Joho the Blogconference coverage Archives - Page 2 of 47 - Joho the Blog

June 30, 2009

[pdf09] Bech Noveck on White House office of openness

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. POSTED WITHOUT REREADING. You are warned, people.

Beth Noveck talks about the project that aims at opening up egov policy development to citizen participation. Beth is the White House person responsible for bringing open government to the fed gov’t. The Open project asked for ideas about open gov’t policy. Now it’s in the winnowing phase.

Micah asks if this is open source policy making and where it ends. Beth gives some examples. E.g., the opening up of the patent policy.

The Open project uses IdeaScale software because it has community self-moderation. People can propose ideas (4,205 so far) and rank them (367,000 votes so far). The tag cloud’s largest tag is “birth certificate.” These are people who want to see Obama’s birth certificate. (“Again,” Beth says.) Micah asks if this is a feature or a bug. “Are people freaking out because it’s on a gov’t web site?” Beth: “We gave a platform for people who have a cause.” People flagged and rated comments, “taking back the forum.” In any online community, you see the griefers as part of the lifecycle, she says (wisely).

Micah looks at the Office of Science and Technology Policy blog, which takes public comments. “We have the most wonderful conversations,” she says. “The community itself was able to come in and say that these comments are off topic.” They’ve moved off topic comments to another page; they’re still there. The crucial institutional innovation is the recognition that we don’t have all the expertise. We will make better decisions if we can engage others. She says that the scale of participants is small — hundreds, not thousands — but that’s ok if the quality of the conversation is good.

These online tools are not the only ways to participate, she says. They want to make sure that those who are not as digitally literate are also able to take part. These new ways “supplement and augment” the traditional ways of federal rule making.

We’re now heading into the third phase of the project, using MixedInk, a collaborative writing tool. This lets people suggest language for the policy. This helps drafting, but it also helps educate people about how hard it is to draft policy. MixedInk lets people vote on different drafts, so it’s not a “last one to write wins.”

She says they’re getting suggestions that no small group in the White House could have come up with on their own. They’re hearing impacts on people’s real lives. They’re learning about cool tools. They’re getting amazing suggestions for dealing with the Paperwork Reduction Act.

They’re going to distill and filter, and then put the results back out for public discussion.

[I actually choked up a bit listening to Beth, which I find embarrassing, but what the heck.]

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[pdf09] Vivek Kundra and Macon Phillips … now with extra Craig!

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. POSTED WITHOUT BEING REREAD. You are warned, people.

Craig Newmark: “It’s bigger than us and it feels pretty good.” Craig says he likes calling if grassroots democracy. Policy wonks, nerds, and pragmatists working together. Craig says we should be talking about “nonks” (= nerds + wonks). He salutes the first “nerd administration.”

Craig introduces Vivek Kundra (chief information officer) and Macon Phillips (White House new media director). Vivek makes an announcement. “The federal gov’t spends $70B on info tech” but the initiatives freqwuently fail. E.g., the Census’ ridiculous handheld that has failed, so now we’re back to using paper. [ACK!] Vivek announces the IT Dashboard It builds on It shows provides real-time visibility into your tax dollars. You can share the data, embed it, drill down into it, show you the phto fo the CIO responsible, contact her or him directly, provide feedback, look at the perfomance metrics viewed against theactual performance, who the contractors are. You can get the data itself in mashable form, and you can provide any set of data you pull together as an RSS feed.

He shows tools for comparing and spotting trends; it’s a little like WolframAlpha for gov’t data. “We’re launching a platform that will allow us to tap into some of the best ideas and best thinking.” “We look forward to iterating on this. We’ve launched it in beta.”

[This is the type of big, visible success the CIO needs. Fantastic. He gets, and deserves, a standing ovation.]

Macon Phillips begins by thanking the audience for its work. He asks for more feedback on the White House’s Web 2.0 projects.

Q: [esther dyson] How are you going to aggregate the feedback?
VK: It goes to the relevant CIOs and to me. Macon and I are looking at how we can use media to amplify it and getting it directly to the people making decisions.

Q: IS there a danger in hiring tech people to make tech policy?
VK: The fed gov’t is made up of 4M people and 10,000 systems. It’s great to have access to some of the brightest minds in tech policy. Those who are coming to serve in the interest of their country is extremely people. The percentage of people from the tech industry is a small percentage.
MO: We’re bringing in people who can help us with processes, help us make gov’t more transparent.

Q: 18K computer educators are meeting now, discussing how to teach students to do data mashups, etc. Are you trying to figure out a way to allow educators and students to work with your data?
VK: Yes, students can now solve actual problems. But it’s not just teachers and students. Think about the explosion of research when the genome was made public. Also, when GIS data was made public. We’re building platformsWe’re looking at X-prizes to stimulate innovation.

Q: Tying in Stimulus and bailout funds?
VK: Yes. GAO data is already showing up. It took us 1.5 months to get to 100,000 feeds. We decided to launch with just a few so we could get feedback on what we’re doing.

Q: Is the new office of cybersecurity going to be exempt from transparency?
VK: No. They need internal data sharing, and I’m working with them on transparency.

VK: You want into in open formats, in as raw a form as possible. In its raw format, peole have the ability to slice and dice, and to innovate.

Q: What are the limits of transparency?
VK: We don’t want to harm national security. And we want gov’t officials to feel secure in their internal discussions.

Q: [andrew rasiej] Redefining “public” accesibility of documents as “searchable and accessible online”?
VK: As a principle, that makes a lot of sense. I want to caution on the reality, though. There are over 10,000 systems. The data lives in COBOL-based systems we have to get people out of retirement to help us. Petabytes of data. So, there’s an economic question in making those investments in going back through. So, looking forward we want to make sure the spirit of that definition of “public” is honored… [Tags: ]

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June 29, 2009

[pdf09] Mayor Bloomberg rides the Skype

Mayor Bloomberg skypes in, slightly Max Headroomy. He touts NYC’s e-ness. Info is key to good mgt. #311. Five new initiatives:

1. 311 has a skype account (NYC 311)
2. Twitter: @311nyc

3. 311 online via
4. Tracking the stats to improve the service. E.g., with Google see what services people are most searching for.
5. New annual competition — Big Apps [clever] — to challenge us to come up with new ways to use data at E.g., someone should make an iPhone app to check out the cleanliness grades of restaurants (which now will also be posted in restaurant windows).

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[pdf09] Mark McKinnon and Joe Rospars

On stage at PDF, Mark McKinnon and Joe Rospars, the Net guys for McCain and Obama.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Andrew Rasiej begins the interview by asking Mark about the way the media took up his statement at PDF08 that “John McCain is aware of the Internet.”

MM: This shouldn’t be viewed as left v. right but old v. new. “Joe’s a genius, I’m a woolly mammoth.” I’m not the Rospars of the right, I’m old media. We have our own Joe Rospars. It’s all about democratization. Back in 2000, we were creating content via analog. In 2004, it changed radically. We could create longer content digitally and send it out to millions of supporters. In 2008 we saw the effect of YouTube, which means campaigns are losing control. What Obama did: The real key is not tech but harnessing energy. Create the excitement.

JR: All of the online stuff was integrated with the traditional, offline aspects of the campaign.

AR: The power of the Net crystalized for me when I saw my dad emailing Obama YouTubes to people. How do you convince traditional pols that the online is an opportunity?

JR: It’s not a replacement. It’s an integrated thing. It wasn’t clear from the beginning that it was going to happen. In my job interview, Plouffe said we’re only going to be able to build national campaign, we’re going to have to use the online new media to build the love. The old and new media directors sat at the same table. Obama and Michelle said when we first met that they wanted to run the campaign in a way that would leave the political process better off, even if they lost.

AR: What about bumps in the road, e.g., Obama’s support of the FISA bill?

JR: It was hard. But Obama was the candidate, not the plurality of web sites. So he took the time to write a note explaining his position. It was a testimony to the maturity of the campaign and the supporters. After we sent back the donations disappointed donors wanted back, the majority of those were returned because they appreciated how we handled it.

AR: Now that Obama is running the White House, there seems to be more of a disconnect with bloggers, etc.

JR: I dispute that characterization. This is the most transparent WH ever. And we’re not starting from scratch when governing, as opposed to when you’re building a campaign.

AR: Mark, for the next campaign, how much of it will be tools and how much will be candidate?

MM: It’s 95% energy and ideas, 5% tools. Did Obama revolutionize campaigning? Yes, the way Secretariat revolutionized horse racing… How many Republicans are in the audience? [Look like about ten people out of 1,000 raised their hands.]

AR: What advice would you give MM, JR?

JR: Get new candidates. Even Mark’s language is off: He talks about “embracing technology.” We got millions of people who hadn’t been involved in politics to get out and do something. I don’t see any Republican on the horizon doing this.

MM: I agree with JR. It’s about connecting, interacting with people, fundamental issues that matter to them. The best part is day you’re elected; it gets tougher and tougher from then. I hope Pres. Obama is extraordinarily successful for the sake of country, but the hard stuff is just beginning, and people will get disillusioned, and REpublicans will have an opportunity…

MM: Do you have any thoughts about tech is playing out in Iran?

AR: I’m fascinated by our willingness to accept info we can’t verify.

JR: It’s not the tech. It’s the desire.

AR: Micah and I have been thinking that making info “public” should be redefined as accessible and searchable online. Public shouldn’t mean it’s in a drawer in DC.

MM: Transparency is key to effective democracy.

[I missed some questions. Working on my presentation, which I have worked on obsessively for weeks, making it less coherent with each rev.]

Q: Privacy protection hasn’t kept pace with tech…
AR: Privacy is being redefined by the new generation.

JR: I hope people are using the online tools they used during the campaign to organize smaller group now that the campaign is over.

MM: Info is power and tech is providing info.

AR: Bills ought to be posted for 72 hours after it’s finalized and before it’s voted on.

JR: Blue State’s clients are only 25% political. This goes beyond politics.

MM: Fascinating to watch. Campaigns and companies understand they have to tell better stories, opening up the doors so that all the constituencies understand their business.

Q: What are the risks?
JR: We need to make clear to everyone what we’re doing.
MM: Setting expectations

[I did a particularly crappy job of liveblogging this, mainly because of Twitter and the rewriting of my presentation. Sorry.] [Tags: ]

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At Personal Democracy Forum, announces itself as a “marketplace for challenges” of theX Prize sort. You can create a challenge at their site, or create a “wish” by using #cpost at Twitter.

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June 26, 2009

[reboot] Bruce Sterling

Bruce Sterling is doing the wrap-up speech.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

He says what’s great about your event is that it matches it’s name. What’s wrong with it is (he says) that it’s the eleventh reboot. “When are you going to have a stable system?” We’re rebooting the reboots.

He s says he’s not into the action vs. words thing because he’s a novelist. He also promises to tell us what the next decade looks like culturally. He begins with an anecdote about the chief designer at Fiat who talked about the Fiat since the 500, a very popular car. The designer told an audience that it succeeded because it’s a 50-yr old design. Bruce asked from the audience: Since the new Fiat 500 is a big success, what’s the future for it? Are you going to release the car that came after the F500. (There was such a car.) No, he said. They were looking at post-consumer alterations of the F500 and they were going to “professionalize” that; they were going to move the F500 into “emergent demographic groups.” “I thought this was a really clever idea” and that this is going to happen a lot, a “scary paradigm of the future.” It’s very hard to construe that as progress, he says. We’ve known since the 12th century what progress is: Master nature, more security, better health, etc. What we’re going to get: No money, scarcity, financial collapse, low-intensity global warfare, and a climate crisis. We’re deliberately moving backwards. Gen Xers in charge when people are “afraid of the sky.”

He says he heard a guy [missed the name] that “future” is an old paradigm. Bruce agrees with him. A mythos of the future, the belief in the future, just won’t be the same. We’re moving into a-temporality. Steam punk + metaphysics. Gibson is working on a book called “Zero History.” But Bruce isn’t ready to talk about this yet. Instead, he wants to talk about what it’ll feel like to live through the next ten years. It won’t be progress or conservativism. We get “transition to nowhere.” No big boom bubbles. Bad weather. Global emergent change.

Divide the future into four quadrants.

1. Crisis capitalism for aging baby boomers. They’re not major actors but they have all the votes. They’ll be more attached to crotchety fantasies.

2. BRICs. Emergent countries emerging into nowhere. They’re globalizing but not progressing . Fundamentalists are in charge but they don’t get anything done except ruin things.

Most of the world is in the first two quadrants. Quadrant 3: Reboot in power. Gen Xers running things. Cultural sentiment: “Dark euphoria.” Things are falling apart, everything is possible, but you never realized you would have to dread it so much. You leap into the unknown, you fall toward earth, and then you realize there’s no earth there. a) Top end: Gothic high-tech. You’re Steve Jobs, you build something beautiful but you’re dying of something secret and horrible. Death is waiting, and not a kindly death. Heroic story, but very Gothic. Or, from the political world: Sarkozy. Brilliant. Ethnic. You have no ideology. He’s willing to run against himself, reboot himself. Obama is a gothic high-tech figure. He’s a Chicago machine politician, an ethnic indeterminate politician with a massive fund-raising routine. Sarkozy comes on TV after the Brazilian aircraft crash because he wants to be on TV. These guys are positioning themselves in the narrative rather than building infrastructure. Their cheerleaders, not leaders.

b) The other side of Reboot in power is low-end: Favela chic. You’ve lost everything but you’re wired to the gill and still big on Facebook. Everything you believe as geeks is Favela thinking. This venue is itself a stuffed animal. The unsustainable is the only frontier you are. You’re old in old-new structure, a steam punk appropriation.

Bruce now promises us some practical advice. “I was shamed by Matt’s 100 hour speech. I know what I ought to be studying. I have to go do it now.” So, here’s some practical advice on bright green geek environmentalism. A general principle, painful for a gothic generation like yours: “Stop acting dead.” You’ve been trained that way; it’s the default for your generation. Hair shirt green just changes the polarity of the 20th century. It just inverts it. It’s not really a different way to live.

How do you know if you’re acting dead. The test: The great-grandfather principle. Would your dead great grandfather do a better job of what you’re intending to do. E.g., saving water. Water is indestructible. But your dead great grandfather is saving more water than you. You can’t save more than a dead guy. Save electricity. Move into a smaller apartment. [Amusing bullshit.] You’re going to be dead much longer than you’re alive. So you need to do stuff that you can do better than your dead great grandfather.

How can you do this, he asks. A geek-friendly approach to consumption. For people of your generation, objects are print-outs. They’re frozen social relationships. Think of objects in terms of hours of time and volumes of space. It’s a good design approach. Because if you’re picking these things up — washing it, storing it, curating it — these possessions are really embodied social relationships: made by peole, designed by people, sold by people, etc. Relationships that happen to have material form. You might argue that you ought to buy cheap things or organic. That’s not the way forward. Economizing is not social. If you economize, you’re starving someone else. You need to reasses the objects in your space and time.

The monarch among objects are everyday objects. Whatever is taking up your time most, or closest to your space. E.g., get the best bed you can get. Get a beautiful, well-designed chair. If you haven’t touched it in a year, get rid of it. Women, get real cosmetics.

It’s hard but it’s doable, he says. It’s very hackerly. Make lists. Four categories: Beautiful things, things that have some emotional meaning, your tools and devices, everything else. Bruce then tells us how to tell which is in which. First two: you’re eager to tell someone about its beauty or meaning. Tools: Don’t make do with broken stuff. You’re not experimenting with it if you’re not publishing the results in a falsifiable form.

This is hard to do. It’s the sort of thing you do when a spouse dies or a child leaves your home. It’s tough. It’s not a thing to do on impulse. But you will become much more of what you already are. [Tags: ]


[reboot] Government officials take it on the chin

I went to a fascinating breakout at Reboot at which two government guys came to talk about national policy. The government guys were culturally of the Reboot crowd (or so it seemed to me), and one of them came to his position straight out of a tech start-up. But the group of thirty people in the small, converted men’s room (!) met their openness with pent-up hostility. I was surprised at the anger. The gov’t guys ought to listen (which is what they were doing at this meeting), should not expect ideas for free, need to maybe do nothing, need to get the country over the digital divide, should give grants to small businesses, should stay clear of small businesses, don’t be afraid to lose control, build communities, participate in communities, stay out of communities… My untutored sense was that the Web community felt frustrated that this initiative was so late at getting started. As an American, I was actually impressed with the government folks’ openness and webbiness.

Afterwards, I talked with my friend Morten Kamper. He wasn’t at the session, but he said that there was concern that the government’s broadband committee is comprised of the telcos without sufficient citizen or webizen participation, and that Net neutrality is indeed an issue, as the telcos assume they can prefer some of their bits to others.

BTW, I asked the room if there was reluctance on the part of the government to be transparent, and, if so, where’s the Danish version of the Sunlight Foundation. The general answer I got was: There’s no official reluctance, but it’s going too slowly. And Ton Zijlstra said that in the Netherlands, the official policy is to be transparent but there are cultural resistances.

I also asked, at the beginning, if it was clear that the “broadband policy” they were talking about was actually committed to delivering an open, unfiltered, non-discriminatory Internet. The answer was “Yes,” with an implied, “Why would you even have to ask?” (And the answer to that implied question is: Because it’s not clear in America.)

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June 25, 2009

[reboot] Ton Zijlstra on how to facilitate

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Ton says the biggest obstacle is one’s own apprehension. He says facilitators cannot give content and participate. Don’t mix and match content and process. Stay in control by letting go. “If you want people to start generating idea, don’t give your own ideas, not even as examples.” “Push everything back into the group.”

Always make the rules clear. When there’s an infraction, don’t assume immediately that it’s out of line. Attract people to the desired behavior.

“Create energy by doing nothing.” Be patient.

Avoid the usual introductory round. Try breaking people into groups of 4-5 where each introduces herself and moves on to the next group.

Worry about the form of work second. First: What is the purpose of the session. Work forms: Open Space, knoweldfe cafe, sticky notes….Find one and then improvise.

Prepare with your ‘client.’

Capture the results, but keep them as close to the work at the session as possible. E.g., photo the flip charts rather than writing up a report. Then “share your shit.” And play.

Audience participation:

Q: How do you handle blabbermouths?
A: You have to get over your hesitancy to step in.

People should remember that not everyone speaks Engish.

The focus on action is good.

Q: [me] Is it appropriate to call on people?
A: Yes, sometimes. I use it to get silent people speaking?

Q:[me] How do you deal with groups ho may feel powerless to speak?
A: you have to know about that ahead of time. You may need to send the managers out, or put them in different subgroups.

Q: What goes on in the mind of facilitators? General energy level in the room?
A: [not Ton] We also think about the space. E.g., we could set the chairs so we’re looking at one another. I do pay attention to the energy in the room.
A: [not Ton] I facilitate smaller groups. I worry about whether they’re happy and attentive.
A: [not Ton] Are people falling into their usual bad habits.

[Lot of conversation. I’m transcribing little of it.]

A: [me] Do you point out the relationships among remarks? E.g., “What you just said enhances/contradicts what so and so said earlier”
A: If it’s more about me bringing my expertise, yes. Otherwise, it gets in the way of the session participants owning the results.

Q: Do you bring into the group what’s being said in the private conversations?
A: Depends.

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[reboot] Matt Webb

Matt Webb is part of a small design company. He’s not a designer.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

He collects definitions of design: “Design is the conscious and intuitive effort to impost meaningful order” – Victor Papanek. One of his colleagues, Jack Schulze, says “Some people (they are wrong) are about solving problems. Obviously designers do solve problems, but then so do dentists. Design is about cultural invention.” Problem solving is hard but isn’t enough, says Matt. But what is culture? Culture is “the things that make life interesting” (Bruno Munari). “The designer of today reestablishes the long lost contact between art and the public,” said Munari. Art often began as functional objects — drapes, urns — so why shouldn’t our own objects be art?

Matt is going to be a chain of consciousness talk about what makes his life interesting. [My live blogging will magnify whatever choppiness there is.]

He shows faces drawn using an algorithm that bases feature size on baseball stats. (Chernoff faces?) These are macroscopes (John Thackara’s term) . Designers have macroscopes. Macroscopes shows where you are in the big context, human-scale. He shows a Here & There projection of NYC that shows where you are and where you culd be simultaneously. “It’s a kind of superpower.”

In 1959, Sen. Fulton supposed that a tomato in space might be 2D and a million mile square. In 1972, NASA finally released a photo of the entire earth. That’s a macroscope. “We need macroscope ideas.” Even the cleverest people in the world can’t tell us a coherent story of the economic collapse. The scale difference is too huge: If you can see the whole thing, the happenings are invisible, whereas if you can see the happenings, you can’t see the whole thing. People in this room might be able to create macroscopes that could help us understand it.

Now Matt talks about superpowers. In Kalarippayattu “the body becomes all eyes” and you are ready for anything. In a reverse power, your eyes become hands: Anything you can see, you can touch. Among the yoga super powers: To become mute, unheavy, large, levitate, telekineses, self-hypnosis, “the ability to touch the moon with one’s fingertip.” Matt then quotes JFK’s commitment to putting a person on the moon. JFK was a “yogic master with the supernatural power to touch the moon with this fingertip.” It took a million man-hours of technical study, 300,000 Americans and 20,000 corporations. What’s our generation’s equivalent of the moon landing? Might be Wikipedia. Where do we spend our next 100 million hours?

The moon landing came out of a command culture. 300,000 people worked and 12 people went to the moon. Wikipedia came out of a collaborative, participatory culture. E.g., , (house reports status), (uses excess capacity for producing papers). He reads an extended quote from Ze Frank. “When people start something new, they perceive the world around them differently.” We become aware of how the media manipulate us.

Matt’s challenge: Put aside 100 hours to work on someting. ” When you participate in culture —not solving problems but inventing culture — that’s when life gets interesting.” [Great talk. Posted without being proofread.]

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[reboot] Intro

I’m at Reboot 11 in Copenhagen. The theme this year is “action.” It’s a euro-geek festival, and one of my favorite conferences. Lots of techies, designers, inventors, artists…. [Warning: Live blogging this…]

Among the projects: We’re building an autonomous wifi bike at the conference: Solar powered, drive it around and it provides wifi. And they’re going to build a book here based on contributions from the audience. (The room is packed and the conference is sold out.) Also: “Designers for Action”: 20 interaction desighers to help prototype stuff. Also: The show’s child care is going to try out experimental action programs (?). Also: There’s a “hack center” that, among other things, has a self-replicating machine. But the real aim is to send people out into the world to make the world better, especially now that it’s clear that the world needs a reboot.

In fact, the session stops so that all 600 people can post an action item on the wall…

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