Notes from #ActivateNYC12

I am spending the day at the Guardian Activate Summit

Here are a few observations/thoughts from the morning sessions:

Publicness. There are lots of different to describe the idea of being open and connected.  Jeff Jarvis uses the word publicness, by which he means you operate in public, for the public, and with the public.  Jarvis suggested that the internet is our greatest tool for encouraging and advancing publicness, but cautioned that both publicness and the internet require a lot of experimentation.   He argued that we, as a society, are experiencing a lot of change – most believe that change is happening at a very rapid pace, but Jarvis argues the opposite, believing the actual change is happening very slowly. “We are at the very beginning,’ he said, and “we still have a lot of work to do to figure it out.’

Attitude isn’t enough.  When Jeff Jarvis interviewed Reid Hoffman, the co-founder and executive chairman of LinkedIn, a clear theme emerged: Openness is not just an attitude, but a reflection of your relationship to the world. Hoffman noted there are still verticals (and thus, inevitably some information won’t be shared, some people won’t interact) but they exist on top of platforms.  So the key to openness and sharing, and thus collaboration and progress, is to make the platforms more open.  As the platforms open, the different verticals have more opportunity to exchange ideas and interact with different people and ideas.  In the end, Hoffman suggested, the goal of organizations/institutions the opportunity is to make the information we need to lead our lives easier to find, easier to make sense of, and easier to work with.

Responsibility to provide. G. Edward DeSeve, the president of the Global Public Leadership Institute and a former special advisor to President Obama, gave a brief talk about how government could become more open, and the role that tools and data play in supporting that transformation.  His message: data and tools don’t solve problems on their own, but the availability of data and more tools ultimately can be used to help government do a better job serving its constituents. I raised my hand and asked whether we were likely to see the social norms and behaviors that people in government bring to these conversations update, or how to accelerate that change in thinking.  DeSeve acknowledged that the people within government are not thinking openly enough, and that change will be difficult and slow to realize.  Then he told a story about the CIA and how that they now operate under a mindset of ‘responsibility to provide’ – the idea that intelligence and data should be open and shared, as much as possible, unless there is a legal or security reason for keeping it closed.  Interesting.

NOTE: The CIA has a long, detailed overview of how information sharing with Congress has evolved over time but the timeline stops in the 1990s, so I’ll have to do some more digging before I can make sense of this concept.

More later.