Month: January 2010

SF Mayor Newsom: Open source ‘more reliable’

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom addressed the city’s new open source evaluation policy and views on open source during his weekly YouTube address (forward to 10:12).


San Francisco just this last week became the first city in the United States of America to adopt and open source software policy. First city in America … Open source software is really exciting and this is leading, cutting edge. More reliable from my perspective, we can get the technology moving much quicker from they typical procurement processes and we can deliver it … at a lesser cost to the taxpayer.

Gov 2.0 Hero: Kevin Curry

Kevin Curry is Chief Scientist and Co-founder of Bridgeborn. He recently helped organize CityCamp Chicago to help address open government and Gov 2.0 issues at the local level.

What was your path to Gov 2.0?

My path to Gov 2.0 might be a case study in the power of the social Web; simple, scalable, and serendipitous. I sent Tim O’Reilly a link via Twitter to the paper Government Data and the Invisible Hand by David Robinson, Harlan Yu, William Zeller, & Edward Felten. I hadn’t yet met Tim but was and am still a fan of his “What is Web 2.0?” essay. Tim re-tweeted the link and started following me. A few days later he contacted me to ask if I might be interested in helping him organize the first Gov 2.0 Summit. I wasn’t sure how I could help, but saying “Yes” was a no-brainer. I’ve been involved with Gov 2.0 ever since.

What area of government offers the biggest opportunity for improvement via Web 2.0 tools?

Municipalities. Local governments have the most direct impact on our day-to-day lives. They affect our immediate physical environments; our homes, our schools, our commutes. Sure, we pay federal and state income taxes, but our sales taxes, real estate taxes, vehicle registration fees, parking fees, sanitation fees, and the like, all go to local governments. It’s our city councils and school boards who decide what services we get (or not). Web 2.0 can help at the municipal level in a number of ways; by virtualizing council meetings on the Web, by using tools that allow citizens to vote priorities up or down and see both sides of issues in one place, and by opening up crime and other key indicator data to better inform local populations, for examples.

What’s the killer app that will make Gov 2.0 the norm instead of the exception?

Gov 2.0 isn’t about apps. Gov 2.0 is about government as a platform. Government provides infrastructure. Citizens provide apps. In the same way that a power utility provides the grid and a water utility provides plumbing, government should provide an infrastructure for citizens to access and use government information. The Web provides the logical infrastructure for information access, broadband vendors provide the physical infrastructure, and government provides the legal framework for how government information can and should be used. Government also collects and manages enormous amounts of data. Assuming reasonable exceptions, this data belongs to the public and should be made available to the public according to the 8 Principles of Open Government Data. We need to change some of the laws and policies to reflect how the Web can be used to improve our ability to connect citizens more easily with government. This may be especially true at the local level, where government has more direct impact on our daily lives. If government becomes platform, that will be the “killer app.”

What part of Gov 2.0 most excites you?

The part of Gov 2.0 that excites me most is government-as-platform at the local level. Jen Pahlka and I started CityCamp because we recognized that municipal government was missing from the Gov 2.0 conversation (state government, too). Municipal governments have the greatest affect on our daily lives. I want my hometown of Virginia Beach, Virginia to adopt Open 311 so people can report work requests through SeeClickFix using a GPS and camera enabled phone instead of calling an office or filling out a form. I would like to see something like Localocracy used to survey the citizenry for pro/con input to city-wide decisions. I want my police department to start publishing their crime data as linked open data, perhaps through an API, instead of a clunky HTML table that shows exactly 15 of 20,000+ records at a time. I want events published in standard iCal formats that can be aggregated through cloud apps like Jon Udell’s Elmcity Project. My good friend for over 20 year is the Director of Beach Events. Every month he sends me and a hundred other people an email containing a Word document listing the events. I need to go teach him and his colleagues how to improve that process such that it becomes easier for him to produce and everyone to consume. We’re working on it here in Virginia Beach, and I encourage others to do the same where they live.


How to pick a citizen idea platform

By Dustin Haisler, Manor, and Margarita Quihuis, Researcher at Stanford University Persuasive Technology Lab

Today, more than ever, there has been lots of talk about open innovation, idea collection, ideation and many other terms used to describe the collection of citizen feedback. Most idea collection platforms have been lumped together and only compared on the basis of price alone. Based upon our research at Manor Labs, in collaboration with the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University, we have come to the conclusion that there are two distinctly different platforms for idea collection.

Specific-Task Motivated Idea Platforms

These platforms (like Ideascale, Uservoice, etc.) are great a gathering ideas for a specific purpose. For instance, many online voting challenges have adopted these platforms to gather votes for a set period of time. After a user expends their vote or votes they are no longer motivated to return to the platform aside from seeing what ideas are on top.

  • Pros: Less Expensive Upfront Cost/ Great For Small Scale Challenges & Polls
  • Cons: Poor Idea Management / Poor Analytics

How Manor Uses: We currently employee a specific-task motivated platform for our website error pages. The voting mechanism is built into our standard error page (e404) so that if someone receives an error trying to access content on our website, they have the ability to make a suggestion at the point of failure, thus embracing specific-task motivated idea collection.

How Uses: Manor and Stanford’s Persuasive Technology team have teamed up to create, a public-facing idea generation platform. We chose IdeaScale to run the back-end because of its Web 2.0 characteristics such as single sign-ons via Facebook Connect and Open ID logins and extreme ease of use. In this particular implementation, the ideas are broken out into different categories but the focus is on Haiti disaster relief and recovery. In this kind of idea crowdsourcing where people are primed and motivated to help for altruistic reasons, elaborate game mechanics and reward systems such as found on platforms like Spigit aren’t necessary. One area where IdeaScale could improve is to allow idea contributors to auto-post to their Facebook Wall and Twitter accounts to provide social proof of their activities and thus persuade friends in their social networks to participate as well.

Structured-Idea Collection Platforms

This type of platform (like Spigit) collects and manages ideas on a board scale within multiple departments of an agency. Unlike the Specific-Task Motivated Platforms, users are free to submit ideas at any time within multiple departments. Since users are not motivated by specific-tasks, they must be motivated by a game-mechanics (ranking & rewarding of actions). In this type of platform, ideas are driven by the participants through an idea funnel.

  • Pros: Broad Idea Collection / Great Idea Management & Analytics / Less Expensive Over
  • Cons: More Expensive Upfront Costs

How Manor Uses: We currently use this platform to manage internal and external idea collection for our agency. Participants are ranked and rewarded for their participation in the platform, which provides the needed motivation to make the platform sustainable (leaderboard below). Users receive “Innobucks” for different elements of participation, such as idea submission, voting, commenting, etc. These “Innobucks” can be traded in for products or honors that offer participant a tangible benefit to participating. This mechanism of reward is vital to the sustainability of idea collection over extended periods of time.


Both platforms are great; however, focused toward corporate and internal audiences. The user interface and engagement mechanisms are sorely lacking for public-facing innovation. In the future we hope that these platforms will incorporate elements that are as engaging and persuasive as Facebook or many of the social games produced by Zynga. In the future, ideation platforms will need to have a much more social and game feel to them in order to get wide public participation. Indeed, future platforms may be built on top of Facebook because that’s where the public is. Likewise we can imagine Zynga created a new game called Cityville (ala Farmville, etc) where part of the play is ideation.

We’re at the very beginning of open innovation – comparable to where social networks were 10 years ago. There were many attempts – 6 Degrees of Separation, Ryze, Multiply, and Friendster before we began to see breakthrough applications like MySpace and then the dominant player Facebook.

Although there is significant progress to be made with open innovation in government, there are great tools currently out there for agencies to experiment and incorporation within their internal and external innovation processes. The benefits and insights gained from using these tools can only accelerate everyone’s learning curve on what works.

Gov 2.0 guide to Crisis Commons and CrisisCamp

CrisisCamps are efforts by local communities to garner the collective skills of volunteers, particularly technology related, to support relief efforts during crises, such as natural disasters. Crisis Commons is the supporting organization whose mission is “empowering global citizens to save lives through technology.” Most recently, CrisisCamps have been active in supporting relief efforts following the earthquake in Haiti. Here’s an overview of CrisisCamp, CrisisCommons and how you can connect and get involved.

About Crisis Commons:

CrisisCommons is a grassroots organization that facilitates partnerships and maintains a network of technology volunteers to respond to specific needs in times of crisis. People work on projects based on their skills and interests to create technological tools and resources for responders to use in mitigating disasters and crises around the world.

We are an international network of professionals drawn together by a call to service. We are developers, specialists, communicators, first responders, project managers, and people who just want to help! We focus on neutrality, transparency, and collaboration and believe in the power of one person, and collaboration with others, to make a difference.

About CrisisCamp:

When there’s a crisis or a need for us to respond, we come together for action. Our events are called CrisisCamps. It is an individual event with an overall purpose to better understand crisis response needs, and to create specific tools for specific problems. CrisisCamps may happen in multiple locations at the same time. The world is connected – we are connected.

CrisisCamp in the news


FOX News:

NPR’s Marketplace:


Get involved

More about Crisis Commons and CrisisCamp

San Francisco releases new software evaluation policy

The City and County of San Francisco’s Committee on Information Technology released its new software evaluation policy. Here’s the full text or you can access at the COIT Website:

COIT Software Evaluation Policy


Under the provisions of the City and County San Francisco Administrative Code, information resources are the strategic assets of the City and County of San Francisco that will be managed at the direction of the Committee on Information Technology (COIT). The COIT Software Evaluation Policy will require a standard, rigorous evaluation of the operational benefits and total cost of ownership of new software. The Software Evaluation Policy will require departments to consider open source alternatives, when available, on an equal basis to commercial software, as these may reduce cost and speed the time needed to bring software applications to production. (Open source software means that the underlying source code is not copyrighted and therefore available free of charge to read, modify, and build upon.) This policy is part of the City’s “Open SF” project which is intended to engage our constituents in developing creative solutions to our shared challenges.


The purpose of the COIT Software Evaluation policy is to ensure that all departments thoroughly and fairly evaluate software alternatives, including open source prior to acquiring new software. New software means an additional software system or a complete replacement of an existing system, rather than an upgrade or modification to an existing system. COIT believes that a rigorous evaluation process will help departments make software choices that meet operational requirements, reduce costs, and possibly speed the time to bring software applications into production. The intent is that this process occur concurrent with existing procurement process and not add additional time to the procurement process.


The Software Evaluation Method or equivalent method must be used for all new software purchases over $100,000. COIT directs that the Software Evaluation Method or equivalent method be used for all new software purchases, including non-application software, such as databases, operating systems, web application servers. The Software Evaluation Method shall be available on the COIT website and will be developed and maintained by the City’s Chief Information Officer.

Departments are responsible for completing the Software Evaluation Method or equivalent method at two possible junctures:

1. In cases where requirements have been established, but no software solution identified, the Software Evaluation Method or equivalent must be part of the evaluation of responses to a Request for Proposal or similar procurement vehicle; or

2. In cases where a software solution has been identified, the Software Evaluation Method must be applied prior to commencing a request for bids through the Technology Store or similar procurement vehicle.

The CIO will reject purchases that do not document that they have followed the COIT Software Evaluation Method or equivalent process.

The CIO will determine whether a department has made a good faith effort to consider open source software alternatives, and may reject purchases that do not.

The Performance and Planning and Budget Subcommittees will review each Software Evaluation as part of its oversight of IT projects.

New enterprise agreements for existing software used by the City are not considered a new software acquisition.

Exceptions to this standard can be granted by COIT upon request by department.


Approved by Resources Subcommittee: January 6, 2010
Approved by COIT: January 21, 2010

Effective Date: February 1, 2010

GovLoop Member of the Week: Luke Fretwell

Originally posted on GovLoop

By Andrew Krzmarzick

If you’ve seen a series of posts called “Gov 2.0 Heroes” here on GovLoop, then you probably know about Luke Fretwell’s launch of GovFresh just a few months ago. GovFresh is a great website with a comprehensive list of feeds from scores of government agencies. In addition, Luke is providing thought leadership and innovative new content with the “What Does Government Mean to You?” video project.

Since Luke has been highlighting a lot of other individuals around the Government 2.0 space with his “Heroes” feature, let’s turn the tables on GovFresh to hear his story. Enjoy the GovLoop version of “Gov 2.0 Hero: Luke Fretwell.”

What was your path to Gov 2.0?

I grew up in the Washington, D.C. area, so the political culture had a big influence on my interest in the dynamics of democracy. I studied Government and Politics and International Relations at George Mason University and was the editor-in-chief of Broadside, GMU’s student newspaper. I’ve always loved writing, media and political communications.

In the late 90s, I was intrigued by the Web’s potential. It streamlined production time and was a much cheaper publishing alternative. When I started teaching myself HTML, editing code, refreshing the browser, seeing the change immediately, I was hooked. I moved to San Francisco soon after, because I wanted to be where the Web was being built. I’ve worked in user experience, product management and marketing roles for several start-up companies, including my own venture, HowYouEco, a green lifestyle portal. I love the creativity, innovation, technology and entrepreneurial spirit of the start-up.

My Washington, D.C., past and San Francisco present converged when I launched GovFresh. GovFresh started as a simple idea around consolidating official U.S. Government social media feeds, so that I could get my news directly from the source. I was fascinated by the information the government was pushing out, as well as the people leading the charge. The ‘Gov 2.0 Heroes’ idea was borne because I wanted to acknowledge what they were doing, and I love connecting with smart, innovative, productive people. The blog component feeds my love of processing ideas, writing and discourse. GovFreshTV started because I was interested in learning more about video on the Web, and communicating the message through a medium I’ve never worked with.

GovFresh has become my Gov 2.0 civics project.

What area of government offers the biggest opportunity for improvement via Web 2.0 tools?

Definitely the citizen-to-public servant relationship.

The idea that we can implement tools that allow public servants to solicit feedback on what they’re doing, what they should be doing, or how they could do it better, is powerful. Web 2.0 tools offer real user/customer feedback that allows government to be more efficient by focusing on what’s really needed, rather than just making assumptions.

What’s the killer app that will make Gov 2.0 the norm instead of the exception?

The attitude that we can do more by constructively collaborating and learn from our mistakes together.

What part of Gov 2.0 most excites you?

The efficiency potential.

Open source projects, iterative processes and engaged feedback is low-hanging fruit for freeing public budgets that can then be re-purposed for more innovative public policy initiatives.

GovFresh just turned 4 months old. You’ve introduced an excellent collection of feeds, videos for GovFreshTV and great insight from Gov 2.0 Heroes. What are some of your ideas for the next 4 months?

Much of GovFresh has been reactive or an outlet to experiment with new ideas. The people I’ve met since it started have been much of the inspiration for its growth.

I love that its evolution has been organic. I’ll let that spirit drive its future.

Everyone that joins GovLoop has the chance to answer the following question for their profile: Who’s your favorite public servant and why? I didn’t see an answer from you and I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.

Jefferson. American independence, governor, diplomat, president, university founder, architect, wine lover.

That’s service.

Get the 311 with SeeClickFix

SeeClickFix lets citizens report public works issues such as potholes, graffiti, and wayward trash directly from their iPhones, the SeeClickFix Website or other sites using its embeddable widget. Citizens can create watch lists to follow what’s being reported in a particular area, comment and vote up or down other issue reports and get ‘Civic Points’ for their participation. Governments can use the service as a 311 work order management system and media outlets can integrate the reporting widget and map into their Websites for enhanced reader interaction.

The service is free to use for reporting and monitoring issues. Upgrade versions include SeeClickFix Pro, available for $38 a month, SeeClickFix Plus, a mobile version that lets users customize the application with logo and theming, and SeeClickFix Connect that includes CRM integration.

Houston, Philadelphia, Tuscon, New Haven, City of Bainbridge Island and City of Manor are some of the municipalities using SeeClickFix. Participating news outlets include the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Miami Herald, and Philadelphia Inquirer.

SeeClickFix demo:

Founder and CEO Ben Berkowitz’s Gov 2.0 Expo demo:

Gov 2.0 goes Hollywood

(Disclaimer: I’m on the Planning Committee for this event.)

Gov 2.0 LA, an ‘un-conference’ on social media and government, will be held Feb. 5-7. Registration is free to all attendees.

Sponsors include Microsoft, You2Gov, Rock Creek Strategic Marketing, Internet E-Business, O’Reilly Media, SeeClickFix and BLANKSPACES.


  • When: February 5–7, 2010
  • Where: 5405 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036
  • Register (Free)
  • Sponsor info

Session themes:

  • Language & Gov 2.0
  • Women in Technology
  • Road Blocks & Barrier Breakers
  • State & Local
  • The Policy Pickle
  • Community Care
  • Gov2Gov
  • Happy Campers

For more information, follow @Gov20LA_ on Twitter.