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Now that our panel is over, all future information will be posted at

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Following up a Great Panel

Thank you to our panelists and attendees for an exciting session.

Here are links to our panelists’ work:

Ben Balter

Laurenellen McCann

V. David Zvenyach

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V. David Zvenyach Will Tell How He Liberated DC’s Laws

Image      V. David Zvenyach has accepted our invitation to speak on the panel. Mr. Zvenyach is the General Counsel to the Council of the District of Columbia. When civic hackers posted the texts of States’ laws on line, many governments threatened legal action to enforce their monopoly deals with publishers. But in D.C., David Zvenyach took the challenge as an opportunity, taking the lead to overcome technical, copyright and contractual hurdles and make the D.C. Code available on the Internet without restriction. Hackathons and volunteer efforts developed software to make the newly-available text easy to access and analyze. Now citizens, scholars and advocates have free access to the District’s laws, with functions the paid on-line version didn’t even offer (such as hyperlinks).

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Are open government advocates our frenemies?

cat-and-dogqwqwOpen government advocates create both opportunities and headaches for public administrators. On one hand, exposing government’s information and internal processes to the public strengthens democratic control–a core value of many public administrators. And greater openness can facilitate creativity and innovation that advance an agency’s mission.

But on the other hand, public administrators work in an environment full of blame, deserved and undeserved. We may fear that if information is released, it will be misunderstood or distorted to pin blame on us. The more cynical view is from Yes Minister, “If people don’t know what you’re doing, they don’t know what you’re doing wrong.”

Another problem is competing claims for loyalty. Public servants should be loyal to the public. But our superiors all the way up the hierarchy want us to be loyal to them. The surest way to be punished in a government agency is to allow the higher-ups to be embarrassed. When we are open with the public, we reduce our superiors’ ability to control information that reflects badly on them.

We will discuss these problems and seek solutions at the panel Open Government: Civil Servants encounter Civil Society, at the American Society for Public Administration conference, March 15, 2014 in Washington DC.

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Laurenellen McCann: Reasons to Not Release Data

Laurenellen McCann has accepted our invitation to speak on the panel. She will discuss the reasons government officials cite for not releasing data, and how open data advocates can respond, from a study she led at the Sunlight Foundation. A summary of the findings is at 

Laurenellen (@elle_mccann) is a civic innovation strategist and open data expert based in Washington, DC who helps municipalities and change-agents cause civic mischief through The Curious Citizens Project.  Recently she helped launch “The Good Fight, with Ben Wikler”, an indie media podcast and engagement platform named one of iTunes Best of 2013. Previously, Laurenellen served as the National Policy Manager at the Sunlight Foundation.

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Call for Lightning Talks

Would you like to give a lightning talk at our Open Government panel at the ASPA conference on Saturday,  March 15 at 3:30? Lightning talks are presentations with a firm time limit–in our case five minutes. The idea is to let you share information with your fellow attendees at the panel, before the presentations from our main speakers. Slides are optional. See the links below for examples of lightning talks.

To give a lightning talk, you must be a registered participant in the ASPA conference. Email me with a very brief description of what you want to talk about– — and I’ll get back to you.

Examples of lightning talks:

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Ben Balter from GitHub: “Make Government Better Together”

imagesBen Balter has accepted our invitation to speak on the panel. Here’s a preview:

Technology is pushing us to the tipping point where it is becoming easier to work together than alone. Crowd-sourced content authoring efforts like Wikipedia, and open source software projects like WordPress are able to produce higher quality results faster than their traditional counterparts. As that trend towards increasing collaborative workflows continues, how will governance and public administration adapt? Ben Balter of GitHub, the world’s largest code sharing community will take a look at how that shift has already begun, examining several notable case studies, and discussing ways that you can bring a more open, collaborative workflow to your day-to-day work.
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About the Panel

Our panel, "Open Government: Civil Servants encounter Civil Society" will be at the ASPA national conference on Saturday, March 15 at 3:30 in the South Carolina room.

We will discuss:

* LIBERATING INFORMATION - V. David Zvenyach, General Counsel to the Council of the District of Columbia, who overcame technical, copyright and contractual hurdles to make the District's laws available on the Internet without restriction.

* COLLABORATIVE WORKFLOWS - Ben Balter, Government Evangelist for GitHub--the most popular platform for open-source development--and a former Presidential Innovation Fellow.

* REASONS TO NOT RELEASE DATA - Laurenellen McCann, a civic innovation strategist and open data expert who helps municipalities and change-agents cause civic mischief through The Curious Citizens Project. Recently she helped launch “The Good Fight, with Ben Wikler”, an indie media podcast and engagement platform named one of iTunes Best of 2013. Previously, Laurenellen served as the National Policy Manager at the Sunlight Foundation.

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