Contributed by:

Jonathon Howard, author of Di Mortui Sunt

I haven’t contributed anything to the blog recently, for several reasons, but the primary reason is that it’s hard to write about something that has yet to happen.  While the world of software has been dealing with opensource for years the rest of the world continues to operate on a need-to-know or even a refuse-to-tell basis.  Only recently have writers begun to look at opensource as a viable option for their own works, Cory Doctorow the most popular author who has done so.  Traditional businesses and the government though have failed to see the benefits of opening themselves to the public; in fact, they continue to operate under the greatest secrecy and fight tooth-and-nail to maintain that secrecy.  The worst by far are government agencies, and publicly funded institutions that take taxpayers money to fund studies, research, experiments, and projects and then try to profit from the findings, or prevent their release to the general population.

So, before we can have Opensource institutions, public or private, we must first fight to make sure that we have open and transparent institutions.  There are a number of ways to do this; the best as always is to become personally involved.  I don’t merely mean that you should write to some official or vote, those are easy, I’d go as far as saying that those are duties we all have as citizens.  Instead, I’m advocating that you buy ownership in the companies whose products you use, and then you vote with those shares.  I’m telling you to find out the communication policies for the company you work for and then make sure they’re followed and push for more transparency.  I’d say it is a good idea to find out what it is your local government is doing, find out how they decide legislation, negotiate contracts, and then make sure that they’re open to the public, so that the public can see what decisions are being made and who makes them.  I’m advocating you to find out about the Freedom of Information Act and to use it, and to look into Sunshine laws and the organizations that support them.  Demand from your State and Federal officials that any research, studies, projects, etc. that are funded by the taxpayer are available to the taxpayer!  The state of Oregon for awhile was trying to copyright their constitution to control how and why it was disseminated, or Santa Clara county trying to charge a quarter of a million dollars and signing a non-disclosure act for a data rich map called a geographic information system that was paid for by tax payers (more on that here)!

Before we can move towards crowdsourced, opensourced solutions to the world’s problems we need access to all the information and we’re not going to get that if the institutions that surround us hide everything behind high walls!


Wired’s How-to Wiki on Open Government Data

The Sunlight Foundation

National Freedom of Information Coalition

Your local government’s webpage

Your State’s legislative and executive webpages

Your Federal officials’ webpages (find it here and here)

Shareholder Voting Rights and the Debate over Expanding Them

Want to contribute? Email h2oneuron at gmail dot com