Civic Innovations

Technology, Government Innovation, and Open Data


  • Process Eats Culture for Breakfast

    Famed management consultant Peter Drucker is often credited with the phrase “culture eats process for breakfast.” You can’t change organizations by implementing new processes alone, so the thinking goes, you have to foster a new culture in order to drive real change. To understand the degree to which this idea is accepted as management philosophy… Continue reading

  • Towards Ethical Algorithms

    Old tools & new challenges for governments There is a common misconception that data-driven decision making and the use of complex algorithms are a relatively recent phenomenon in the public sector. In fact, making use of (relatively) large data sets and complex algorithms has been fairly common in government for at least the past few… Continue reading

  • Building the Government Data Toolkit

    We live in a time when people outside of government have better tools to build things with and extract insights from government data than governments themselves. These tools are more plentiful, more powerful, more flexible, and less expensive than pretty much everything government employees currently have at their disposal. Governments may have exiting relationships with… Continue reading

  • GovTech is Not Broken

    When we talk about the challenges that face governments in acquiring and implementing new technology, the conversation eventually winds around to the procurement process. That’s when things usually get ugly. “It’s broken,” they say. “It just doesn’t work.” What most people who care about this issue fail to recognize, however, is that while the procurement… Continue reading

  • Command Line Data Science

    When it comes to deriving useful results about the operation of government from open data sets, we have an enormous array of tools at our disposal that we can make use of. Often, we do not need sophisticated or expensive tools to produce useful results. In this post, I want to use command line tools… Continue reading

  • 2014 in review

    2014 was a good year. Looking forward to 2015 and much more blogging. Here’s an excerpt: The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 22,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many… Continue reading

  • Better Licensing For Open Data

    It’s really interesting to see so many governments start to use GitHub as a platform for sharing both code and data. One of the things I find interesting, though, is how infrequently governments use standard licenses with their data and app releases on GitHub. I’m as guilty as anyone of pushing government data and apps… Continue reading

  • Some Tips on API Stewardship

    Following up on my last post, and a recent trip to St. Paul Minnesota for the NAGW Annual Conference to talk about open data APIs, I wanted to provide a few insights for proper API stewardship for any government looking to get started with open data, or those that already have an open data program… Continue reading

  • Open Data: Beyond the Portal

    One of the most visible statements a government embarking on a new open data program can make is the selection of an “open data portal.” An open data portal provides a central location for listing or storing data released by a government for use by outside consumers, making such data more easily discoverable. A portal… Continue reading

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.