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.