Thursday, March 21, 2013

Some follow up thoughts about SeeClickFix

I reported concerning about "garbage in subways" with a picture I took when I was in New York during the spring break. My experience with SeeClickFix is not so satisfying. But SeeClickFix brings with me a brandly new perspective. I have never thought that before... I have to admit that although there is a common phenomenon of "delayed response/fake response" (or maybe no response...) from the city, the idea of publicly posting what needs to be fixed is brilliant.

It is always hard for the government to exercise rights rather than duty. And it is also hard for them to exercise responsibilities than ignore or "avoid" them, because they can keep innocent or at least look innocent. A governor can always tell you that "Oh, really? I didn't recognize it. It's definitely important. You know that I care about XXX (maybe environment). I would have taken action if I knew!"

But now, it would be more and more difficult for them to do so. Because we can counter back wisely:"Why don't you create an account on XXX (Let's say SeeClickFix, haha)? You should at least have one minute to do so, since you are so kind and concerned with XXX... And you can know it in time next time!"

However, it's tricky in some aspect. You sure would prefer a concerned official committee. But we also don't want to overburden them with tons of information or issues waiting on line. "Emergency, necessity, big event first" should always be the rule of thumb. So on the other hand, try to be patient and stop arguing that "my problem first!", unless something else of little significance jumps the line and you have been waited long enough (no baseline though).

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Why we tweet

Why we tweet? Why we want to share what we are going through in our life with the strangers? Why we want to post our opinions about the world to the public, even if what happened was not directly related to or wouldn't affect directly ourselves? Why we enjoy retweeting without getting bored with it?

I have read an article talking about it, which I think is worth reading and I'd like to share with you here. The article's name is Why we tweet when we tweet when tweeting seems an odd thing to do. The link is as follows: When we share happiness, the happiness gets doubled. When we share sadness, the sadness becomes lighter.

In general, "social media is for social good". And we take advantage of it. 23h ago, President Obama had a tweet saying "When those voices are heard, you can't stop it. That's when change happens." That is probably one reason for why we fall in love with twitter, facebook, and blog, etc.

And now it seems that twitter has become an instant source of news in lots of peoples' daily life. People even use it to follow news on many of the major world events. Because tweet and retweet is much faster than other kinds of news broadcast by traditional media. And you can always learn from other tweep's opinion which may be very brilliant. Although they have to figure out what is true and what is not, they won't get tired of it. Because there are always some tweeps that people can trust and we are confident about our own judgement.

I have found some articles talking about "tweet rules". I don't agree with them all, but I also want to share them with you.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Who we are watching

Yesterday I have post a blog talking about social media in China and I have said that in China, there still a long journey to go for the social media and I believe it should be given a running-in period because we are not prepared and ready for a totally open social media. But the day will come and it is coming.

Social media! What we are paying attention to when we are talking about social media? The first question comes to my mind is who we are trying to watch and influence? The country? The government? The officers? Or actually the other citizens who have more power than us?...

If we ask ourselves, are people really born equal? The answer may be "Yes! We should be." But the reality may be the opposite. Yes, because we are equal as human beings. But no, we are not because the information asymmetry and wealth gap. That is part of the reason we need social media to help us, to have our voice heard and to make deeper influence.

If we ask do we have rights to supervise the government? The answer may be "Yes! We should have. And we are exercising our rights!"But is what we  have seen and learnt the truth? Are you willing to pay $500 to buy the government's 500 pages documents that you don't know whether it is what you want or not? But anyway, it is better than nothing. At least, you can try to figure out the truth from thousands pieces of information.

Until now, I think the most effective tool is till the media(TV channels, newspapers, e-journals...) Individual influence is still very limited, though the social media tools have helped to blow up and spread our voice. What we can do is making sustained effort and hold belief.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Social median in China

In China, most people don't use facebook, twitter or youtube because we are not able to do so, unless you can find a proxy which has the circumvention technology... Actually, there are lots of people in China complaining about it since it seems to harm the people's freedom of speaking and limit citizens' access to other parts of the world. And we can hear from many other channels like BBC saying that "China has a history of blocking websites which carry messages it views as politically unacceptable."

I can't say that it is totally wrong. But I think it is not telling the whole truth.

1, In China, although we don't have facebook, twitter, youtube, etc, we have Tecent, Sina MicroBlog, WeChat, RenRen, Baidu Post Bar, Tianya Lite, Douban, Youku, Tudou and so many other social media platforms. They also work well: they help make citizens' voice heard by the public and influence government. Chinese people are more and more open to comment on the government. And we can know what happens around the world whenever and wherever possible.

2, Social media is a good source for government and citizens to have interaction and communication. But we have to admit at the same time that in China, we haven't reached that perfect time to open the door thoroughly and totally. We have a huge population, while a substantial percentage of them are not well educated. And some yong cynic are not matural enough to look at issues objectively and may not use social media properly. We still need a running-in period. The process has to be soft and gradually. Chinese government is reforming and changing, and I think social media will have more power and make big progress in the near future.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A few thoughts about social media and e-government

In the whole world and even in democratic United States, there is a wide gap between the government's ability to monitor its citizens, and citizens' ability to monitor their government. While the government is dramatically increasing its surveillance of citizens, the average citizen has little information about who in government is making key decisions, and who influences these decisions. There is also a lack of efficient access for the citizens to communicate with and report to government. The government should pay close attention to social media, help solidify the bi-directional communications between government and citizens and build a strong e-Government not only center on the operations of government but also include citizen engagement and participation in governance.

It is beneficial for local and state governments to integrate social media into their existing communication, collaboration, and community approaches. Informed citizens are the basis of participation in democracy just as James Madison said “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.” And the ideas of citizens should be accessed to the policy makers. A responsible, accountable government should know and understand what the citizens are demanding or complaining.

President Obama’s memorandum titled “Transparency and Open Government” triggered a development of social media applications. Government 2.0 starts a new generation of Internet technologies in government: highly interactive social networking services that allow real-time information sharing and bidirectional communication between citizens and government. It provides positive proof that they are supporting the connection and networking needs of citizens. And it brings convenience for citizens to report negative events and give feedbacks. An e-government is more open to the public and I believe transparency is the basis of trust and belief. Although we still have a long way to go in social media and e-government, we can believe that we would go further and the trend would not stop.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Mark Headd - Chief Data Officer, CIty of Philadelphia

This week, Mark Headd, Philadelphia's first Chief Data Officer will join us for a conversation about Open Government and Transparency in Government. Mark Headd is a Maxwell alum has a long career in government IT, but also served as Director of Government Relations at Code for America and budget analyst for the New York State Senate.

Mark Headd has experience working with all different stakeholders of the Open Government movement: as a member of an IT company with Voxeo Labs, as the government liaison with the nonprofit Code for America, but also as a private citizen as a so-called civic hacker, organizing and participating in hackathons.

Mark was recently appointed as the first Chief Data Officer by mayor Michael Nutter and will share insights into how government approaches the open government on the local government level.

Please review this TechPresident and this GovTech article about Mark's appointment and new role. As TechPresident puts it:

Headd is a vocal proponent of civic hackathons and using technology to open up government systems and information to the public, and helping citizens to get more involved. He's argued that governments can stimulate local economies by opening up their stores of data and by encouraging app development.

Post your questions about transparency and government data for Mark in the comments to this blog post.