Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, November 24, 2008

Good advice on pushing for openness under the Obama administration

Tim O'Reilly, It's Not Over: We are "the change we need." O'Reilly Radar, November 22, 2008.  Excerpt:

...[T]he idea that [the campaign for change] is over till the next election is, well, "so 20th century." As Barack Obama said in his presidential acceptance speech:

"What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek - it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you."
The question, of course, is the right way to get involved. What do we do next?

There are four biggies for the tech community:

  1. Actually apply for one of the jobs in the new administration. If there's going to be any substance to the incoming administration's plans for change, there will be a need for people with clue from outside the beltway to join in. And this doesn't just mean more lawyers. There are great technical people who've been working from the outside on government transparency. I'm thinking of folks behind initiatives like the Sunlight Foundation, or Everyblock, or Heck, I'd even reach out to the geniuses behind in the UK. You do a great job of showing what's possible. I'm wondering whether some of you ought to be on the inside, helping to implement "the change we need." Seeing Kevin Werbach and Susan Crawford as the FCC transition team leads was an awesome wakeup call. Hey, these aren't Washington insiders or telecom lobbyists! They are our peeps from the internet community!
  2. Whether inside or out, the tech community can continue to lead by example. I'm imagining legions of bureaucrats saying "it can't be done" countered by demonstration projects that show that "yes we can." I'm remembering Carl Malamud's heroic work putting SEC data online in 1993. The project started with activism by Jamie Love - "you guys ought to do this." Told by the SEC that it would take many years and tens of millions of dollars, Carl got a small team together, built an online database in a few months, and showed them how to do it. After Carl operated the service for two years as a non-profit, the SEC took it over....
  3. Identifying specific proposals for best practices and points of leverage. We held an open government summit at O'Reilly at the end of last year, and came up with some guiding principles for open data, but we need to identify specific government data sets that could be opened up, specific channels for citizen involvement and oversight, and concrete actions that we can take together to make change. Hopefully, will become a platform for independent citizen efforts....
  4. We really need to weigh in on the issues that matter....There's a lot of discussion on the net, but we need to remember to channel it to the people who are actually making the decisions. If it gets loud enough, maybe they will hear it on their own, but it's good if we can make concerted efforts to bring our suggestions to them via the channels they've provided. Let's give a chance! ...

PS:  Last week I sent my An open letter to the next President of the United States to  And it's not too late to vote for the OA proposal at Obama CTO.  It's been up for less than 10 days and it's already the 26th most popular proposal (out of 630+) on the site.  If we could rise to 25th or above, we'd appear on the front page and get a lot more attention.  Spread the word.