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John Klossner's Ink Tank

Klossner: Those guys are wearing underwear on the outside ...

While doing research for a cartoon and blog entry on open source software, I made a couple discoveries:

* Current discussions on Web 2.0 systems -- specifically social networks and cloud computing -- focus on the security questions that arise with new technologies. Many of these comments border on paranoia: After reading the comments sections of several articles, in fact, I worry that by posting this blog entry my bank account will be emptied tomorrow.

* As I read archived open source articles, I found that current fears over Web 2.0 technology echoed the fears expressed earlier about open source. Specifically, the security questions. But, as I read more recent entries on open source software, the worries subsided, and now there are numerous successful cases of agencies using open source software.

I call this the superhero phenomenon. Let's face it, the first time a guy showed up wearing long underwear with briefs on the outside (not to mention a cape and mask), folks weren't too ready to accept this as "help." People probably grumbled about how somebody that dressed this way couldn't possibly be secure, that a cape would be of no use in cold weather, and that those booties didn't look very safe (what if the car he was lifting dropped on his foot?).

But after watching this underwear-clad person lift a car, prevent a building from collapsing or win a reality show, people started to trust the underwear-on-the-outside guy. A couple influential voices might have even had their businesses saved by the superhero, allowing them to spread the word and winning the public over to the masked guy's side.


Entries / questions from comments sections when the first superhero appeared

* A recent battle between a superhero and a mutant space alien caused tremendous damage to the downtown infrastructure, resulting in increased taxes. Should we expect this from all future "rescues?"

* The entry into our community of superheroes will attract evil geniuses intent on battling these caped freaks. Are we prepared to suffer the threat this presents to our security?

* If this person uses x-ray vision, won't that contribute to climate change?

* Our local superhero hasn't provided us with a birth certificate. Should we allow him to save us from the mad scientist who lives on the next street?

* How soon until these "heroes" will start presenting us with invoices for services rendered? Or go to the other side for a better offer?


I'm not saying open source is a superhero; it's more like a team (the Fantastic Four, say). I'm just pointing out that open-source software is going through the same process in gaining public acceptance as superheroes did (and Web 2.0 technologies probably will). But this takes time, allowing for maturity of the technologies and public acclimation.

I imagine that social networks and cloud computing -- not to mention whatever technology is released next week that will make communications easier but have security concerns at the start -- will, by a combination of users becoming more comfortable with them and the providers fixing any glitches, be acceptable in the next few years. In the meantime, we need a superhero who can defend us from the comments sections.Klossner open source

Posted by John Klossner on Jun 30, 2009 at 12:18 PM0 comments

Klossner: 18 wonderfully goofy ideas from the Open Government Dialogue

I recently spent a couple afternoons reading through the many submissions received during the brainstorming phase of the Open Government Dialogue. This was before the site was commandeered by some single-issue Web crawlers who eventually flooded the site with their, well ... single issue. (For a more extensive description, go here).

But in the good old, innocent days, the Open Government Dialogue site provided a wide variety of suggestions for improving our government. Here are some that caught my eye (Note: I apologize for missing any newer entries. This being the Internet, things change quickly, and my recording of one moment on a Web site will almost certainly eliminate later worthy candidates):

TELL THE TRUTH — That's it. tell the truth. But I think we should send this person a copy of the movie Rashomon first.

RELEASE EXTRATERRESTRIALS DATA — Disclose all secret information on extraterrestrials, including their birth certificates.

ANGER — A call for the administration to resign. I didn't look closely — was this submitted by Rush or Glen?

MAKING SUBMISSIONS SIMPLE — Submit ideas in 500 words or less. Or, as it will be called, "the Twitter Grande rule."

SOCIAL MEDIA MADE EXCLUSIVE — Government use of social media should focus more on small groups of smart people arguing with each other. I believe this idea has already been implemented. They call it the Kennedy School.

BAR CODE ENTIRE GOVERNMENT STOCK — Bar code (and inventory) every object owned by the federal government. The bar code can be smartly fitted into Henry Waxman's mustache.

SIMULATED GOVERNMENT TRAINING — Create a government simulator for legislators. Or make all their Sim City scores public.

IT'S ALL ABOUT ME — This person would like to know what the government knows about him or her. Based on a reading of this proposal, I know that this person failed high school English.

TEACH MARRIAGE COUNSELING SKILLS TO GOVERNMENT — This person, a marriage councilor, would like people to speak in non-absolutist terms. But what if one political party wants to see a Merchant Ivory film and the other wants to see a Judd Apatow flick?

CREATE A GOVERNMENT CABLE CHANNEL — Create a government cable channel devoted to delivering news and information about the government. I believe this idea has already been implemented. They call it the Kennedy School.

GETTING CREDIT FOR IDEAS — People who provide good ideas get recognition. I found this one a little self-referential. If you provided the good idea of giving recognition to the other good ideas, should you get bigger recognition?

ESTABLISH A GOVERNMENT INTRANET — Create a Government-wide Intranet. The proposal states that this Intranet will "facilitate vital information sharing and collaboration across the entire U.S. federal government." But federal employees will still have to use the regular Internet to access YouTube.

LEGALIZING POT / BACKING OFF OF THE DRUG WAR — Calls for legalizing or re-classifying marijuana and cannabis. Before the Obama birth certificate issue came up, this may have been the most popular proposal. Maybe these folks and the birthers should get together and form a marketing firm.

ELIMINATE ELECTORAL COLLEGE — No unintended humor here, but I found the debate in the comments section to be rational, respectful and informative. Unfortunately, like the Electoral College, I worry that these qualities might also be arcane.

REDUCE THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT — Wait: By reducing the effectiveness of the federal government, we'd be increasing the effectiveness of the federal government? But then we wouldn't be reducing the effectiveness of the federal government ... wait ...

And my top 3:

No. 1: CUT DOWN ON NUMBER OF PENS USED IN BILL SIGNINGS — I need a little more information here: Should we have two presidential pens? Should there be a decoy pen in case of theft? Should there be a specific Secret Service position for carrying refills?

No. 2: WINDMILL IN IOWA — Build a giant windmill in Iowa, for tourism and alternative energy purposes. Not a bad idea, but then they'd have to build something for each state, and I worry that the giant clown in New York State would scare my children.

No. 1: FREE PIZZA ON FRIDAYS — I'm kind of surprised that this didn't get a more positive response, scoring a miserable -42. Who could possibly be against free pizza?

Posted by John Klossner on Jun 17, 2009 at 12:18 PM0 comments

Government contractors vs. federal employees: How to tell the difference

Dueling geckos: feds vs. contractorsI am new to the grudge match between federal employees and federal contractors. Like lions and hyenas, Yankees fans and Red Sox fans, the French and everybody, there seems to be a natural conflict here. While reading the comments section of a recent FCW Insider piece on this issue, I wondered if there was some sort of list or primer to help us identify the combatants -- er, co-workers.

will let you know within 5 years that they are a federal employee will let you know within 5 minutes
that they are contractors
can lose job by filling out necessary paperwork
and waiting for response
can lose job by not meeting
contracted goals
think G-14 is something to aspire to think G-14 is a bingo space
can tell you where the bathrooms are can tell you how much better bathrooms are in private sector
have change of shirt have change for a twenty
have maps for public transportation have own parking spaces
make better cookies buy better cookies
spend free time reading disparaging entries about fed employees on Web site comments sections spend free time writing disparaging
entries about fed employees on
Web site comments sections
enjoy the four seasons have eaten at the Four Seasons
share a desk with a fellow fed employee share elevators with fed employees, but won't readily admit it
counting the days until they "have more time to travel" counting the days until they "go back to the real world"


Posted by John Klossner on Jun 10, 2009 at 12:18 PM5 comments

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