Healthy Skepticism

I’ve been putting a lot of speculative ideas out lately; It’s nice to see some healthy (and respectful) criticism from people who are skeptical about what I’m saying.

Gautham Nagesh followed up on my earlier post and fairly criticized the recent government websites I praised as being too tentative and unproven to merit the praise I’d given them. Interestingly, I had a throwaway half-sentence saying “I think Gautham and I just disagree about government’s role in general”, and Gautham interpreted this as a bit of an attack on his journalistic integrity, by implying that he wasn’t being impartial about the story. That certainly wasn’t my intention, but more importantly I think I just forgot (being a blogger myself) that Serious Journalists still care a whole lot about that idea. For what it’s worth, I think it’s great when journalists have a clearly disclosed partiality about a story.

Similarly, Mitch Wagner talked about my post a bit on InformationWeek’s Government Blog, saying I’m “being excessively optimistic, because the Obama White House’s record on transparency is decidedly mixed at best, as noted by the Washington Post in a May editorial.” A fair criticism, though I think I was highlighting these recent efforts by the government as signals of intent to use the web well, rather than declaring Mission Accomplished. Hence, most interesting startup of 2009, not most successful. I went into this a bit further in this interview I did with Maggie Shiels for the BBC’s tech blog:

“I am not a Polyanna about this, ” Mr Dash told me.

“I don’t think necessarily everything that comes out of this will be immediately great. It will take people some time to understand the potential there is for something great to happen.

On a less critical note, I did like that Inc’s take on my post mentioned the success that private companies have had with similar API and data efforts; That was an analogy I should have made more explicitly and prominently in my own post.