Open Vancouver

Via Geoff Zeiss, those granola sucking hippies in the City of Vancouver council have decided to to promote open data, open standards, and … open source?!?

I always get a little worried when politicians start actively mucking around in the operational details of government, but to be fair it is hard to put a hard black and white line between where policy stops and implementation begins. Is mandating open source a policy, or is it telling city workers how to do their jobs? Council could also pass a resolution not allowing the “q” key to be pressed on Fridays.

In this great debate, I think my position is this: mandating open data (basically an enhanced form of Freedom of Information) and open standards (without which Freedom of Information is moot) make sense as policy matters. Mandating open source crosses the line, dealing more with “means” than with “ends”. City managers will eventually figure out on their own that the value proposition of considering open source is high. Council might be (hell, they are) right on this issue, but defining what tools are to be used to achieve operational goals is a slippery slope, and there’s lots of places council will be wrong in the future on if they go down this path.

For a great example of why you don’t want legislators telling the executive precisely what to do, see congressional earmarks.