California had a $26B budget gap in 2009, cities lost redevelopment money, Santa Cruz had
$9.2M deﬁcit. Started a website to engage public. Wasn’t a blog, used a company
“Uservoice” whose tools promoted productive discussion and minimised unproductive.
Published 10 years of budgets. Had accountants, business people, citizens making
suggestions. They were able to make thoughtful informed cuts and optimisations.
Boston non-proﬁt in partnership with the city, running social networks for neighbourhoods.
Started with one neighbourhood, expanded to 18.
Connect to neighbours, crime reports, common interests, chat, volunteerism, events.
A legion of systems to report problems (out lights, downed lines, ﬂooded streets, buggered
It’s Buggered Mate. See Click Fix. FixMyStreet. Hundreds of these.
District of Columbia released a lot of data, then ran a contest. $2.3M of software creation for
$50k project (grand prize won $10k). Winner was an iPhone and Facebook app combo for
doing 311 “ﬁx my street” style requests. Many cities following this course.
Cities are releasing data, and lots of it, in reusable formats. They hope to make businesses
more efficient, citizens better directed, and services cheaper.
I know what you’re
You’re thinking about your own web sites.
Local Govt Web Sites
You’re delivering information in PDF files, your web site holds PDF forms that must be mailed in, even the digital databases you maintain don’t have online
And I know why.
I’m talking science ﬁction dreams, which would take megabucks to realise,
But this is what they give you. Every year you look at your budgets and
Don’t panic, as Douglas Adams would have said. I’m not asking the impossible.
As Krishna was told by Arjuna, "a man must go forth from where he stands. He cannot jump to the Absolute, he must evolve toward it"
Let’s boil it down.
Gov 2.0, “e-democracy”, or whatever the hell it’s being called today.
Last 20 years of computers
It’s just looking at the amazing successes of the last 20 years of computing
We can do better
and applying them to government.
Build open, extensible
IBM PC took off because everyone could build compatible hardware
Web took off because anyone could use code and build their own website, and they interoperated
APIs and open data
Design for cooperation
Small systems loosely joined
DNS is federated, not centralised
Learn from your users
(used by 45% of all online mashups)
hired the ﬁrst guy to make a mashup
fedspending.org used to be run by OMBwatch
Lower the barriers to
Failure should be an option.
Edison: “I didnʼt fail ten thousand times. I successfully eliminated, ten thousand times, materials and combinations that did not work.”
Much innovation comes from a single engineer within an entity like the New York Times, putting archives up on an inexpensive, rented server from Amazon. The
low cost of failure made it easier to experiment.
Build a culture of
Amazon driven by numbers
Need good metrics!
You are what you measure. Canʼt change what you donʼt measure.
Build a community
You want this to succeed.
You also want to get credit.
(“Why do we need NOAA when we have weather.com?”)
Wikipedia succeeds because of what you don’t see
Build simple systems
and let them evolve
Twitterʼs original design doc was 1/2 a page of paper, and there are now 11,000 applications built on top of it (written by third parties).
The hourglass model: run on many systems, support many applications, but connected by a common protocol.
“Complex systems built from scratch never work. You need to build a simple system and let it grow… Complex problems paradoxically require simple answers.”
The easiest step for governments to take is opening data. This means
Temptation is always to release the easy stuff. Work backwards from the issue to ﬁgure out
what data would be most useful in the hands of citizens?
why are we doing this?
Get the data in front of the right people.
Over the fence isn’t enough. It’s been tried, and then everyone scrambles to ﬁnd users.
You need to build a community of users.
fortunately you’re good at community. you already have one.
Don’t use technology because it’s trendy, it ticks a box, or someone else used it.
Know what you’re hoping to accomplish, use the right technology with the right social
measures around it. What made Wikipedia great? Same invisible walls in the app that Santa
Contests draw your community out of the woodwork. What if you don’t have a lot of
developers in your community?
Do the work to make
useful data available
Contests often used to try to excite people about irrelevant data. Release data people are
passionate about. This probably means a ﬁght.
Standards let you
piggyback on the
Google Transit feed
• PDF is not enough
• Web maps are not enough
• Release open data
• Connect with citizens over the data
• Cultivate local developers
• Build web services not APIs
• Use standards
With these tips, I hope you’ll go back to your councils and be thinking of the intelligent life
outside the org chart--who can you bring in to build a community of data users and app
developers so you can connect data to insight to action. If you have questions or need help,
here’s my contact information. I’ll take questions if we have time.
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