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O'Reilly Giving Away Open Government As Aaron Swartz Tribute 87

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
jones_supa writes "The classic hacker book publisher O'Reilly is releasing their book Open Government for free as a tribute for Aaron Swartz. The book asks the question, in a world where web services can make real-time data accessible to anyone, how can the government leverage this openness to improve its operations and increase citizen participation and awareness? Through a collection of essays and case studies, leading visionaries and practitioners both inside and outside of government share their ideas on how to achieve and direct this emerging world of online collaboration, transparency, and participation. The files are posted on the O'Reilly Media GitHub account as PDF, Mobi, and EPUB files."
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O'Reilly Giving Away Open Government As Aaron Swartz Tribute

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  • The US, at least, is ran by a partisan duopoly. This could change if we moved to a pluralistic voting system! Anything else is just a secondary issue.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      In those pluralistic systems you still end up usuaully with duopoly coalitions. So in the end you still get the same thing.

    • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Monday January 21, 2013 @02:14PM (#42649061) Homepage

      The US already has a plurality voting system [wikipedia.org]. I suspect you meant "proportional representation [wikipedia.org]" in which case the US would be run by 4chan [wikipedia.org]. It's far easier to get a bunch of pranksters to vote in support of something silly than it is to get a bunch of serious activists to agree on the right solution to complex problems.

      For example, banning fracking would protect our water supply, but doom our energy supply. Fixing energy by supporting renewable power sources threatens jobs in fossil fuel extraction and transport. Protecting employment requires supporting expansion opportunities. Fracking is an expansion opportunity.

      Everything is more complex than everyone thinks. Changing voting systems will not settle more disputes. It will just transfer the disputes from discussion into law, so problems are even harder to fix and people will (rightfully) have even less faith in the government.

      • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Monday January 21, 2013 @02:38PM (#42649309)

        Everything is more complex than everyone thinks.

        No it's not. The fact that they have you tricked into believing that is proof as to how well the Duopoly is at keeping it's power. There are a LOT of problems, the majority in fact, that the country has no partisan disagreement about. But the political parties are not interested in those problems. They are only interested in problems that they can disagree on, and win political points on. Gun control, Abortion, Climate change, fracking. All this stuff is just to distract you from what they're not doing and focus you in on their arguments.

        Kids are starving in this country. I know it's hard to believe, but children go hungry every night. Is there political disagreement on that? Are we going to have a political argument on sunday morning between a Democrat and Republican on weather a 5yr old should have FOOD? No? Then why the hell are kids still starving? We have troops in every country on earth practically. Would there be any disagreement on withdrawing troops from, lets say, Germany? I know the Keiser could rise from the dead any minuite... but how about we shut down just 2 or 3 bases and use that money to feed kids that are starving. Or for cancer research... or AIDs... or maybe, just maybe, we could just NOT speand the money so the country isn't bankrupt for the kids that don't manage to starve to death before their 20th birthday...

        Yes, this country has some intractible, impossible to solve problems... fortunately it has far far more problems that are easy. Lets start focusing on easy to solve, high impact problems. And stop focusing on shit that gets the current office holders re-elected.

        • by HuguesT (84078) on Monday January 21, 2013 @03:26PM (#42649895)

          In this country, many people go without health insurance, because premiums are too high. As a result, people get sick every day but don't go and see their doctor because they can't afford it. The US has the best quality health care in the world! why can't sick people get affordable treatment?

          This should really be an easy, high impact problem to solve, right?

          • The last thing this country gives a fuck about is its own citizens' health. Time and time again, it's been proven that there are much, much more important things to worry about... like putting people in jail for every reason imaginable, and increasing its own power over its citizens through elimination of our freedoms and rights.

          • by TapeCutter (624760) on Monday January 21, 2013 @05:45PM (#42651221) Journal

            The US has the best quality health care in the world!

            That should be "had", you lost the #1 spot about 40yrs ago, although your still among the leaders in medical research.

            This should really be an easy, high impact problem to solve, right?

            Yep, many other countries manage to provide better care with a lot less money and have been doing so for decades.The irrational fear of the word "socialism" is the root cause of the problem in the US, it creates a blind spot that prevents Americans from even contemplating the measurably superior systems that exist in very similar nations such as Australia.

            • by Rich0 (548339)

              The US has the best quality health care in the world!

              That should be "had", you lost the #1 spot about 40yrs ago, although your still among the leaders in medical research.

              It really depends on what you measure. For the average person you're absolutely right. For somebody with the money to pay for healthcare and good sense in using the current system the US is as good as any place else on the planet, and sometimes better.

              Some observations as somebody who has had a fair bit of exposure to the US healthcare system (I care for somebody with some serious chronic and from time-to-time acute conditions):

              1. There is not universal health insurance. That means that for the average

              • by Rich0 (548339)

                Just one other point that might help to clarify things.

                If you need a bypass operation, then in a US hospital you'll probably get a bypass operation that is as good as one you'll get anywhere - certainly above average. If you need really exotic surgery chances are you'll actually do better in the US than just about anywhere else.

                On the other hand, if you need to be able to pay for a bypass operation, or you aren't sure if you need one or not, you'll probably get better advice/costs/insurance just about anyw

          • by t4ng* (1092951)

            The US has the best quality health care in the world!

            Sorry to nitpick since I agree with the rest of what you wrote, but this is not true by a number of measurements. The most recent survey of health care by the World Health Organization placed the US somewhere around #32 in the world. That's below all those socialized health care systems in the world that lobbyists for hospitals and insurances companies keep trying to convince Americans are hell-holes where you go to die in a waiting room!

          • by bondsbw (888959)

            Many people in this country go the ER regularly for a cough, and never have to pay. But I went to the ER twice in 3 days for a life-threatening condition, and was told nothing was wrong (take a pill) and forced to pay more than I could afford. Our healthcare system is backwards in so many ways.

            My wife can't get pregnant. The reason is unknown. Our only option will likely be a $20,000 procedure that our employer's plan won't help with (because infertility isn't covered). Individual plans offered in my s

            • The solution is to eliminate the tax benefit for corporations to provide health care for their employees.

              Really. Why the fuck should the HR asshole at my company decide which health plan I am allowed to buy?

              Eliminate 'subsidized' employer-based health plans and just pay people more and let them choose their own.

              • by rally2xs (1093023)

                "Just pay people more..." Oh, hahahahahahahahahahaha! They take away a benefit, you ain't gonna see jack, the company will give it to the execs and the stockholders.

                • You're nuts. The healthcare subsidy/tax deal is a huge amount of money. It won't just disappear under a rug in the executive suite. The change in employee budgets would insure that couldn't happen. People will absolutely need the extra money to buy their healthcare. It would equivalent to an across-the-board pay cut for every employee everywhere, so just plain couldn't be gotten away with.

                  Also, the idea is no more frivolous than the notion, hehe, that you're gonna get good health care by the gubmint ra

        • When you equate starvation with hunger, you eliminate all credibility for any of your statements. Stop saying stupid things if you want to persuade.
        • by Sarten-X (1102295)

          A perfect example of my point.

          Gun control, abortion, climate change, fracking, hunger, and troops in Germany are all important issues to somebody. The issues rarely center around "is this a problem?" but rather "what's the best way to fix it?" and that's what nobody can ever agree on.

          Sure, a five-year-old should have food, but who's going to pay for its production and transportation? Should the government pay, or should we let private charities stretch their budgets just a bit further? If it's on the govern

          • You just spent half an hour typing up a list of what we can't do. Now spend 5min typing up what we CAN do and you'll have your boat pointed in the right direction. I don't even think you believe half the shit you just wrote, you just wrote it to disagree with me. THAT's the problem. STOP IT. Find points in my argument you agree with and lets move forward. Politics does not have to be adversarial. Stop trying to force it into being so.

            • by Sarten-X (1102295)

              I agree that the five-year-old child needs food, and will need a job eventually. Let's set your tax rate at 100%, and in 13 years force you into retirement. We can do that.

              I also agree that we shouldn't have active military bases in Germany. Since you'll be out of a job in a decade or so, we'll go ahead and make plans to drop you in Europe as the sole military presence. We'll even give you an old WWII hand grenade. When the protesters in Greece or Spain decide to launch a bloody coup, you will be the one to

      • by Hatta (162192)

        I suspect you meant "proportional representation" in which case the US would be run by 4chan. It's far easier to get a bunch of pranksters to vote in support of something silly than it is to get a bunch of serious activists to agree on the right solution to complex problems.

        Bullshit. Proportional representation systems are in place around the world, and generally work better than ours does. The problem with the US is not that there are too many silly alternatives. It's that there are not enough serious a

        • by babybird (791025)

          Bullshit. Proportionatation systems are in place around the world, and generally work better than ours does. The problem with the US is not that there are too many silly alternatives. It's that there are not enough serious alternatives. Arguably, there are not any real alternatives at all. Proportional representation would fix that.

          There are a lot of things in place around the world that generally work better than what we have, but bringing those things here by themselves would probably not make a significant difference. It would likely just shift around the pieces on the board for a while. Our problems seem to be more to do with our national culture than any particular system. Americans today are so tolerant of ignorance and corruption that we often fail to recognize them as such, or worse, even admire them and put them on a pedestal

      • by Jawnn (445279)

        For example, banning fracking would protect our water supply, but doom our energy supply.

        [citation needed]

      • by ThorGod (456163)

        I mean a system where voters rank all of the candidates according to their preferences. There are different ways to implement such a system, but they are all premised on individual voters having more than one vote to cast. An example would be an election with 10 candidates, and every voter has 10 votes to cast. A voter may assign all 10 of his/her votes to a single candidate. Or, that same voter could assign 6 to his/her most preferred candidate, and 4 to his/her second preferred candidate. Such a system al

      • by TapeCutter (624760) on Monday January 21, 2013 @06:30PM (#42651643) Journal

        banning fracking would protect our water supply, but doom our energy supply

        Doom is a strong word, "dent" is more descriptive of the reality. The problem with fracking in the US is that the frackers are not bound by law to tell anyone what chemicals they are pumping into the groundwater. They get a free pass on oversight because the formulas for the liquids are classed as trade secrets. Is it too much to ask for some evidence that fracking has more benefits than costs to society? - Are you personally willing to drink the stuff they are pumping?

        Protecting employment requires supporting expansion opportunities. Fracking is an expansion opportunity.

        Blind faith in corporations is just as dangerous as blind faith in government. If the job on offer is an overall detriment to society why would you want to support it's creation? How about creating a few jobs to oversee what these people are pumping into the groundwater?

        Everything is more complex than everyone thinks.

        No, the rule here is so simple even a CEO can understand it - don't shit in MY drinking water. However it's impossible to apply that simple rule to fracking because the relevant information is legally withheld from society.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    how can the government leverage this openness to improve its operations and increase citizen participation and awareness?

    Why would they want to. all government's are a racket run for the benefit of those inside police politician's etc.

    (roman_mir, banned again)

    • The benefit is more social than economic for the politicians themselves usually, since they're mostly rich before they got into office. We, the people, control that social reward. We can withhold our attention from them when they are greedy, selfish, short-sighted, patronizing, hypocritical...

    • You really missed the boat. Whenever an artle headline asks a question, the answer can be given in a single word.

      The book asks the question, in a world where web services can make real-time data accessible to anyone, how can the government leverage this openness to improve its operations and increase citizen participation and awareness?

      No.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...is that no government really wants "openness." Governments are generally a macro-version of the MAFIAA, or software publishers, where we get to see what's on the surface and intended for our consumption. Who would want exposed all the lobbying efforts and back-scratching that goes into most fatally flawed pieces of legilsation?

  • by demon driver (1046738) on Monday January 21, 2013 @01:56PM (#42648861) Journal

    Whatever might have been not to like about Aaron Swartz as a person, fact is that he's a victim of excessive persecution. A persecution resulting from a jurisdiction that is slave to the economy, an economy this time impersonated by the content industry. Nice and noble gesture of O'Reilly.

    • by bitt3n (941736)

      Whatever might have been not to like about Aaron Swartz as a person, fact is that he's a victim of excessive persecution

      I dream one day we'll live in a country where each citizen is subjected to exactly the right amount of persecution.

  • I’ve read many eloquent eulogies from people who knew Aaron Swartz better than I did, but he was also a Foo and contributor to Open Government.
    Have a missed something, here?
  • Is this going to be more muddling of a complex issue where people contend that swartz was "stealing what the taxpayers had already paid for" because some percentage of the research of JSTOR was funded with grants? are we really going to let people in this thread make that extreme oversimplification of the issue yet again here?

    • by Sheetrock (152993)
      Could muddle it in a different direction and wonder why taxes are being spent on something people have to pay for.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 21, 2013 @02:08PM (#42648999)

    I can't wait for our government to reverse itself once Obama replaces Bush. We'll stop having FOIA requests denied, we'll close Gitmo, we'll stop sending troops overseas, and the abomination of "extrajudicial killings" of US citizens will finally end.

    • by alexgieg (948359) <alexgieg@gmail.com> on Monday January 21, 2013 @03:12PM (#42649707) Homepage

      the abomination of "extrajudicial killings" of US citizens will finally end.

      As a non-US citizen that never went to the US, I'd like to propose something even more radical: ending the abomination of "extrajudicial killings" of non-US citizens too. It'd come a long way towards making most non-US citizens out there start ignoring, or even liking, the US again.

      • by ffflala (793437)

        As a non-US citizen that never went to the US, I'd like to propose something even more radical: ending the abomination of "extrajudicial killings" of non-US citizens too. It'd come a long way towards making most non-US citizens out there start ignoring, or even liking, the US again.

        Something tells me that you probably wouldn't like the "intrajudicial" killing of non-US citizens all that much, either...

  • “But we have to pass the [health care] bill so that you can find out what's in it....” - Nancy Pelosi

  • by jfengel (409917) on Monday January 21, 2013 @02:58PM (#42649559) Homepage Journal

    If O'Reilly really wanted to honor Swartz' memory, shouldn't they release all of their books for free? Isn't that closer to what he was after?

    Releasing just one book, in his name, while still planning to charge everybody for everything else in their catalog, sounds more like a publicity stunt.

    • by HuguesT (84078)

      Frankly the O'Reilly books are a bit passé these days. Look at the state of their C++ or Python books, either totally out of date or a joke. Exhibit A: the 60-page book [oreilly.com] on Scipy and Numpy, arguably the most important recent topic on Python, the one that makes it a real, pedal-to-the-metal competitor to Matlab.

    • by stephanruby (542433) on Monday January 21, 2013 @04:31PM (#42650583)

      If O'Reilly really wanted to honor Swartz' memory, shouldn't they release all of their books for free? Isn't that closer to what he was after?

      That depends.

      Are most O'Reilly books publicly funded project, funded, bought, and paid for by our government dollars, designed to be disseminated to to the public at large?

      Releasing just one book, in his name, while still planning to charge everybody for everything else in their catalog, sounds more like a publicity stunt.

      Granted this is a self-serving publicity stunt, but considering that you didn't know what the kid had hacked into, then at least, this "stunt" will probably educate some of the public, at least one can hope.

  • This is the Information Age. More Information means More Power. Openness equates to giving the public more power. Governments will be as secretive and/or obfuscatory as possible. Just look at the legal system. You shouldn't have to study all laws and every legal finding (case law) just to effectively represent yourself in court. By making the information system overly complex, even to a point where each court has different procedures for evidence submittal, more power is removed from the common perso

    • Interesting. But what we most need is NOT a better government. What we need is less government and eventually no government at all.

  • With the state of the US today, increased paricipation and awareness will be used to increase the amount of goodies grifted from Uncle Sugar. The individual should be founded in solid principles before being invited to mess in the affairs of others.
  • I have great respect for Aaron's accomplishments and the depth of thought he brought to most problems, but his contribution to Open Government isn't his best work. In particular, its nearly-complete dismissal of transparency as a meaningful intervention suffers from a failure to consider likely counterfactuals. Transparency's impact is probably greatest through deterrence. It shifts equilibria. Aaron's view of it -- at least the one expressed in this chapter -- was ploddingly instrumentalist. Virtually any

"Irrationality is the square root of all evil" -- Douglas Hofstadter

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