Open government is the super buzz word these days and it means so many different things. On one hand we want to know what is really going on down there in area 57 and on the other no one cares about the email reminding that the frig needs cleaning on the 13th floor. So how do we get a grip on what the public wants?
Certain things are going to need to be classified do to process, for example when we are litigating a case or doing an investigation information made publicly available about the specifics may cause a criminal to walk free and that is not in the public’s interest. So what about all this other stuff like the thousands of emails in my archive or the presentation sides from the last event. Does anyone even want this stuff? Well they might, problem is if you don’t know what is there how would you know to ask and see it? There is also just a bunch of junk like, “subject: You in your office?” and that sort of thing.
Right now we don’t have a good way to classify email in relation to the state retention policy they fall into. Therefore, we just save everything and that also is not really what the public wants. I know, be honest, you want all the juicy stuff without the fodder.
How can we provide what the public wants without creating a digital mountain of crap? No we can’t employ teams of reviewers to sort all the messages and technology can’t figure it out either because the policy requires a great deal of human interpretation. It is going to take an effort on a personal level.
We will continue to save everything on the back end so don’t worry about what I am suggesting next, you can always file an official request. What if there were three buckets, Confidential, Public, and Trash? Pretty much anything that has a retention policy of 30 days or less is likely Junk and the rest goes to the other buckets.
How do we make it public? My position is that if it’s a public record then it should be available in the public space not upon request only. I have made some headway in making this a reality in our Public Records Project but what if I told you I wanted to extend this to all records public? GASP!!!!!!
Yes I do intend to completely do away with the need for inspection of public records (aka Sunshine) laws. Sure you can keep the law but if all public records are public what is the point?
The big question is relevance and how the public wants to consume the information. I think that this is impossible to guess at and changes all the time so a static file list is not going to cut it. I say let the public decide. As we make more data available it might become useful in a certain App and to be ready for this our Direct Data Access allows anyone to build out using the our data.