The Webmaster’s Tale
by: Richard Pietro
This will not be your typical blog post on Open Government & Open Data. Instead, I would like to talk about something we, as Open Government & Open Data practitioners, rarely discuss
…and that is the Marketing of Open Government & Open Data to a larger audience.
But before I do, I need to tell you about the Webmaster’s Tale:
If you wanted a website in the 80s, 90s, and even early 2000s, odds are you hired a Webmaster. This was a highly skilled individual who did everything when it came to your website. Webmasters designed the pages; wrote the HTML; added the images; published the copy; and did just about anything else you can imagine for your website.
Back then most people were either unable to code their own sites or unwilling to learn how to code them. The “WYSIWYG” content management systems as we know them today were far off and Webmasters were needed to do the smallest of tasks, even fixing typos.
Webmasters also understood the complicated ins-and-outs of the Internet and saw the vast potential in its continued existence.
Since it was so costly, content creation on the Internet was mostly relegated to large corporations (who could afford a web presence) or to “geeks”/cyberpunks who delved deep into Internet Forums and Online Bulletin Boards.
But because access to the Internet was a service provided by Telecommunications companies, billions of dollars were put into marketing the advantages of the World Wide Web in order to gain paid-subscribers (check out this gem from 1995 – featuring 10 free online hours!). As the user-base grew, the demand for content grew as well. And as the demand for content grew, it meant the World needed more Webmasters.
This demand for more content and Webmasters led to innovations that would save people money lowered the barrier to entry. Platforms like Geocities, MySpace, and Facebook were conceived and made it easier for people to add and consume content. Then tools like WordPress were created to make it easier for people to build their own website without needing a computer science degree or paying a vendor.
This was no longer a “big business” thing – anyone could get into the game and parallel industries began to sprout. For example, URL Registrars and Web Hosting companies began to adapt their product lines to meet the needs for this growing market of small content producers.
And now the Internet has become the backbone of society and the term “Webmaster” is a thing of the past.
I believe that we, as Open Government & Open Data practitioners, are the Webmasters of our international movement. We are highly specialized individuals with very specific skill sets who understand the potential of Open Government & Open Data and its complicated ins-and-outs. We talk long; we write long; and we are way too technical for the average person to fully comprehend.
Please understand this is not an elitist comment about society-at-large. It is an indictment about how we have failed to talk about Open Government & Open Data in a way that will attract a larger audience.
In other words, we need to be better marketers if we are going to grow our community.
Unfortunately, at this time we do not have the financial backing of large Telco’s to put together huge and expensive marketing campaigns about the value and potential of Open Government & Open Data. Instead, we need to rely on our collaborative efforts to make that happen.
WHAT I SUGGEST
As a community we should band together in order to:
- Create a video/ad that explains the potential of Open Government & Open Data that concludes with a “call-to-action”
- Create/Design content and a website that will provide “101-type” details about Open Government & Open Data for the general public
- Create/Design a website or app where Canadians could engage with this content.
- I have already taken the liberty to draft a script for a 30 second video explaining the potential of Open Government & Open Data. It is designed to whet the appetite of potential practitioners to join our ranks. For it to be professionally created would cost around $20,000. Although, it could be made for half that if we cut a few corners. Please review it and let me know your thoughts on the script found below.
- Please let us know if you are interested in:
- Helping raise funds to produce the video, create the content, or design the website/app.
- Helping create content for the “call to action” website/app
- Helping create/design a website/app to host the content
- Being part of the leadership team to see this through
Contact me, Richard Pietro at richard [at] myeinsteinjob [dot] ca, Scott Hardy at scott [dot] hardy [at] edmonton [dot] ca or City of Edmonton Open Data Team at opendata [at] edmonton [dot] ca. We can also be reached on Twitter @richardpietro & @OpenDataEdm.
Please share this blog post within your network. The more eyeballs see this message, the more we can make a marketing on Open Government & Open Data a reality.
Thank you for your help!
Don’t miss the boat on Open Government & Open Data
Script 3.0 – May 22, 2018
By: Richard Pietro
EXT. WATERFRONT/PIER – DAY
We are greeted by a picturesque summer afternoon looking longingly at a BOAT sailing away from a WATERFRONT. As the camera pulls back, we see a LONG PIER quietly providing support for hungry seagulls and families alike.
A NARRATOR, dressed in a 3-piece-suit, walks in front of the camera with a determined look on their face.
(speaking to the camera)
Do you feel as though you missed the boat on Social Media? That perhaps you could have created Netflix, Facebook, or Amazon?
All of a sudden, we see a STUNT PERSON in the background running full-tilt towards the departing BOAT.
(speaking to the camera)
That you could have changed everything about how people interact with their friends, family, celebrities and companies?
Just as our narrator finishes their sentence, the STUNT PERSON jumps off the LONG PIER in a futile attempt to catch the boat in the distance. Loudly, they SPLASH in the unseen water below.
The narrator looks back in the direction of the SPLASH and turns back towards the camera as though saying to himself/herself, “how sad.”
EXT. Parliamentary building – DAY
We cut to the main entrance of a PARLIAMENTARY BUILDING where two giant doors are wide open.
We are once again joined by our NARRATOR, dressed in the same suit and sporting the same determined look.
(speaking to camera)
Well, there is this new thing happening right now called Open Government and Open Data and it is kinda like how Social Media was in the early 2000s.
And it is redefining government’s role in our society and changing everything about how people and government interact with each other.
We see the STUNT PERSON from earlier, soaking wet from their adventure on the pier, now running at top speed towards the giant doorway that gives entry to the PARLIAMENTARY BUILDING.
Mimicking Bobby Orr’s iconic goal, the STUNT PERSON dives head first through the doors and lands violently off-camera inside one of our democratic institutions.
(speaking to camera)
Don’t miss this boat.
CALL TO ACTION MESSAGE
About the author
Richard Pietro socializes Open Government & Open Data by creating Civic Engagement as Art. Some of his projects include the 2014 Open Government Tour, the Toronto Open Data Community Hub, and Open – The World’s first short film on Open Government, Open Data, and Open Source.
He also worked collaboratively with the Ontario Ministry of Housing to create the “Open Data in Reverse” method as a way to design, publish, and activate Open Data sets. This initiative helped the ministry win a nationally recognized award for engagement.
Most recently his Open Data Iron Chef workshop has garnered attention due to its innovative way for introducing Open Government & Open Data to students at both the secondary and university levels.