In Response

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In case you missed it, Larry Lessig wrote a long article in The New Republic titled “Against Transparency.” Sunlight Foundation co-founders Ellen Miller and Mike Klein have a response in the online edition that you can find here. Here’s a quick piece of that:

The current transparency movement actually is quite different from the “naked transparency” straw man Lessig creates and attacks in his essay. We do not believe in solely releasing data and then reaping the whirlwind. We and our colleagues spend most of our efforts creating tools and sites to help draw meaning from the information we help put online. For example, we annually directly train more than a thousand reporters and bloggers on how to use these datasets, tools, and sites to better inform their investigations into the work of government. Untold others find and use these resources on their own. Our flagship sites are packed with detailed narrative postings seeking to help connect the dots; the mashups we have fostered aim at making meaning from minutia. The very idea of exposing government data feeds for outside developers is, at its core, about spurring innovation in the way we all perceive and contextualize data.

Others have made counter-arguments to Lessig’s article including David Weinberger:

[T]ransparency is not about publishing every fact, but about making transparency a prima facie good: In a transparent regime, agencies need no special justification to make something public, but do to keep something secret. Without this change in defaults, the decisions about what to make public are in the hands of those with the strongest incentive to keep the citizenry in the dark.

And Carl Malamud:

Larry Lessig had a dream. In this dream, he was standing on K Street, preaching in the dark. Suddenly, a naked posse on Segways went whizzing by, shining their flashlights in people’s faces. Bystanders were all blinded by these random lights and lost their night vision. When Larry turned around, the naked posse was racing towards the White House for an open government rally, trailed by a screaming mob of marijuana-smoking birthers.

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