Previous  |  Next


Jan 29

Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly

Ten Government Hacks

Government gadfly and Internet pioneer Carl Malamud (who put the SEC EDGAR database online back in the early 1990s in six weeks with a couple of volunteers and donated equipment after the SEC said they couldn't do it because it would be a multi-year multi-million dollar project), has just released an annnotated version of the Ten Government Hacks talk he gave at OSCON last year. A short and sometimes elliptical text summary accompanies short video segments from the presentation hosted from the Internet Archive. Carl's summation:

The hacks all have a point, and that point is that government should be less about private interests and more about the public interest. The skills we use in the open source world are tools of civic engagement, tools of citizenship. And, if we apply those skills of engagement to our government, it is possible, at least sometimes, to drag the political system (kicking and screaming perhaps) towards the common good.

Here are the hacks themselves. The first three are based on some of Carl's actual projects. The other seven are lazyweb suggestions for others to try:

  1. Be media. In which Carl explores how to get media accreditation as a way to get into otherwise closed meetings. Incidentally, a credential from the O'Reilly Network was denied as "not bona fide media" to get into the UN's World Summit on the Information Society. Carl attended as a stringer for the Bangkok Post instead.
  2. Get standing. Often, in order to have a voice, you have to "get standing" (i.e. a stake) in the case. Here, Carl refers to the way he used a FOIA request to get standing to make a stink about the special deal the Smithsonian cut with Showtime.
  3. Be government. Here Carl talks about not his 90s SEC escapade, but a more recent failed attempt to put all congressional hearings online.
  4. Adopt the FCC. Here, Carl shows how bad the security is on the FCC web site, and suggests that someone mirror and improve it.
  5. Enforce ODF by proxy. Here, Carl suggests how the government could automatically convert all non-ODF documents on the fly.
  6. Audit the feds suggests how anyone could audit any government agency for Section 508 accessibility compliance.
  7. Link check the mayor suggests doing the same for broken links on government agency web sites.
  8. Annotate hearings: "if enough people talk about clueless things that happen in government, then after a while everybody else gets the picture.... adopt a committee or an issue, and make a habit of watching what they do and systematically annotating them. "
  9. Hold Your Own Hearings. If you can't get the government to pay attention, put together your own hearings. If you get high-enough profile witnesses, you'll get coverage anyway.
  10. Map Spectrum. Only 2% of the allocated spectrum is actually used. Someone ought to map this, perhaps using Gnu Radio.

tags:   | comments: 2   | Sphere It


0 TrackBacks

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Pat   [01.29.07 06:41 PM]

I'm kinda shocked that Radar doesn't pass a 508 check. Yes, it's only alt tags on images, but still.

Tim O'Reilly   [01.29.07 08:51 PM]

Yeah -- I always try to do that in images I use in my own posts. I'll nag my co-authors to do the same. Good catch. (I see you put Carl's tip right to work!)

Post A Comment:

 (please be patient, comments may take awhile to post)

Remember Me?

Subscribe to this Site

Radar RSS feed