It's late Monday evening, so I'm focusing on what many government innovation professionals and millions of Americans alike are sweating over - Fantasy Football statistics and trash talking with colleagues on Twitter.
Tonight Matt Miszewski was the pilgrim who walked into this unholy land, he being a Packers fan, and me needing the Bears' Jay Cutler to deliver enough points to fend off my weekly match up with Mr. Govloop Steve Ressler. There's not just pride on the line, there's a trial of one's talents at promoting interests, working numbers and the system. There's what was once spectator sport that included engagement from the least of its public - me and my once pedestrian knowledge of football data - and is now a well understood, well beloved system that I now feel ownership over.
It reminds me of a recent thought-provoking post from Matt, “Building a Movement: Will #gov20 and #opengov die?" He cites some well discussed issues in Open Government and the many state, local and national innovation competitions: has Gov 2.0 been misinterpreted as mere "cool tools" that are more hype than impact? He also cites some of the hype itself that may now be looking itself in the mirror.
The question arose: what if govies and the public alike could feel the ownership and passion over government data that many do over fantasy football statistics? After all, sports ultimately are just spectator while public policy, trends and development have true impact on all of our daily lives, impacts that through Open Government Initiatives now can be influenced. They aren't just numbers, they are housing programs, diplomatic efforts, the way we travel, and how we protect our critical resources.
It comes down to context and accessibility. A government agency can release all the data it wants, but if the spirit of it is to be realized paths must be created for stakeholders to put it in context, understand it, and then eventually contextualize it within their personal needs.
A well designed Open Government dashboard will allow users to track policy initiatives, understand the numbers and factors that influence them. It would cultivate the passion from users that already exists about the issues that affect them, cognizant that to tap into the crowd's consciousness it must meet them where they are and not just dump scanned pages like Congressional legislation released on the sly late one Friday night.
I would go so far as to say that Open Government should inspire and inform policy red zone celebrations as well as some trash talk. This will in turn inspire, cultivate and inevitably strengthen policy initiatives, it will embed urgency into Challenge.gov, and perspective into Data.gov.
I bounced these ideas off my friend John, a great guy though a Cowboys fan, and he said, "If you're going to talk about football stats you better have your facts straight, because that's what America cares about - the numbers."
Gov 2.0 and Open Gov aren't going die, because we will find new ways to take data that extra yard and translate it into initiatives that let users get their facts straight, and consequently feel pride of ownership, confidence in something they can meaningfully participate in. Despite the Bears winning tonight, I fell to Mr. Govloop in my match up by a mere point because of the data. But obstacles are part of the innovative process, and because I can work the numbers I will regroup my interests and bring the pain to Technosailor next week.
When govies and the public feel this way about Open Government data, we will have created something great.