If starting a new, public interest, organisation, there are three obvious principles you might like to have.

  • Finance – have all bank transactions automatically public in real time. Plus accounts.
  • Software – all software made by the organisation to be open source.
  • Information – voluntarily subscribe to some sort of FOI law.

The software one is reasonably well covered.

There are problems with the finance one. For example, you probably need to anonymise individual donations, or at least those that are ‘small’. It would be lovely if somebody could think through all this, and come up with an “Open Finance Definition”, for describing when an organisations finances are truely open.

There are also problems with the Freedom of Information one. In the UK at least, subscribing to public sector FOI law voluntarily would be dangerous. You wouldn’t get the protection from defamation that a public sector body gets, and you may have trouble applying the public interest test clearly. So again, would be lovely if somebody could come up with an “Open Information Organisation Definition” which encoded a good principle to have for this.

Amazingly really, the more you think about this openness, the more things you find that could be open, and the more definitions you need. There’s work for you forever, Rufus :)

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CEO of ScraperWiki. Made several of the world's first civic websites, such as TheyWorkForYou and WhatDoTheyKnow.

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