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Tim O’Reilly on “Gov 2.0”

Written By: - Date published: 4:52 pm, September 7th, 2009 - 26 comments
Categories: activism - Tags: ,

Five years ago Tim O’Reilly coined the phrase “Web 2.0”. Now, in this post at TechCrunch, he argues it’s time for “Gov 2.0”.

Gov 2.0 is about more than politicians using Facebook or Twitter or whatever, more than increased transparency, more than the government moving into the ‘cloud’.

Too often, we think of government as a kind of vending machine. We put in our taxes, and get out services: roads, bridges, hospitals, fire brigades, police protection And when the vending machine doesn’t give us what we want, we protest. Our idea of citizen engagement has somehow been reduced to shaking the vending machine…

Imagine if the state government were to reimagine itself not as a vending machine but an organizing engine for civic action…

“In this model”, he argues in a separate article, “government is a convener and an enabler–ultimately, it is a vehicle for coordinating the collective action of citizens… That’s Government 2.0: technology helping build the kind of government the nation’s founders intended: of, for and by the people”.

Worth reading this and this for more detail.

26 comments on “Tim O’Reilly on “Gov 2.0” ”

  1. Rex Widerstrom 1

    Bloody brilliant ayb. One of those things I need to absorb and think about before commenting on (by which time this post will probably have sunk into oblivion, as I’m spending the rest of the week moving house) so just wanted to thank you for the heads up.

  2. Lew 2

    Likewise. Thank you a_y_b; I’ve missed this during the mayhem that has been my last week, and it is righteous.

    Shaking the vending machine. Genius.


    Captcha: ‘medias’

  3. Martin 3

    Government is the greatest crime perpertraited on the population. As more and more laws are enacted, people have less and less freedom. Lord Acton stated that freedom is everywhere Government is not.

    The collectivist movement enslaves people one tiny step at a time, just like a frog in slowly boiling water. Saddle people with easy debt and make slaves of them forever, deprive them of sound money and tax them with inflation, roll out serial crisis such as the wra on terror, global warming/climate change myth, the swine flu hoax, while failing to talk about the upcomming disaster that is peak everything.

    Look at the climate change – first it was global cooling, then global warming, then when 33000 scientists signed a petetition questioning the validity of the global warming hypothesis and global temperatures started falling suddenly the mantra was climate change…

    Post 9/11 we have a war on terror which has lead to such wonderful things as the antiterrorist legislation that suspends due process of law on those people the Government deems to be terrorists.

    Then we have swine flu, a storm in a teacup that was amany factors less deadly than normal flu yet is suddenly a global pandemic. Interestingly the WHO is no longer requiring new cases to be reported, while big pharma is rushing vaccines to market.

    Finally we have legislation being globally advance to stop money laundering. How will they do that? By requiring every citizen of every country to have to provide photo ID each time they visit their bank, and to require this information to be updated every year.

    Every few years we are allowed to vote – yet nothing changes. We have no say over what our Government does in our name. Government policy is all about perpetuating Governemnt control. In that regards a politician is like a lawyer – lawyers never make any money when things go well…. Come to think of it – how many politicians are lawyers… I rest my case.

    We need less Government, less taxatiuon, less social services, less nanny state, and less interferance in our lives. Sadly we as a society have lost the ability to think for ourselves. We are happy with the bread and circus society that we have spawned.

    As John Maynard Keynes said “in the end we are all dead”

    • Ari 3.1

      Anyone can tell us what’s wrong with the current system. What do you propose we do about it, or are you just imagining some theoretical anarcho-libertarian paradise after we bring the government crashing down? 😛

      • all_your_base 3.1.1

        No, government can stay. We can organise better. I think some of the basics have got beyond theoretical. Another post when I get a chance… 😉

  4. Bill 4

    Government as a platform? Seriously?

    Okay, so the obvious question is ‘Who controls the platform?’ or ‘Who controls ‘what’ and ‘who’ will access the platform and ‘how’ access operates?’ The answer to that question will identify your new dictatorship.

    • burt 4.1


      The owners of the platform would operate the platform. WordPress do not control the standard, kiwiblog etc. WTF are you talking about ?

      • Bill 4.1.1

        jeez Burt. You say that ‘the owners of the platform (government) would operate the platform (government)’

        For whose benefit Burt? Not elites or coordinators running things for their own benefit?

        I thought as a right winger you’d understand the basics dynamics underlying democratic centralism and be able to recognise that such a proposal will tend towards authoritarian relationships. And that you’d rail against such a possibility.

        But no. You ask WTF I’m talking about? (sigh)

      • burt 4.1.2

        Oh I get it, if the govt remove their divine right to make major decisions based on being elected periodically and allow more direct feedback via more regular consultation then we have a dictatorship. Yep, that makes sense Bill. How the F did I miss that?

        Oh, since you know so much, what makes me a right winger – is it because I don’t usually agree with rampant left wingers ? Tell me Bill, what’s my favourite ice cream flavour ?

        • felix


        • Bill

          You don’t understand the first thing about democratic centralism Burt, do you? That’s ‘How the F’ you missed it.

          edit. I’ll go with Felix on Baby flavoured ice cream?

        • burt

          Clearly not like you do Bill, but you seem to be alone here saying it leads to a dictatorship, so perhaps everyone here but you is missing it.

          Can you explain why defining a standard way to interact and choose content/services from ‘something’ makes that something more powerful for itself rather than more useful and better serving it’s clients?

          oh, felix and I have a special relationship, whatever I say he disagrees with except on very very rare occasions and in those instances he usually asks me if I have changed my meds. ‘Ad homiinem’ and felix may be spelt differently, but they are one in the same where my comments are concerned. No question about meds in this post – no substance from felix – situation normal. But I will agree the ice cream comment was a bit OTT. Sorry about that.

          • Bill

            Honestly Burt. You think the way the USSR was governed was particularly democratic?

            O’Reilly is advocating a system of governance that the Bolsheviks would have understood very well….only the jargon has changed. Anyway, read my comment from 8:17 if you want. Make of it what you will.

            And if you genuinely don’t understand what it is I’m saying ,as opposed to disagreeing with me, then you really need to make steps to educate yourself.

          • burt


            Where I think you are wrong is that there is nothing saying the system restricts access to information or sanitizes it for consumption. If you think the Bolsheviks allowed ‘everyone’ to access what they needed how they needed rather than provided a prescriptive one size fits all then I think it is you that needs education – re-education perhaps.

            • Bill

              Despite it’s claims to produce democratic outcomes,restriction or control of information is inevitable under democratic centralist models of governance. You cannot expect everyone to know everything about all issues under consideration or to participate in deciding all issues under consideration. So some kind of filtration is needed…and whoever administers that filter runs a dictatorship.

              Just like O’Reilly, the Bolsheviks didn’t say that access to info would be restricted or sanitized. In theory, workers councils etc would have facilitated a two way flow of information and democratic outcomes would have resulted.

              In reality the whole structure is open to capture and thereafter becomes a means of imposing directives. Can you show me where O’Reilly deals with the issue of capture in his proposal? You can’t. Because he doesn’t address it. And he doesn’t address it because he is dressing up a thoroughly discredited mode of governance and trying to sell it as something new.

          • felix

            Oh burt that’s unkind, I thought we were friends. I thought you’d enjoy my baby ice-cream joke.

            I’m going to have to seriously re-evaluate our relationship and what I’m getting from it.

          • burt


            You are being nice to me felix, have you changed your meds 😉

  5. all_your_base 5

    @Rex @Lew – Cheers, intend this to be the first of a few on this as I do some thinking too. Would welcome your ideas!

    @Martin – If you don’t want to make a difference, by all means don’t. For those of us that do, we need to figure out how – I suspect that ‘together’ might be the best way.

    @Bill, did you read the articles?

    • Bill 5.2

      And ayb. In case you don’t quite get where I’m coming from? The ideas are complete bloody nonsense. Old discredited crap thinly disguised behind new jargon.

      This para (below) from the second article screams democratic centralism so fucking loud that a deaf person would feel the vibrations. I’ve added reality checks and questions in brackets….certain dead gentlemen from eastern climbs must be laughing in their graves at so much gullibility….


      “There is a new compact on the horizon: (circa 1921) Government maintains (controls) information on a variety of issues, and that information should (but won’t )rightly be considered a national asset ( managed by the government?) Citizens are connected ( and disconnected?) like never before and have the skill sets (from where did these skill sets materialise?) and passion (uh-huh) to solve problems affecting them locally as well as nationally. Government information and services can be provided to citizens where and when they need it ( Who determines when ‘they’ need info and services? A bureaucracy perhaps? A central committee? Who also discontinues services when and where they choose.?) Citizens are empowered (how?) to spark the innovation ( whatever that means) that will result ( how will it result?…) in an improved approach to governance (what?).”

      Fucking dictatorship is what you get from that dream. Wakey wakey

  6. burt 6

    A quantum (paradigm) shift is ready to occur, enabled by new technology. The question is; will the govt’s allow it to happen – will they give up supreme executive power and allow the people to be governed by the people for the people as democracy always promised but never delivered.

    It’s easy to see how it can be achieved, almost impossible to believe that the few will allow the many to decide their own fate.

  7. burt 7


    A starting point which we can’t even get past is internet voting. We get all caught up in how it’s not fair because not everyone has access to a computer yet look at the last census, electronic registration was fine for that.

    It’s not about the technology, it’s about the owners of the power allowing us to exercise our right to be heard more frequently than once every 3 (or 4 in the US) years. Hell here in NZ we get ourselves tied in knots about something as basic as a referendum – yet we say we want more direct input into democratic process. Go figure.

  8. Ron 8

    “It’s not about the technology, it’s about the owners of the power allowing us to exercise our right to be heard more frequently than once every 3 (or 4 in the US) years”
    I agree it’s not about technology – the discussion above clearly shows that. It’s about the nature of the process whether it’s on line or not.
    I can’t agree with the second part of your comment. I don’t think it’s about the “right to be heard” I think it’s about the right to participate in the discussion. And I think that issue goes much further than our individual relationship with government.
    This involves the media, our education system, communication systems including online methodologies.
    Democracy won’t be improved by uninformed, non-participating factions arguing through referenda and advertising campaigns. It will be improved by increased participation in the process of making decisions.

    • burt 8.1


      It sounds a little like you are saying that the people are too stupid to understand the issues enough to look past their own here and now, that they are incapable of being responsible with such decisions. Given how easily people get bought by election bribes I’m inclined to agree with that. (if that is a fair interpretation of what you were saying?).

      The way I see it, the only thing standing between where we are now and a ‘Gov 2’ scenario is the will to allow it to happen. Is it a good thing ? who really knows.

  9. Ron 9

    I don’t think “stupid” is the word I’d use. I have to say, though. that “ignorant” is.

    I just don’t think that holding a referendum and then seeing who has the most money to convince the populace is the best way to come to good decisions. I think discussion is a good way but there is precious little discussion in our current system.

    I often get attacked because people seem to think I underestimate voters’ abilities to make good decisions. I don’t. But I also don’t underestimate the power of a good campaign. If advertising and marketing didn’t work corporates wouldn’t spend so much money on it. Why would it be any different in politics? Add to that pre-concieved notions and bigotries in the populace and we don’t have a very good platform for decision making.

    I think the Gov 2.0 is a good idea. There’s all sorts of paranoia about ownership of the platform but there are many examples of platforms that provide very good opportunities for diverse opinions and constructive discussion.

    My only concern is that I don’t think New Zealanders are very good at it. We’re very bad at sitting and listening to an opposing point of view and then picking a point to begin discussion. New Zealand has a great tradition of “That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it”.

    IMO an opinion is worthless if it’s based on ignorance. I don’t make a value judgement about that ignorance but I do get frustrated by people who refuse to engage because they’ve already decided on their opinion.

  10. Robert 10

    “There’s all sorts of paranoia about ownership of the platform but there are many examples of platforms that provide very good opportunities for diverse opinions and constructive discussion.”

    Probably, but I bet you are not looking at government examples of that. If the government controls the platform, you will get what they want you to get and it is as simple as that.

    I totally agree with Bill’s “September 7, 2009 at 8:17 pm” post.

    Words carry meaning and those words Bill quoted…not feeling good about them.

    Wakey wakey

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