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Re: Clay Shirky: How the Internet will (one day) transform government

From: John Erickson <olyerickson@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, 9 Oct 2012 20:37:13 -0400
Message-ID: <CAC1Gg8SzSFL7JkW4oVQ3kXT3gg8BGDpAM8tiX=Vhn09SCE015w@mail.gmail.com>
To: Chris Beer <chris@codex.net.au>, Bernadette Hyland <bhyland@3roundstones.com>, Ed Summers <ehs@pobox.com>, public-egov-ig <public-egov-ig@w3.org>
Thanks, Ed, for referring us to Clay's talk; as always he is a
compelling and provocative speaker.

I think the ultimate point to be taken from Clay's talk is that there
exist today exemplars of tools and mechanisms that give large,
distributed communities of stakeholder-creators transparency and
insight into the sausage-making process. I don't think his point is
about everyday citizens using a specific platform (such as git, or hg,
or svn, or...) to draft legislation --- although that is fun to
imagine! --- but rather that it actually *would* be practical for
legislative staff and their...ehem..."collaborators" to use such tools
as they drafted laws, and for citizen stakeholders to both monitor and
provide feedback during the drafting process.

What Clay didn't highlight is that in most successful open source
projects there is a hierarchy of contributors:
* Users --- use code, ask questions, suggest features, report bugs
* Developers --- implement fixes and new features, often teaming with others
* Committers --- top-level developers who decide what contributions
will enter the "trunk." In the best projects there are several, they
are wise and they vote fairly
* Project Lead(s) --- Usually an expeditor who helps set priorities.
Sometimes serves as the architect. Sometimes is the final arbiter.

An open source process for crafting legislation would be no different.
Indeed, teams writing laws today undoubtedly have low-level writers,
"committers" and "leads." The difference between today's process and
what (I think) Clay is suggesting is, as with open source software
development, everything would be out in the open; users (concerned
citizens, fellow lawmakers, journalists) would be able to monitor
releases to the repositories, check out drafts at any point, diff the
releases, see who contributed and committed what, etc.

Which is quite different from the current process, in which the
fingerprints of K Street contributors and other "stakeholders" have
been obscured.


On Tue, Oct 9, 2012 at 7:31 PM, Chris Beer <chris@codex.net.au> wrote:
> +1
> Sent from Samsung Mobile
> Bernadette Hyland <bhyland@3roundstones.com> wrote:
> Thanks Ed, great recommendation.
> Bernadette Hyland
> Sent from my iPad
> On Oct 9, 2012, at 5:03, Ed Summers <ehs@pobox.com> wrote:
>> I imagine most of you have seen this already, but in case you haven't
>> Clay Shirky's Ted Talk from earlier this year (recently posted) is
>> really inspiring for those that care about the egov space:
>>  How the Internet will (one day) transform government
>> http://www.ted.com/talks/clay_shirky_how_the_internet_will_one_day_transform_government.html
>> Near the end there's a segment that really sums up the challenge that
>> this w3c egov-ig faces:
>> """
>> The people experimenting with participation don't have legislative
>> power, and the people who have legislative power are not experimenting
>> with participation. They are experimenting with openness. There's no
>> democracy worth the name that doesn't have a transparency move, but
>> transparency is openness in only one direction, and being given a
>> dashboard without a steering wheel has never been the core promise a
>> democracy makes to its citizens.
>> """
>> I encourage you to give it a listen.
>> //Ed

John S. Erickson, Ph.D.
Director, Web Science Operations
Tetherless World Constellation (RPI)
<http://tw.rpi.edu> <olyerickson@gmail.com>
Twitter & Skype: olyerickson
Received on Wednesday, 10 October 2012 00:44:57 UTC

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