For the past few years, my primary advocacy focus has been on increasing government efficiency and transparency through technology. One of the areas of focus for me and other government-reform-through-technology advocates has been "open data", or increased access to government information, in machine readable and structured formats where possible. Other prominent open data advocates include Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist and the Craigslist Foundation, and Tim O'Reilly, a tech publisher who has popularized the notion of "government as a platform" for economic growth and innovation.
Over the past several months, I've been supporting a California initiative that would incorporate a modest "open data standard" into the California Public Records Act.
The bill is backed by the California Newspaper Publishers Association, the SF Tech Dems (a group I co-founded last year), the California Faculty Association, California Teachers Association, Common Cause, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees and many other prominent good government and employee groups across California and the United States. The most important provision of the bill, the California Senate 2011-2012 session's SB 1002, by Sen. Leland Yee, would ensure that when available, records would be produced in electronic form searchable by free software. The changes the bill proposes to California law are key to ending practices of posting records in unsearchable formats that are not indexed by search engines and are of low value for resuse and research.
Regretfully, the lobbing group League of California Cities has made gutting or killing this modest and needed reform one of its top priorities. The League, in a muddled screed nearly as long as the simple open data bill, makes false assertions about its language and intent, and attacks the aims of open data advocates: "It appears that the bill sponsors are more focused on imposing a new mandate requiring public agencies to create new data files and formats on request, to facilitate the creation of commercial, information-based products and services at public expense." In fact, open government advocates are very forward about our goals, which include reuse of existing government data as an economic engine. It is befuddling and troubling that the California League of Cities would object to beneficial reuse of public records and adjacent economic growth. (Ironically, the League's effort to kill this important economic growth and government transparency bill is funded by your money and mine in the form of its public funding for Capitol lobbying on behalf of city executives.)
SB 1002 is the product of open and public discussion by open government advocates around the state, nation and world. The League of California Cities has participated only through misleading lobbying and efforts to mute open data advocates.
Adriel Hampton is an entrepreneur, private investigator and journalist. He is a founding employee of NationBuilder, founder of Gov 2.0 Radio, advisory board member of LegiNation Inc., and co-founder of the SF Tech Dems. Before joining NationBuilder, he worked for the San Francisco City Attorney's Office for six years, where he developed the office's social media practice, and as an editor and writer at the San Francisco Examiner, ANG Newspapers and the Lodi News-Sentinel.
Newmark, an uber-geek of world renown, resides in San Francisco and has become a leading advocate of personal democracy, media reform, and use of the social Web to transform governance. He recently wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle about the social Web's advantages:
* Irrelevance of geography: eveyone's "near" you
* Can scale to millions and beyond
Due to his deep well of experience in tech and customer service, Newmark is a growing influencer in the Government 2.0 movement.
Clark hails from a Sacramento suburb, and manages Web strategy and user experience design for CalPERS. She's also well known on the Gov 2.0 scene for working to advance best practices across local, state and federal government. We like her on Twitter, too.
Newmark and Clark will join me (Adriel Hampton), Steve Lunceford, Steve Ressler, and producer Meghan Harvey to talk about how the social Web can help contribute to bureacratic reform and enhanced collaboration between citizens and government. Join us!
Adriel Hampton is a journalist, Gov 2.0 and new media strategist, public servant, and licensed private investigator. He is running for U.S. Congress in the 2009 special election for California's 10th District.
Hopefully, you're back after a reading session in the great links above.
With these folks thoughts in mind, I've come up with some reasons I don't think social media is scary in a Government 2.0 context.
1) People aren't that bad.
Take it from Craig Newmark, who's been dealing with baddies at Craigslist for 14 years. "You interact with thousands of people, you see, if youâre really paying attention, that youâll have to handle a lot of negative situations. But you do see that people are overwhelmingly good. You do see that people normally want to give each other a break. In fact I see that people all over the country are pretty happy to help out."
2) The public wants you to engage.
Here's an example from Jeffrey Levy of the EPA: "Many years ago, I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of air conditioning technicians as the guy who was regulating the refrigerants they were going to use to replace freon ... The room was packed and hot, and their mood was not friendly (to say the least). ...Â First thing I did was take off my jacket and invite them to take theirs off. They understood it was a joke, we all smiled, and as I rolled up my sleeves, I started talking about why we were doing what we were doing ... Some of them still didn't like what we were doing by the end, but they made a point of thanking me for coming out to talk to them, saying their impression of the gov't had improved as a result."
3) Social media helps you build a base of support in your communities of interest.
This one is personal, as Emi Whittle, a federal contractor, recently supported my online efforts, saying, "he seems so forthright and forthcoming... and very unafraid of the web-world. And very welcoming and encouraging... I must say, he is my very first 'web-friend' ever! And he is one of the reasons that I am "trusting" the web-world,... just a little more these days..."
4) You'll make mistakes, but NOT making mistakes is more dangerous.
Social media consultant Steve Radick: "When a senior executive sees someone, especially if itâs one of their own employees taking the initiative to spend hours of their own time developing a briefing or writing a white paper developing something they truly believe in, they can see that. Above all else, be passionate about what youâre talking about, whether thatâs social media or something else.Â Believe in your ideas.Â Believe in their potential.Â And believe in yourself."
Gov consultant, speaker and networker Mark Amtower: "... people are not simply not participating in social networks, but actively demean social networks and those who use them at every possible turn. This type of voluntary ignorance will result in the Darwinian elimination of these people as thought leaders."
5) You'll take control of your own online identity.
This one is mine, and it's important. If you are doing much in this world other than hiding in your bedroom, you're giving other people the opportunity to contribute to your online identity. You need to be out there actively shaping and building your own identity, online.
What do you think? Is social media scary? Are these five concepts helpful?