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Could NOT agree more. I've been involved in the opengov community in different roles--as a free agent citizen, and a part of a national project, and now as part of a local project for a long time now. My experience has been that, for the most part, the same people speak and are listened to. Diversity is a necessity for innovation and growth. For me anyway, the real energy continues to be at the local/grassroots level where communities are trying to approach local problems--look at City Camp and projects like mine (ACTion Alexandria). Large projects like Open311 will have a huge impact in the future at the local level although I think it's hard for many outside of those involved to grasp in terms of implementation. As a citizen, what matters to me in terms of open government is making data relevant or to engage me meaningfully in community problem-solving.

Marc Canter

Does anyone ever talk about Jobs? You can always tell when the audience and speakers are out of touch with 90% of Americans - no one ever mentions JOBS!

What subject is more important? Freedom? Health? Education? safety? Security? Open data?

If you don't have a job - you got nothing.

Maybe its time for all these college educated, elitists who all can pay the rent, don't have to worry about bounced checks, foreclosure or even just staying alive - to put their heads together and figure out how to create some JOBS!

That's what we're doing here in Cleveland!

- marc canter

Beth Simone Noveck

You are right that there were familiar faces present because the conference needed people who have been practicing public sector innovation to present their work to the researchers whom you didn't recognize. There have been many open gov events before but never an event focused on research.

David Stark, professor of sociology at Columbia, who studies the impact of technology on organizations has never attended an open gov conference.

Noshir Contractor, Director of the Science of Networks in Communities Research Group at Northwestern University, is one of the preeminent thinkers on network science, and is well poised to translate the problems he heard from the usual suspects back to his community that knows nothing about them.

Cary Coglianese, professor of law and political science at Penn, is a traditional administrative law expert with an interest in studying the impact of technology on the administrative state. Whereas he reads about open gov, he hasn't interacted with some of the new public sector innovators.

More importantly, there were grad students in the room (not enough) who were there to get ideas for dissertations and theses.

Hackathons don't substitute for inviting researchers -- who have never been addressed -- to start studying what's working and what's not in order to free up people like you (and I hope me, too) to innovate and try great new experiments and to inform our work. But it's not enough to have just the academics without the practitioners and vice versa.

Having a Washington kick-off was important but
the next R&D workshop will be in Albany with a new and expanded cast of characters and without the distraction of blackberries luring people out of the room. Instead, we'll have two days to flesh out the research agenda on transparency.


Thank you, Clay, for pointing out the pattern that was obvious to many of us, being outside the fishbowl, long before the OpenGov Directive was even issued at the end of 2009.

The good-news/bad-news is this:

BAD - The "end of the beginning" took more than two years to shake-out (with less than two to go in Obama's term).

GOOD - At least it's finally beginning to dawn on many OpenGov-ers NOW (rather than later) that, although using data-sets are important, they are not crucial to moving forward.

As Myrna said above, most citizens are looking for "meaningful community problem-solving". They want to know (1) What's Going On, and (2) When Do I Get to Speak?

I know that, because in 2002, after 25 years in D.C., I moved back to my hometown (on Cape Cod, Mass.) and involved myself in local government. After a few years of citizen committee work, I even ran a couple times for "Selectman" (equiv. to Town Councilor).

So when the Open Government Memorandum came out, I was ready to share both my perspectives on Citizen Engagement: (1) as a Federal bureaucrat overseeing my agencies' (five of them) compliance for "public participation", and (2) as a Town committee member trying to engage my fellow citizens in the drafting of our Long-Range Town Plan (among other things).

Yes, I participated online in the so-called "OpenGov Dialogue", but I spent 2009 watching from afar to see a slew of OpenGov/"Gov2.0" conferences that looked just like those in the latter 1990s when everyone (esp. contractors) got SO EXCITED about how "E-Gov" would improve "citizen-government interaction" (e.g., click on a web-link to renew your license). Woo-hoo! They convinced themselves that it qualified as "Reinventing Government". (Not!)

So I will be attending "TransparencyCamp" in D.C. (Apr.30-May 1) to see if the "new crowd" has calmed down enough to consider the perspectives of those with years more experience in engaging the public in the "real world".

And, basically, isn't it that type of open-mindedness that OpenGov is supposed to be about?

Jason Blum

I think this a little unfair - if the format seems formulaic and the faces familiar, maybe that's because you're a regular and the message is just still getting out. And besides, what conference series doesn't have the same vibe? Isn't it always the same inner core driving the dialogue? Maybe conferences aren't the right medium for evangelizing Gov 2.0.

Personally, as an anonymous federal programmer, I find these conferences a real breath of fresh air - even if their speakers are getting bored...

And I think I represent the audience you most need to inspire.


While I agree with some of what you say, I think the key to this particular workshop is that we are beginning to realize that in the long-term, whether focused on documents, data, or other government products, there are some hard problems looming. These problems include things in technology, policy, government and law - and our hope is that this is the start of a conversation that will be needed to make Open Government a long-term sustainable reality. The academic community needs NSF, NIH and our other funders to understand the importance of the research to the academic community, and we also need the academic community to understand what an incredible opportunity the government is presenting to us with the release of so much information in so many ways.

While I'd love to see the legislative branch more involved (in a positive way), and to see more outreach to some of the communities that can help sustain the momentum (media, new media, transparency organizations, etc.), I think fleshing out a research agenda is an absolutely necessary step forward to sustainability of the momentum being led by the Executive Branch at this point.

I often say that a meeting, like a social network, works best if everyone knows someone else there, but no one knows everyone else there. This meeting was a start in the right direction, and I look forward to working with Beth, Theresa Pardo, Andy Hoppin and others to take the next steps at the Albany event and beyond.

Jim Hendler, RPI.

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