I'm one of a group of bloggers attending the Web 2.0 Expo in downtown Francisco this week. We just sat down for a conversation with Tim O'Reilly, and since I have a particular interest in the topic of transparency — originally for corporations and now for government — I was interested in hearing Tim tell us about his escalating interest in how things work in Washington, DC.
He cited how Carl Malamud turned over what was originally a
non-government project, the SEC EDGAR database, to the SEC after developing
it – and that this was the first of what could be many such
endeavors. Technologists creating solutions and tools for
transparency. Some view this as a disruption, including O'Reilly –
who, of course, believes this is necessary and useful.
This is a nation born in revolution, so disruption is in our DNA.
O'Reilly's interest in this topic – and the prominence given it at
this conference – reflects the mood of the country, when we're not
over-thinking our checkbooks: that we are in need not just of
revolutionary thinking but of deploying specific skill sets to
revolutionary acts. In our case at this conference, it means
considering how best and where to deploy technologists to help our
regulatory infrastructure rewind itself back around the entire
populace – not just the folks who have made it their business to
influence and run our government.
I always bristle a bit at the use of disruption as a description
for change – it sounds negative to me. The introduction of
new ideas and new methods is of course a disruption – but to
position it that way is a bit confrontational – especially when
people are feeling challenged as it is by the inevitable
I see this with clients frequently – it's what we used to call
[and I still call] change management. Sometimes even when people
understand and want change, they fight it or challenge it. I'd like
to think that introducing more technology into the way the US
government operates can happen without the fight or the resistance.
But it probably won't.
So let's call it disruption if we must. And let's get comfortable
with it. It's a return to our roots – and I'm all for technology
being the means for this particular revolution.
With a BA in government, you might say it's been a lifelong avocation to observe the workings of our republic. And my academic studies certainly had an influence on my work a few years ago in the area of corporate transparency. [I was either too early or too late.]
So in one of the notes we bloggers received today from the Web 2.0 Expo team, I was interested to see that they've added a track in government. Here's the story, from Janetti Chon.
The Government 2.0 track
seeks to help the Web 2.0 community understand how they can bring their
skills and knowledge to bear on this critical problem, whether as
individuals seeking to enable change or companies looking for a new
A related agenda opportunity is a hackathon sponsored by Sunlight Labs. Here's that story.
Sunlight Labs is an open source development team that
builds technology to make government more transparent and accountable. Part of
the non-partisan Sunlight Foundation, they are one of our favorite
organizations, so we’ve invited them to host a hackathon at Web 2.0 Expo, where
attendees build an application that promotes transparency in government. You
can vote now for the application you want to build (or think needs to
be built). We’ll post an update on Web 2.0 Expo’s blog when the
project is selected. We welcome you to join our on-site hackathon – stop by to
help out for an hour or a day, contribute to rebuilding our democracy, and meet
some great folks! Open Tuesday 9am-6pm,
Wednesday & Thursday 9am-5pm.
Meanwhile, I'll be announcing a special offer for Web 2.0 Expo in the next few days — stay tuned.
Marc Andreessen announced the gift of $27.5 million that he and his wife, Laura, are pledging to Stanford Hospital, in Palo Alto, California.
He writes at length on his blog of what motivated the donation and where the funds will go. And he does it in a way that is the opposite of self-serving. A remarkable feat not just from an editorial standpoint but in terms of our local ecosystem as well.
I hope that other achievers of the Andreessen level take note of not just what success can deliver but what it is for — to pave the way for more success by others via example, not mandate. It helps to remind oneself that while talent and skill are the primary factors of success, the luck of the draw figures into it, too. Takes away some of the unseemly stuff associated with wealth.
Robert Scoble applauds this generous act today on his blog, too. One of the commenters there notes that he is uncomfortable with private donations going to support healthcare.
Friend, private funds are exactly where such gifts should originate. American civilization — as tarnished and as weary as it is in the current decade — was built upon and will revive again through the efforts and sacrifices of the independent individual. It’s the corresponding sense of accountability — whether it’s taking responsibility for our own health and the costs of maintaining it or making it possible for others to do so through private means — that has distinguished our civilization through the ages.
And by the way: personal charity and stewardship clearly set the foundation for the finest healthcare services in the galaxy. Combating the greed and bureaucracy of today’s insurance sector by turning over management to another set of inept bureaucrats is the last thing we need. The first thing? Those of us in the position to recognize that we will never spend all the money we’ve amassed — and listening to that little guy on our right shoulder reminding us of what that money can do.