22 April 2006

Government 2.0 Think Tank at BarCamp Ottawa

BarCamp Ottawa

Wow! What a day! BarCamp Ottawa was truly mind-invigorating. The following sessions were my favorite. There were others that I would have liked to attend; but many of them were held concurrently, so I had to pick... My favorites:
  • iotum, a successful Canadian startup, currently beta testing and crowned DEMO God in 2006, made a great presentation on "What Makes A Great Demo";
  • Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the eclipse foundation, presented on "Open Source Communities | All About Platforms: Lessons Learned from Eclipse". I was particularly interested in Mike's answer to "How do you create a [successful] community around a platform?" In his words, it takes: (1) great technology; and (2) broad adoption; (3) architecture of participation (I think this ingredient is, perhaps, the most important one); and (4) "hijacked by a fanatic community". A little later in this post I will explain how his presentation will influence the shaping of the G2TT community;
  • Bain McKay, CEO and Chief Scientist of Kayvium, gave a very-forward looking presentation on the semantic web in the context of a desktop application being capable of establishing and navigating semantically meaningful links between information sources, by leveraging ontologies and pattern recognition. On a scale of 0 to 4, 0 representing unorganized information and 2 information organized with taxonomies and controlled vocabularies, Bain talks and lives at the 4 level. I have asked him for a "progressive bibliography" on topic, in other words, what should one read in order to develop a better understanding of the theoretical concepts behind the capabilities Kayvium offers. I will share with you his suggested list of readings when I have it.
I also presented at BarCamp today, in my personal capacity (it has nothing to do with my full time job and employer - I made that disclaimer at the beginning of my presentation), and engaged participants in discussing:
  • Open Source Government. The concept of Open Source Software is explained at wikipedia. To be successful, as Mike Milinkovich from the eclipse foundation suggested, a community built around an open source software must possess several characteristics. Thinking about these characteristics, I was particularly interested in seeking out the opinions of the audience on how to best transpose these "Open Source Software" community characteristics (see for example What makes a good open-source project?) into an "Open Source Government" context, such being the context and community spirit advocated by Government 2.o Think Tank;
  • Government 2.o Think Tank ("G2TT"). G2TT is a not-for-profit private association to be launched in June 2006. G2TT is about open source government, one project at a time. In a sense, it has the potential of being analogous to sourceforge.net, and to be what sourceforge.net is to open source software - by providing an architecture of participation (in Mike Milinkovich words) built around projects instead of software. Instead of code, G2TT projects have, as deliverables, "reports". G2TT projects will always result in the production of complete reports with standard headings (Assumptions, Problems/Challenges, Solutions, Opportunities and Recommendations) and other headings depending on the nature of the project. The first G2TT project is Leveraging Web 2.0 Technologies in Government and you can find its draft Table of Contents here;
  • Leveraging Web 2.0 Technologies in Government (the first G2TT project). Web 2.0 as an Internet phenomenon generally encompasses the collection of trends and technologies enabling the web as a platform and the read/writable web: see this introduction to web 2.0 by Joshua Porter and also these 50+ Web 2.0 resources. Web 2.0 many facets and enablers, such as RSS (resources), Wikis (resources), Blogs (resources), Social Tagging / Enterprise Bookmarking (resources) and Ajax (resources) - among others - collectively constitute a formidable basket of technologies that governments could efficiently leverage both for internal information management and external dialogue with the public they serve. G2TT has chosen to target these technologies and to explain how they could efficiently solve many common problems, such as Email Overload and the difficulty in finding information on intranets.
I wished I had been able to attend Craig Fitzpatrick's presentation, on devshop; but he was presenting at the same time as me. Craig's devshop makes project management specifically for software teams. I recommend, without hesitation, that you get in touch with him if you need project management software in a software development context.

I was pleasantly surprised, at the end of my presentation this afternoon, to see that many participants (including Jason Furlong, Clayton Scott and Ajay Krishnan - thanks to everyone!) pointed out the potential of G2TT in offering a community space in which the Canadian Public could be meaningfully engaged.

On this point, I anticipate G2TT members to debate the acceptable scope of G2TT projects during the first G2TT meeting (signup first if you are interested in attending). I did point out, however, that G2TT had a vested interest in building its credibility with early successes: the association will benefit from selecting and working, initially, on non-contentious projects. For example, the first association project (Leveraging Web 2.0 Technologies in Government) is not about Government Policy "with a big P" but about the exploitation of better information technology to enable better governmental decision-making and improved policy development.

The distinction is important. G2TT does not seek to substitute itself to policy makers and elected officials, it rather attempts to offer insights on how to improve the way government does business, internally and externally, by focusing on specific problems and challenges, one project at a time.

You can follow the progress of G2TT by subscribing to the G2TT RSS feed or to the email subscription service.