The irrepressible Carl Malamud recommended to his twitter followers the new Biography of John Moss – People’s Warrior: John Moss and the Fight for Freedom of Information and Consumer Rights. John Moss was the member of Congress who guided the Freedom of Information Act into law in the US (it took a decade). That, and stories of the other causes he took on, makes a really interesting book.
I’m struck by the similarity between people who do the best work, and people who doubt that the work they do is that good.
We don’t have a written constitution, but a tradition and knowledge passed down. With a permanent Civil Service, it is they who are charged with maintaining that, politically neutral, informed service.
The work Puffles has started on twitter to begin join up campaigners with an understanding of the policy process is a start. But it’s a massive job, that needs to be supported from multiple angles.
If you’re based in the US, there’s legal clarity in (almost) all directions. [Carl Malamud][http://public.resource.org] has done fantastic work based on the lack of copyright on US Government work. This is now something that the UK has now made possible with the Open Government Licence.
The new Judgemental.org.uk and the long-running OKFN have been working in areas. But unlike the US, that’s not quite how the UK works. Spotify – possibly apocryphally – launched because the founder went for a pint with the right people who agreed not to shut them down for a while to see what happened and whether they could make it work.
The UK is like that. A dear (partially-)American friend was looking for a good overview of How The UK Works, and didn’t feel she got it until the Queen became involved (as a legal entity, not in the conversation). I’d love to see the writeup of that understanding. I suspect it would fill a number of holes in my assumptions & knowledge of how everything relates to everything else.
But in the absence of that explanation (probably phrased in terms of the Muppet Show), and even when we get it, that’s probably not how it should work.
But as the OGL kicks in, the scope to FoI all the docs for training civil servants (if you’ve ever wondered how thye got that way, you can find out), and then do something interesting with them online becomes greater.
OpenTech now has it’s own blog/podcast feed over at http://blog.opentech.org.uk/
While I’ll probably post one announcement here, If you want to follow OpenTech news, you should follow that blog.
It’s interesting how the same themes keep coming out of multiple sessions. If it was remotely true, I’d say we planned it that way, but we didn’t.
I’ve not had a chance to listen to many of the opentech talks yet. Certainly not the ones I really want to hear, so here are some preliminary thoughts.
The Good News is never as good as it appears, and the bad news never as bad.
The Tom Loosemore, Martha Lane Fox et al prototype proof of concept of what a single Government website could look like, became publicly visible this evening.
The accurate bit is the big political teeth, innaccurate is the ocean going icebreaker.
What #alphagov is at the moment, is something much less grand. It’s not in the ocean, it’s in a canal; and is the rough equivalent of this:
This book is about wikileaks, in the same way EastEnders is about the East End of London, or Friends was about New York. It’s mostly about transparency, online activism, and actually achieving a better democracy. Sometimes the best way is to start by knocking hard on the front door, but sometimes you need wikileaks going commando through an upstairs window.
During the recent #ecfdebate, David Babbs of 38 degrees and I had a brief discussion about metrics, and I used the example of inclusion of organisations in their mailout as an example of 38 degrees focussing on the wrong thing. Micah White from Adbusters talked well about metrics, I talked about press releases and substantive content of messages.
I repeated the question I asked on the ECF list: “Did no one else help?”