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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

You Say You Want a Revolution ...Well, You Know ...

It's happening now, right before our eyes! Thanks to my friend LaShawn Barber, who pointed out to me earlier today this story in USA Today and reminded me of something I wrote back in November 2004 in my first post on Tapscott's Copy Desk:

"Bloggers forcing more media transparency today can force more transparency in government tomorrow, from the most obscure bureaucracy to the White House. It will be tougher to bring about in government because the light of accountability is anathema to so many bureaucrats and office-holders. But happen it will."

Thus reminded, I went back and reread the whole post, including the concluding graph that asked:

"How long before vast networks of Internet-savvy citizen analysts apply the same immense fact-checking power to pork-laden government programs as the emerging Blogosphere is now doing with Big Media? Then the Freedom of Information Act will have real muscle."

If that sounds like a prophecy of Porkbusters.org, no, I am not laying claim to being the Nostradamus of the Blogosphere. Believe me, other, smarter people were predicting the same and more long before me (I'm thinking, for example, of people like Glenn Reynolds and Jay Rosen and Dan Gillmor here).

But I do think it is important that we be continually assessing where we are and where we should be going. So being the obnoxious -journalist-pain-in-the-neck that I am, here's my two-cens worth on that subject. I was reminded of this idea this morning by that same Nov 04 post, which noted:

"A logical starting place is the federal government's Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS), which contains millions of internal reports on the performance of thousands of government contractors."

I can hear the squawks and protests from the bureaucrats and Hill types now but it seems to me that if any government report ought to be public, it would be those assessing the past performance of government contractors who are now seeking new contracts.

The Inspector-General reports in most federal departments and agencies are generally made public, GAO audit reports are made public, so why not make contractors performance assessments public?

I know there are hundreds of ways we haven't yet thought of to apply the principle of transparency produces accountability to government operations at all levels, but, if we believe in the wisdom of crowds, it shouldn't be too difficult to get the discussion going about what comes next after Porkbusters.org.

Like the song said: "You say you got a real solution ... Well, we'd all like to see the plan."

Anybody got a plan?