• Tom's experience using OpenPlans / OpenCore

last modified August 9, 2007 by tomlowenhaupt

Me and OpenPlans / OpenCore

August 8

A "what links here" capacity would be helpful.

July 25

I was getting ready to add some info to the .nyc wiki and several questions popped into my head:

  • How much info can I upload?
  • What type of info is appropriate?
  • What type of organizations are able to post, i.e., can I market a better cell phone that links into the 311 system?
  • How long will the open core software by available to "qualified" user," i.e., is there a one year commitment, five...?
  • How are decisions of this nature made?
  • Is there a formal role for public input into this decision-making process?
  • Do the answers to questions like these have an impact on the level of commitment from community organizations thinking about using opencore?
  • Do the answers to questions like these have an impact on staff recruitment for TOPP/opencore?
  • With 30+ years of engagement with local government here in NYC, I see a key to improved responsiveness to resident desires being quality engagement, discussion, and decision-making mechanisms. Does TOPP see a role for the opencore developing such software?

I noted these were policy questions and thought that the TOPP feedback page might be more appropriate location for them. But after taking a look, I decided that, for the moment, a link from there to here was a better idea. I inserted such a link.

July 16

When the time arrived to get serious about The .nyc Opportunity, I knew that, on principle, a wiki was needed: the .nyc TLD was to be operated within an open and transparent governance infrastructure and a wiki was going to be needed to:

  • draw upon the store of knowledge the public posesses,
  • facilitate participation, and
  • demonstrate our commitment and faith in public participation.

What to use? I started my first wiki, BeyondVoting, using the media wiki software in January 2004.  And with its Wikipedia connection, I knew lots of development was going on. And I'd used the Peanut Butter wiki software, (which has made great strides in the past year). I don’t recall how I learned about OpenPlans, but after dipping my toe in, I met Mark through his  transportation advocacy work, thought .nyc was complemented by the OpenPlans tools philosophy, met with Jackie who sparkled and bubbled and learned that lots of smart people were going to be hired, and with OpenPlans local (good politics), I signed on. With that background, here's the feedback.

  1. First Feedback - There are about 65 files in the .nyc wiki. I backed up my key pages today. Just did a sloppy copy and paste of the most important ones saving them as word files. How about a button "To download a zipped file of your _The .nyc Opportunity_ files, click here."  I’m sure OpenCore has failsafe backup policies, but safety and portability come with my proposed “click here” button.
  2. Statistics - Has anyone ever looked at the .nyc pages besides me? If so, which pages? On BeyondVoting an unlinked page was amongst the most popular. Very helpful stat.
  3. Making a Wiki Work for You - How about a section for wiki developers on “Making the Wiki Work” with guidelines on what’s worked for others. Yochai Benkler in Wealth of Networks mentioned some positive experiences with size of project chunks coming to mind.
  4. Tools – I recall seeing a page focused on tools that are out there somewhere and perhaps do not need not be developed by OpenPlans in-house. How about letting wiki managers have a say in which tool is most important? e.g., in two months I’d like to have a “petitioning” feature. So perhaps a “What tools do you want and when” poll.
  5. Transparency & Commitment - Before committing to use the OpenPlans wiki I'd asked several questions about the project’s longevity, commitment, and governance. Didn’t get an answer and didn't follow through. Should have. I don’t have the clear picture that would make me comfortable. A “roadmap” might be helpful. As I compose this I see some clarity has been added to the open core home page, but it takes too long to search these things out – had to go to the Open Plans pages to see if there was still that big bright staff over there. It’s a haze that drives me to click to the "What's Jackie really up to" page too many times (certainly for the result it returns) and to discern the continuing level of Mark’s support, and what does it mean that there’s a development director sought? (This is a lesson for Connecting.nyc Inc. and I’m taking notes from this criticism to initiate a “What’s Happening Now” button of some sort on www.connectingnyc.org.)

With every step forward the .nyc campaign takes, the wiki gains importance. I've confidence that great things coming . A little more effort making the future clear would be appreciated.