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Tim O'Reilly

Mark - great post. Might be worth clarifying that "new synapses in the global brain" is how I have characterized the mission of Foo Camp. It's designed to facilitate new, unexpected, and interesting connections between people and ideas.

Richard Bronosky

It is the prevalence and reliability of anonymity that distinguishes those of us who abstain from it.

I am an open source engineer and credit my entire career to anonymity. All 6 of the jobs I've held this decade are due to employers finding me (anti-anonymity). My work would be impossible if it weren't for SSH (anonymity).

Mark Sigal

@Tim, thanks for the kind words, and of course thanks for putting together and hosting such a wonderful event. I have updated, per your suggestion.

@Richard, I think that you make a compelling argument (that I am pre-disposed to believe), and in fact am reading Little Brother right now by Cory Doctorow, which deals with a society where basic rights such as anonymity are lost. Doctorow's an entertaining writer. That said, I strongly encourage reading Transparent Society by David Brin, as it makes some provocative, reasoned arguments in favor of transparency, which is not necessarily incongruent with anonymity. Strong read. Thanks again for the note.

Stephen Buckley

Mark -- Very glad to see that you (and others) recognize that Anonymity has value, under certain conditions, even in an open society.

The most obvious, but most overlooked, example in our democracy is "Anonymous Citizen Feedback", better known as the secret ballot.

Without it, many current voters would simply not vote, for fear of unknown consequences (i.e., "Could this come back to bite me in the ass? Ummmm,yes.)

And I don't see anyone, even among transparency zealots, advocating for doing away with anonymous voting.

So, therefore, the overwhelming majority of people already accept the value of anonymity (albeit unconsciously) to protect an open society.

But there ARE other places for anonymity in our democratic system. What about the government employee who wants to point out wasteful spending? Anonymity would protect the employee from the internal blowback (e.g., being fired) caused by the public uproar.

I made that suggestion (in more detail) on the White House's "Open Govt. Dialogue" this past May:

See "Idea #2" at

P.S. This next week, O'Reilly Media will be hosting a "Gov2.0 Summit" in D.C. And I just wanted to point out that, among the invited speakers and "open-gov experts", there are almost NO representatives from the large community of "non-techie" people who have been working (some for decades) in the area of "open-government".

I don't believe this is intentional. However, I think that that blindness IS due to O'Reilly Media's preference (understandably) for strongly technological solutions.

And, as an engineer who been online for 20 years, I do understand the techie mindset.

However, as a former federal bureaucrat, I also understand that the culture that we are trying to change has social aspects that must be recognized in order to then adapt the technology for the maximum effect. (For example: My "Idea #2" for a system to provide anonymity to government whistleblowers.)

It's kind of funny/sad that the people who consider themselves "open-gov nerds" are having this "party" (as Laurel Ruma calls it) but, as always seems to be the case with parties, the (real) nerds are not invited.

Sorry to go on like that, but it had been in my head because I wanted to (and will) post about it on my blog.

In the meantime, here's a related posting on GovFresh:

Stephen Buckley

wendy tittel

No apple maven's at Foo Camp? Wipe my chin of drool right now! How can such a gathering of free-minded people's exclude (possibly unwittingly) the presence of those who choose to rid their univers' of tyrranical software wranglers!

I am outraged and in my own passive-aggressivemanner hope to be invited as the first, Mr. O'Reilly

Mark Sigal

@wendy, I certainly can't speak for tim, but knowing apple, the more likely case is that plenty of folks are invited but not attend, as apple doesn't share vision with the broader community, except when its pushing product or platform (aka, they are selling). wish that weren't the case, but that's just how they roll.

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