Clay Shirky on What a School Lunch Blog Teaches Us About Open Government


A school in Scotland attempts to shut down a little girl's popular blog about the hideous aesthetic and nutritional values of the lunches served by her school. She puts up a goodbye post saying that she has been forbidden to take photos in the lunchroom anymore. The Internet flips out, the school backs down, and her privileges are restored. Internet big-thinker Clay Shirky asks:

This brings up the question: What made them think they could get away with something like that? And the answer is: All of human history prior to now.

So when it government going to get the Internet and vice versa?:

I would love to tell you that the fact that the open-source programmers have worked out a collaborative method that is large scale, distributed, cheap, and in sync with the ideals of democracy, I would love to tell you that because those tools are in place, the innovation is inevitable. But it's not. Part of the problem, of course, is just a lack of information. Somebody put a question up on Quora saying, "Why is it that lawmakers don't use distributed version control?"…

A new form of arguing has been invented in our lifetimes, in the last decade, in fact. It's large, it's distributed, it's low-cost, and it's compatible with the ideals of democracy. The question for us now is, are we going to let the programmers keep it to themselves? Or are we going to try and take it and press it into service for society at large?

As I have said before Clay Shirky Is Kind of Annoying. He Is Also Right.