Monday, February 15, 2010

O'Reilly's *Open Government: Transparency, Collaboration, and Participation in Practice*

After starting off with a preface and some other material, Open Government: Transparency, Collaboration, and Participation in Practice by O'Reilly press starts off with some severely wrong information:


"Imagine not having Google to quickly find information; no Facebook or LinkedIn to find new colleagues; no instant messaging to communicate with those colleagues once you found them. Imagine having to ask for permission every time you wanted to publish content online, instead of being able to do it quickly and easily with a wiki or weblog. This is the state of computing in the federal government."
Let's take those point by point, with particular emphasis on the Intelligence Community:
  • "Imagine not having Google to quickly find information" - This ability exists within the federal government has this within each Department and/or Agency, especially within the Intelligence Community. You may not be able to search across all domains as easily as you can use the normal Google, which is a major detriment, but there is Google search. That real "Google" search is not federated is bad. However, you have to consider the rules and regulations of cross-domain and cross-organizational information release. There are reasons these things are limited and controlled. When information is TOO easily shared, it creates legitimate issues of safety. This isn't a business where a leaked detail can cost you money. These details can and will cost lives. The lives of your neighbors, my friends and your family.
  • "no Facebook or LinkedIn to find new colleagues"  - Nothing actually called that, but using Intellipedia you can easily find people's profiles. It's a workaround, but it is pretty good in that space.

 
  • "no instant messaging to communicate with those colleagues once you found them" - Again, always exists within each Department/Agency but not "federated". See below for my thoughts on this within large organizations. This comment is akin to complaining that I can't use the same platform within company A as company B. Well you can, it's called Gmail Chat, and you can use that from almost any unclassified government computer.
  • "Imagine having to ask for permission every time you wanted to publish content online, instead of being able to do it quickly and easily with a wiki or weblog" -They absolutely have these options and tools within the IC, and they are HEAVILY used. The bonus of these in the IC is that there ISN'T the risk of improper disclosure. Remember, there's a reason you have to get permission to disclose information. It's because the lives of others are at risk. And there is an unclassified version of Intellipedia within the government.


In general, in what incredibly large organization where people have for decades upon decades been specifically kept apart can you find ready integration? 

When IBM acquired Rational several years ago (I was at IBM then), it took several months to get Rational on our IT baseline, on our email (the sucky Lotus Notes), and our IM program (Sametime, which isn't that bad). Now imagine IBM acquired them 30 years ago and was legally not allowed to integrate.

I'm sure the rest of the book is excellent, and I look forward to reading the portions of the free copy I have. But I find these comparisons tiring. There is NO comparison of business to US federal government.

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