Gov 2.0 – The Next Generation

15 Nov

Below is a summary of my final research paper for my ‘MPP in the Digital Age’ class.  I am introducing the outline in this Blog because my professor, Nicco Mele, suggested that the blog platform can be a useful way to obtain feedback from those who either have knowledge on the topic, or could easily send the link to those you may know who could provide insight and suggestions. I am looking to prove correct the Web 2.0 tenant The wisdom of crowds here (if I am fortunate enough to get a crowd to come to my site!) If you happen to stumble upon this page, please feel free to suggest readings, articles, your own ideas, successes or failures you are aware of in the context of this paper in the comments section below.

My final paper for Media, Power and Politics in the Digital Age will be a research paper focusing on Gov 2.0, Obama’s Open Government Initiative and the potential impact of technology on the future of government.  The argument I will be making is that public confidence in government will be significantly improved by government investing in and fully embracing the concepts of Gov 2.0.  I will explain how government can fundamentally change its relationship with its constituents by empowering citizens to participate in and influence their government in meaningful and revolutionary new ways.   Furthermore, given the increasing number of citizens who have grown up digital, government failing to meet expectations of an emerging demographic will have a long term negative effect on these citizens perception of  government as an innovative and reliable institution that can be trusted to solve the major issues facing society today, such as healthcare, education, etc.

I will argue that the first iteration of innovation ushered in since 2009 constitute a good first step, but is insufficient to truly transform government.  I will examine Obama’s Open Gov and open data projects that have been successful and should be further developed, as well as examine why other efforts may have come up short.

The world has changed since the Obama Open Gov initiative was launched in January 2009, and since Tim O’Reilly’s Gov 2.0 article also first appeared in 2009.  I will argue that by examining the significant changes since Obama first took office, in technology, society, governments budgets, and demographics, these concepts, (Open Gov and government as platform) have ripened considerably and if invested in properly could be developed in  way to finally meet the promise and expectations when first imagined and proposed 4 years ago.

WikiLeaks – Modern day Robin Hood or Cyber Blackmailer?

7 Nov

Jaron Lanier is one interesting human being.   In 2005 Jaron Lanier was selected as one of the top 100 public intellectuals in the world by readers of Prospect and Foreign Policy Magazines, he was the chief scientist of Advanced Network and Services, home of Engineering office of Internet 2, and served as the Lead Scientist of the National Tele-immersion initiative,   author of the highly acclaimed book  “you are not a gadget”,  He is a musician that has played with a variety of world class musicians and has one of the largest collections of rare (but actively played) instruments in the world.  This is just the tip of the iceberg.  His Bio is one of intellectual pursuit and accomplishment.    One of Lanier’s recent pursuits is examining philosophical and ethical implications of the rapidly evolving landscape of the internet.  The long Bio introduction is presented to emphasize the point that one should pay attention when Jaron Lanier says he has deep concerns about Wikileaks, and in particular when he raises  concerns that “hackers use their newfound power arrogantly and non-constructively” which naturally leads to bad behavior and dangerous outcomes.  Lanier’s article referenced directly below, is a long discussion on this topic, his premise goes something like this; Hackers, by virtue of their tech savvy, have gained immense powers, that presumably are used to keep giant institutions and governments honest, however in the dark world of cyber space, where nerds reign supreme, it is difficult to see who is the David and who is Goliath.

And this is just the beginning.  Jaron Lanier’s fearlessly takes on WikiLeaks in his article “The hazards of Nerd Supremacy: The Case of WikiLeaks“.   Lanier, once in the hacker culture himself, assails WikiLeaks’ disregard for consequences that result from their subversive actions, the consequences that are often profound, intentional or not, are set in motion by their ‘leaks’ in the name of transparency.    However, if you are going to attack the fundamental beliefs of WikiLeaks, you must first understand that you are essentially attacking Julian Assange, the creator and leader of WikiLeaks, so we must first understand Assange.   Julian Paul Assange was the subject of a long article No Secrets, Julian Assange’s mission for total transparency by Raffi Khatchadourian

WikiLeaks (and Assange) which began its online campaign in mid-2006, Khatchadourian rightly describes as more of a media insurgency than an organization.   There is no WikiLeaks headquarters, no offices, no payroll, and no corporate officers.   Assange has a legion of loyal volunteers and benefactors that have worked together, mostly in secret in various locations around the world, to create an astonishing collection of previously secret material that is now online for the world to view.   Many items in the archive have achieved the desired notoriety:  Sarah Palin’s private Yahoo email; Cablegate – The US State Department’s cables to Afghanistan, Climate-gate emails from Universities in England, and many more.  Khatchadourian provides an insider’s glimpse of the secretive workings of Wikileaks by depicting a WikiLeaks campaign, led by Assange himself in an undisclosed location in Iceland.  The Wikileaks sensation being created here is a controversial video taken from the cockpit of an Apache Helicopter in Iraq, from the US military depicting US military killing at least 18 people.  Included in the 18 were two Reuter’s war journalists.  The killing of the journalists transformed a tragic military episode into a world-wide media event.  In spite of the world wide scrutiny the US Military was successful in keeping the video secret – until undisclosed sources leaked them to WikiLeaks.

What does Assange say he is trying to achieve by all this?  The article by Khatchadourian, which provides rich detail on Assange’s early life, provides an insight on how his unusual upbringing, part bohemian soup and equal part ‘The Fugitive’ was crucial in forging his radical world view.  Khatchadourian states “He had come to understand the defining human struggle not as left versus right, or faith versus reason, but as individual versus institution”.    Assange views his creation of WikiLeaks as a way to wage battle against the secrecy and conspiracies that he perceives are rife in governments and big institutions and therefore must be brought down to protect the individual and the population in general.  The warfare is waged by creating a creating a platform for total transparency, a platform of ‘leaked’ or ‘pirated’ information that Assange would contend is not really pirated at all, as information does not belong to institutions, (that he feels are inherently illegitimate due to their secretive culture), but to the public.

So what are we to make of WikiLeaks?  Are they modern day Robin Hoods, with every bit of information accessible through the web as their personal Sherwood Forest? Are they a group of irrepressible and Irresponsible cyber-pranksters?  Or Cyber terrorists and blackmailers who have become as corrupt as the institutions they seek to bring down.   This is a complicated question that has many perspectives and has been the subject of numerous published opinions that could fill a small library.   Lanier brings a fresh perspective in his critique of WikiLeaks that has sparked quite a flurry of strongly worded counter opinions.   I believe the intensity of the response is largely due to his credentials as an internet savant and ethicist.  Therefore his objections have an inherent credibility, which brings with it the potential to influence serious minded internet futurists and policy makers potentially eroding WikiLeaks’ legitimacy.

Lanier’s principle objections are difficult to summarize in a ‘headline’ because he articulates a complex paradox that is the architecture of WikiLeaks and the Internet in general.  He first notes the fundamental hypocrisy of WikiLeaks and other organizations like Google or Facebook where technical experts can erect firewalls to protect what they know about you from digital snoopsters, yet claim the world will benefit when everyone else lets down their walls of privacy.  He also notes that hackers like Anonymous and WikiLeaks behave as badly as those they want to tear down, leaving their own collateral damage, (people killed or threatened, diplomatic efforts irreparably harmed, reputations ruined,) in the wake of their acts yet refuse responsibility even as Assange uses charged phrases like ‘collateral murder’ to describe the acts of the US Military.

Yet his most compelling argument is against the very architecture of the internet that WikiLeaks has exploited.  Most organizations, or governments, he explains, are either very open or very closed, and the very closed benefit more than the very open.  For simplicity sake, think of Russia’s approach to openness and internet freedom to that of the U.K.  Mostly open organizations and citizens are laid bare to expert cyber warfare and are then vulnerable to cyber extortion and harmful or ruinous exposure.  While closed networked societies are less exposed. Where is that sweet-spot in the middle Lanier ask, can’t there be a middle-ground architecture that would both foster and demand trust and responsibility?  Lanier reveals that Assange is essentially making the case we live in world where trust is impossible, given there can be no trust it follows there can be no secrets, this is “a perfect world for machines” Lanier points out but is this the world we want?   He acknowledges that the other path is more difficult, but one that is essential to pursue for human existence in a democracy. He states as follows:

“We sanction secretive spheres in order to have our civilian sphere. We furthermore structure democracy so that the secretive spheres are contained and accountable to the civilian sphere, though that’s not easy”

Lanier’s opinion demands serious attention as he exposes more than the conflicts inherent within WikiLeaks but a conflict that has arisen form the explosion of the organic growth of the internet and the social graph connecting organizations and all their data through a vast radically connected but not so well protected network.   The overall wellbeing of society has come to depend on a structure (the current internet) that is very complex, not well understood by most, and virtually unregulated.  Recently we have seen how ’cyber-nerds’ are capable of exploiting their technical advantage by now trying to impose their own system based on a confused and warped world view.   Lanier argues for an Internet structure that rejects this anarchy and better reflects humanities basics needs, such as the desire for democracy and privacy (with plenty of caveats and limitations) and the possibility of trust. I will close this with a quote I find compelling and in my opinion best summarizes Lanier’s lengthy dissertation. “Anarchy and dictatorship are entwined in eternal resonance. One never exists for long without turning to the other, and then back again. The only way out is structure, also known as democracy” I could not agree more.

Obama’s 2008 Victory Fueled by America 2.0 – Campaign as Platform

2 Nov

In examining the impact of social media and the internet on presidential campaigns we have been taking a close look at Obama’s victory in the 2008 presidential election.  One way to view the campaign rather than in retrospect is to examine campaign coverage from just a month prior to the 2008 national election in a piece  by Zachery  Exley in the Huffington Post, “Inside the Obama campaign – What’s really behind Obama’s Ground Game”.   Exley provides a detailed summary that describes how the Obama campaign became a well-run political movement that both honored and harnessed the energy and dynamism of grass roots activism not seen since the 1960’s.   Indeed Harvard Kennedy School Professor, and noted 1960 Civil Rights Activist, Marshall Ganz who was a key advisor to the Obama 2008 ground game was quoted as saying he’s been waiting for 40 years to see something like this.

Making a perfect bookend to this real-time analysis is a case study, Barack Obama, organizing for America 2.0 by Piskorski and Winig.  This piece analyzes the online strategy and historic campaign that catapulted Obama from a relative underdog into a national movement, and finally into the White House.    Reading Exley’s take on the ground game is critical to proving context to the online strategy.  Though not really focused on in Exley’s piece, the grass roots ground game was fueled by modern communication tools that empowered the grass roots movement to quickly scale a brilliantly conceived local-centric, but centrally directed ground game model as though it were an established, well-heeled, highly disciplined franchise.  The campaign employed a high-risk and novel strategy to invest heavily in recruiting and training volunteers, not just to make phone calls and knock on doors but to actually manage local campaign drives.   This was an extremely effective, though unproven, strategy for a national campaign in 2008.  Yet, the mix of a highly motivated and socially connected demographic, savvy use of ubiquitous technology tools, and a well-disciplined core of organizers proved a powerful combination enabling the campaign to reach out and leverage volunteers (soon to be activists)  with unprecedented effectiveness.

Exley’s take is based on spending several days embedded with the campaign in southern Ohio in October 2008.   The campaign’s approach to setting up its state by state ground strategy for the primary campaign leveraged the Obama camp’s community activist experience.   In talking to one volunteer who had experience in doing volunteer work on many campaigns noted the difference with Obama’s strategy:   “on the Obama campaign, when I see people like me and my friends used to be, we turn them around and say, ‘Well hey, here’s how to be a community organizer. Let me help you be a community organizer.’ And then they go out and they get people to be their coordinators. And then we tell those new coordinators, ‘Build yourself a team and be organizers too.’ There’s no end to it.”  This story of empowerment is not unique, it is repeated in local Obama campaign HQ’s across Ohio and every state where the campaign fought in the primaries.

Those who demonstrated leadership qualities were screened by paid staff but then were extensively trained, and empowered with more responsibility.  In Obama, organizing for America 2.0 by Piskorski and Winig provide great detail on how social media was not only utilized to recruit volunteers, but even more importantly technology was used very effectively for the paid campaign staff to manage and grow multiple geographically spread local team leaders, and to allow the newly recruited volunteers to communicate and inspire each other.  Charlie Hughes, Facebook Co-Founder is credited with wisely employing technology, (the MyBO – My Barack Obama website) to both empower local organizers and also to keep the chaos controlled so that the field operations were operating and communicating in a consistent and effective way.    Hughes’ strategy was not just about digital activism but about being a data driven campaign.   A large part of the success of the Obama’s team was deploying the army of volunteers to both gather and capture data about the local voting demographics, then to use that data to astutely deploy his field operations such as in their Neighbor to Neighbor phone campaign.

Depending on unpaid volunteers to manage critical components of a presidential campaign’s ground strategy was unprecedented.  At least it had never been done successfully.  The Dean Campaign of 2004 pioneered sophisticated online strategies to leverage younger demographics to raise funds and create a national campaign but they were not able to bridge the online zeal with sustainable offline activism in the way the Obama campaign was able to.  The ability of Charlie Hughes and the Obama campaign to transform the online recruiting and fundraising into effective offline field operations, state by state was the catalyst and the engine behind the success of Obama’s field campaign.   The suddenness and acceleration of the campaign, from newcomer to frontrunner took the political establishment by surprise, enabling the underdog to topple the established party front runner Hillary Clinton by creating a virtual political movement.

In fact the title of the Pinorski and Winnig article, ‘organizing for America 2.0’ is an apt name, particularly when viewed in combination with the Exleys piece.  The Obama campaign truly leveraged the concept of ‘web 2.0’ but not as web as platform but as ‘campaign as platform’.   When contrasted with Clinton’s online and offline strategy, Obama’s campaign and field operations strategy was truly more of a’ 2.0’ approach.   Obama’s websites were more interactive, engaging volunteers to become involved and contributors to the effort.   Critically, the strategy transcended the internet.  The campaign itself adopted the ethos of web 2.0, empowering their volunteers and fueling the growth of the grass roots campaign.  Here’s what I mean:

Web 2.0 Architecture is one of participation – The campaign didn’t just want volunteers knocking on doors, it leveraged experienced campaigners to fully participate by becoming local leaders adding real value to the effort.

Web 2.0 mandates loosely joined architecture.  The campaign emboldened and transfromed volunteers into thousands of local leaders to act on their own; Holding house parties, managing fundraising, persuading, and get out the vote efforts using MyBO and other technology tools.  This mirrors web 2.0’s decentralized approach of using the wisdom of crowds to add value, while maintaining consistency with a simple but not too a rigid structure as to disempower the local leaders.

Cost effective scalability.  Like Web 2.0, critical to the success of the strategy was their ability to scale. Plouffe, Obama’s chief campaign manager is quoted “Everywhere we went, we could plug in a zip code and a list of really excited volunteers would pop up…Indiana, North Caroline…we would not have won those states without the grass roots.

Obama’s 2008 campaign empowered and trusted people to do the right thing locally.  The 5 pillars of Wikipedia, Web 2.0’s poster child, are not unlike, in spirit, to the Obama’s field campaign motto of Respect. Empower. Include.   Like Wikipedia, the campaign’s simple but disciplined top down messaging combined with an empowered and motivated public created a powerful and winning formula.

 NOTE:   Below I have clipped two comments out of hundreds that were made online to Hexley’s Huffington Post article.  These comments were made in October 2008 and are illustrative of the points made above.   The first one is typical of the hundreds of comments by campaign volunteers.

1.      “This is just awesome. To think McCain’s camp keeps saying Obama has never run anything. LOL Have they got a surprise in store!”

The second comment below I thought was illustrative of the ‘Campaign as platform’ concept and indicates the challenge and risk with turning over so much power to tech savvy demographic not always willing to yield to a centrally run power.  This comment reminds me of the challenges Wikipedia grappled with during its growing years and in many ways still is.   This comment also illuminates the paradoxes facing many institutions, such as State and Local Government.  Government is in many cases actively promoting technology to improve transparency and to foster greater engagement with citizens.  Yet, as we have seen, to derive real value from online public participation requires empowering citizens and granting a level of authority over their mission and domain that most government institutions are not traditionally comfortable with, in spite of the great value that could be achieved.

 

2.       “They should move it heavily online, like a wiki of needs in an area crafted by the residents, and plans for getting things done quick and efficiently.     It sounds cool, the flexibility is great. I’m not hot on the idea of a President having an active “army” of supporters – its better if the communities direct the efforts themselves, than by looking upwards to some degree for direction. This happened b/c people wanted to do something together, not especially b/c they wanted to do it for Obama. He talked about it being “your campaign” early on – it should just be that afterwards. He made some wiggle room for the opportunity to take root. He should consider it a gift and walk away from it after the election, let it take its own shape.”

Are newspapers going the way of the buggy whip?

17 Oct

We are living through a revolution, even if the news industry refuses to acknowledge it.  For those in the newspaper industry, the unthinkable has arrived.   This is Clay Shirky’s message in his blog, Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable.   He continues on the themes he raised in ‘Here comes everybody,” that shrinking transaction costs due to the exponential growth of the internet and mobile technology is dramatically reshaping certain industries.   He boldly states the newspaper industry, as we knew it in the 20th century is doomed.  Like a ship taking on water, it can continue to sail for some time, but the economic model is broken and cannot be fixed.  He points out the industry has made numerous attempts to right the ship, implementing new strategies such as imposing micropayments, where customers would be charged small payments for access to online news services.  However, even this strategy is failing as consumers are not inclined to pay for what they can find for free.

Shirky argues we are living through a period not unlike the revolution generated by Gutenberg’s invention of moveable type that required a century for Europe to outgrow the chaos that arose when the ability to print being widely available.   During upheaval, “The old stuff gets broken faster than the new stuff is put in its place” Shirky says.  Experimentation and innovation made printing even less expensive as the revolution progressed expanding on the availability and diversity of literature and books of all sorts, having a profound impact on society as “the value of literacy” increased.

Furthermore, he claims we are living through such an age again only we don’t yet have a clear idea of what the landscape will look like when the dust settles.  We know we benefit from the rigors of professional journalism to hold power accountable.   Yet we also know we benefit from blogging, crowdsourcing, and the ability for anyone with a smart phone and a data plan to contribute to the news and to shape events real time.   Shirky claims it will require iterative experimentation to arrive at the model that preserves the best of what professional journalism offers, to be delivered in tandem with the new technological and societal realities, (anybody can be a news source).

Are newspapers really going the way of the buggy whip?  Not so fast, literally.  Dean Starkman’s blog Confidence Game, The limited vision of the news gurus, objects to many of Shirky’s conclusions.    Interestingly, he does not refute Shirky’s major premise that transactions costs of distributing news has altered the landscape, but derides him for treating news as merely a commodity “of little value”.  He is personally offended that Shirky and those like him, (he labels FONs, Future of News) predicting the end of news organizations as they exist today don’t really appreciate the criticality of long piece journalism that democracies depend on to expose corruption and to hold those with power accountable.  He is offended that they aren’t just predicting newspapers downfall but they are “rooting for it, which then morphs into hastening it along

Starkman concludes that newspapers in the current form will ‘limp along’ because the public needs them.  What news organizations do and what they represent, at their journalistic best, cannot be replaced.   Starkman correctly points out all the benefits of great journalism, and that a functioning democracy requires a robust skeptical press.  Yet he doesn’t address what new economic model will support their long expose endeavors, which he acknowledges is expensive and time consuming.   He derides the FON’s as non-academic, but making the case that journalism will survive ‘only because it must’ doesn’t’ cut it either.  He resents the FON’s not because they are wrong but because he doesn’t believe they share the same ‘journalistic’ values as he.

My take on the argument is that In the long run Shirky’s case is compelling, the ship will eventually sink.  But when?  Look at these circulation numbers from the Newspaper Association of America  in 2008 there were 1408 daily newspapers in the U.S., in 2011 there were 1382.   A decline to be sure but my bet is that most of the big papers in business today will remain in print, less influential and less profitable to be sure, until a new model emerges.   I agree with Starkman that newsprint will limp along, but not because ‘it must’ but because the demographics supporting the industry will take time to change.   Print news, particularly the big news ‘institutions’ will hang on until further technological innovations and emerging demographics (with improved revenue streams) provide the impetus for a new model to emerge.

Bursting Our Filter Bubbles

3 Oct

This blog post is an analysis of an article ‘Are we stuck in filter bubbles, here are 5 potential paths out‘ by Jonathan Stray in Nieman Lab.   The concept of filter bubbles is basically that users of social media tend to exchange opinions and links only with those that tend to agree with them in their online networks.  Magnifying this effect, social media companies like Facebook derive algorithms based on your online behavior; to customize your news feeds that they believe matches your preferences.   The concern is that people, become entrenched and isolated because they are not exposed to stories or opinions of those who have opposing points of view.  This, the theory goes, is exacerbating the political divisiveness that we are seeing, particularly here in America, where the public appears less willing to find common ground and compromises to resolve issues that impact us all.

Stray notes that it is not yet clear that these algorithms are indeed having this effect.  Recent research of Facebook users indicates that although users do frequently re-share articles or links from close ‘friends’ or ‘close ties’ (defined as those we interact with frequently online) that are typically consistent with their own previously held views.  However, Facebook users also share and view links and stories with or from weak ‘friends’ that may hold novel or different views that they likely would never have come across on their own.  Additionally, most people have more weak ties than close ties, so the possibility of being exposed to different points of view is pretty likely.

So though it is not clear to what extent online behavior and algorithms are truly creating a filter bubble, Stray does make a strong case that users should be aware of how the algorithms work, and we should be thinking of ways to allow users to better personalize filters themselves.   Given the diverse rich content on the web, users should be able to use different techniques, such as a slide bar tools, (for example political left to right for political stories/opinions) or graphical interactive interfaces portraying a wider array of content, not only political, that would allow users a measure of control  over their own ‘filters’ and what kind of information and stories are directed their way.

It is clear that we are just in the infancy of how the World Wide Web functions in terms of moving news stories and opinions through cyberspace and social networks.    It may have made good sense to have online news and stories filtered for you based on known preferences and online behavior, how else could you manage the vast content available.  However, there are a number of factors that we now should consider before thinking about where society and filters go from here.  Allowing mega-corporations to direct our attention to the news and stories we see, assumes that corporations will always have our best interests at heart.  As Rebecca McKinnon points out in her book ‘Consent of the Networked’, this is probably a naïve assumption.  Too much power, whether in the hands of powerful states, (whether national entities or corporations) will eventually lead to the power being wielded in their own self-interest.

From a professional perspective, I am already thinking of how my agency, The Department of Environmental Protection, can use social networks to direct stories with environmental information not only to environmentally active citizen groups but to ordinary citizens and especially to those that are not environmentally aware and would not normally seek out environmental stories or information.  Creating needed but potentially controversial environmentally policy, (scientifically sound but not without some cost) is nearly impossible without public support.  My perspective is that too often our, (Department of Environmental Protection’s) ability to ‘message’ is only heard by those who already are concerned about environmental matters.   This is a challenge because the filter bubble is not restricted to only technological information streams.  However, our filters from traditional media sources are self-imposed.    It is clear to me that understanding and leveraging how information flows through the World Wide Web, and who will control the directions of the flow will be essential for anyone wishing to shape public opinion.

Public awareness of how these forces are shaping our stream of online information is the first step for social network users to demand more control over their online experiences.    This would be a small but positive step in learning how to burst filter bubbles now being imposed upon us.

An Analysis of a Wikipedia Article on Enterprise Architecture

26 Sep

For this assignment, I created a Wikipedia account and home page  and I selected a Wikipedia article to analyze on the term Enterprise Architecture.    I have conducted extensive research over the last several years on Enterprise Architecture given my role as an information coordinator for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection; And given our agency’s desire to transform and upgrade our information systems in tandem with a transformational re-designed operating strategy.  My chief desire in this research was to inform the agencies thinking and planning, as I believed that enterprise concepts and strategies were missing in the previous development of our information systems.   I elected to evaluate this term because I thought it would prove challenging for the Wikipeida collaborative model.  Enterprise Architecture is a term that has evolved only recently and is not widely understood, or agreed upon, even in the technology field.

Overall, in spite of several problems described below, I found the article to be very comprehensive.  Wikipedia’s format for articles encourages that definitions contain various sub-headings that provide a variety of contexts for the term in question.  The Enterprise Architecture article had headings for Definition, Scope, How to Develop an Enterprise Architecture (EA) (Definition, Using an Enterprise Architecture, Benefits of EA, The growing use of EA, and Relationship to other Disciplines.   However, I did detect several shortcomings that made the article unnecessarily confusing.  The problem I observed was that that the actual term was defined in three slightly different ways in the first several paragraphs.  The first paragraph has no heading but begins with the phrase ‘Enterprise Architecture is…’  The next block has a bold heading “Definition”, if you were reading the article top to bottom the definition was already covered.  The ‘Definition’ block actually contains two more definitions that also begin with the phrase ‘Enterprise Architecture is….’  Although the descriptions are similar they are not entirely consistent.  Additionally, the article appears confused whether “Enterprise Architecture is a verb or a noun, as it is sometimes described as a process.

The only important aspect of the definition that I thought was missing was an emphasis that the critical first step of designing Enterprise Architecture is choosing your business operating model, then aligning this model with your Enterprise Architecture, and by extension your organizing logic for your IT systems.    The Book Enterprise Architecture as Strategy by Jeanne W. Ross and Peter Weill from MIT Sloan (Peter Weill is cited in the article), spends the first several chapters establishing that fundamental link before moving on to more complex aspects of EA.

There are numerous citations that are used to flesh-out the various aspects of EA.   The citations of MIT Sloan are excellent as they have numerous publications on the topics.   Gartner and PEAF, who have international credibility in the technology consulting space, with PEAF actually specializing in Enterprise Architecture, are also prominent well respected sources.  I would rate the citations as very solid.  However, one problem with referencing I noted is that the article references a key term ‘Business Architecture’ in relation to Enterprise Architecture without defining it, or providing a link to define it, which is a weakness in the piece.

The article adhered to the neutrality perspective that Wikipedia demands of its articles.   Other than the opening paragraphs that struggled a bit with the definition I found the writers did a good job in delivering a basic understanding of a complex concept that could be comprehended by someone not immersed in technology or business operations strategy terminology.  Yet the article provided significantly more detail for those who had a deeper background, who would be more likely to be searching for a very a term used by a narrow segment of the population.   The one exception to is in the heading “Developing an Enterprise Level Architectural Description” where there is a fragmented sentence all in caps that does not flow with the sentence.   It is possible this is a malicious entry.

From a formatting and illustrative perspective, the article made very good use of a graphical depiction that visually demonstrated how Enterprise Architecture inter-relates directly with business segments and specific business processes within the enterprise, usually through a set of technology solutions.  The article is well constructed.

Overall, though there were several areas that I noted could be improved upon, Wikipedia’s article exceeded my expectations in providing a relevant definition for an important, yet narrowly used term.

Blog as homework

26 Sep

With homework reading and writing assignments piling up faster than Red Sox losses,  I have been neglectful in extending some really interesting experiences here at HKS into this space.  I will work on that.   But an advisory:  For my ‘Media, Politics and power in the digital age’ class we are required to post certain written assignments in a blog that we are required to create for class.  The idea is you must live in the digital age to really experience it.  This is only one element of many others that make up our ‘digital tool kit’.    The first assignment is to be posted here is due tomorrow.  For expediency sake, I will be using this blog for some of these assignments.   So you may see some blogs don’t follow the flow of previous postings.   Since my professor will be reading them online, I am just mentioning there is no law that prevents you from leaving comments describing how astonishing my insights are, or how brilliantly my thoughts are constructed.

But seriously, I will try find time to chronicle my experiences in an experiential learning class by Ronald Heifetz on Leadership.  He is a recognized authority on the theory of adaptive leadership  This will be a challenge because the class is so experiential we, that as a class have decided to keep specific content of conversations private and I will honor that.  However, I will describe the very unique teaching style and generally why it is so effective.   The classroom experiences and reading have really dominated a lot of my thinking recently.

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