By Daniel Menefee
A mockup of a redesigned Maryland General Assembly website left most members of the Joint Committee on Transparency and Open Government entirely unimpressed.
Heather Mizeur, D-Montgomery County, said the site offered little in the way to promote civic engagement.
“The outright rejection of open source applications is concerning,” Mizeur told Director of Legislative Services Karl Aro, whose information systems staff was responsible for the new design. “We’re trying to update these sites to make them more ‘crowd source’ friendly.” Open source applications are available for free online and can be programmed and improved by anyone.
Mizuer acknowledged the redesign improves the way information is organized, but is merely an “upgrade based on the old way of doing business.”
She referred Aro and other members of the committee to www.nationalpiggybank.org, which uses existing social media to increase civic engagement.
“What we want this website to do is go beyond the paper-based system,” Mizuer said. “All we’re doing is transferring our paper-based system into this very confusing catalog on our website. Technology has gone beyond this. It’s about engaging people in what we’re doing and having full applications for them to follow and give input and advice.”
After the meeting Aro defended the website.
“I think the idea is to make it easier for people to find what they want, and all the information is there,” Aro said. “It is a redesign to facilitate navigation.”
Surprised Joint Committee met again. Second, third…or more time? Where is notice given?
More context for this discussion can be found at http://www.heathermizeur.com/transparency
Amen, Biff! What I want from my government sites is maximum access to government information with easy navigation and minimum frills. If I want social media sites there are plenty of those around, including a number emphasizing government issues. Why was Del Mizeur the only legislator quoted? Did the others have simiular reactions?
Based upon the questioning I heard from the assembly during hearings on the computer services tax a few years back, opinions of the legislature on technology issues is based on ignorance. The implementation technology of a site (eg open source vs. proprietary) has nothing to do with how usable it is (I don’t even know what ‘crowd source’ friendly means). As a taxpayer, I don’t want my government trying to create yet another social media site, I want easy access to well organized information that allows me to keep an eye on what these people are doing in Annapolis.
Delegate Mizuer’s insistence on some sort of government sponsored internet gathering place reminds me of the ill-fated Dunder Mifflin web site in The Office television show – by losing their focus on what the site should do the company wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars and jeopardized their very existance. Unfortunately if Ms Mizuer has her way and Maryland follows the same path, the penalty will just be government wasting more taxpayer money.
She wants a “like” on facebook! Or maybe a tweet. As a taxpayer I want reliable info with user friendly navigation not the lastest propaganda from state government officials period.