posted on November 09, 2012 17:16
The W3C eGov Interest group recently had a discussion prompted by Clay Shirky's latest TED Talk in which he suggests that the open source software community's favourite tool, GitHub, could be used as a collaborative space for policy making. So my attention was well and truly caught by a blog post yesterday by UK civil servant Andrew Francis in which he says thathe and his colleagues are trying exactly that! Full of enthusiasm, I blogged about that myself.
Speaking to Crossover Animator Alberto Cottica today it seems this is not such a new idea. Italian policy makers have tried using GitHub and found that the idea is sound and they want to use it but they need a slightly different tool. They need an explicit forking facility and policy makers need the context of the full document in a way that code developers generally don't - and GitHub isn't too good at providing them. The analogy here is with translation tasks - a translator needs to see things like menu options within the context of the whole page whereas a developer just needs to know where to put the string.
OK, so GitHub is not a perfect tool for collaborative policy writing, but the ideas are sound and I think we can expect to see such documents being written on something closer to GitHub than Wikipedia or Google Docs before long.