#TCamp12, my journey into #open-land

Highlights from my weekend at Transparency Camp, a 2-day un-conference hosted by the Sunlight Foundation and attended by more than 400 #opendata and #opengov enthusiasts.

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  1. Lessons from Sunlight Foundation's Transparency Camp, 2012:

    1. These are cool kids. They are smart, awesome people who wear their love of data with pride - they even made pins! They're activists - opening local government (in Matthew Cardinale's case, by winning an appeal in the Georgia Supreme Court and making all votes public), creating "scrapers" - code that makes data usable and useful, storytellers - making data tell compelling and beautiful stories, and engaging in conversations with like-minded people so all can benefit from their shared experience.

  2. 2. Un-conferences are good for participation. This was my first experience at an un-conference and one of the coolest things was The Wall. Before camp, there was an open document where anyone could suggest a session, and anyone could up- or down-vote it. The most popular sessions were held in the morning after speakers. For the afternoon sessions, we got to fill the wall ourselves - sessions were initiated and led by attendees. Tweets (and Camp staff) brought together campers with shared interests.

    Once the wall was full, the schedule was online and each session's page included a real-time group notes section - great for taking down points or sharing contact information... though heavy usage of #tcamp12 on Twitter made it easy to see tweets from others in your session. Like this:
  3. Another un-conference staple: the "Rule of two feet." AKA, the "It's OK (even encouraged) to skip in and out of sessions that are most relevant to you", rule.

    With the notes streaming online, and people tweeting about the sessions, it was easy to jump from a session that you thought would be useful, but ended up on a different topic (that's ok too!) to one down the hall (with fab stories of parliamentary monitoring successes), with no guilt! Woo-hoo!

    On day 2, I tried to channel my inner programmer by wearing this HTML code ONE shirt. </poverty> = end poverty, cool huh? (below)
  4. 3. #open is a party, and everyone's invited. The #opengov and #opendata movements, concerned with increased government and data transparency, are bigger than I ever imagined. There are citizens, coders, and yes, even federal employees. That may be an understatement in the case of Todd Park, Federal Chief Technology Officer (below). Sunlight did well to schedule his speech for first thing Sunday morning. Mr. Park is an incredibly enthusiastic champion for opening health data at the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and is hosting HHS's third annual Datapalooza to bring developers together to create applications using health data that track and improve health services.
  5. 4. Citizen power is awesome. In addition to Mr. Park and government employees from DC and others, there were representatives from parliamentary monitoring organizations in 10 countries. Some track voting information, others budgets. In Latvia, manabalss.lv is helping citizens write laws. Once they meet popular support requirements, they are run past lawyers to ensure they meet basic requirements, then parliament has to put them to a vote. This video explains how it works (don't forget to click the closed-captioned button, unless of course you speak Latvian). Daniela Silva attended Transparency Camp in 2009, went back to her native Brazil and started Transparencia Hacker, a group more than 900 people strong that works to turn public data into useable applications. When they bought a bus (photo below) and converted it into a mobile classroom to teach citizens how to add information to open-source map applications, they tapped an unexpected demographic. Kids popped up wherever the bus went, so Daniela and her friends are tailoring activities for them, from Internet 101 to mapping digital photos taken around Brazil. These are just a few examples of the many amazing groups that attended Transparency Camp. Some focused on their county, or their city. I, along with new friends from AidData, the World Bank, PLAN, Transparency International and others, made up the international development contingent.
  6. 5. We need to bring people together for an #openworld. What's missing is a way for the #opengov, #opendata and #opendev (Open Development) groups to share stores to accelerate progress. I think we need a buddy program to connect organizations and developers working in advocacy and technology in countries around the world. What works in Argentina may not work in Mexico, but it may work in Togo! Want to contact your Congressman? There's an app for that! And that app can be useful in other countries, too.
  7. Thank you to the Sunlight Foundation for a great weekend. I met some amazing people and heard about some really cool ways that citizens, NGOs and governments are pushing the envelope to improve transparency and accountability in their cities, counties and countries around the world. It was inspiring and encouraging to meet all of them, and I can't wait for #TCamp13!
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