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Wisdom of the Feds: Internal Wikifying Obama's Open Government Directive

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, March 2 2009

open_gov_t_directive_bnoveck-1.pptThis is going to break some good geeky hearts out there. Sight. Alas, there will not be an Word that a spankin' new website with the handsome domain name would serve as the rallying spot for federal open-government initiatives burned up the Twitter wires this weekend. But Beth Noveck tells me it's not true. And she should know, as the law professor is serving as the Administration's point person on crafting the Open Government Directive that President Obama promised on his first full day in office. That might be the bad news. But what will likely strike many of us as good news is that the OGD, as I like to call it, is being crafted via intra-government wiki.

From her post in the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Noveck is making use of an OMB wiki-driven system called MAX, which grew out of a set of collaborative tools launched to better the craft the President's Budget. Federal News Radio's Chris Dorobek has more details on the background of MAX. The Open Government Directive is slated to be issued May 21st, and until March 6th, this Friday, anyone of the many thousands of Americans with a .gov, .mil, or (including contractors, it seems) can log into MAX to hash over the three points to be covered by the directive: transparency, participation, and collaboration -- and highlight success stories from within government. From a presentation given by Noveck:

Over the next 100 days, the Open and Innovative Government Community will convene a series of on-line conversations to brainstorm innovative strategies, evaluate their promise, and flag potential challenges (legal, technical, and operational) that must be overcome. Ultimately, these conversations will shape the President's Open Government Directive to all executive departments and agencies.

Will that "series" include a post-MAX round of public vetting of the OGD? Dunno yet. But it's worth considering that Noveck was the driving force behind a project that some people (okay, me) like to cite as perhaps the best example of how to manage tapping the collective wisdom of a certain subset of participants: the U.S. Patent Office's Peer-to-Patent. With P2P, the system there was architected with the intention of make use of the wisdom of citizen-experts -- be they scientists, inventors, or grad students -- to help government do its job better.