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

From: Sandro Hawke <sandro@w3.org>
Date: Wed, 10 Oct 2012 20:34:50 -0400
Message-ID: <5076142A.5040500@w3.org>
To: public-egov-ig@w3.org
On 10/09/2012 08:37 PM, John Erickson wrote:
> 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.

Is it really clear in an Open Source project who is motivating a 
particular patch, or funding it, or what their agenda really is?  I 
don't think so.

(Yes, it's clear who is putting it forward, but that's about it. There 
aren't a lot of cases where the person who puts it forward has a 
non-obvious motivation, but I'm pretty sure it's happened a few times.)

I do think it's important that drafts of legislation be circulated in 
machine readable form so people can compute diffs and more easily review 
the changes, but that seems pretty trivial compared to what Shirky is 
proposing, and perhaps is already done.

Frankly, working in the sphere of W3C spec writing, which is vastly 
smaller in all ways than legislation, I don't even know how to make git 
or github that useful.    I have some ideas for how to make the 
concentric circles of review easier to manage, but they're kind of novel 
and people don't seem very interested.

     -- Sandro

> John
> 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
Received on Thursday, 11 October 2012 00:34:59 UTC

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