Open Data Seminar

by Henry Farrell on June 25, 2012

Another Crooked Timber seminar, albeit on an issue rather than an author. Last month, Tom Slee wrote “two”: “posts”: on the Open Data movement which got a lot of interesting argument going. To push the contradictions further, we’ve invited a number of people with differing perspectives to write short pieces on the theme of when and how, if ever, open data makes for better politics. Contributors are:

Henry Farrell (blogger at Crooked Timber)
Steven Berlin Johnson (author of _Emergence_, _Where Good Ideas Come From_, and the forthcoming _Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age_)
Tom Lee (director of Sunlight Labs at the “Sunlight Foundation”:
Beth Noveck (professor at New York Law School, author of _Wiki Politics_, and former Deputy Chief Technology Officer at the White House)
Clay Shirky (author of _Here Comes Everybody and _Cognitive Surplus_)
Tom Slee (author of _No-One Makes You Shop at Walmart_)
Victoria Stodden (assistant professor of statistics at Columbia, Big Data public intellectual)
Aaron Swartz (in no need of introduction to CT readers
Matthew Yglesias (author of Slate‘s Moneybox column).

As per the last seminar, posts will be put up (nearly) every weekday for the next several days. And yes – as commenters will surely notice, the sex ratio is off again (all I can say is that this is not the result of any lack of effort, I’m not happy about it, and I’d be grateful for suggestions in comments).



kmack 06.25.12 at 8:46 pm

The race/ethnicity “ratio is off again”? How that could happen at CT might be hard to imagine. Perhaps, though, it is inappropriate to notice.


R C Head 06.25.12 at 9:13 pm

You might consider a historical perspective: one of the biggest “open data” moves ever took place in 1790, when the previously ‘arcane’ and closed archives of the French Crown (and of much of the episcopate and monasteries and nobility) became the ‘patrimony of the nation’. You should ask Ben Kafka or Jennifer Milligan, for example, to offer a historical perspective!


Antti Nannimus 06.25.12 at 10:12 pm


Henry, I commiserate with you because my own sex ratio has also been off for years. But I’ve learned to live with it, since they say fasting is good for the soul. Or at least, one might hope.

Have a nice day!


Dylan Thurston 06.25.12 at 11:10 pm


Luis 06.25.12 at 11:32 pm

all I can say is that this is not the result of any lack of effort

Perhaps a separate post about the specific type/nature of efforts undertaken might give folks better traction on coming up with suggestions?


bkmacd 06.25.12 at 11:35 pm

You could do worse than asking if Eva Galperin of the EFF has any spare time or knows of anybody who could speak to the issue:

She, amongst others, just recently compiled a list of women working in infosec.


Manoel Galdino 06.26.12 at 12:24 am


Manoel Galdino 06.26.12 at 12:25 am


straightwood 06.26.12 at 12:43 am

Productive discourse assumes good will. Unfortunately, the gamesters of the software corporations and institutional bureaucracies are not operating on a pro bono basis, but take pains to appear to be serving the public interest. The resulting hopeless tangle of feints, dodges, concealed moves, and sleights of hand makes an “open” discussion of open data impossible. Thus, progress in institutional transparency will be slow and disappointing because the best funded actors will be fighting a rear guard action aimed at conserving power and profits while feigning deep devotion to the public good.


Henry 06.26.12 at 1:38 am

My efforts usually involve mining friends, friends of friends, and people who are personally unknown to me, but who seem as though they might have something interesting to say. The success rate with the last is much lower, obviously. I try to make particular efforts to ask women, because the default in these discussions is often guy-on-guy, but have much lower success rates. Too late for this round (the posts are more or less written) but I may solicit suggestions from readers for later seminars (with the proviso that I promise only to seriously consider people nominated, not necessarily to invite them; there are various other balancing acts we try to do to get good arguments going).


Henry 06.26.12 at 1:39 am

Manoel – I have been meaning to write a review of Nielsen’s book for the last several months. Perhaps now that I’ve done Lessig’s I will be inspired by a burst of creativity …


Sumana Harihareswara 06.26.12 at 3:27 am

Alex “Skud” Bayley — she generally has interesting and perceptive thoughts about open data, in case you do this again.

I’m a woman and I’d be interested in writing about nonhierarchical modes of organization, science fiction, and open source in general — Aaron Swartz knows me, in case that puts me in the friend-of-a-friend category.


Katherine 06.26.12 at 9:13 am

I’m just curious – have you asked any of the women you asked why they said no? This might seem a bit pushy I suppose, especially if they tend to be in the category of friends of friends, or people unkown to you, but seems to be a good starting point.

Is there a cross over between the low take up rate of people unknown to you, and the low take up rate of women? Ie do the women tend to be people unknown to you? Or is the take up rate of friends of friends a bit lower, and they tend to be the women?

Just some thoughts.


sanbikinoraion 06.26.12 at 10:43 am

Also, I don’t see why it’s too late to invite some of them to contribute to this seminar. Also again, perhaps it would have been more sensible to solicit recommendations *before* announcing the publication of the seminar…?


Maria 06.26.12 at 1:32 pm

As one of the women invited, I’m afraid I bailed due to being overcommitted, despite having some personal and professional interest in the issue.


Alex 06.26.12 at 1:56 pm

Susan Crawford.


lupita 06.26.12 at 5:36 pm

I second the mathbabe herself, Cathy O’Neil.


Frank in midtown 06.26.12 at 7:13 pm

Get someone from R.L.Polk or another of the value-added resellers. Most public data is a dirty, nasty, pile of single-pass entry created by disinterested hourly rate government employees. You think going to the DMV is a painful joke, you should try to use their data. There are 7 ways to spell FORD according to the Texas DMV records.


Substance McGravitas 06.26.12 at 7:27 pm

There are 7 ways to spell FORD according to the Texas DMV records.

Now think about India and language and transliteration. Part of the reason to make this stuff public, though, is to clean it up.


SamChevre 06.27.12 at 2:25 pm

Thirding the recommendation of “mathbabe”, Cathy O’Neil; this is right in her area of core interest and competence.


Gareth Rees 06.27.12 at 3:04 pm


John 06.28.12 at 5:24 am

@ Gareth Rees – you’re having a laugh, aren’t you?


sanbikinoraion 06.28.12 at 8:15 am

So, we can all take from this that Henry is desperately scurrying around behind the scenes to try and recruit some women to write on this topic as an addendum, right…?


Alex 06.28.12 at 10:08 am

Speaking of Susans, Susan Estrada would be interesting; the California broadband map and the public engagement elements of the National Broadband Plan were quite the project.


KHarrison 06.28.12 at 8:48 pm

The Data-Driven Democracy by Mary Joyce at Meta Activism Project. Fascinating stuff.

Comments on this entry are closed.