This week’s Interviews with Innovators explores the Granicus solution for civic webcasting with CEO Tom Spengler. If you’re lucky enough to live in a city that is a Granicus client you’re already familiar with how it works. If not, take a look at the Newport Beach, CA site. It’s a beautiful thing. You can see the video and minutes in a synchronized view, jump to the agenda items you care about, and view associated staff reports in context.
For citizens the benefit is clear. If you have access to these proceedings on cable TV – even random access with a DVR – it’s still a challenge to pinpoint a segment you care about. What’s more, there’s no way to form a URL that refers to that segment so you can share it, and so that online discussion about the segment can aggregate around that URL. Granicus gets it right. Agenda items define the natural set of RESTful resources for these meetings, and this system enables people to cite, bookmark, and link to those resources.
Behind the scenes the system enables the town clerk to annotate a copy of the minutes with timecodes, so that the data required for segmentation and synchronization is captured in realtime and available immediately upon conclusion of the meeting. That’s exactly the kind of pragmatic approach that will help make transparent democracy as ordinary and routine as it ought to be.
Making it easier to track what elected officials are doing will be a hallmark of Web 2.0. Not only can you jump to relevant places in the video stream or search archives but there are also RSS feeds so you can be notified of a new video as soon as it is up.
Ten years ago, David Brin wrote The Transparent Society, where he discusses the conundrum of privacy in an increasingly open and transparent world. One important point he made was that our safest route to maintaining our freedoms was the ability to watch our political leaders as well as they could watch us. The best way to make sure politicians are honest is to watch everything they are doing.
This is a nice first approach. Although we are still light years behind having access to the same technology as our leaders, collectively we are much smarter. People want accountability and these tools provide ways that were simply inaccessible just a few years ago.