Wiki Your Government


All the content on, Barack Obama's transition website, is governed by a Creative Commons license, which allows anyone to copy, reuse, reproduce or otherwise rip off everything on the website, as long as they say where it comes from. This is a great step, especially in a world where the actual legal codes of some states are covered by far more restrictive copyright rules.

But in the wake of some unannounced content switcheroo on the policy agenda portion of the site, Internet guru Tim O'Reilly wants more transparency.

There's a primitive form of revision control in word processing products like Microsoft Word, but we need more than that, especially for documents that bring together the work of multiple independent authors. For, the wikipedia model might work: logging of every change, with only authorized participants allowed to make changes, but everyone (the public) able to review and comment on associated discussion pages.

The real holy grail, of course, would be to provide revision control on all government regulations, and eventually, on legislation.

One benefit of this approach for the administration: No more gotcha stories like this one.

Via Julian Sanchez

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  1. A wiki for each bill would be pretty fucking cool.

  2. You dream, Elemenope. You dream.

  3. Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008

    The purposes of this Act are-
    (1) to immediately provide authority and facili
    ties that the Secretary of the Treasury can use to restore liquidity and stability to the financial system of the United States
    [citation needed]; and
    (2) to ensure that such authority and such facilities are used in a manner that-
    (A) protects home values, college funds, re-
    tirement accounts, and life savings
    [citation needed];
    (B) preserves homeownership and pro-
    motes jobs and economic growth
    [citation needed];
    (C) maximizes overall returns to the tax-
    payers of the United States
    [citation needed]; and
    (D) provides public accountability for the
    exercise of such authority
    [citation needed].

    This is fun.

  4. I’d really love to see a diff on the USC for say, the last 40 years.

  5. You dream, Elemenope. You dream.

    If I don’t dream I cry, and that wouldn’t be very stoic, would it?

  6. If I don’t dream I cry, and that wouldn’t be very stoic, would it?

    But it stimulates the dacrylphiles. Please think of the dacrylphiles.

  7. That would be fucking awesome. Even without the public comments, just making those kleptocratic parasites put their name on every single thing they do would be a huge step forward.

    Of course, it will never happen.

  8. Excuse me, but doesn’t the law provide that everything published by the government already in the public domain? (Since the side has a .gov domain, we should assume that it’s being published by the government.)

    So, if there’s a Creative Commons license there, it’s just meaningless window dressing to communicate how hip and trendy and cool and right-on and groovy the President Elect is.

    (I love it when politicians reach out to vibe with the little people.)

  9. Gruffbear brings up a good point. I like this from the Creative Commons link:

    The Obama-Biden Transition Project respects the intellectual property of others, and we ask users of our Web sites to do the same. In accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and other applicable law, we have adopted a policy of terminating, in appropriate circumstances and at our sole discretion, subscribers or account holders who are deemed to be repeat infringers. We may also at our sole discretion limit access to our Web site and/or terminate the accounts of any users who infringe any intellectual property rights of others, whether or not there is any repeat infringement.

    Hey, fuck you, asshole, I’m paying for this site, I’ll use what I want to use.

  10. John-David, you can also run up and take a crap on the White House lawn, right?

  11. James,

    Analogy fail. My reproducing information from is not the same as trespassing and committing public indecency. Nice try, though.

  12. Doesn’t scan Is there a way to get them to up their scan rate? It’s not exactly a wiki, but the data’s there…

  13. We, League of Tech Voters and, just launched a new wiki called where we are regularly scraping and parsing all content from into a 3rd party versioning system. (Legal because of the CC license!!)

    We figure the transition team is under such a time crunch that it is easier (and less liability) if we do this for them. And it can serve as an example to them of how they might redo…

    @PJ yea archive doesn’t scan as much as we do (they can’t it is a resource issue) and this way it is a wiki too 🙂

    What I would like to point out…

    1) with unchanging permalinks to content – we bloggers can document content on without worrying about the page changing

    2) we can watch those changes and update our blogs accordingly

    3) Or you can comment and document content directly on the wiki too filling in where our scraper fails (like we can’t legally scrape youtube content)

    It is quite new and I have had the flu… but I greatly encourage people to come and help us create the structure. A versioning wiki like this is new and we have some kinks to figure out. But Jimmy Wales and staff (Angela and Artur) are very friendly to us coding additional features to mediawiki.

    @Elemenope I am with you and have been working on it for the past 4 yrs if you can believe it with the transparentfederalbudget (google and see what I have been up to!)

    Thanks all!

  14. Today, it is commonly accepted that the Internet has created the foundations for the possibility of possessing collective human knowledge.

    At the 2009 Global Creative Leadership Summit last week, a panel of professors, entrepreneurs, and computer and software engineers discussed how to turn that wisdom into collective action.

    To view a video of this panel, visit:

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