Lucas Cioffi

The conversation about this diagram has been spread out across several Google Groups. One of the main responses is posted here for those that are not in the Google Group:


Hi Alex,

Thanks for the critique– it was helpful in revising the attached diagrams. Specific responses to your points are below.


On Wed, Jan 11, 2012 at 7:37 PM, Alexander Howard wrote:

Lucas et al –

I hope you had your tongue firmly planted in your check with respect to an “audit” sounding fun!

1) The 3 column format you’ve chosen here is oddly limiting. Many of the organizations you reference span two or all of the listings, like CityCamp or Code for America. As a side note, this is entirely US-centric; might make sense to note that for Govloop’s other members.

That’s fixed in the diagram now; thanks for the suggestion.

Also, do O’Reilly Media and Govfresh not rate at all in your sub-community?

This question misunderstands what I was trying to do, and perhaps that’s my fault in not clarifying the purpose. 1) I’m not trying to be a gate keeper and saying what is in or what is out of the open gov community; the diagram is open to everyone’s feedback; it’s still in draft form. 2) I don’t understand what you mean by “your sub-community”; the diagram lists organizations within the open gov community that are building their own communities.

2) When I look at that Venn diagram, it shows that open data isn’t “participatory?” That might be news to a lot of developers I’ve talked to over the years. And it’s certainly a bit of a kick in the teeth to anyone who’s put up an open data platform with hopes that civic developers will use the data.

I agree with you that much of the activity around open data is collaborative. However, if developers would describe open data activities as participatory, they have a different definition of participatory than the participation community. I’m not stating this as an insult to anyone; I am pointing out that different communities of practice have different definitions of the same word.

From my experience, people in the open data community do not call themselves the participation community. To my knowledge, there are two groups of people who have been calling themselves the participation community for over a decade (and perhaps much longer): the 1600-member National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD) and the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2).

Again, from my perspective and experience, folks who would describe themselves as part of the participation community are focused on improving government policy and decision-making. I understand your point below that there has been much discussion about definitions already, but if the open data folks do not know that there is also a vibrant participation community, then there is no chance of collaboration between the two.

I’ll accept some of the blame for this, because my role as a board member of the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation is to help bring the participation community into the broader open gov community. The participation community, ironically, is largely disengaged from open gov and there is a tremendous latent energy waiting to be tapped. I’m optimistic about this, however.

Here’s the excerpt about participation from the original White House memo on open gov, and you can probably understand how the participation community identified with these words differently than the open data community:
Government should be participatory. Public engagement enhances the Government’s effectiveness and improves the quality of its decisions. Knowledge is widely dispersed in society, and public officials benefit from having access to that dispersed knowledge. Executive departments and agencies should offer Americans increased opportunities to participate in policymaking and to provide their Government with the benefits of their collective expertise and information. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public input on how we can increase and improve opportunities for public participation in Government.”

3) What’s the point of doing this now?

I think you’ll agree with me that 1) helping the open gov community grow is a good thing and 2) creating a diagram which shows Americans how to get involved in the active sub-communities within the broader open gov community will help the broader community grow. That’s the purpose of the attached diagram.

At this point, these relationships have been explored. Maybe even ad nauseum.

If exploring this is important to you, I highly recommend Pia Waugh’s post, which explores some of the relationships between the concepts:

I will say, however, that after I wrote this:

…the overwhelming feedback I’ve heard is not to avoid any more time defining what this is or how it relates but to focus on what people are doing, measuring what impact it’s having and why it matters.

Thanks for sending the articles; they were highly informative. I think our community also needs a way to reach newcomers in a simple way. Hopefully these diagrams help a bit; I’ve posted them on the OpenGov Playbook wiki for that purpose.

It would be tremendous if someone with some technical skills could turn the community diagram into an interactive widget. This way newcomers could quickly learn which sub-communities are relevant to them and click on links to take them directly there. Community infrastructure such as this could be a win-win.