McGinn’s Government 2.0 meeting reveals new website, data-driven ambitions

Inside Capitol Hill’s Northwest Film Forum theater #2, in front of an audience of citizens, technology experts, journalists, students, and some of his own campaign volunteers, mayoral candidate Mike McGinn held an open forum on creating “Government 2.0” — a formation of policies and actions to utilize technology to manage and deliver information to the city. Amongst minor campaign plugs and a few “future mayor” Freudian slips, the focal point of the meeting was the McGinn campaign’s new website, IdeasForSeattle.org. The site, which is already up and running, is a place where citizens can post, vote up, and comment on ideas for improving the city as a whole, and create a platform for them to be gathered in one place. “People have a ton of wisdom, knowledge, and passion, and they need to figure out how to tap into what’s going on so they can contribute to the city,” said McGinn.

Following models such as Data.gov, and DataSF.org , McGinn hopes IdeasForSeattle.org will be the first step in creating a government data platform that will, according to McGinn’s presentation, “Do more with less, Democratize the data, and Revolutionize community engagement.” Mcginn, who uses web 2.0 Company 37Signals’ project management web application Basecamp for his campaign as well as social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, has experience in the emerging tech world, but admitted to the attending crowd of geeks that he was definitely not an expert. The meeting was introduced by McGinn, as audience members provided questions and suggestions on the future of a government 2.0 for a little over and hour following McGinn’s presentation.

The session was mostly about creating a discussion and information gathering for the campaign. McGinn wasn’t ready to answer bigger questions like will he have a documented technology and information policy, will there be increase in city IT resources or will new roles in City Hall be created to make ‘Government 2.0’ happen. “Great questions,” McGinn said and then got back to the brainstorming.

McGinn continued to field questions on issues such as the power of a new tool like his site, trust, privacy, and collaboration. There was concern that despite the novelty of a site like IdeasForSeattle, it could be forgotten, overwhelmed, or overruled by powerful private interests that can simply pick up the phone and contact government directly. McGinn’s response stressed the need for online and offline collaboration, saying the tool itself won’t deliver, and participation from the community and leadership is required for it to work. Audience input included the need for the data to not only to be open, but shared across the region using accessible, open source formats. Again McGinn acknowledged the need for openness, and expressed interest in dumping industry standard formats from “our neighbors to the east” — as one attendee referred to Microsoft — in favor of cheaper, open source alternatives.

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9 thoughts on “McGinn’s Government 2.0 meeting reveals new website, data-driven ambitions

  1. I’m the attendee Lucas mentioned in the last sentence.

    Describing the use of OpenDocument instead of proprietary formats as “dumping industry standard formats” sounds like more Microsoft FUD. When it comes to word processing software, ODF (an ISO standard) is the “industry standard”. It’s the default format used in almost all modern desktop office suites besides Microsoft Office. Forced by the European Union to make some moves toward interoperability, Microsoft have reluctantly added ODF support to Office, but last I heard, it was treated as a second-class format. The latest in their long, long, string of document formats is “open” (and was, after much controversy adopted as another ISO standard), but it’s ridiculously long (over 6,000 pages), poorly defined, and is intended to accommodate all of the buggy behavior of past versions of Office, so it’s very difficult to use effectively in other software.

    Document formats are not open or closed source. Software is, and we didn’t get into software in the context of my question. I don’t recall any talk of moving to standards-based technology as a cost-cutting measure, only as an effort to store public information in a manner that allows the public to use that information without having to pay a private business. However, getting off of the forced upgrade treadmill would likely be financially beneficial in the long-run.

    It’s unfortunate that when people think of free software they so often focus on the fact that it’s available free-of-charge instead of the fact that it is important to our freedom and liberty.

  2. Well maybe this technology smokescreen will conveniently obscure the fact that this guy has been either late or completely missing in action habitually for the 10 years I’ve worked around him in the community. No amount of technology makes up for gigantic gaps in the basics like being someplace when you say you’ll be there and for goodness sakes getting there on time. And when you are on occasion late, just slip in and shut up, don’t then hog the mic blowing your hot air. Can technology make this guy go away. Please.

  3. Person B attacks character person A via anonymous claims about personal experience with person A at numerous unspecified events. Person C implies that such vague information is questionable. Person D misinterprets person C’s questioning of veracity of message B as an attack on person B, implying that person C’s evaluation of the situation is without merit.

  4. Man I love this town! I moved from freakin’ east Texas where most flame wars involved mutual bastardization of the English language in an attempt to out-degrade each others moms. You guys have me busting out the pencil and paper and writing out a logical proof! While the emotional content is similar, you just have to love the nice thick overlay of neocortex.

    Oh yea, and Microsoft Rulez and Open Source is great too, just not so great that they can charge for it. Just kidding. Sorta. a bit.

  5. Josh wrote: “as in the `concealing identity, disorderly conduct, refusing to obey an officer, and criminal trespass.’ Phil Mocek?”

    Small world, huh?

    Accused of such, yes. My trial is set for May 10, 2010. I won’t be saying anything about it publicly until I’m seated before a jury, but none of the reports that I’ve seen published indicate that there’s any validity to the claims.

    Quoting the philosecurity.com page to which Josh linked:

    Today a traveler going through the Albuquerque airport was arrested after politely refusing to show his ID. Phil Mocek, a Seattle area native, was traveling with his friend Jesse Gallagos when he politely declined to show ID to TSA agents.

    According to reports from friend Ben Livingston, “Phil politely refused to show ID to the TSA employee. The TSA employee then called in a supervisor, and Phil started recording with his digital camera, which caused the supervisor to “freak out” and call the airport police. Approximately six police showed up in force, asked no questions, and told Phil he was being arrested for disturbing the peace.”

    Mr. Mocek had previously contacted TSA personnel at the Albuquerque International Sunport Airport(ABQ) to find out if photography was allowed, and was clearly told by local TSA officer Susanne Spencer that advance notification was recommended, but not required. “We only encourage individuals to contact TSA in advance so we can facilitate the photography,” she wrote in an April 10, 2009 email. She subsequently reiterated that statement to Mr. Mocek on April 14. (FlyerTalk)

    After Mr. Mocek was detained, “[Police] asked if he was with anyone, and he indicated he was flying with Jesse,” said Mr. Livingston. “The police told Jesse he would also be arrested if he did not leave the compound. They demanded and received Jesse’s ID, then drove him in a police cruiser off the airport property, where they informed him that he was banned from the property for 24 hours.

    “I spoke with the Albuquerque jail and Phil hasn’t been booked yet. He’s still in the hands of the airport police… We are actively seeking help from anyone in Albuquerque who might be able to help… I’m hoping a local lawyer, or anyone local, might be able to get a little further.”

    Philosecurity contacted local authorities at 7:50PM on Sunday, Nov 15 2009, and confirmed that Mr. Mocek was still in custody and being “processed.” Friend Ben Livingston provided some further perspectives on the issue, as follows:

    “As Americans, we have the right to travel freely between the states… In America, we’re supposed to defend against the government demanding our papers in order to travel. A lot of folks remember that in Germany, you had to show your papers in order to travel. Since 9/11, our government has implemented a policy that in order to make things more ’safe’ and ’secure,’ they’re going to force people to show their papers to get into the terminal to board the plane. The airlines don’t necessarily require ID, although it’s their right to decide who they do business with.

    “As far as the federal government goes, demanding our papers in order to travel from state to state is actually a violation of our civil rights. If you’re traveling into or out of the country, the federal government has a right to demand your papers. But if you’re  traveling interstate, you have a right to travel freely without interference from the federal government.

    “In reality, ID checks don’t make us safer.  All of the terrorists on that 9/11 flight had valid ID. It’s a fake security measure designed make us to feel safer. It’s not actually intended to keep us safe. There are ways around it, too… Just last year TSA announced a new policy for the first time ever, which said that if you don’t have your ID but you cooperate with TSA, show them credit cards etc, you can fly. So if you say you screwed up, it’s cool. If you politely refuse for whatever reason to show ID, TSA will deny you access.”

    There was lots of discussion of the incident on FlyerTalk Forums while I was still in jail. See Flyer “Processed” (Arrested?) in NM After Declining to Show ID“, November 16, 2009.

    See also the following from the Identity Project:

    What’s wrong with showing ID?Traveler arrested at Albuquerque TSA checkpointAlbuquerque police still pressing charges against traveler who tried to exercise his rights