One theme running through what we’re doing here, in my mind at least, is to blur the line between the explicit and the implicit, or, put differently, to make evident those things which were only implied. Effective data availability is certainly a case of this. Every time there is government information that is publicized in that satisfying-due-diligence, html, doing-as-we’re-told, this-is-the-full-extent-of-our-authorization, only available in a reading room at 2:30 PM on Wednesday sort of way, well, that’s an example of the implied. That data is only public by implication, since there is a significant barrier to it’s effective use, reuse, access, or timely updating.
I’m loving the conversation about debate transcripts that Josh just posted about, because it’s a great example of information becoming increasingly public, even though it was in plain sight all along. All public televised debates are, by their nature, quite public. The transcript or video/audio, however, has been less available, so much that the battle over their fair use continues even now. Despite this struggle, innovative presentations of this most hotly contested, most scrutinized of public appearances are popping up with increasing frequency. Josh’s post took the speaking time from the NYT and calculated the statistical correlation between candidates’ time speaking and their poll ranking. I just came across this tool (application?) that allows for all sorts of user-defined analysis of the debate transcript. You can see, explicitly, how many times the candidates said a term of your choice, and the text from the transcript is available right along with it. This is the sort of thing that we’re lucky enough to witness developing, as long as the data that drives this sort of innovative presentation stays open and available. (more after the jump.)
Whenever I come across something like this that I’d like to share, I’m confronted with a paralyzing set of choices. I can email those people that I think would appreciate it, I can tag it on delicious, I can link to it on twitter/facebook/jaiku, I can share it on facebook, I can send a link to someone through AIM or google chat, I can write a blog post on one of several blogs I sometimes write on, or if I’m really impressed, I can physically use my mouth to discuss it with someone (again, by phone, by ichat, or by physical space.)
One of the reasons that the Open House Project has been successful is that it started, and has functioned primarily through a thoroughly public interactive space. By gravitating toward the public and the collaborative, we’re inviting input from unknown sources, who always seem to be listening. This also builds trust and approachability, which is clear as people have often approached me to discuss things they wouldn’t necessarily write to the whole list (which I gather can be rather intimidating).
This is exactly what we want Congress to do more often, and better.
The form that this will take will probably continue to evolve, just as stenography made a Congressional Record possible, telegraphy encouraged wire services and revolutionized the press, and TV and C-SPAN made hearings and floor speeches public in a new way (thanks in part to the spectacle of McCarthyism.) Evolving technology is also responsible for the permitting lawmakers to go on blogs like redstate or dailykos, soliciting input or even in sprited confrontation.
As political Web use struggles to get its footing, I’m still wondering in just the same way what the best forms are for how we share our awareness of the goings-on online. I recently discovered delicious, or maybe I recently adopted delicious in earnest, and now I love it. I can easily create a public space of links made up of things I found to be notable, find others with similar interests, and tag my links for easy retrieval later. Also notably, delicious has RSS-feeds galore, which means that one can transform or subscribe to tag, an person, or specific person’s tag.
This is particularly interesting to me because it may present the best way to share Open House Project related links with a broader community without constantly deciding whether to blog, email, etc. I think there must be a way to set up a portion of my delicious account so that every time I tag something with "ohp", it appears in a public way. I’m sure we could add a section to the sidebar that lists the most recent delicious entries with that tag, but I’d like to also give others the ability to add links to that tag. Is the best solution to use a public feed, like ohp? It seems that that would be insufficiently specific. Anyone have a suggestion for a collaborative link-sharing space, preferably delicious based?