Just finished a weekend at Transparency Camp 2012. Â As with lots of these types of conferences (PrivacyCamp and Freedom2Connect come to mind), I approach these as something of an outsider – I’m tech-curious, but by no means experienced. Â In the end, I’m just a lawyer, and my expertise in methods often feels a world away from from the folks focused on APIs, datasets, and the latest visualisation tools. Â They say API, and I’m allÂ APA!Â One of the big to-dos I came away with was to come to next year’s event prepared for a “I am not your lawyer, BUT . . . ” session.
Still, I felt it an incredibly worthwhile expenditure of my time. Â I feel like we’re hitting the hook on the hockey stick graph, with progress shooting up as we get more people that “get it” in government* and as we simply get more quality work out of those working with the datasets. Â CivicCommons.org? Â Sweet. Â OpenPlans? Â Yes, please. Â MapBox? Â Wow.
One of the biggest things? Â I was blown away by the amount of personal time and effort put into making tools for better government. Â All sectors benefit, to some extent, from the personal contributions of people involved with them. Â But there were people who had flown from the other side of the planet, on their own dime, to participate in a conference so they could invest yet *more* personal time in something that would ultimately benefit more people than would ever be able to thank them. Â I’m not sure that’s sustainable, but damn is it encouraging.
Finally, I want to give some shouts to some local gov’t folks that showed up to this. Â Montgomery County’s Hans Reimer led a great session on day one. Â Alexandria’s Craig Fifer not only killed it with chicken, but did a great job in presenting on the myths and truths of pushing for transparency in local government. Â There were also some DC .gov folks there, but I sadly didn’t get too much of a chance to interact with them. Â And really, I regret not roping any Arlington County folks into this, but you can be sure I won’t make that same mistake twice.
*I don’t have enough experience that I could honestly defend challenges to this premise that went more than a few rounds, but . . . man, the gov’t folks I see attending this conference now? Â Exponentially more with it than the folks I encountered in my municipal broadband days (’03-05).