In de (goede en nuttige!) sessie van de VNG over de WOO op Overheid360 eerder deze maand, werden de aanwezigen meerdere vragen gesteld. De laatste, wanneer je denkt dat de implementatie van de WOO afgerond zal zijn, leverde bovenstaande foto op.

Ik kan er nog steeds niet helemaal over uit. Het probleem van de WOO is overduidelijk dat het daarin genoemde ‘op orde krijgen van de informatiehuishouding’ tot meer werk leidt dan een overheidsorganisatie zegt aan te kunnen en budget voor te hebben (of bereid is prioriteit aan te geven).

Iedereen in de zaal zei, volgens deze foto, niet aan de wet te gaan of kunnen voldoen. Niemand zei over 5 jaren de boel op orde te hebben, de termijn die in de wet genoemd is. Twee van de 34 (6%) dachten het over 8 jaar voor elkaar te hebben, en die werden als enorme optimisten betiteld. De anderen dachten dat het tot 2030 (56%) zou duren, of nooit afkomt (38%).

De WOO krijgt het verwijt extra werk te veroorzaken. Je informatiehuishouding op orde hebben, wie eist dat nou, zo lijkt de gedachte. De WOO in huidige vorm is echter al een compromis. De eerste versie werd als onhaalbaar afgedaan, en in de nieuwe versie geeft de wetgever overheidsinstellingen vijf jaar de tijd, en de verplichting te laten zien dat je ook je best doet om in die vijf jaar een inhaalslag te maken. De 2e WOO is al een herkansing. En niet eens een tweede kans, maar de derde.

Veertig jaar geleden, 1980, werd de WOB van kracht, die openbaarheid regelt. Sinds die tijd is er vrijwel niets gedaan om openbaarheid als grondbeginsel in de informatiehuishouding op te nemen. Nog altijd wordt een WOB verzoek als lastig ervaren, want dan moet je zo zoeken waar je je spullen hebt. Omdat je je informatiehuishouding nooit hebt aangepast om openbaarheidsverzoeken snel te kunnen afhandelen. In Noorwegen krijg je per kerende post je gevraagde informatie, maar hier is een WOB verzoek (en elk verzoek om documenten, in welke vorm dan ook, is een WOB verzoek, ook dat besef is er na 40 jaren nog altijd niet) altijd extra werk, naast je gewone taken. Alsof openbaarmaking niet een wettelijke taak is. Dat heeft altijd al tot gekrakeel geleid, en de wetgever heeft de overheidsinstellingen voor die krampscheuten uitsluitend beloond (zoals het verwijderen van dwangmiddelen, anders dan de rechtsgang).

Nu verplichte actieve openbaarmaking dichterbij komt wordt nog veel zichtbaarder dat de informatiehuishouding daar niet op ingericht is. Dat was deze namelijk voor de passieve openbaarmaking van de WOB al niet. Enige tijd geleden kwam ik nog een hoofd bedrijfsinformatie bij een overheidsinstelling tegen die me vroeg “dus jij zegt dat openbaarheid wettelijk is omschreven?”. Ja dat zei ik. En wel al veel langer dan iedereen in die sessie waar ik bovenstaande foto maakte bij de overheid werkt.

Er zijn diverse zaken die al lang verplicht zijn om actief openbaar te maken (denk aan besluiten, vergunningen etc.), en dat lukt. Er is dus niet echt reden aan te nemen dat het voor een lijst van anderen zaken, zoals de WOO opnoemt, in vijf jaren niet ook zou kunnen.

Uit de slide bovenaan blijkt dat men al heeft opgegeven voordat de WOO er nog maar is.
Het is kennelijk een erg radicaal idee om een algemene openbaarheids- en data/informatie-strategie op te stellen die ook belooft de implementatie van de WOO netjes op tijd af te ronden. Een aanpak waarbij je actieve openbaarmaking als kans ziet. Als een instrument waarmee je het gedrag van allerlei externe betrokkenen kunt beïnvloeden. Zoals je nu financiering (subsidies) en regelgeving inzet om gedrag te beïnvloeden, is openbaarmaking een derde beleidsinstrument. En wel de goedkoopste van de drie.

Mij doet het allemaal denken aan het onderstaande plaatje dat in al mijn vroegere kennismanagement- en veranderprojecten wel van toepassing was. “We hebben geen tijd voor fundamentele aanpassingen, want we zijn al zo druk met ons normale werk en brandjes blussen”.

Too Busy To Improve - Performance Management - Square Wheels
Alan O’Rourke, license CC-BY

Do y’all understand how easy it is to make a fake tweet from a screenshot? Like by inspecting the browser and changing the text? …. I don’t trust posts I can’t search up on archives. And if you do have a link, archive it (not in an image but using an reputable archiving service).

Jacky Alciné’s words are true, so I thought I’d illustrate.

The general principle here is: if you make a statement about someone or something other than yourself or your personal opinions, you need to back it up with a link to supporting material. “X said on Twitter” needs to be linked to that tweet. Leaving googling for your source as an exercise to your readers isn’t just merely convenient to you, it is actively destructive of the web. The web is links, and they’re a key piece of information for your readers to judge if what you tweeted/said/blogged might be signal or noise. No links means it’s likely noise and it will degrade your standing as a source of signals. No links is aiding and abetting the bots, trolls and fakesters, as it allows them to hide in more noise.

Adding a screen-shot as Jacky Alciné says is not enough ‘proof’, as they can easily be altered directly in your browser. An example:

Yesterday I posted my first Tweet from my recent brain implant. It was awesome! So awesome in fact, I made a screenshot of it to preserve the moment for posterity.

In reality I posted from Indigenous (see there’s a link there!), a mobile app that provides my phone with IndieWeb reading and publishing capabilities, which I syndicated to my Twitter account (see there’s another link!). Also awesome, but much less awesome than blogging from a brain implant.

The difference between those two screenshots, getting from true to fake, is that I altered the text of the Twitter website in my browser. Every browser allows you to see a website you visit in ‘developer’ mode. It is helpful to e.g. play around with colors, to see what might work better for your site. But you can also use it to alter content. It’s all the same to your browser. See this screenshot, where I am in the process of changing ‘Indigenous’ into ‘brain implant’

But, you say, tweets might have been deleted and grabbing a screenshot is a good way of making sure I still have some proof if a tweet does get deleted. That’s true, tweets and other content do get deleted. Like self-congratulatory tweets/VK/FB messages about the downing of MH17 by separatist supporting accounts, before it became clear a regular line flight was shot out of the air, and those accounts were quickly scrubbed (See Bellingcat‘s overview). Having a screenshot is useful, but isn’t enough. If only for the reason that the originator may simply say you faked it, as it can so easily be done in a browser (see above). You still need to provide a link.

Using the Web Archive, or another archiving site, is your solution. The Web Archive has preserving as much of the web and other online content as possible as its mission. It is a trustable source. They save web pages on their own initiative, but you can submit any URL for preservation yourself and it will immediately be saved to the archive. Each archived page has its own URL as well, so you can always reference it. (Many links in Wikipedia point to the archived version of a page from the point in time it was referenced in Wikipedia for this reason).

I submitted my tweet from yesterday to the Web Archive, where it now has a web address that neither I, nor Twitter can change. This makes it acceptable proof of what I did in fact send out as a tweet yesterday.

This week, like last week, I spent two full days working with the Library Services Fryslan’s Frysklab team. We sat down to in full detail document our work and thinking on the ‘Impact Through Connection’ projects. At the start of 2017 we did a first pilot, of which the design was based on my networked agency framework. Since then several instances of the project have been delivered, and the team noticed a pressure to oversimplify it into something focused solely on the act of digital making. It’s a type of greedy reductionism, to have something novel fit into the existing, and judge it not by impact but by needed effort to deliver the project. This often means it needs to be reduced to a point where it no longer requires change of those doing the projects, and the cheapest form in which it is believed the same results can be claimed on paper. Even if the stated purpose of the project remains to create that change.


Our 8 person team writing sprint in progress (photo Bertus Douwes)

As I said last week it is a luxury to sit down with dedicated people and document all we know and experienced around these projects, so we can build new narratives to help others embrace its core tenets and not oversimplify.
Even though working with Mediawiki is a pain, we’ve put together a strong amount of material. In the coming weeks we will be slowly detailing and shaping that to turn it into useful material for different stakeholders for these projects (our team, our pool of facilitators, library staff, directors, school leaders, teachers, children, their parents and the people in their neighbourhood). Early next year we’ll get together again to reflect with a wider group of stakeholders on whether we need more or different things to add.


Discussing some of our material before getting back to writing. (photo Jeroen de Boer)

It was good to in a sprint like this create a living document we can now take forward at a more calm pace.

Our team every time is in awe of the energy the projects create. During the pilot project we were regularly cheered and applauded when arriving for a session with the class of 10 year olds. In the video below from the end of a project in the past days, our facilitators were sung to each in turn by the participating children.

I an open letter (PDF) a range of institutions call upon their respective European governments to create ELLIS, the European Lab for Learning and Intelligent Systems. It’s an effort to fortify against brain drain, and instead attract top talent to Europe. It points to the currently weak position in AI of Europe between what is happening in the USA and in China, adding a geo-political dimension. The letter calls not so much for an institution with a large headcount, but for commitment to long term funding to attract and keep the right people. These are similar reasons that led to the founding of CERN, now a global center for physics (and a key driver of things like open access to research and open research data), and more recently the European Molecular Biology Laboratory.

At the core the signatories see France and Germany as most likely to act to start this intra-governmental initiative. It seems this nicely builds upon the announcement by French president Macron late March to invest heavily in AI, and keep / attract the right people for it. He too definitely sees the European dimension to this, even puts European and enlightenment values at the core of it, although he acted within his primary scope of agency, France itself.

(via this Guardian article)

We visited “O’Hanlons Heroes” yesterday, in the local natural history museum (Twentse Welle). In this exposition by Redmond O’Hanlon, in parallel to a previous tv series, he follows in the footsteps of all his 19th century explore heroes.

19th Century Notebook
19th century explorer’s notebook

What jumped out for me, once again, from all the displays, is that taking notes of each and every thing is a key habit. Because you never know what will have meaning afterwards, or which patterns jump out at you when you take a step back.

A good reminder that all those notebooks, the 20.000+ photos, all the stuff in Evernote, 12 years of blogging isn’t useless. Even if for most of the time I never look at it. It is raw material. Taking notes are for taking note.

An interesting paper by Ben Worthy has been published, looking at the impact of open spending data in the UK in terms of transparency and accountability. The abstract says the impact is currently very limited “as it lacks the narrative or accountability instruments to fully bring such effects. Nor has it created a new stream of information to underpin citizen choice, though new innovations offer this possibility. The evidence points to third party innovations as the key. They can contextualise and ‘localise’ information as a first step in more effective accountability.

The superficially simple and neutral reforms conceal complex political dynamics. The very design lends itself to certain framing effects, further compounded by assumptions and blurred concepts and a lack of accountability instruments to resolve problems raised by the data.

Definitely makes sense to me. Context, narratives, and additional tools with which new stakeholders can be reached and brought into the discussion, are needed. Just as much as we constantly need to try and avoid making assumptions when publishing data, as it will create a bias towards what type of usage will be likely to occur, framing it, or setting boundaries on the evolutionary space available as it were. Whether it is open data or big data, the effects are similar, though some such as context are even more pronounced in big data.

It is why, when working on open data with local governments, and positioning it as a policy instrument, I spend energy on providing context, seeking out new or unusual stakeholders to stimulate them to take a look at the data, and to create lots of new conversations between them and the data holders. Aiming to create an ecosystem. In a sense, “it takes a village” to create the impact we are aiming for.