When Government Is Transparent, The View Ain’t Always Pretty

Last week I attended a two-day Open Government Workshop at Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy.  The workshop’s intent was to:

“… bring together academics, government, advocates and tinkerers to examine a few critical issues in open and transparent government. How can we better conceptualize openness and transparency for government? Are there specific design and architectural needs and requirements placed upon systems by openness and transparency? How can openness and transparency best be sustained? How should we change the provision and access of primary legal materials? Finally, how do we best coordinate the supply of open government projects with the demand from tinkerers?”

Many, many excellent panelists & discussions, most (all?) of which should be available via web video within a week or so, either at CITP‘s website or on Uchannel.  Although I don’t intend to slight any of the other presenters by so doing, I want to single out Silona Bonewald‘s presentation for special praise because her slideshow exhibited many of the characteristics that I myself attempt to employ on those occasions when a slideshow is considered practically obligatory.

  • black-on-white, minimalist, text-centric slides
  • Comic Sans(ish) font
  • concise/categorical/analytical approach
  • deft reference to Princeton’s local hero Bill Bradley — ‘spreading fame’ with a throwaway style

That’s right; no gaudy backgrounds, no animation, no soundtrack, and definitely no video.  Definitely the message rather than the medium.

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2 Responses to “When Government Is Transparent, The View Ain’t Always Pretty”

  1. sjponeill Says:

    Couldn’t agree more…I have seen Powerpoint-based briefings and opords that have been too bloated to squeeze across the available bandwidth: when queried, a simple text based message ‘go HERE and do THIS in order to achieve THIS’ more than sufficed…

    The best thing for (any) government (including the military who seem to have been subsumed Borg-like by PowerPoint) would be to establish and enforce a standard for presentation software that only supports 16 colours, no more than a couple of fonts, no images over 1Mb in size, and only the most simple of effects i.e. just enough to allow you to build a bulleted list on a slide.

    Could you expand a little on your Bill Bradley reference? I’m reading between the lines and thinking that you are referring to a style of acknowledging achievement without fanfare?

  2. lunghu Says:

    As shadow minister of exformation, I’ll confine myself to referring interested parties to this link.

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