This evening, United States President Barack Obama will be delivering the annual State of the Union address at 9pm EST (if you want to learn more about the tradition of the State of the Union address in the United States, the White House has put together a nice video about the history and making of it here).
The president’s staff is trying out an interesting concept during tonight’s address. Here is an excerpt from an email sent out this afternoon with the details:
This year we’re trying something new. As President Obama addresses the Nation, we’ll offer a companion stream of visual aids, including charts and quick stats about what’s happening in the country. You can view this feature at WhiteHouse.gov/SOTU.
Immediately following the speech, stay tuned for our live Open for Questions event with policy experts from the White House answering your questions about key issues in the speech.
They’ve branded the event with the slogan “Watch & Engage” and have planned a whole week of events where citizens can participate in interactive sessions with government officials including President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebellus, and many others.
I’ll be interested to see how this plays out. Over the past two years, I’ve been excited to see many attempts within the US government to increase transparency, improve sharing of information, and create better forums for citizen collaboration. I’ve also seen examples where transparency, openness, and engagement are more spin than substance.
Which will this be? I’ll have to stay by my computer tonight and find out. If you decide to do the same, please feel free to share your experiences and opinions.
[This article originally appeared on opensource.com]
On the heels of last week’s White House Jobs and Economic Forum, President Barack Obama announced a series of job creation ideas today in a speech at the Brookings Institution.
As I mentioned in my last post, Red Hat’s Jim Whitehurst was one of two technology industry CEOs who attended the White House forum last week, the other was Eric Schmidt from Google. Two things Red Hat and Google have in common? We are both strong supporters of open source and we are both hiring.
But this morning I had another thought– beyond the jobs at Google and Red Hat, are we– and other companies in the open source community– helping create jobs at a broader level? Meaning, are the products, services, and innovations of open source companies creating job opportunities for people who use what we make?
To find some data, I turned to Indeed.com, a search engine for job seekers that also has a fascinating job trends tool you can use to search on how often a particular term appears in job listings.
As a baseline data point, I looked at the chart for “receptionist,” a common job that might be a decent bellwether for job trends. The chart looks pretty much like you might expect:
Not great news for any receptionist looking for work. This term had once appeared in almost 2% of job postings, now it is hovering right below 0.8%.
Next, for some overall industry perspective, I looked at their page on Information Technology job trends. Not a lot of good news here either, unfortunately. These two pieces of information were disturbing:
Fantastic blog post by Jim Whitehurst today on redhat.com called Creating jobs the open source way. As Matt Asay reported yesterday, Jim Whitehurst was one of only two technology CEOs present at President Obama’s Jobs and Economic Forum (the other was Eric Schmidt of Google) at the White House.
In his post, Jim makes a clear link from the open source way to innovation to jobs. I love the closing paragraph, which I’ve included below:
“Red Hat has built a successful, growing S&P 500 business on the power of open source, not just as a development model, but as a business and organizational model. While ours isn’t the only solution, I do believe business, government and society can unlock the value of information and create good, long-term jobs by sharing and working together.”
The White House has streaming video of all of yesterday’s events here.
I also found this article, which provides further information on a few of Jim’s points about national broadband infrastructure development, very interesting.
There’s a powerful cover story in the July/August issue of Washington Monthly entitled Code Red: How software companies could screw up Obama’s health care reform (Thanks to Maria Moore for the link).
In the article, Phillip Longman describes a few horrifying experiences hospitals have had trying to “go digital” using proprietary software. Here’s a particularly scary quote:
According to a study conducted by [the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh] and published in the journal Pediatrics, mortality rates for one vulnerable patient population—those brought by emergency transport from other facilities—more than doubled, from 2.8 percent before the installation to almost 6.6 percent afterward.
In the context of Dark Matter Matters, this story is interesting because it shows how an open source, community-driven effort led by the Veterans Health Administration has been able to not only innovate faster than its proprietary competitors, but also more deeply involve the end customers– the doctors, nurses, and other folks who actually use the software– in development of tools that work in real world situations.
After 10 years at Red Hat, I’ll admit I am a little bit out of touch with what the corporate world looks like everywhere else. But after a recent conversation with someone out there in the non-Red Hat universe, I thought I’d pass on a quick tip they found helpful on how to create a more collaborative culture in your organization.
The tip is simple. Default to open. Everywhere.
What does this mean? It means rather than starting from a point where you choose what to share, you start from a point where you chose what not to share.
You begin sharing by default.
A quick example. Our group was lucky enough to (thanks to our talented global facilities director, Craig Youst) have the opportunity to help design our own office space. As part of the space design, we determined that we wanted no offices– everyone would be in a large, open collaborative space.
Everyone had the same sized cubes, and it didn’t matter how much of a muckety-muck you were or weren’t. If you wanted to have a private conversation, the space design included a series of private alcoves, where you could go talk with your doctor, or yell at your wife, or whatever you didn’t want to do in public. But the key is that you had to actively decide when placing a call, do I want to take this in private? Which is counter than the old-skool office design where you had an office with a door, and all conversations were private by default.
There was a short article in the New York Times the other day about a quietly launched new government website called data.gov. The purpose of the site is to collect the amazing wealth of information created in the agencies of the US government in one place and make it freely accessible to anyone.
We open source-minded folks think that is just swell. In fact, this subject has been of interest to me for a long time. When I was right out of college and working for the literary agent Rafe Sagalyn, we actually wrote two books intended to help people find the great information the government was putting together for us, but not doing a good job actually getting to us.
The first was a book called Uncle Sam’s Guide to the Great Outdoors, which told you how and where to write or call the government to get information sent to you before you planned a trip into the American wilderness: national parks, forest, wildlife preserves, and whatnot.
It was all great until this dumb Internet thing came along and made it easy for people to access this sort of information online. Now that book is a relic of a bygone era of phone calls and manila envelopes.
But actual government datasets… that’s a much more complicated issue. Until now, it’s been very hard to get broad, searchable access to these datasets without advanced knowledge or tools. And they’ve certainly never been in one place and one standard format before. Data.gov is just a start, but I love the philosophy of the site so much I’m including it here:
A good friend told me a few weeks ago that I should write more about music here, since music is such an important part of my life. So I thought I’d give it a go.
I play bass in a band called The Swingin’ Johnsons. Yes, that’s right.
Occasionally, we call ourselves a Lyndon Johnson tribute band, when we need to water down the story, and most of our show posters have pictures of Lyndon Johnson on them. I don’t know exactly how we are paying “tribute” to Lyndon Johnson by what we do, but there it is.
This week, the White House is holding a two day experiment at www.whitehouse.gov where Americans can ask Barack Obama any question they have regarding the economy. People can enter their own questions or vote on the questions of others. Later this week, Obama will address many of the most popular questions in a national town hall meeting.
In the video on the site, Barack Obama says:
One of my goals as president is opening up the White House to the American people so that folks can understand what we’re up to and have a chance to participate themselves.
In the open source world, we often talk about the idea of user or customer-driven innovation. We make the process of creating open source software transparent and collaborative. Customers can easily contribute their ideas, and we both share in the value that is created– we make better software faster, our customers get better, more relevant software faster. Everybody wins.
How cool is it to see the same principle applied to government? By opening the feedback loop to us regular Americans– the “customers” of our government– might we be able to create a better government faster? Could the old open source adage, “Given enough eyes, all bugs are shallow” apply to governing the American people as well?
As of when I wrote this post, about 40,000 people had voted 1.5 million times times on over 40,000 questions. The site is open through Thursday morning at 9.30 AM, so go ask your questions and vote!
One note… the people from the “Legalize it!” lobby and the “show us your birth certificate” lobby both found this site before you… But don’t worry, in the meritocracy of whitehouse.gov, the best ideas seem to still be winning:)
David Burney’s blog post about Obama being the first “design thinking” president just got picked up by Bruce Nussbaum of BusinessWeek. Nussbaum is another one of those guys who gets it– he’s been writing about design thinking and innovation in business for quite some time.
Read the full text of Nussbaum’s article, entitled President Obama Goes Optimistic: Obama Is The Design President.