Archive for wiki

It’s our turn: tech tools for government

Posted in customer service, open government, politics, WikiWay with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2008 by Pete Forsyth

I’m working on a piece of legislation, and we need your help. It’s something that will help us all make Oregon, and the rest of the world, a better and more prosperous place to live. Please add your name to the page linked above, and please also consider pitching in to develop the bill!

In recent years, I’ve been amazed by all the exciting new ways of developing idea that are emerging new technology. I spend way too much of my time writing and editing articles on Wikipedia; I read blogs, and ask questions in the comments; and obviously, I’ve taken a crack at keeping my own blog. I check in on what my friends are saying on a couple times a day; I listen to talk radio shows, and call in or email when it seems like they’re missing something. And pretty often, I meet and get to physically shake hands with someone that I’ve known for months or years, and worked with extensively.

But at the same time, I’ve been pretty disappointed by how little government seems to take advantage of these kinds of tools for innovation, policy development, disseminating information, and generally keeping people up to date with what’s going on in their world and how they can change it. There are some rays of hope, but by and large, government approach to the Internet is still struggling to catch up to 1995.

This January, with a fresh crop of legislators heading to Salem, we have a chance to work for a kind of change that will help us all stay better-informed about what our government is doing, and about how to influence it in our areas of passion and expertise. The Obama supporters among us may be shouting “Yes We Did,” but I believe that “Yes We Can” remains the better phrase. We may have succeeded in electing a president who will be more open to innovative ideas, but our job of supplying those ideas — and developing the same kinds of conditions on a local level — is just beginning.

The bill I’m working on — and hope you will help us work on — will address at least four areas: Continue reading


Open messaging

Posted in Wikipedia with tags , , , , , , , on July 29, 2008 by Pete Forsyth

It seems to me that the most exciting new form of communication is “open messaging.” (If somebody’s coined a better term, let me know.) I’m talking about messages and notes that are directed at a specific person, but are posted publicly, inviting input from anyone else who might be interested.

For instance:

  • A wiki “user page”: This is a page associated with a certain member of a wiki community, but (usually) viewable and editable by anyone. People can be contacted without disclosing any personal information; and the public nature of discussions enhances collaboration. This works really well on Wikipedia, where editors working closely together often chime in on one another’s projects.
  • A MySpace “comment”: Often used for comments like “happy birthday” or “sorry your cat died.” It’s a nice way to keep up to date on what’s going on in your friends’ lives.
  • The Facebook “wall”: essentially the same thing as a MySpace comment.
  • Twitter messages directed “@” somebody: This is distinct from a “direct message,” which is private. If I type “@BobSamplename Have a nice hike!” it will be visible to Bob, but to anyone else, as well. If I type “d BobSamplename Sorry to hear about the genital warts”, nobody else sees it (oops.) Having the easy choice between public and private is very convenient. Continue reading

We are intelligent because we are social

Posted in WikiWay with tags , , , , on June 22, 2008 by Pete Forsyth

I submitted a couple talks to this month’s Ignite Portland event. This is a really cool series of events — basically, a bunch of people are chosen to give 5-minute presentations, accompanied by a slideshow, on any topic of their choosing. The topics vary widely, with topics like origami, how to buy a used car, and an excellent crash course in nuclear physics.

Thankfully, I wasn’t selected this time — what with the Oregon Revised Statutes issue I got embroiled in, I don’t know where I would have found the time to get a presentation prepared!

So I got to attend as an audience member, which was much more my speed. Here’s my favorite of the 5-minute presentations I saw, by Jenny Andrews:

Oregon Law: owned by The Man.

Posted in open government, politics with tags , , on June 17, 2008 by Pete Forsyth

Some of you might not know me, but we work together. That’s right, we legislate. We pass laws by proxy through the legislature, and directly too, when we vote on ballot measures.

But according to the Legislative Counsel Committee (LCC), we don’t own the laws we make; they do. And they get to decide who can and can’t publish them.

They’ve been saying this, apparently, since 1953, but it came to a head last April. That’s when when the LCC — a committee of several prominent legislators — issued a “takedown notice” to, ordering them to stop publishing the Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) on the web. Justia is a company that publishes laws from various U.S. states, in a standard and well-indexed format. (Here’s an example from another state.)

Public.Resource.Org (P.R.O.), a non-profit partner of Justia, took exception, and made the case for a change — both out in the blogosphere, and by retaining counsel and challenging the decision on legal grounds.

P.R.O. got the committee’s attention; this Thursday, June 19, the LCC will hold a hearing, and will consider their arguments. I’ll be giving the case on behalf of Oregon Wikipedians and bloggers. Here are two key points: Continue reading

Free time: from sitcoms to building the web

Posted in open government, Wikipedia, WikiWay with tags , on June 3, 2008 by Pete Forsyth

A couple little stories from this video clip got lots of coverage, but the whole thing is a great summary of the societal transformation we’re currently experiencing. The short stories: this Wikipedia advocate, Clay Shirky, took umbrage when a TV reporter asked him “where do people find the time to edit Wikipedia?” And the other one, a story about his friend’s 4 year old daughter looking for the “mouse” so that she could make the TV show she was watching become more interesting.

The stories are cute, but the full video is epiphanic. It made me think about all this stuff in whole new ways. It’s a little long by web standards, but totally worth the time.

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The conservative take on Wikipedia

Posted in politics, Reviews, Wikipedia, WikiWay with tags , , , , on May 29, 2008 by Pete Forsyth

A couple months ago John Miller, a reporter for the conservative publication The National Review, contacted me for an interview about Wikipedia. I had previously encountered a few Wikipedia editors who seemed keen on advancing their political views, so I welcomed the opportunity to discuss the intersection of political agendas and Wikipedia editing.

John had done his homework before our conversation, and had some interesting questions. The central foundation for his story was the opinion of many conservatives that Wikipedia articles, in general, have a liberal bias.

To illustrate the point, John brought up the articles on David Vitter (a “conservative” U.S. Senator accused of soliciting prostitutes) and Eliot Spitzer (New York’s “liberal” former governor, accused of the same). (Note: linked articles are the old revisions that were current at the time of our interview.) John pointed out that the prostitution scandal was mentioned in the first paragraph on the Vitter article, but that Spitzer’s scandal was buried several paragraphs deep.

(video: a humorous take on political bias on Wikipedia)

I wasn’t familiar with those specific articles (although I’d done a little work on Vitter’s a while back). I took a look, and immediately recognized that the articles were simply at two different stages in their natural evolution.

Continue reading

The emerging gift economy

Posted in Wikipedia with tags , , , , on May 28, 2008 by Pete Forsyth

A friend sent me this video. (Strangely, Wired does not seem to have figured out how to make their videos embeddable on WordPress!)

The basic premise of this 3 minute presentation: Lewis Strauss once predicted that nuclear technology would make electricity so inexpensive that it wouldn’t be worth charging for it. He was wrong, but today, we’re seeing other resources become that cheap: bandwidth, digital storage, processing power. Successful companies like Google and Yahoo offer all their products for free. What is this strange new economy we’re moving toward?