.pdf), relatively few new leaders within a large group can shift the balance of power by distributing their ideas broadly and retaining allegiances well. Social media can facilitate exactly that when used well.
- “Celebrate the ‘Summer of Gov’ in Washington, DC and San Francisco,” Mark Drapeau, Examiner.com, July 10, 2009. See also
- “Government 2.0: How Social Media Could Transform Gov PR,” Mark Drapeau, MediaShift, January 2009.
- “What Is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software,” Tim O’Reilly, September 30, 2005.
- “Social Networks Grow: Friending Mom and Dad,” Amanda Lenhart, January 14, 2009.
- “What do you need in a community manager?”, Simon Young, June 5, 2009.
- “Social Software and National Security: An Initial Net Assessment,” Mark Drapeau and Linton Wells II, Defense and Technology Papers, National Defense University, April 2009. See also
- “Social Networking and National Security: How to Harness Web 2.0 to Protect the Country,” James Jay Carafano, Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, May 18, 2009.
Chapter 11. Citizens’ View of Open Government
- http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/04/us/politics/04memo.html). For the first time in history, it’s possible for hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people to have a single conversation. But the Internet is far more than just a way to raise money or mobilize supporters. It’s a way to shrink the distance between people and politicians.
- White House blog, and the inclusion of the online audience in the president’s town hall meetings have received a lot of attention—and the White House deserves a lot of credit for being open and welcoming. But what has really changed about government?
- WeMedia.com. He is also the editor of
- Thinking About Media and contributes as a Fast Company expert.
Chapter 12. After the Collapse: Open Government and the Future of Civil Service
- OpenCongress is doing. The founders of OpenCongress could have spent years lobbying Congress to more effectively share information about how its members are voting and working. Instead, they chose to patch the system by creating their own site, one that, by aggregating information about Congress, brings greater transparency (and, in theory, accountability) to the institution. Lawrence Lessig’s
- Change Congress is another example of patch culture. Once again, Lessig could have spent years lobbying Congress to adopt new rules (a completely valid approach to patching the system), but instead he has proposed an “add-on” or “plug-in” to the rules, a more aggressive rule set that members of Congress can select to adopt. His hope is that, if enough members choose to use this plug-in, the patch will be adopted into the core source code—the laws and rules that govern Congress.
- 2008 Bertha Bassam Lecture, David Weinberger points out that over the past several centuries we have come to equate credibility with objectivity and impartiality, but that the rise of the Internet is eroding this equation (italics added by me):
- Freedom of Information (FOI) requests infrastructure in Canada. Put aside the fact that this system is simultaneously open to abuse, overwhelmed, and outdated. Think about the idea of FOI. The fact that information is by default secret (or functionally secret since it is inaccessible) is itself a powerful indication of how fundamentally opaque the workings of government remain. If information growth is exponential, how much data can the government not only manage but effectively assess the confidentiality of on a regular basis? And at what cost? In a world where open models function with great efficiency, how long before the public loses all confidence?
- http://www.eaves.ca. He advises the Mayor and Council of Vancouver on open data and open government and serves as an international reference group member of the Australian Government’s Web 2.0 taskforce. As a negotiation consultant, he provides strategic advice, coaching, and training to leading companies around the world in industries such as financial services, health care, information technology, energy, and telecommunications. Originally from Vancouver, British Columbia, David completed a Bachelor of Arts in history at Queen’s University in 1998 and a Master’s of International Relations at Oxford in 2000.
- The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary, Eric S. Raymond, O’Reilly, 2001.
Chapter 13. Democracy, Under Everything
- KnowledgeAsPower.org, as we endeavor to build a model for increasing citizens’ activity in—and understanding of—the legislative process.
- Knowledge As Power, an online nonpartisan system that helps individuals effectively participate in the legislative process. She’s been a Republican and a Democrat, has worked on presidential campaigns and in Congress, and her mission now is to help “average” individuals become powerful citizens.
Chapter 14. Emergent Democracy
Chapter 15. Case Study: Tweet Congress
Chapter 16. Entrepreneurial Insurgency: Republicans Connect With the American People
- TweetCongress.org, depicts the number of Republican and Democrat users in the U.S. House and Senate. As you can see, Republicans outnumber Democrats on Twitter by more than 2 to 1. (For more on Tweet Congress, see
- nearly 2 million more views than their colleagues in the majority. And while Republicans had uploaded fewer overall videos, their average view count was more than double that of their counterparts (1,572 to 750). That same report found that eight of the top 10 congressional channels on YouTube belonged to Republican members.
- Data.gov and
- Recovery.gov with a stated goal of providing complete transparency in how federal money and resources are being allocated. By all accounts, the jury is still out on the effectiveness of these sites, particularly Recovery.gov. Recovery.gov, already in its second redesign and carrying a staggering price tag approaching $18 million, has come under increasing scrutiny lately for not performing some of its basic promised functionality.
- Open Government Initiative. Seeing a unique opportunity to start a discussion on transparency in government spending with the president and the American people, Leader Boehner and our office submitted an idea to a public online forum created by the White House. The Boehner-submitted idea (see
- “Wrap-Up of the Open Government Brainstorming: Transparency”, White House Deputy CTO Beth Noveck indicates that the process may not be nearly as broad in scope as had been previously stated:
- Read the Bill initiative, American taxpayers seeking more accountability in government spending, and yes, even the president, who has been a vocal supporter of the concept in the past, administration officials had a message: it didn’t “make sense” to discuss this idea any further.
- entrance into tweeting in
- US News & World Report. She quickly racked up about 500 followers (including yours truly), but has yet to send one tweet. So, it’s at least safe to say that Pelosi is aware of Twitter.
Chapter 17. Disrupting Washington’s Golden Rule
- Transparency Timeline. Much of the openness about Congress’s doings that we now take for granted was hard to come by.
- Public.Resource.Org, essentially shamed the government into making this information available. He did this by putting the information up on the Internet himself. Once the site became popular, he told the SEC that he would take it down, but would first train the agency on how to continue to provide the data itself. The SEC bowed to the public pressure he marshaled, and now we have EDGAR, where anybody can look up corporate filings for free. Malamud ran a similar campaign to get the U.S. Patent Office to put the text of patents online.
- CRP was a lonely voice, doing the hard work of collecting and coding campaign contribution and lobbying data, and making it publicly available online for reporters, researchers, and activists. Now, thanks to support from Sunlight, CRP has made this data available via APIs and downloadable databases so that anybody can take it, enhance it, and link it to other information. Already, the group MAPLight.org has taken this campaign finance data and mashed it up with congressional votes so that anybody can find out quickly how money may have influenced a lawmaker’s actions (see
- http://know-thy-congressman.com/), which combines CRP’s information on campaign contributions with data from elsewhere on earmarks and biographical and legislative information. New venues bring this information alive for different audiences. For example, remember during the 2008 elections the wild popularity of The Huffington Post’s “FundRace” feature, fueled directly from FEC downloads, which people could use to look up who had given contributions to a particular presidential candidate via an interactive map? Millions of people went to check on their neighbors’ political giving histories.
- Earmark Watch—is helping to digitize earmark data, which lawmakers are making available but only in awkward formats. Armed with easily searchable data, citizens will be better equipped to track government spending on these projects.
Chapter 18. Case Study: GovTrack.us
- THOMAS, where the public could, and still can today, find the status and text of all legislation in Congress (see
- OpenSecrets.org) to identify correlations between money and votes in Congress.
- OpenCongress.org is a more social version of GovTrack based on GovTrack data. Almost half of the entries to Sunlight Foundation’s
- 2009 Apps for America contest drew on data from GovTrack. The winner, Filibusted.us, uses data from GovTrack to highlight the senators who most often voted against _cloture_—that is, which senator most often derails progress in the Senate through a form of filibuster; see
- National Institutes of Health (NIH) recovery spending website, and
- Public.Resource.Org, bought the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR; one of the components of U.S. law) from the GPO for $17,325 with the intention to make it easier for other civic hackers to access the law of the land. Even though you can read the CFR on the GPO website, we wanted the underlying datafiles so that anyone can freely read and use the CFR as he likes. In 2009, under pressure from Malamud, congressional offices, and the White House’s open government directive, the GPO finally begin to acknowledge the value to the public of free access to raw materials. The CFR will likely be freely available by the time you read this.
- The Open House Project Report, which provided the House of Representatives guidelines on how to use technology better in the interests of transparency. Luckily, Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) took an interest in this and had a bulk-data paragraph inserted into the legislative language. The LOC has not followed through yet, however.
- suggesting open government data principles to guide policy, but policymakers are taking the movement more seriously as well.
- GovTrack.us in his spare time in 2001 and is the director of Civic Impulse, LLC, a company he started in 2009. He is a software developer and is also finishing a Ph.D. in linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. He holds a B.A. from Princeton University and an M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania.
Chapter 19. Case Study: FollowTheMoney.org
- National Institute on Money in State Politics is the only nonpartisan, nonprofit organization revealing the influence of campaign money on state-level elections and public policy in all 50 states.
- Project Vote Smart first used APIs to combine candidate biographies and voting information with donor lists. More than 300 individuals and organizations have now signed up for the Institute’s APIs, which can automatically feed and update donor information to outside websites. Project Vote Smart and the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP;
- http://www.opensecrets.org/) also now make their data available via APIs.
- Sunlight Foundation is advancing transparency via grant-making and innovative projects.
- FollowTheMoney.org let users see when a company’s or industry’s donations were made in a two-year timeline that corresponds to an election cycle with the Timeline tool, see a specific industry’s donation totals over several election cycles with the Industry Influence tool, or look at how competitive legislative races are in their state with the (m)c50 tool.
- Open Book mashup of state contracts and political donors. Thus, for the first time, Illinois voters had information that lets them ask whether political donations result in favoritism in state contracting. In contrast, more than 20 states offer search functions for vendor or contract information on their websites, but only a handful offer downloadable databases. As of May 2009, Alaska, Kansas, Missouri, and Texas had launched sites that show detailed fiscal information, such as revenue, expenditure, program, and vendor payments.
Chapter 20. Case Study: MAPLight.org
- OpenSecrets.org; see
- FollowTheMoney.org; see
- Public Campaign,
- Change Congress, and many others are seeking to change our corrupt system of money-dominated politics. Transparency by itself won’t solve the problem, but it can highlight the problem. With the transparency work of MAPLight.org, citizens now know where to focus their efforts for change.
- MAPLight.org, a nonpartisan nonprofit illuminating the connection between money and politics in unprecedented ways. An entrepreneur and political organizer, Dan is the author of three books on speech recognition software and is the founder of Say I Can, a speech recognition firm. Dan cofounded the Berkeley Fair Elections Coalition and has served as a consultant to various political and nonprofit groups, including the Center for Voting and Democracy, the Israel Venture Network, and the Mental Health Association of San Francisco. He received an M.A. in psychology from the University of California at Berkeley, where he attended on a National Science Foundation Fellowship, and a B.A. in biomedical ethics from Brown University. He lives in Berkeley, California.
- National Institute on Money in State Politics.
- September 16, 2005 and
- March 7, 2006.
- http://maplight.org/map/ca/bill/5577/default/votes/vote-58113. Nakanishi:
- Center for Responsive Politics.
Chapter 21. Going 2.0: Why OpenSecrets.org Opted for Full Frontal Data Sharing
- http://www.opensecrets.org/) made our value-added campaign finance, lobbying, and other political finance data (coded by industry, standardized by organization and individual) fully “open” for the first time in our 26-year history. We had been guarding the “crown jewels”—the detailed transaction-level data that are the building blocks for everything we do—and here we were, financially strapped ourselves, but giving away what we considered precious gems. As an NGO that tracks money in politics, we are passionate about our data and particularly convinced of the need for unbiased, unassailable data of the kind CRP produces. And this data is unique at the federal level. There’s nothing comparable to what we produce, in part because we pour our passion into creating and maintaining this trusted resource. CRP’s data and nonpartisan analysis provide the public with the information they need to hold their government accountable while also educating the public about how money and elite influence so often control who wins political office and what laws get passed.
- Common Cause and
- LittleSis (a project of the Public Accountability Initiative) are finally able to use our data without worry about cost or delay. And academics may finally obtain
- Capital Eye blog and e-newsletter are critical to making these connections for people. But more is needed to explain to a general audience how a tiny elite uses its political influence to shape everything from gas prices to our health care options. And of course, CRP will continue to maintain up-to-date data on OpenSecrets.org because, although bulk data is a huge boon to tech-savvy users, a reporter or blogger looking for one figure does not want to download literally millions of records. Furthermore, most users probably do not need (or possess) the skills or comfort level to accurately process and use massive data sets.
Chapter 22. All Your Data Are Belong to Us: Liberating Government Data
- “Plan Opens More Data to Public”, “Under this system, a retail information provider, like Mead Data’s own Nexis service, charge[d] about $15 for each S.E.C. document, plus a connection charge of $39 an hour and a printing charge of about $1 a page.” One can imagine customers were largely limited to firms on Wall Street.
- Malamud later recounted:
- told the New York Times, “If he can [put the patent and trademark database online] we’d be out all $20 million we now receive in fees…. Why would anyone want paper?”
- http://www.nytimes.com/1998/05/04/business/us-is-urged-to-offer-more-data-on-line.html). The gambit worked, and less than two months later the Clinton administration announced that it would put the full patent database online. In each instance, by forcefully but legally releasing online data that the government had either not disclosed on the Internet or not made easily accessible, Malamud was able to effect a change in policy that led to a more open and transparent government (see
- LegiStorm must acquire paper copies of the forms and manually scan and parse them. In contrast, the clerk of the House and the secretary of the Senate could likely make their existing databases available online at little extra cost. LegiStorm also offers something the official sites still won’t: financial disclosure forms for congressional staffers, not just members.
Post Congress Votes database brought attention to the issue, the Senate Rules Committee finally relented and has recently begun to make roll call votes available in XML. Two years after Derek Willis was rebuffed by the Senate webmaster, a group of seemingly embarrassed senators wrote to Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer demanding a repeal of the prohibition on XML.
- RECAP—that distributes the hacking of the court database among many users.
- OpenRegs.com, an alternative interface to the federal government’s regulatory docketing system, and the cocreator of the accountability website
- Stimulus Watch.
Chapter 23. Case Study: Many Eyes
- Many Eyes, a public website we launched where anyone can upload and visualize data. The site fosters a social style of data analysis that empowers users to engage with public data through discussion and collaboration. Political debate, citizen activism, religious conversations, game playing, and educational exchanges are all happening on Many Eyes. The public nature of these visualizations provides users with a transformative path to information literacy.
Chapter 24. My Data Can’t Tell You That
- Recovery.gov, which was supposed to be the place to “follow every penny.” However, as often happens to investigative reporters, it wasn’t long before I had wandered far afield and started asking what was going on, not with Recovery.gov but with the Recovery Act itself. How much money had actually gotten out to states and local communities?
- USASpending.gov, the federal government’s one-stop shopping site for information on grants and contracts, did list the $1.7 million grant, but did not show how much, if any of it, had been spent. Looking back at previous grants, one quickly finds that while USASpending.gov lists the amount of grant money awarded to all kinds of things—thousands of public housing authorities each year—it doesn’t track when spending occurs, or when it concludes. Does that mean every single federal grant spent down to the penny, in exactly the period of time for which it’s given? Do grantees never spend less than they’re awarded? Do they ever run out of money much sooner than expected? Do they ever have to return to the federal government for additional funds? One would never know from looking at USASpending.gov. How quickly government money actually gets to the economy—of particular interest when looking at the effectiveness of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—isn’t something they track; their data can’t tell you that.
Chapter 25. When Is Transparency Useful?
- National Security Archive, whose Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests have revealed decades of government wrongdoing around the globe, or the indefatigable
- Carl Malamud and his scanning, which has put terabytes of useful government documents, from laws to movies, online for everyone to access freely.
- OpenLibrary.org, and
- Watchdog.net. He is a coauthor of the RSS 1.0 specification and is on the board of Change Congress. He currently codirects the
- Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
Chapter 26. Transparency Inside Out
- http://www.usaspending.gov that makes available a variety of information about government IT investments, including a description of the investment, the prime contractors and monthly updates on cost, schedule, and performance figures, and agency CIO ratings. This is a great example of holding the government accountable to the public through greater transparency. I would like to see it expanded, where prudent, to include things like subcontractors, user analytics, underlying technologies, informational and operational interdependencies, reused code components, and even demos. This would afford greater transparency into how the government is using technology, allowing technologists, whether for profit or simply for the public good, to identify redundancies across government applications, opportunities for adoption of existing enterprise solutions, or just plain inefficient or poorly designed solutions. The government would be wise to both invite and capture this kind of feedback so that the collective dialogue builds upon itself.
Chapter 27. Bringing the Web 2.0 Revolution to Government
- IT Dashboard, that lets users access data on every federal information technology project. It also provides the tools to easily analyze performance of agencies in staying on schedule and on budget, as well as trends in spending over time. The dashboard, which is modeled on a similar project Kundra implemented during his tenure as CIO of Washington, D.C., is part of a redesigned USASpending.gov. The site also allows third parties to download XML versions of the data and potentially develop their own tools for presenting the information or linking it up with other data. The IT Dashboard is a building block for demonstrating how government spending and performance data can be linked together to help the public and government focus on improving performance and wisely spending taxpayer dollars.
- Recovery.gov, will be the test case for the administration’s approach to achieving government transparency online.
- USASpending.gov, a searchable website of nearly all government spending required by the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006,
- NPAction.org as a one-stop website on building nonprofit advocacy. He is also a coauthor of the 2007 book Seen but not Heard: Strengthening Nonprofit
Advocacy, published by the Aspen Institute.
- “Transparency and Open Government,” President Barack Obama, Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, January 21, 2009.
- “Open Government – Or ‘Transparency Theater’?”, Maura Reynolds, CQ Online News, July 24, 2009.
- Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
- http://www.usdoj.gov/opa/pr/2009/September/09-ag-1013.html for the Department of Justice press statement and
- http://www.usdoj.gov/opa/documents/state-secret-privilieges.pdf for the policies and procedures.
- Web 2.0 Guidance Forum to discuss use of new media. Another example is that the Obama administration launched a
- “An Opportunity Lost: An in-depth analysis of FOIA performance from 1998 to 2007,” July 3, 2008.
- “Freedom of Information Act,” President Barack Obama, Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, January 21, 2009.
- “The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA),” Eric Holder, Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, March 19, 2009.
- “The Freedom of Information Act,” John Ashcroft, Memorandum for Heads of All Federal Departments and Agencies, October 12, 2001.
- “Creating a ‘New Era of Open Government’,” Office of Information Policy, Department of Justice, FOIA Post, April 17, 2009.
- Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-282).
Chapter 28. Toads on the Road to Open Government Data
- blog about the intersection of information technology and government, how they sometimes collide but often influence and change each other. He tweets at
Chapter 29. Open Government: The Privacy Imperative
- Privacilla.org, a Web-based think tank devoted exclusively to privacy, and he maintains online federal spending resource
- WashingtonWatch.com. He holds a J.D. from UC Hastings College of Law.
- “Implementing a Trusted Information Sharing Environment: Using Immutable Audit Logs to Increase Security, Trust, and Accountability,” Jeff Jonas and Peter Swire, February 2006.
- “Privacy by Design,” by Ann Cavoukian.
Chapter 30. Freedom of Information Acts: Promises and Realities
- Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press website, among other websites.
- http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nsa/foia/stories.htm), and journalism organizations such as
- Investigative Reporters and Editors and the
- Society of Professional Journalists recognize inspirational and effective use of the act for news stories.
- http://www.rcfp.org/foialetter/index.php). The form includes the necessary important legal language, and you can fill in details about the agency and the documents you want.
- a wealth of information on filing requests, and the National Freedom of Information Coalition has many helpful links at
- http://www.nfoic.org/states on filing both federal and state requests.
- Government Accountability Office for reports and audits on agencies. Frequently, the reports and audits cite agency records the GAO looked at during the audit.
- ACLU Freedom Network
- American Society of Access Professionals
- The Brechner Center for Freedom of Information
- A Citizen’s Guide to Using the Freedom of Information Act
- Electronic Privacy Information Center
- Federation of American Scientists
- Freedom of Information Center, University of Missouri
- Investigative Reporters and Editors
- National Freedom of Information Coalition
- The National Security Archive
- Open the Government
- Public Citizen
- The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
- Society of Environmental Journalists
- SPJ Open Doors
- The Sunshine in Government Initiative
- oversee FOIA, and most government agencies post their FOIA handbooks.
Chapter 31. Gov→Media→People
- ShovelWatch, a joint project of several journalism organizations including ProPublica, WNYC radio, and The Takeaway news program. The project aims to track the federal government’s fiscal stimulus package “from bill to building” and is “organizing citizens nationwide to watchdog local stimulus projects.”
- “Open For Questions” area on the White House website. It conducted an Online Town Hall experiment, drawing from citizens’ questions, that was modestly successful.
Chapter 32. Open Source Software for Open Government Agencies
- online knowledge base concerning such migrations. Some countries also have FLOSS Competence Centers that provide information and support for the migration process to local agencies.
- EU Open Source Observatory, which provides best practices and case studies on the adoption of OSS in European Public Administrations.
- “Free Software/Open Source: Information Society Opportunities for Europe?” working paper, C. Daffara and J. M. Barahona.
- “Introduction to Free Software, Second Edition,” Jesus M. Gonzalez-Barahona et al., Fundació per a la Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain, 2008.
- “Free/Libre/Open Source Software Worldwide impact study: FLOSSWorld,” Gosh, et al., FLOSSWorld project presentation.
- “Linux Client Migration Cookbook, Version 2: A Practical Planning and Implementation Guide for Migrating to Desktop Linux,” IBM, October 2006.
- Germany: KBSt migration guide.
- GSyC/LibreSoft research group.
Chapter 33. Why Open Digital Standards Matter in Government
- transparency and open government (see the
- Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Despite the historic importance of these documents, almost nobody would be able to answer a simple question: what brand and model of pen did the president use to sign those memoranda?
- nearly died after being given a drug at 1,000 times the recommended dose for newborns. Later, Quaid asked for “a technological way to track the life-and-death decision making in medicine” since “100,000 people are killed every year because of medical mistakes,” and created the Quaid Foundation to tackle the answer. In another recent story, while being cured of cancer, former U.S. Rep. Billy Tauzin had a very similar problem: he had to fill out the same forms for six months—every time he went to a new hospital or test center—and also had an unnecessary operation because the surgeons didn’t know about earlier operations.
- blurry when viewed on computer monitors. It turns out that the diagrams were stored in a file format that today’s computer programs do not completely understand. Reassuring, isn’t it?
- single character in a numbering system. Internally, computers can generate, recognize, and store only two states: the presence or absence of a small electric charge, called a
- 369 billions of billions of bytes. (As a reference, the size of this chapter is less than 30,000 bytes.)
- http://www.archiveindex.com/laws/law-va.htm). What if, 20, 30, or 40 years from now, the digital records of your pension payments were unreadable? What is the benefit of digital documents for a small business, if it must continuously update software and hardware without any need except to maintain archives, or continue to (re)enter data by hand in incompatible systems?
- 100 trillion bytes of electronic records. That’s 50 times as much as President Clinton left in 2001, but surely much less than what the Obama administration will produce. Already, the Bush archives, which include historical documents such as top-secret email tracing plans for the Iraq war, contain data in “formats not previously dealt with” by the U.S. National Archives.
- decrease U.S. dependence on foreign energy and fuel job creation. Getting hundreds of companies around the continent to share this information requires open, standard formats.
- Google Squared to display, all in one table, things such as who got money from a public contract, who approved it, all the present and past relationships among those people (such as sitting on the boards of the same companies), the percentage of contracts assigned to some firm from each public officer, and so on. It would be much easier for everybody to visualize how numbers, decisions, and physical places are related. You could generate on-the-spot maps that show how tax money moves from one county to another and why, and how it varies over time with the party in power. Residents of each town could see without intermediaries how demographics and pollution sources in any given area increase the occurrence of some specific illness. It would also become much easier to contribute data into these systems, which makes them more useful to public administrators.
- $19 billion to bring hospitals the benefits of digital technology. The “Transparency and Open Government” memo includes statements such as the following:
- Stop/Zona-M, a website designed to help all normal people stop and learn the essentials of, and think about, the things that matter to them. Marco is the author of
- Family Guide to Digital Freedom and a regular contributor to several print and online ICT magazines. His website is
Chapter 34. Case Study: Utah.gov
- http://www.governor.state.ut.us/governor/elhighwy.htm). He followed up on that vision with a challenge that included five basic parts:
- http://transparent.utah.gov). “Government transparency has become a reality in Utah,” said Lt. Governor Gary Herbert. “This site allows everyone to see where and how their tax dollars are being spent. This commitment to openness and transparency will strengthen our state management.” News media and others interested in government spending no longer need to make special requests to agencies; they can find every expenditure online. Utah’s cities, counties, school districts, transit districts, and so forth will be providing their finances online within the next two years, since the state legislature expanded the bill creating the system to all local governments within Utah.
- Utah Multimedia portal and the
- Utah Connect page. The increased collaboration through Twitter has been phenomenal, evidenced through the
- Utah Twitter page that aggregates Twitter feeds from state and local government (see Figures
- portal. Like others before it, the new portal introduced many new concepts and services into the pattern for how Utah does business online. Following the lead from Federal CIO Vivek Kundra, Utah was the first state government to create a state data portal with the goal of enhancing access to state-provided data. The data portal provides an aggregation point for users to access the data they are looking for.
- social media guidelines to help employees avoid issues as they use these solutions (see
- blog on the topic of technology in government.