Open Government

Book description

In a world where web services can make real-time data accessible to anyone, how can the government leverage this openness to improve its operations and increase citizen participation and awareness? Through a collection of essays and case studies, leading visionaries and practitioners both inside and outside of government share their ideas on how to achieve and direct this emerging world of online collaboration, transparency, and participation.

Contributions and topics include:

  • Beth Simone Noveck, U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer for open government, "The Single Point of Failure"
  • Jerry Brito, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, "All Your Data Are Belong to Us: Liberating Government Data"
  • Aaron Swartz, cofounder of,, and, "When Is Transparency Useful?"
  • Ellen S. Miller, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, "Disrupting Washington's Golden Rule"
  • Carl Malamud, founder of Public.Resource.Org, "By the People"
  • Douglas Schuler, president of the Public Sphere Project, "Online Deliberation and Civic Intelligence"
  • Howard Dierking, program manager on Microsoft's MSDN and TechNet Web platform team, "Engineering Good Government"
  • Matthew Burton, Web entrepreneur and former intelligence analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency, "A Peace Corps for Programmers"
  • Gary D. Bass and Sean Moulton, OMB Watch, "Bringing the Web 2.0 Revolution to Government"
  • Tim O'Reilly, founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media, "Defining Government 2.0: Lessons Learned from the Success of Computer Platforms"

Open Government editors:

Daniel Lathrop is a former investigative projects reporter with the Seattle Post Intelligencer who's covered politics in Washington state, Iowa, Florida, and Washington D.C. He's a specialist in campaign finance and "computer-assisted reporting" -- the practice of using data analysis to report the news.

Laurel Ruma is the Gov 2.0 Evangelist at O'Reilly Media. She is also co-chair for the Gov 2.0 Expo.

Publisher resources

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Table of contents

  1. Dedication
  2. Foreword
  3. Preface
    1. How This Book Is Organized
    2. Safari® Books Online
    3. How to Contact Us
    4. Acknowledgments
  4. 1. A Peace Corps for Programmers
    1. Tipping Point: The Extinction of Pencils
    2. Competition Is Critical to Any Ecosystem
    3. Creating a Developer Corps
    4. Conclusion
    5. About the Author
  5. 2. Government As a Platform
    1. Government As a Platform
    2. Lesson 1: Open Standards Spark Innovation and Growth
    3. Lesson 2: Build a Simple System and Let It Evolve
    4. Lesson 3: Design for Participation
    5. A Robustness Principle for Government
    6. Lesson 4: Learn from Your “Hackers”
      1. Data Is the “Intel Inside”
    7. Lesson 5: Data Mining Allows You to Harness Implicit Participation
    8. Lesson 6: Lower the Barriers to Experimentation
    9. Lesson 7: Lead by Example
    10. Practical Steps for Government Agencies
    11. About the Author
  6. 3. By the People
    1. About the Author
  7. 4. The Single Point of Failure
    1. The Closed Model of Decision Making
    2. New Technologies and Civic Life
    3. Participatory Democratic Theory in the Age of Networks
      1. The Failure of Direct Democracy
      2. The Timidity of Deliberative Democracy
      3. Distinguishing Deliberative and Collaborative Democracy
      4. The Argument for an Open and Collaborative Democracy
      5. Challenges for Collaborative Democracy
    4. About the Author
  8. 5. Engineering Good Government
    1. The Articles of Confederation and the Stovepipe Antipattern
      1. The First Constitution
      2. The Stovepipe Antipattern
      3. Order from Chaos: The Standards Reference Model
      4. The Constitution As a Standards Reference Model
    2. Continued Maintenance: The Blob and Confederacy
      1. The Blob
        1. The blob and government
    3. Conclusion
    4. About the Author
  9. 6. Enabling Innovation for Civic Engagement
    1. Citizen Initiatives Lead the Way
    2. Providing for Reuse and Innovation
    3. Data Authenticity Down the Line
    4. Why Bother with Bulk?
    5. Conclusion
    6. About the Authors
  10. 7. Online Deliberation and Civic Intelligence
    1. Definitions and Assertions
      1. The Context of Deliberation
    2. Democracy, Deliberation, and the Internet
      1. Online Civic Deliberation
      2. Support for Online Civic Deliberation
        1. E-Liberate is created
    3. Findings and Issues
      1. Role of the Chair
      2. Distributed Meeting Attendees
      3. Social Environment Requirements
      4. E-Liberate’s Role
    4. Conclusion
    5. About the Author
  11. 8. Open Government and Open Society
    1. Transparency’s Moment?
    2. The Dark Side of Open Government
    3. The Missing Diagnosis
    4. Targeted Transparency
    5. A Matter of Politics
    6. Conclusion
    7. About the Authors
  12. 9. “You Can Be the Eyes and Ears”: Barack Obama and the Wisdom of Crowds
    1. Shows How to Change the Gov
    2. “You Can Be the Eyes and Ears”
    3. Site Still Under Construction
    4. Online Town Hall or “Participation Theater”?
    5. Open Data and Open Government
    6. Co-creation, Co-optation, or Collision?
    7. About the Author
  13. 10. Two-Way Street: Government with the People
    1. Pockets of Excellence: The Goverati
      1. GovLoop and BRIDGE: Networks for Government Employees
      2. Reversing the Obscurity of Public Servants
      3. Harnessing Social Capital
    2. Conclusion
    3. About the Author
  14. 11. Citizens’ View of Open Government
    1. The First “We President”
    2. The Internet Has Made Us Lazy
    3. Toward a Findable Government
    4. Advanced Citizenship
    5. Conclusion
    6. About the Author
  15. 12. After the Collapse: Open Government and the Future of Civil Service
    1. The Coasean Collapse
    2. The Long Tail of Public Policy
    3. Patch Culture
    4. The End of Objectivity
    5. Two Preconditions to Government As Platform: Capacity for Self-Organization and Collaboration
    6. Extend the Network
    7. The Next Civil Service Culture: The Gift Economy
    8. Conclusion
    9. About the Author
  16. 13. Democracy, Under Everything
    1. Many Voices, Many Messages, One Government
    2. My Idea
      1. Constitutional Guidance: Avoid Secrecy Via Access
      2. Meeting Modern-Day Needs
    3. Revealing Obscured Government Data
    4. Improving Communication without Being Crushed by Email
    5. How to Improve Civic Engagement
      1. Short-Term Solutions for Citizens
        1. Be knowledgeable
        2. Focus on quality over quantity
        3. Clearly identify your emails
        4. Forego the use of form letters
      2. Long-Term Solutions for the Government
        1. Use XML to disseminate data
        2. Use open source tools
    6. Conclusion
    7. About the Author
  17. 14. Emergent Democracy
    1. Democracy As a Scaling Mechanism
      1. Informal Self-Government
      2. Increasing Scale, Increasing Formalization
    2. Limiting Factors and the Internet
    3. Building an Emergent Democracy
      1. Underlying Principles
      2. The Themis Constitution
      3. One Click Orgs and Virtual Corporations
    4. The Road to Emergent Democracy
    5. About the Author
  18. 15. Case Study: Tweet Congress
    1. Tweet Congress: Build an App, Start a Movement
      1. The Idea
      2. Building the App
        1. Open source fuels open government
        2. Be someone else’s foundation, set your app free
    2. Starting the Movement: We Are All Lobbyists Now
      1. Inflection Point
    3. So, Who Gets It?
    4. Impact
      1. The TC Effect
      2. A Valuable Resource
    5. Conclusion
    6. About the Authors
  19. 16. Entrepreneurial Insurgency: Republicans Connect With the American People
    1. Entrepreneurial Insurgency and Congress
    2. Congress Tweets, Too
    3. I YouTube, You YouTube
      1. Gathering Effective Tools
    4. Social Media and the Fight for Transparency
    5. Conclusion
    6. About the Author
  20. 17. Disrupting Washington’s Golden Rule
    1. The Bad Old Days: When Insiders Ruled
    2. This Is the Mashable Now
    3. What Comes Next
    4. About the Author
  21. 18. Case Study:
    1. Opening Legislative Data
    2. Screen Scraping Congress
      1. Congressional Mashups
      2. Changing Policy from the Outside
    3. Engaging the GovTrack Community
    4. Conclusion
    5. About the Author
  22. 19. Case Study:
    1. Accessing Political Donor Data Fraught with Problems
    2. The National Institute on Money in State Politics’ Role in the Fight for Greater Transparency
    3. Bolstering the Spirit of Public Disclosure Laws
    4. State-Level Transparency Faces Serious Challenges
    5. In an Ideal World: Recommendations for Open Data
    6. Conclusion
    7. About the Author
  23. 20. Case Study:
    1. Why We Founded
    2.’s Unique Contribution
    3. Nuts and Bolts: Using
      1. Votes
      2. Timeline
      3. Committees
      4. How Each Legislator Voted
      5. Other Tools
    4. Barriers to Transparency
    5. Conclusion
    6. About the Author
  24. 21. Going 2.0: Why Opted for Full Frontal Data Sharing
    1. The Decision to Let Go of the Data
    2. It’s Not Easy Being Open
    3. Creating a New Model for Transparency
    4. The Future Is Now
    5. Conclusion
    6. About the Author
  25. 22. All Your Data Are Belong to Us: Liberating Government Data
    1. Liberating Government Data: Carl Malamud Versus the Man
    2. Disclosing Government Data: Paper Versus the Internet
    3. Accessing Government Data: Open Distribution Versus Jealous Control
    4. Demanding Government Data: Public Money Versus Private Research
    5. RECAP: Freeing PACER Documents for Public Use
    6. Conclusion
    7. About the Author
  26. 23. Case Study: Many Eyes
    1. Policy
    2. From Policy to Politicians
    3. Visual Literacy
    4. Conclusion
    5. About the Authors
  27. 24. My Data Can’t Tell You That
    1. The How and Why of Data Collection
    2. Federal Data: Approximations Galore
    3. Good Data Doesn’t Mean Good Results
    4. Conclusion
    5. About the Author
  28. 25. When Is Transparency Useful?
    1. Sharing Documents with the Public
    2. Generating Databases for the Public
    3. Interpreting Databases for the Public
    4. An Alternative
    5. About the Author
  29. 26. Transparency Inside Out
    1. Complexity Creates Opacity
    2. Transparency, Meet Institutional Inertia
    3. Kaleidoscope IT: One-Off Apps Obscure Information
    4. A Market Focused on Proposals, Not Products
    5. Framing the Window
      1. Downsize or Eliminate Organizational IT Development Teams
      2. User Analytics
      3. IT Transparency
      4. IT Products, Not Projects
      5. Set the Tone at the Top
      6. Bottom-Up Change Through Young Technologists
    6. Conclusion
    7. About the Author
  30. 27. Bringing the Web 2.0 Revolution to Government
    1. Government Transparency: Three Hurdles
      1. Changing Policies
      2. Deploying Twenty-First-Century Technology
        1. Appointing the first federal CIO
        2. Encouraging data mashups
      3. Changing the Culture Within Government
    2. Putting It All Together: Disclosure of Federal Spending
      1. Policy Changes to Get Deeper Information on Recipients
      2. Using Technology to Make Recovery Act Data Accessible, Understandable, and Usable
      3. Changing the Culture to Emphasize Effectiveness, Performance, and Equity
    3. Conclusion
    4. About the Authors
  31. 28. Toads on the Road to Open Government Data
    1. What Is Government?
    2. Data Collection
    3. Exposing the Soul of Government
      1. Privacy and Legal Restrictions
      2. The Culture of Bureaucracies and Homeland Security
      3. Ancient Media
      4. Proprietary and Medieval Databases
      5. Ethically Questionable Information (Privacy)
      6. Ethically Questionable Information (Sharing)
      7. Cost
    4. Conclusion
    5. About the Author
  32. 29. Open Government: The Privacy Imperative
    1. Privacy-Enhancing Practices
      1. Data Minimization
      2. Anonymous Access
      3. Controlled Backups
      4. Data Retention and Decommissioning
      5. Minimal Disclosure
      6. Data-Sharing Integrity: Data Tethering
      7. Accountability
      8. Transparent Transparency
    2. Conclusion
    3. About the Authors
  33. 30. Freedom of Information Acts: Promises and Realities
    1. The Act and Amendments
      1. Open to All
      2. Research and Prepare
      3. Exemptions, Denials, and Delays
      4. FOIA Strategies That Work
    2. Conclusion
    3. About the Author
  34. 31. Gov→Media→People
    1. Crowdsourcing in Action
    2. Conclusion
    3. About the Author
  35. 32. Open Source Software for Open Government Agencies
    1. Advantages of FLOSS for Government and Public Agencies
      1. Independence from Suppliers
      2. Fulfillment of Specific Requirements
      3. Adoption of Open Standards
      4. Public Scrutiny
      5. Long-Term Availability
      6. Impact in the Society at Large
      7. Impact on Local Industry
      8. Staff Empowerment
    2. Best Practices: Management
      1. Consider All the Factors, Both Technical and Contextual
      2. Be Sure of Management’s Commitment to the Transition
      3. Prepare a Clear View of What’s Expected, Including Measurable Benchmarks
      4. Make Sure the Timetable Is Realistic
      5. Review the Current Software/IT Procurement and Development Procedure
      6. Seek Out Advice or Search for Information on Similar Transitions
      7. Avoid “Big Switch” Transition, and Favor Incremental Migrations
      8. Promote Collaboration and Pooling of Resources
    3. Best Practices: Technical
      1. Understand the Way FLOSS Is Developed
      2. Survey the Agency’s Software, Hardware, and Required Functionality
      3. Use the Flexibility of FLOSS to Create Local Adaptations
      4. Much More Software Is Available Than What Is Installed by Default
      5. Always Favor Stability over Functionality
      6. Design the Workflow Support Infrastructure to Reduce “Impedance Mismatches”
      7. Introduce a Trouble Ticket System
      8. Compile and Update a Detailed Migration Workbook
    4. Best Practices: Social
      1. Provide Training and Communication About the FLOSS Model
      2. Don’t Force the Change on Users; Provide Explanations Instead
      3. Use the Migration As an Opportunity to Improve Users’ Skills
    5. Make It Easy to Experiment and Learn
      1. Establish Meeting Points and Repositories
    6. Conclusion
    7. References
    8. About the Authors
  36. 33. Why Open Digital Standards Matter in Government
    1. Badly Used Technology Hinders Progress
    2. The Digital Age Explained
    3. Standards and the Problems with Digital Technology
      1. Why Has Digital Gone Bad So Often?
    4. The Huge Positive Potential of Digital Technologies
    5. Free and Open Standards and Software: The Digital Basis of Open Government
    6. Conclusion
    7. About the Author
  37. 34. Case Study:
    1. A Historical Perspective
    2. What Today’s Landscape Looks Like
    3. Champions Discovered in All Branches of State Government
    4. The Dramatic Shift to Web 2.0 Principles and Tools
      1. External Users Dictated Technology Course
      2. Web 2.0 Becomes Part of the Technical Architecture
      3. Utah’s Multimedia Portal Leverages Web 2.0 Services
    5. Making Data More Accessible
      1. Concerns About Security and Productivity
    6. Conclusion
    7. About the Author
  38. A. Memo from President Obama on Transparency and Open Government
  39. Index
  40. About the Authors
  41. Colophon
  42. Copyright

Product information

  • Title: Open Government
  • Author(s): Daniel Lathrop, Laurel Ruma
  • Release date: February 2010
  • Publisher(s): O'Reilly Media, Inc.
  • ISBN: 9780596804350