Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

What I’ve been reading

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

You can find all my bookmarks on Pinboard.

Bookmarks for August 18th through September 8th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

  • Civic Commons code-sharing initiative bids to reduce government IT costs – "Around the United States, city governments have created a multitude of software. Unfortunately, most of the time the code from those projects is not shared between municipalities, which results in duplication of effort and redundant, static software."
  • Anonymity, trust and openness on the social intranet – "In some organisations, the cloak of anonymity could help to establish the first part of that trust relationship, and reassure colleagues that leaders are, in fact, really listening; once it exists, it’s easier to step out of the shadows with a greater degree of trust and openness."
  • The end of history – "History will, of course, look after itself. It always has. But the future history of our time will be different from our histories of past times, and that will not be because we have an eye to the future, but because we are always relentless focused on the present."
  • Why aren’t we all working for Learning Organisations? – "…the authors suggest a way for managers to switch from a ‘command and control’ to a ‘systems thinking’ mindset in order to achieve genuine organisational learning."
  • Quixly – Cool way to host and deliver paid-for content, such as e-books.
  • Understanding Marin County’s $30 million ERP failure – It's not just UK government that cocks up IT projects.
  • Google Wave open source next steps: "Wave in a Box" – "We will expand upon the 200K lines of code we've already open sourced (detailed at waveprotocol.org) to flesh out the existing example Wave server and web client into a more complete application or "Wave in a Box.""
  • Should Governments Legislate a Preference for Open Source? – "It's easy to legislate a preference for Open Source, and difficult to implement a level playing field upon which Open Source and proprietary software could compete fairly. Thus, a number of governments have enacted the preference as an easy-to-legislate way of solving the problem, but I submit not optimally. Having a preference gives proprietary software an opening to portray themselves as the "injured party", when the reality is that historically there has been a preference for proprietary software in both legislation and internal process of government purchasers, and this still exists today."
  • Wiki life – "The point, in the end, is that Wikimedia by its DNA operates in public and benefits accrue — not just as product and engagement and promotion and distribution but also as strategy. That’s the next step in creating the truly public company or organization."
  • First Impressions: VaultPress (WordPress Backup) – Nice summary of the premium backup service for WordPress (sadly just in beta at the moment).
  • Sink or Swim – Donald Clark on the birth of Learning Pool and why the public sector needs it more than ever.
  • Damien Katz: Getting Your Open Source Project to 1.0 – Great notes on successful open source development.
  • Harold Jarche » The Evolving Social Organization – "For decades, organizational growth has been viewed as a positive development, but it has come at a cost."
  • O’Reilly, Open Government and the Ingenuity of Enthusiasm – "It is quite clear that performance management and procurement, as well as many other government processes, need to be revised, reformed or radically changed. But this won’t happen unless we recognize that government and its employees need to remain in charge, need to stay as the custodians of neutrality and transparency, and we, the people, developers or users, can just help them do a better job but not replace them in any way."
  • Research findings and recommendations for Councils – Some fantastic shared learning here from Michele.
  • sigil – "Sigil is a multi-platform WYSIWYG ebook editor. It is designed to edit books in ePub format."
  • Enterprise 2.0 Perceived Risks: Myth or Reality? – "…security is a personal thing, a personal trait that everyone needs to nurture and treasure accordingly."
  • Using Free, Open-Source Software in Local Governments – "…how is it that local governments have failed to capitalize on the cost-saving and productivity-enhancing benefits of using open source software, especially given the budget crises they face?"
  • Open Government Data – "This event will bring together movers and shakers from the world of open government data — including government representatives, policymakers, lawyers, technologists, academics, advocates, citizens, journalists and reusers."
  • WordPress › Email Users « WordPress Plugins – "A plugin for wordpress which allows you to send an email to the registered blog users."

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.

Hackers for government (and a dollop of open source)

A hacker

A lovely story of sharing, reusing and creative hacking in government today. There’s a whole post to be written on hacker culture and why government needs people who are able to program computers on the payroll. You just can’t outsource this stuff. The first chapter of this book explains it far better than I ever could, as Andrea DiMaio explains:

Innovative and courageous developers are what is needed to turn open government from theory to reality, freeing it from the slavery of external consultants, activists and lobbyists. People who work for government, share its mission, comply with its code of conduct, and yet bring a fresh viewpoint to make information alive, to effectively connect with colleagues in non-government organizations, to create a sense of community and transform government from the inside.

Anyway, whilst he was still at BIS, Steph Gray produce a nice little script to publicly publish various stats and metrics for the department’s website. A great example of having someone around who has both ideas and the ability to hack something together that puts them into action.

This was picked up during an exchange on Twitter by Stuart Harrison – webmaster at large for Lichfield District Council and another member of the league of extraordinary government hackers. Stuart asked nicely and was granted permission by Steph to take the code and improve it – never really an issue because the code was published under an open licence that encouraged re-use.

So Stuart did exactly that, and produced a page for his council that report live web statistics. Even better, he then shared his code with everyone using a service called GitHub.

Two things come out of this very nice story.

Firstly, the importance as mentioned above of having people able to code working within government. Say if Steph had this idea but had neither the skills himself nor access to them within his team to implement it. He would have had to write a business case, and a formal specification, and then tendered for the work… it would never have happened, frankly.

Leading on from that, the second point is around the efficacy of sharing code under open source licenses. Steph would probably admit to not being the world’s most proficient hacker, but the important thing is that he was good enough to get the thing working. By then sharing his code, it was available for others to come in and improve it.

The focus on open source software and its use in government is often based around cost. In actual fact open source solutions can be every bit as expensive as proprietary ones, because the cost is not just in the licensing but in the hosting, the support and all the rest of it.

The real advantage in open source is access to the code, so people can understand and improve the software. But this advantage can only be realised if there are people within government who can do the understanding and improving.

After all, what’s the point of encouraging the use of open source software if the real benefit of open source is inaccessible? Having access to the code is pointless if you have to hire a consultant to do stuff with it for you every time.

So three cheers to Steph and Stuart for this little collaboration and lovely story of the benefits of sharing and hacking. Let’s make sure there can be more of them in the future by encouraging the art of computer programming, and of being open with the results.

Photo credit: Joshua Delaughter

Bookmarks for March 21st through March 29th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.