Transparency and Metrics


I'm just starting The Transparent Society by David Brin.  I'm only to page 20, but its already fascinating.  The subtitle of the book, intentionally provocative, is "Will technology force us to choose between privacy and freedom?" 

The gist of the first part of the book is that, as a society, we use freedom of information or "information flow" to drive accountability.  Two interesting points from the book so far:

Whenever a conflict arises between privacy and accountability, people demand the former for themselves and the latter for everybody else.

...[T]wo opposing traits that occur in ...modern privacy debates:

A. One party believe that another group is inherently dangerous, and that its potential to do harm is exacerbated by secrecy.  Therefore, accountability must be forced upon that group through enhanced flow of information.

B. The other party argues that some vital good will be threatened by heightened candor, and hence wants the proposed data flow shut down. 

The book points out how entertaining it is to watch groups take these positions alternately on different issues depending on "whose ox is getting gored."   

I've written on transparency before.  I believe its crucial to a proper functioning organization.  Part of my belief in blogging stems from a belief that people ought to know what I'm thinking on issues, even when its not popular.   

Metrics and dashboards are really this same issue.  Metrics shine the light of information onto an organization and provide accountability.  I've challenged ITS to develop metrics to measure its performance and to make them equally available to customers as well as staff.  I challenge agency IT shops to do the same thing.  Measure how you're doing and publish it to the world.