Civic Innovations

Technology, Government Innovation, and Open Data

Unexpected Satisfaction from Falling Short

When 2013 closed out, I made a bold prediction.

Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 3.20.35 PM

As it turned out, I came nowhere near writing and publishing my targeted number of blog posts, though I did write more on this site in 2014 than the year before (17 posts in 2013 vs. 25 in 2014). Adding up the number of posts for all of the other sites that I have written for this year (there are several), I’d say my total is around 50 original posts. Not bad, but well short of my original goal.

Traffic on this site was up well over 2013 – the number of unique visits jumped by over 100 percent this year. In descending order, here are the most popular things I wrote on this site in 2014:

I find it interesting that the most popular post on this site in 2014 is one I used to announce my resignation as the City of Philadelphia’s first Chief Data Officer. As it turns out, another one of my top posts, as well as this one I wrote about the reluctance of the Philadelphia Department of Revenue to share data on property tax collections probably hastened my departure from city government.

From the first day I went to work for the City of Philadelphia I viewed my blog (which I have been writing in one form or another for over 10 years) as a public journal about my job. I always intended it to be a way to talk candidly about what we were doing well (and what we were doing poorly) so that other cities could learn from the experience of open data in Philly.

Not surprisingly, this approach did not always sit well with the political leadership at the City of Philadelphia – those working in the Mayor’s press office found it particularly objectionable and told me so on several different occasions. They wanted very much for me to stop writing things for this blog. There is – sadly – very little appetite for open discussions about things that city government is not doing so well, and how leaders there can learn from past mistakes and get better.

I think it’s incredibly difficult to write publicly in a frank, honest way when you enter into public life. I also think – particularly as it relates to open data and civic innovation – that it is incredibly important. Sharing the stories of what works and doesn’t work in different places that are engaged in efforts to make more government data available to the public is critical if we’re going to make progress.

I missed my goal of 100 blog posts this year, but I am very proud that I was able to remain true to my original goal of sharing the story of how Philadelphia was doing on releasing open data in an honest and open way. I stand by every single word I wrote for this site in 2014.

I fell woefully short of my own expectations. And I couldn’t be happier about it.

One response to “Unexpected Satisfaction from Falling Short”

  1. Mark,

    I’ve always enjoyed your posts immensely and have learned a great deal from them. My limited experience has been that if you want to be a change agent it is always easier to do it from outside government than in it ;<). Hope we hear regularly from you in 2015.

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About Me

I am the former Chief Data Officer for the City of Philadelphia. I also served as Director of Government Relations at Code for America, and as Director of the State of Delaware’s Government Information Center. For about six years, I served in the General Services Administration’s Technology Transformation Services (TTS), and helped pioneer their work with state and local governments. I also led platform evangelism efforts for TTS’ cloud platform, which supports over 30 critical federal agency systems.

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