Code for America visit TBJ with Jennifer Pahlka and Tim O’Reilly

A few days ago The Box Jelly had Jennifer Pahlka, Founder of Code for America, and Tim O’Reilly from O’Reilly Media visiting Hi-Capacity for a talk. They were both very different people but cool in their own way. O’Reilly reminded me a little of Doc from Back to the Future but a little more centered. Jennifer is a true visionary. Both speakers were on top of their game regardless of a lack of sleep due to traveling, much respect.

The two concepts that I took away, although there were a lot of insightful ways of looking at things, were the idea of “government as a platform” and what I’ll call “the lean bureaucracy.”

From my understanding, “government as a platform” is the concept of government enabling its citizens to help themselves and their neighbors by providing tools. Very much like how YouTube makes it easy for people to upload and share videos. Another more relevant example that came out of Code for America in Boston is the Adopt-a-Hydrant program. In Boston Firefighters have the problem of finding fire hydrants under snow which can be dangerous for obvious reasons. How the program works is simple residents adopt and name a fire hydrant by their homes. When “Bill” is covered in snow they dig him out. Forest Frizzell, Deputy Director of Info Tech for the city, is adapting this idea for tsunami sirens. Nice.

The second concept is what I’ll call “The Lean Bureaucracy.” It comes from the Lean Startup process which is to launch a product quickly, learn from the market and iterate. It’s the way that we created The Box Jelly in the back of a furniture store. “The Lean Startup” book by Eric Ries is in The Box Jelly library. The Lean Bureaucracy is getting the government to use Lean Startup methodology to launch and refine new programs for the public. In the video O’Reilly talks about having doers infiltrate the government and… do.

Thanks to the Code for America team and Tim O’Reilly for coming out.