Who should be USA’s CTO?

UPDATE: The video that caused this post is now up on FastCompanyTV.

Today I visited Larry Lessig. He’s the founder of Creative Commons. A professor of law at Stanford University. And does many other things.

He is one of those guys who is just interesting to talk to. Why? Whip smart and has a view of things that very few other people have.

On the way over to the interview I kept thinking back to our Washington DC visit. Both Republicans and Democrats told me they wish there were someone in the White House that they could talk to about tech and science issues. That seemed to support Barack Obama’s tech policy, which calls for a national CTO position.

There are two views of the CTO position and Larry laid out both views in his interview and explained why he didn’t want the job (which, personally, is the best reason to want him in the position).

View #1 is a person who could help shape our nation’s tech policies. This person would need to be a great speaker, because he or she would need to go to places like the World Economic Forum and communicate what our tech policy should be. She or he would also need to be up to date on law, since they would be talking with congress about what could or couldn’t be done and would help shape policies and laws. She or he would also need to be both trusted and accessible to the tech industry, too.

That sounds like Lessig would be a perfect candidate.

But he laid out the other view of what a national CTO should do and explained why he wouldn’t be a good choice. That view is: be a traditional CTO and get more of our government to use technology to be more efficient and transparent. Lessig is much more interested in seeing a CTO take on that role and says for that role you’d need a geek who understands the technology.

That got me thinking. If you were the next President, and you wanted to have a national CTO role, who would you put into that position?

Here’s a few names to get you thinking:

Mark Andreessen?
Dave Winer?
Joel Spolsky?
Tantek Celik?
Molly Holzschalg?
Meg Whitman?
Bill Gates?
Steve Wozniak?
Caterina Fake?

Overall, though, I still like the idea of Lessig in the White House.

Oh, and wait until you hear what he says about how he’d retard corruption in the Capitol. The interview will be up in a couple of weeks on FastCompanyTV.

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174 thoughts on “Who should be USA’s CTO?

  1. Yert: nope, I am not passionate about doing this. I don’t want to live in DC, either, which would be a huge factor in anyone’s decision to do this. I would, however, love to have a dinner with whoever is CTO every once in a while.

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  2. Yert: nope, I am not passionate about doing this. I don’t want to live in DC, either, which would be a huge factor in anyone’s decision to do this. I would, however, love to have a dinner with whoever is CTO every once in a while.

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  3. Jim: unfortunately we’re a bit backed up. Rocky can only do so much and we’re headed to Berlin on Monday. We have a string of interesting interviews to get up, though. Doing two-camera HD shoots that have editing slows us way down.

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  4. Jim: unfortunately we’re a bit backed up. Rocky can only do so much and we’re headed to Berlin on Monday. We have a string of interesting interviews to get up, though. Doing two-camera HD shoots that have editing slows us way down.

    Like

  5. He/She wouldn’t have to be that much of a geek – just someone who knows how to get the best from them.

    Why not Steve Jobs?

    He already likes white.
    He’s a great public speaker.
    He gets the best from geeks/techs.
    He could make using the government a lot easier.

    Like

  6. He/She wouldn’t have to be that much of a geek – just someone who knows how to get the best from them.

    Why not Steve Jobs?

    He already likes white.
    He’s a great public speaker.
    He gets the best from geeks/techs.
    He could make using the government a lot easier.

    Like

  7. Three points:

    1) Robert fascinating conversation starter. I know my wheels are spinning

    2) I know someone who could help you edit those interviews to get them up there faster!

    3) There is no way Steve Jobs would be right for the job. The consumer tech market would fall off the shelf!

    Look forward to the video.

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  8. Three points:

    1) Robert fascinating conversation starter. I know my wheels are spinning

    2) I know someone who could help you edit those interviews to get them up there faster!

    3) There is no way Steve Jobs would be right for the job. The consumer tech market would fall off the shelf!

    Look forward to the video.

    Like

  9. So Larry Lessig doing the talking, Steven Levitt providing the numbers, Mark Andreessen writing the plans and Joel Spolsky managing the projects. That will work. It will be the CTO that is visible but I think their team is as important.

    The numbers and economics are probably the most important part, otherwise its peoples opinions guiding things.

    Turning the numbers into projects probably isn’t that hard. Especially when you compare it to something like to going to Mars.

    As for corruption, just make all the numbers public in a format that we can parse and run correlation algorithms over.

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  10. So Larry Lessig doing the talking, Steven Levitt providing the numbers, Mark Andreessen writing the plans and Joel Spolsky managing the projects. That will work. It will be the CTO that is visible but I think their team is as important.

    The numbers and economics are probably the most important part, otherwise its peoples opinions guiding things.

    Turning the numbers into projects probably isn’t that hard. Especially when you compare it to something like to going to Mars.

    As for corruption, just make all the numbers public in a format that we can parse and run correlation algorithms over.

    Like

  11. Having served in that role for a Governor, I can tell you the cross-agency politics are maddening and incredibly difficult to navigate – even at that level and even with the full support of the Executive. At the federal level, across the entire Executive Branch, I can’t even begin to imagine how compounded that would be compared to my own experience… Having said that, I do think it’s a worthwhile goal to try to integrate the thinking, the policies, and the action with a *strong* CTO – if the person is really given the authority he or she needs to be effective. I also believe this person could not be a token mid-level appointment. They need the ear of the President and his backing to go out and kick some butt.

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  12. Having served in that role for a Governor, I can tell you the cross-agency politics are maddening and incredibly difficult to navigate – even at that level and even with the full support of the Executive. At the federal level, across the entire Executive Branch, I can’t even begin to imagine how compounded that would be compared to my own experience… Having said that, I do think it’s a worthwhile goal to try to integrate the thinking, the policies, and the action with a *strong* CTO – if the person is really given the authority he or she needs to be effective. I also believe this person could not be a token mid-level appointment. They need the ear of the President and his backing to go out and kick some butt.

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  13. One more thing – I agree with Lessig (at least what he seemed to be saying) – you need someone who is both geek and evangelist. But also, that person needs a huge amount of political / diplomatic deft, the ability to negotiate, and (while bold) they do need a sprinkling of personal humility. Find me *that* among geek evangelists… 😉

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  14. One more thing – I agree with Lessig (at least what he seemed to be saying) – you need someone who is both geek and evangelist. But also, that person needs a huge amount of political / diplomatic deft, the ability to negotiate, and (while bold) they do need a sprinkling of personal humility. Find me *that* among geek evangelists… 😉

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  15. Mike Arrington?

    Anyway, I understand that the role of that CTO position would not be limited to the typical Silicon Valley stuff: Internet, assorted gadgetry, intellectual property stuff, etc. Consider other areas: medical, industrial, transportation, city management, intelligent homes… would R+D in these areas be encompassed too? I think this CTO needs a red cape and an embroidered “S” in his chest, then 😉

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  16. Mike Arrington?

    Anyway, I understand that the role of that CTO position would not be limited to the typical Silicon Valley stuff: Internet, assorted gadgetry, intellectual property stuff, etc. Consider other areas: medical, industrial, transportation, city management, intelligent homes… would R+D in these areas be encompassed too? I think this CTO needs a red cape and an embroidered “S” in his chest, then 😉

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  17. Putting any bright, articulate technologist in the halls of Washington, DC would be an enormous waste of his and her time. Especially the guys that you are listing. Entrepreneurial, free spirits.

    BTW. I hope I misread the lack of sarcasm in your response that you believe you could take on a CTO role in DC (and are just passing). If not your hubris is amazing, you have ZERO background/skills that would make you an appropriate match for that position…which might fit well with our leading candidate.

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  18. Putting any bright, articulate technologist in the halls of Washington, DC would be an enormous waste of his and her time. Especially the guys that you are listing. Entrepreneurial, free spirits.

    BTW. I hope I misread the lack of sarcasm in your response that you believe you could take on a CTO role in DC (and are just passing). If not your hubris is amazing, you have ZERO background/skills that would make you an appropriate match for that position…which might fit well with our leading candidate.

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  19. And a few others:

    Howard Schmidt – former cyber czar also eBay and Microsoft
    Dawn Meyerriecks – AOL then DoD CTO
    Bob Gourley – former DoD CTO
    Dale Meyerrose – DNI CIO
    Steve Cooper- Corning the DHS CIO
    Marv Langston – DoD CIO

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  20. And a few others:

    Howard Schmidt – former cyber czar also eBay and Microsoft
    Dawn Meyerriecks – AOL then DoD CTO
    Bob Gourley – former DoD CTO
    Dale Meyerrose – DNI CIO
    Steve Cooper- Corning the DHS CIO
    Marv Langston – DoD CIO

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  21. Why not have both? The CTO as a geek and a Chief Technology Advocate to be the “Prime Minister” type? That might be cool.

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  22. Why not have both? The CTO as a geek and a Chief Technology Advocate to be the “Prime Minister” type? That might be cool.

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  23. Surprised no-one’s mentioned Doc Searls yet. He’s got a solid track record setting the tone of the important issues (net neutrality, open source, open standards, the principles of web commerce). He’s also engaging, persuasive, well respected and extremely well connected. This last point is critical; we need someone who’ll be able to spot emerging trends and guage current opinion, and who is trusted by the whole industry to use this knowledge responsibly. And his stewardship of the VRM initiative has demonstrated political acumen.

    Larry Lessig and Vint Cerf also meet the above criteria. Gates would fall way short, IMHO. We wouldn’t want anyone too commercially minded in this role; the internet is for *everyone*, not just for companies (although of course an awareness of web commerce is essential). And as for Arrington…tell me this is a joke!

    In terms of the traditional CTO role, I don’t think it’s all that important to have the technical knowledge oneself, so long as the other criteria are met. The successful candidate will have a staff. In fact Doc himself has proved that one can have a clear perspective on the best way forward without being able to write code.

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  24. Surprised no-one’s mentioned Doc Searls yet. He’s got a solid track record setting the tone of the important issues (net neutrality, open source, open standards, the principles of web commerce). He’s also engaging, persuasive, well respected and extremely well connected. This last point is critical; we need someone who’ll be able to spot emerging trends and guage current opinion, and who is trusted by the whole industry to use this knowledge responsibly. And his stewardship of the VRM initiative has demonstrated political acumen.

    Larry Lessig and Vint Cerf also meet the above criteria. Gates would fall way short, IMHO. We wouldn’t want anyone too commercially minded in this role; the internet is for *everyone*, not just for companies (although of course an awareness of web commerce is essential). And as for Arrington…tell me this is a joke!

    In terms of the traditional CTO role, I don’t think it’s all that important to have the technical knowledge oneself, so long as the other criteria are met. The successful candidate will have a staff. In fact Doc himself has proved that one can have a clear perspective on the best way forward without being able to write code.

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  25. Al Gore??? OMG, lets get a bigger idiot on technology in there… Oh, wait there is none!

    All he does is spout whats already out there with no clue as to what it is.

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  26. Al Gore??? OMG, lets get a bigger idiot on technology in there… Oh, wait there is none!

    All he does is spout whats already out there with no clue as to what it is.

    Like

  27. It can’t possibly be anyone that might be seen as biased. That rules out the likes of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs or any person with ties to an IT vendor, including board members.

    Could you imagine if Bill recommended Vista? Or Steve said Macs?

    Nope. It’s gotta be someone with those qualities you asked for but who can be seen as independent and objective.

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  28. It can’t possibly be anyone that might be seen as biased. That rules out the likes of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs or any person with ties to an IT vendor, including board members.

    Could you imagine if Bill recommended Vista? Or Steve said Macs?

    Nope. It’s gotta be someone with those qualities you asked for but who can be seen as independent and objective.

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  29. I have to wonder how much a CTO could really accomplish in 4 years (maybe 8 if we are lucky). The gov’t is full of legacy IT systems and a conservative culture. It would be an uphill battle without agency CTOs/CIOs on board with the policy changes. I am sure Lessig realizes this and I am curious how he thinks someone could cause change within such an environment.

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  30. I have to wonder how much a CTO could really accomplish in 4 years (maybe 8 if we are lucky). The gov’t is full of legacy IT systems and a conservative culture. It would be an uphill battle without agency CTOs/CIOs on board with the policy changes. I am sure Lessig realizes this and I am curious how he thinks someone could cause change within such an environment.

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  31. It really doesn’t matter who you put in there. What will their powers be? What will their influence be? I would think in reality this is just another useless position that really won’t accomplish anything but more politics.

    DC doesn’t accomplish things, they just make them worse.

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  32. It really doesn’t matter who you put in there. What will their powers be? What will their influence be? I would think in reality this is just another useless position that really won’t accomplish anything but more politics.

    DC doesn’t accomplish things, they just make them worse.

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  33. Actually, what about Guido Van Rossum, smart, gets things done. Has a ‘simpler is better’ view point. He also has the respect of nearly every geek I’ve ever met.

    Interesting question. Pity it’ll never happen, it’ll be another oil puppet 😦

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  34. Actually, what about Guido Van Rossum, smart, gets things done. Has a ‘simpler is better’ view point. He also has the respect of nearly every geek I’ve ever met.

    Interesting question. Pity it’ll never happen, it’ll be another oil puppet 😦

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  35. This is an interesting intellectual exercise, but one that doesn’t seem to be grounded in any kind of reality. You need someone with clear answers to very difficult questions. And someone with a solid resume in today’s political as well as technical issues. (“Lost” email, anyone?) Lessig is interesting, but like TBL, tends to hubris over pragmatism. Andreessen is an interesting choice, but not enough of a security wonk.

    It’s a tough call … but Bruce Schneier would be a solid choice, especially on the security front. (‘Beyond Fear’ is a fantastic read, btw.)

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  36. This is an interesting intellectual exercise, but one that doesn’t seem to be grounded in any kind of reality. You need someone with clear answers to very difficult questions. And someone with a solid resume in today’s political as well as technical issues. (“Lost” email, anyone?) Lessig is interesting, but like TBL, tends to hubris over pragmatism. Andreessen is an interesting choice, but not enough of a security wonk.

    It’s a tough call … but Bruce Schneier would be a solid choice, especially on the security front. (‘Beyond Fear’ is a fantastic read, btw.)

    Like

  37. I’m honored, but I personally would rather work with others on some kind of technology task force (perhaps run by our CTO) to bring technology as well as excellent education to all people. Now that would be a political task I could get behind.

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  38. I’m honored, but I personally would rather work with others on some kind of technology task force (perhaps run by our CTO) to bring technology as well as excellent education to all people. Now that would be a political task I could get behind.

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  39. I think there are two different positions (at least) of interest here. First there is technology policy, and that could be a policy advisor position (though those don’t always amount to much, depending on the President and other considerations). Like, heard of any Science Policy Advisor incumbents lately?

    The Federal agencies (all executive branch with a few exceptions) have CIOs and there is a CIO counsel. They also work on the equivalent of enterprise architecture across the Federal Establishment. There could be a CTO here, along with a national CIO for that matter. What goes on here also impacts and relates to counterparts at the State level and there are occassions for coordinated efforts. This is essentially about government operations in their rich variety. For this end of it, it would help to understand what the Federal investment in ICT infrastructure, operations, and applications is. You will blink. Candidates for this level of responsibility and experience are not going to be geek household names.

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  40. I think there are two different positions (at least) of interest here. First there is technology policy, and that could be a policy advisor position (though those don’t always amount to much, depending on the President and other considerations). Like, heard of any Science Policy Advisor incumbents lately?

    The Federal agencies (all executive branch with a few exceptions) have CIOs and there is a CIO counsel. They also work on the equivalent of enterprise architecture across the Federal Establishment. There could be a CTO here, along with a national CIO for that matter. What goes on here also impacts and relates to counterparts at the State level and there are occassions for coordinated efforts. This is essentially about government operations in their rich variety. For this end of it, it would help to understand what the Federal investment in ICT infrastructure, operations, and applications is. You will blink. Candidates for this level of responsibility and experience are not going to be geek household names.

    Like

  41. Lessig would be perfect. I wouldn’t mind seeing someone like Cory Doctorow. I’m betting Obama will find one of his nutty cronies like Reverend Wright to put there. McCain has the imagination of an avocado so he’d probably want Bill Gates, as this is probably the extent of his technology knowledge.

    No one with a Platform to grind like Stallman. To be as intelligent as he is, he is terribly myopic.

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  42. Lessig would be perfect. I wouldn’t mind seeing someone like Cory Doctorow. I’m betting Obama will find one of his nutty cronies like Reverend Wright to put there. McCain has the imagination of an avocado so he’d probably want Bill Gates, as this is probably the extent of his technology knowledge.

    No one with a Platform to grind like Stallman. To be as intelligent as he is, he is terribly myopic.

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  43. There’s an assumption in what Lessig is saying about the use of technology and transparency that I’m not sure is true. Wall St. is one of the heaviest users of technology, possibly they use it more than any other industry segment, but would you call them transparent?

    Transparency comes from an organizational strategy that values transparency. Technology effectively supports that approach if it exists or obfuscates if one is not careful.

    Is there any reason to believe there’s a correlation between technology use and transparency? Theoretically, there should/could be. Practically, technology may create mirages more effectively than a desert.

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  44. There’s an assumption in what Lessig is saying about the use of technology and transparency that I’m not sure is true. Wall St. is one of the heaviest users of technology, possibly they use it more than any other industry segment, but would you call them transparent?

    Transparency comes from an organizational strategy that values transparency. Technology effectively supports that approach if it exists or obfuscates if one is not careful.

    Is there any reason to believe there’s a correlation between technology use and transparency? Theoretically, there should/could be. Practically, technology may create mirages more effectively than a desert.

    Like

  45. having a campaigning process and then an election process might work– oh wait that has its issues as well. How about we have the public select– maybe use a social network like IT Toolbox to have the voting and interviewing done.

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  46. having a campaigning process and then an election process might work– oh wait that has its issues as well. How about we have the public select– maybe use a social network like IT Toolbox to have the voting and interviewing done.

    Like

  47. If security is a big part of it, then I could see Richard Clarke get the nod, which is incredibly frightening. Bruce Schneider? Naw. Al Gore? LOL!

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  48. If security is a big part of it, then I could see Richard Clarke get the nod, which is incredibly frightening. Bruce Schneider? Naw. Al Gore? LOL!

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  49. The idea of a national CTO is a good one, but @orcmid is right in noting that the problem that needs solving isn’t finding smart technical people, it’s herding the cats of politics and turf battles to get the gubmint moving in a sane direction. We might be better served by finding an organizer/arm-twister (like Peter Uberroth?) who could then enlist a task force from various parts of the industry for the technical answers.

    It’s great to think smart technical people could solve the problem, but when it comes to national policy (especially involving communications) it all boils down to politics, since the politicians control the budgets and the laws. That’s not changing anytime soon.

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  50. The idea of a national CTO is a good one, but @orcmid is right in noting that the problem that needs solving isn’t finding smart technical people, it’s herding the cats of politics and turf battles to get the gubmint moving in a sane direction. We might be better served by finding an organizer/arm-twister (like Peter Uberroth?) who could then enlist a task force from various parts of the industry for the technical answers.

    It’s great to think smart technical people could solve the problem, but when it comes to national policy (especially involving communications) it all boils down to politics, since the politicians control the budgets and the laws. That’s not changing anytime soon.

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  51. How about another role — making sure that the big companies play fair with technology, like the current debacle with Comcast. Keep the President advised on ways he can use the the bully pulpit to get people organized to make sure we don’t all get rolled over by the companies. Kind of the antidote to Bush.

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  52. How about another role — making sure that the big companies play fair with technology, like the current debacle with Comcast. Keep the President advised on ways he can use the the bully pulpit to get people organized to make sure we don’t all get rolled over by the companies. Kind of the antidote to Bush.

    Like

  53. Al Gore has done more for the internet in the US than any other politician that I’m aware of. He get’s technology and he (clearly) gets politics. I don’t think there is a better candidate.

    /r

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  54. Al Gore has done more for the internet in the US than any other politician that I’m aware of. He get’s technology and he (clearly) gets politics. I don’t think there is a better candidate.

    /r

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  55. Mark Andreessen? No.
    Dave Winer? Hell no.
    Joel Spolsky? OH HELL NO.
    Tantek Celik? No.
    Molly Holzschalg? No.
    Meg Whitman? Hell no.
    Bill Gates? …maybe.
    Steve Wozniak? No.
    Caterina Fake? No.

    I submit, for your consideration: America’s CTO, Ed Felten.

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  56. Mark Andreessen? No.
    Dave Winer? Hell no.
    Joel Spolsky? OH HELL NO.
    Tantek Celik? No.
    Molly Holzschalg? No.
    Meg Whitman? Hell no.
    Bill Gates? …maybe.
    Steve Wozniak? No.
    Caterina Fake? No.

    I submit, for your consideration: America’s CTO, Ed Felten.

    Like

  57. Bill Gates? The epitome of tech oligarchists? As the CTO.gov in an Obama administration? I think not.

    I like Winer’s instincts about the role of OPEN TRANSPARENT tech in business and the economy and he’s clearly an Obama guy, but he doesn’t strike me as “CTO material” (I hope you take this as the compliment I intended it Dave).

    The only other one on this list that I like is Andreessen, who I think is in fact “CTO material”. But I’m not sure I trust his instincts on openness and transparency.

    How about adding Doc Searls or Steve Gillmor to the list? They have the right stuff.

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  58. Bill Gates? The epitome of tech oligarchists? As the CTO.gov in an Obama administration? I think not.

    I like Winer’s instincts about the role of OPEN TRANSPARENT tech in business and the economy and he’s clearly an Obama guy, but he doesn’t strike me as “CTO material” (I hope you take this as the compliment I intended it Dave).

    The only other one on this list that I like is Andreessen, who I think is in fact “CTO material”. But I’m not sure I trust his instincts on openness and transparency.

    How about adding Doc Searls or Steve Gillmor to the list? They have the right stuff.

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  59. I’ll do it. I live in the DC area. DC born.

    I have spent my career in Government and push for emerging technology, not only using it, but teaching and mentoring.

    I am also a woman (a bonus – for the first time the position is created to have a woman in the position).

    I know I am not a big name, yet.

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  60. I’ll do it. I live in the DC area. DC born.

    I have spent my career in Government and push for emerging technology, not only using it, but teaching and mentoring.

    I am also a woman (a bonus – for the first time the position is created to have a woman in the position).

    I know I am not a big name, yet.

    Like

  61. Is Robert Scoble, Larry Lessig, and everyone commenting completely unaware that the President has, and has long had, an Office of Science and Technology Policy, the leader of which serves as the President’s chief S&T advisor? Are you also unaware that there is a Deputy OSTP Director for Technology?

    Furthermore, the idea that a good technologist (alone) would survive two days in that position is completely idiotic. Success and influence at that level in Washington is a lot more about (duh) politics and turf battles than raw skills. Just compare Rumsfeld vs. Powell early on in the Bush Administration.

    Finally it is completely unclear what the role of a fictional CTO would be, or where they would actually sit in the Washington hierarchy. Presumably they would work for the President, in which case they would help guide national policymaking and the budget process for S&T. Various agencies and entities around Washington already have their own CIO’s, CTO’s, etc as appropriate.

    It could be that you mean there should be outside informal advisors on these issues, but it turns out that there are many of these already as well. For example, the JASONS are a group of independent scientists, technologists, etc who tackle problems in national security.

    If you actually want to know how Washington works, and why it does, and what you can do to help, I suggest you move here and learn. Discussions like this is why people like you have no influence over “how things work” here. And meeting a couple of Congressmen for a Qik broadcast doesn’t count.

    Like

  62. Is Robert Scoble, Larry Lessig, and everyone commenting completely unaware that the President has, and has long had, an Office of Science and Technology Policy, the leader of which serves as the President’s chief S&T advisor? Are you also unaware that there is a Deputy OSTP Director for Technology?

    Furthermore, the idea that a good technologist (alone) would survive two days in that position is completely idiotic. Success and influence at that level in Washington is a lot more about (duh) politics and turf battles than raw skills. Just compare Rumsfeld vs. Powell early on in the Bush Administration.

    Finally it is completely unclear what the role of a fictional CTO would be, or where they would actually sit in the Washington hierarchy. Presumably they would work for the President, in which case they would help guide national policymaking and the budget process for S&T. Various agencies and entities around Washington already have their own CIO’s, CTO’s, etc as appropriate.

    It could be that you mean there should be outside informal advisors on these issues, but it turns out that there are many of these already as well. For example, the JASONS are a group of independent scientists, technologists, etc who tackle problems in national security.

    If you actually want to know how Washington works, and why it does, and what you can do to help, I suggest you move here and learn. Discussions like this is why people like you have no influence over “how things work” here. And meeting a couple of Congressmen for a Qik broadcast doesn’t count.

    Like

  63. @Mark Drapeau maybe we need to have blogger’s roundtable. Like we did with the media a couple years back when we announced Intellipedia to the world.

    Letting the critics come and ask us questions and engage in a discussion on how we are changing government from a grassroots level to improve collaboration, process, and technology.

    Like

  64. @Mark Drapeau maybe we need to have blogger’s roundtable. Like we did with the media a couple years back when we announced Intellipedia to the world.

    Letting the critics come and ask us questions and engage in a discussion on how we are changing government from a grassroots level to improve collaboration, process, and technology.

    Like

  65. You might also be interested in the EOP’s National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), which advises the President on whole-of-government matters on the topic, and serves as a coordinating body.

    Finally, PCAST, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, “serves as a source of scientific and technological analysis and judgment for the President with respect to major policies, plans and programs of the Federal Government. The office works with the private sector to ensure Federal investments in science and technology contribute to economic prosperity, environmental quality, and national security.”

    So – If a fictional CTO position was created, how would it be justified to Congress, who would pass hearings, how would they interact with the OSTP Director, would they serve on the NSTC and in what capacity, how would they deal with the PCAST, what would their authority be over relevant officials in all of the various Cabinet-level agencies, how would they work with existing Government-owned venture capital funds like In-Q-Tel?

    Just to get started with a realistic one-page white paper for a transition team in November.

    Like

  66. You might also be interested in the EOP’s National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), which advises the President on whole-of-government matters on the topic, and serves as a coordinating body.

    Finally, PCAST, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, “serves as a source of scientific and technological analysis and judgment for the President with respect to major policies, plans and programs of the Federal Government. The office works with the private sector to ensure Federal investments in science and technology contribute to economic prosperity, environmental quality, and national security.”

    So – If a fictional CTO position was created, how would it be justified to Congress, who would pass hearings, how would they interact with the OSTP Director, would they serve on the NSTC and in what capacity, how would they deal with the PCAST, what would their authority be over relevant officials in all of the various Cabinet-level agencies, how would they work with existing Government-owned venture capital funds like In-Q-Tel?

    Just to get started with a realistic one-page white paper for a transition team in November.

    Like

  67. Oh boy, can of worms. I couldn’t support selection of any of the names on the list. In fact, I strongly and urgently hope for someone who knows what being a CTO in a government role of incredible magnitude would really mean, and someone who could actually navigate the extremely difficult waters. Gates is the only one on there that I think might make it past the first month. I’m confident it should be someone who’s name we don’t already know.

    Like

  68. Oh boy, can of worms. I couldn’t support selection of any of the names on the list. In fact, I strongly and urgently hope for someone who knows what being a CTO in a government role of incredible magnitude would really mean, and someone who could actually navigate the extremely difficult waters. Gates is the only one on there that I think might make it past the first month. I’m confident it should be someone who’s name we don’t already know.

    Like

  69. I’m going to be unpopular… if we’re going with an actual tech CTO, I want someone under the age of 30.
    Yes, at 42 I’m on the other side of the fence.

    But the kind of person I’d want for CTO is someone who lives and breathes the future of tech – not someone who has spent the past two plus decades getting jaded by it.

    Then again, I don’t have any names to posit. Probably because the kind of person I’m talking about is out there living and breathing tech right now, not “established”.

    Like

  70. I’m going to be unpopular… if we’re going with an actual tech CTO, I want someone under the age of 30.
    Yes, at 42 I’m on the other side of the fence.

    But the kind of person I’d want for CTO is someone who lives and breathes the future of tech – not someone who has spent the past two plus decades getting jaded by it.

    Then again, I don’t have any names to posit. Probably because the kind of person I’m talking about is out there living and breathing tech right now, not “established”.

    Like

  71. I hate to be a buzz kill, but we don’t need a national CTO to help shape the nation’s tech policies. The government already has organizations that the government’s tech direction. If they’re not doing an adequate job, fix them. Don’t add to an already bloated government.

    From the private sector standpoint, they don’t need direction from DC.

    Like

  72. I hate to be a buzz kill, but we don’t need a national CTO to help shape the nation’s tech policies. The government already has organizations that the government’s tech direction. If they’re not doing an adequate job, fix them. Don’t add to an already bloated government.

    From the private sector standpoint, they don’t need direction from DC.

    Like

  73. This is one of the most ignorant posts I’ve ever read. The last thing this country needs is another buraucracy. But leave it to Democrats (Barry) to think more govt. is better. Each and every Dept of (fill in the blank) has a technology officer, as does TOTP. I’m not sure what problems the US is having in this space that are serious enough to warrant me paying more in Federal taxes to expand govt.

    Actually Al Gore would be a good choice. Not because he’s smart; he’s actually a moron. But he’s perfect fit because he is the biggest policy wonk ever, and a moron, so thankfully nothing would get done.

    Like

  74. This is one of the most ignorant posts I’ve ever read. The last thing this country needs is another buraucracy. But leave it to Democrats (Barry) to think more govt. is better. Each and every Dept of (fill in the blank) has a technology officer, as does TOTP. I’m not sure what problems the US is having in this space that are serious enough to warrant me paying more in Federal taxes to expand govt.

    Actually Al Gore would be a good choice. Not because he’s smart; he’s actually a moron. But he’s perfect fit because he is the biggest policy wonk ever, and a moron, so thankfully nothing would get done.

    Like

  75. @Dave Winer:

    In case you aren’t from this country and live in a socialist state, we have something in this country called capitalism. It allows companies to succeed or fail based on the free market. In addition, if I’m not mistaken we already have a bureaucracy the regulates the hell out of companies like Comcast, thank you. Any role this mythical CTO would play in this space would be somewhat redundant. . The LAST thing we need is MORE govt. intervention. But I understand that’s anathema to Democrats.

    The country does not need a CTO. What critical, pressing problem does the US have that this “national” CTO would solve that that justifies me paying more Federal taxes to support such a position?

    Mark’s insightful comments only serve to reinforce how naive, inexperienced and clueless Barry H. Obama-ssiah is. A “national” CTO! Gimme a break! How ignorant about the Federal Govt can this man be? Did he even pay attention on the rare occasions he showed up on the Senate floor?

    Like

  76. @Dave Winer:

    In case you aren’t from this country and live in a socialist state, we have something in this country called capitalism. It allows companies to succeed or fail based on the free market. In addition, if I’m not mistaken we already have a bureaucracy the regulates the hell out of companies like Comcast, thank you. Any role this mythical CTO would play in this space would be somewhat redundant. . The LAST thing we need is MORE govt. intervention. But I understand that’s anathema to Democrats.

    The country does not need a CTO. What critical, pressing problem does the US have that this “national” CTO would solve that that justifies me paying more Federal taxes to support such a position?

    Mark’s insightful comments only serve to reinforce how naive, inexperienced and clueless Barry H. Obama-ssiah is. A “national” CTO! Gimme a break! How ignorant about the Federal Govt can this man be? Did he even pay attention on the rare occasions he showed up on the Senate floor?

    Like

  77. Long Tail Stephen Manesish Corollary – Less of Lessig, is actually More.

    We don’t need a CTO, just as most good companies don’t need self-important ‘IT as an entity’ CTO or CIOs, as every technology decision is in reality just a business decision.

    Like

  78. Long Tail Stephen Manesish Corollary – Less of Lessig, is actually More.

    We don’t need a CTO, just as most good companies don’t need self-important ‘IT as an entity’ CTO or CIOs, as every technology decision is in reality just a business decision.

    Like

  79. Any name will just create “Oh Hell NO” type responses. I think this is just a way to drum up page hits… Like I just did

    Like

  80. Any name will just create “Oh Hell NO” type responses. I think this is just a way to drum up page hits… Like I just did

    Like

  81. Bill Gates would actually be the ideal candicate for this. (As long as he doesn’t have directly influence over policy, but serve only as an advisory role to the leadership).

    * He has a fantasic ability to grasp a hugely disparate set of very complex technology, and a great ability to articulate it to those who don’t.
    * He is already retired and don’t control Microsoft tactical operations anymore.
    * He already has done large filantropic work to make technology available to the masses, inline with the democratic platform.
    * He is socially liberal, and used to be a democrat until Microsoft was attacked under the Clinton presidency (at which point he switched). Either way I don’t think he’ll mind serving under a Democratic president.

    Like

  82. Bill Gates would actually be the ideal candicate for this. (As long as he doesn’t have directly influence over policy, but serve only as an advisory role to the leadership).

    * He has a fantasic ability to grasp a hugely disparate set of very complex technology, and a great ability to articulate it to those who don’t.
    * He is already retired and don’t control Microsoft tactical operations anymore.
    * He already has done large filantropic work to make technology available to the masses, inline with the democratic platform.
    * He is socially liberal, and used to be a democrat until Microsoft was attacked under the Clinton presidency (at which point he switched). Either way I don’t think he’ll mind serving under a Democratic president.

    Like

  83. Robert,

    I like all the candidates you suggested but I think there’s still someone I believe is very often overlooked: Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of HP.

    Carly is a fantastically intelligent, technically literate, strategically effective, driven person who has the unique ability to work in both the tech and consumer worlds at the same time. She understands how technology can and does effect our lives and has shown a gift for crafting corporate strategy to be both effective and efficient.

    Personally, I think Carly would be a fantastic choice. Too bad her time at HP has tainted her a bit. But I think if we look at her accomplishments beyond HP, we can see how she would be a strong candidate.

    That’d be my choice.
    That’d be pretty damn cool.

    Anthony

    Like

  84. Robert,

    I like all the candidates you suggested but I think there’s still someone I believe is very often overlooked: Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of HP.

    Carly is a fantastically intelligent, technically literate, strategically effective, driven person who has the unique ability to work in both the tech and consumer worlds at the same time. She understands how technology can and does effect our lives and has shown a gift for crafting corporate strategy to be both effective and efficient.

    Personally, I think Carly would be a fantastic choice. Too bad her time at HP has tainted her a bit. But I think if we look at her accomplishments beyond HP, we can see how she would be a strong candidate.

    That’d be my choice.
    That’d be pretty damn cool.

    Anthony

    Like

  85. In the second role that Lessig mentioned — pioneering the use of technology — you should all be watching people already involved with the Obama campaign. Adam D’Angelo may be too young, but watch out for Leonard Lin. He’s got a rare combination of geek knowledge and a Jedi-like ability to make bureaucracies work for him. After selling his startup to Yahoo he became involved in the movement to rejuvenate the company and had some notable successes. Taking on antiquated procedures in federal government would be an even bigger challenge, but he might be the guy for the job.

    Like

  86. In the second role that Lessig mentioned — pioneering the use of technology — you should all be watching people already involved with the Obama campaign. Adam D’Angelo may be too young, but watch out for Leonard Lin. He’s got a rare combination of geek knowledge and a Jedi-like ability to make bureaucracies work for him. After selling his startup to Yahoo he became involved in the movement to rejuvenate the company and had some notable successes. Taking on antiquated procedures in federal government would be an even bigger challenge, but he might be the guy for the job.

    Like

  87. Good question, Robert. Thanks for asking it.

    I second Ed Felten.

    And, while I appreciate Phil Whitehouse’s nomination of yours truly, I’m busy and far less qualified than Ed (and many others).

    FWIW, the extant Office of Science and Technology Policy is here: http://www.ostp.gov. It’s headed by John H. Marburger, III. Here’s a quick look at its bureaucracy: http://www.ostp.gov/cs/about_ostp/leadership_staff.

    I’ll say more in Linux Journal this morning. Have a look over there if you’re interested. http://linuxjournal.com.

    Like

  88. Good question, Robert. Thanks for asking it.

    I second Ed Felten.

    And, while I appreciate Phil Whitehouse’s nomination of yours truly, I’m busy and far less qualified than Ed (and many others).

    FWIW, the extant Office of Science and Technology Policy is here: http://www.ostp.gov. It’s headed by John H. Marburger, III. Here’s a quick look at its bureaucracy: http://www.ostp.gov/cs/about_ostp/leadership_staff.

    I’ll say more in Linux Journal this morning. Have a look over there if you’re interested. http://linuxjournal.com.

    Like

  89. I think people are looking at this all wrong. You don’t want great IT CEO’s in the position. You want great CIO/CTO’s of large companies.
    Gary Reiner – CIO GE
    Jean-Michel R. Arès – CIO Coca Cola
    Rollin Ford – CIO Walmart

    These are the type of people that could make some real progress in the role.

    Like

  90. I think people are looking at this all wrong. You don’t want great IT CEO’s in the position. You want great CIO/CTO’s of large companies.
    Gary Reiner – CIO GE
    Jean-Michel R. Arès – CIO Coca Cola
    Rollin Ford – CIO Walmart

    These are the type of people that could make some real progress in the role.

    Like

  91. “Why not Steve Jobs?”

    Because he has a real job to do.

    There is no need for yet another federal official to interfere with the computer industry. We got where we are today because we were largely left alone.

    “Carly is a fantastically intelligent, technically literate, strategically effective, driven person who has the unique ability to work in both the tech and consumer worlds at the same time. ”

    I see you’ve been reading her PR. Try talking to any HP employee for a different opinion. For that matter, try talking to any of the people from Lucent who were thrilled to see her go.

    Like

  92. “Why not Steve Jobs?”

    Because he has a real job to do.

    There is no need for yet another federal official to interfere with the computer industry. We got where we are today because we were largely left alone.

    “Carly is a fantastically intelligent, technically literate, strategically effective, driven person who has the unique ability to work in both the tech and consumer worlds at the same time. ”

    I see you’ve been reading her PR. Try talking to any HP employee for a different opinion. For that matter, try talking to any of the people from Lucent who were thrilled to see her go.

    Like

  93. For all of you people who are enamored of the idea of a CTO of the federal government, let me remind you of the words of Thomas Jefferson, from our Declaration of Independance:

    “He hath erected a multitude of officers, and sent them forth to harass our people and eat out their substance.”

    Let me also remind you that we’ve had a couple of similar jobs in the federal government, and they’ve been basically useless. Anyone remember that it was Tricky Dick Nixon (one of the worst presidents we’ve ever had) who invented the post of “Energy Czar”?

    Get a grip, people. This is a bonehead idea.

    Like

  94. For all of you people who are enamored of the idea of a CTO of the federal government, let me remind you of the words of Thomas Jefferson, from our Declaration of Independance:

    “He hath erected a multitude of officers, and sent them forth to harass our people and eat out their substance.”

    Let me also remind you that we’ve had a couple of similar jobs in the federal government, and they’ve been basically useless. Anyone remember that it was Tricky Dick Nixon (one of the worst presidents we’ve ever had) who invented the post of “Energy Czar”?

    Get a grip, people. This is a bonehead idea.

    Like

  95. Robert:
    Well, you’ve compiled an interesting list, but anyone who has headed their own startup or moved technology forward in thought (Lessig) or deed (Gates) has done more to advance technology than any position, real or imagined, in the Fedgov.
    The real question: is “national CTO” a policy position, an “advisor” position, or an “internal leadership” to the Fedgov position?
    As the City of Seattle’s CTO (also known as “Chief Geek”), I’ve given this some thought and blogged about it here: blog.chiefseattlegeek.com .
    In the end, I agree with Vint Cerf: the last thing we need is another Fedgov “czar” (i.e. “drug” or “intelligence” or “war on poverty”). But I think we sure could use a skilled bureaucrat to harness the great technologies developed by the private sector for use in running the Fedgov and making it more efficient, effective and transparent in service to citizens.
    -bill

    Like

  96. Robert:
    Well, you’ve compiled an interesting list, but anyone who has headed their own startup or moved technology forward in thought (Lessig) or deed (Gates) has done more to advance technology than any position, real or imagined, in the Fedgov.
    The real question: is “national CTO” a policy position, an “advisor” position, or an “internal leadership” to the Fedgov position?
    As the City of Seattle’s CTO (also known as “Chief Geek”), I’ve given this some thought and blogged about it here: blog.chiefseattlegeek.com .
    In the end, I agree with Vint Cerf: the last thing we need is another Fedgov “czar” (i.e. “drug” or “intelligence” or “war on poverty”). But I think we sure could use a skilled bureaucrat to harness the great technologies developed by the private sector for use in running the Fedgov and making it more efficient, effective and transparent in service to citizens.
    -bill

    Like

  97. This is a terrible, terrible idea. Not only a terrible idea even to have a “CTO position,” but to put Lessig or Arrington or any other Silicon Valley technolibertarian or socialist. Bad, bad idea.

    Lessig has been struggling for greater power and influence ever since he left Creative Commons, where he worked intensively to destroy the connection between intellectual property and commerce, and now he thinks “transparency” and “corruption” in government are a lucrative field — except, of course, if Obama comes in, he’s not going to be wanting to look too closely at Obama and his supporters (he’s an Obama advisor) so what will he have to do? So he’ll look to get appointed to some position in government next, and is only being coy about claiming he ‘doesn’t want the job”.

    The larger issue, however, is the notion that you should even have such a technology czar untethered to the rest of our nation’s policy machine. No, you don’t get to install twittered and facebooked web 2.0 entities with flash mobs in power circumventing elected officials and the will of the American people.

    Re: “View #1 is a person who could help shape our nation’s tech policies. This person would need to be a great speaker, because he or she would need to go to places like the World Economic Forum and communicate what our tech policy should be.”

    No, we don’t need them to communicate what our tech policy is at some global body which will be politicized and reflect the tech policies of other great powers, some direct enemies. The UN or the WEF is the last place you go to shape policy; you have to start at home. And that means starting in the political process, and not installing extremists with agendas.

    Just as the above poster said about “Energy Czar” (and we still have them for some regions like Eurasia), it’s a way of creating less responsibility in government, not more, and giving a windfall to one lobby, in this case, Silicon Valley. No thanks.

    Like

  98. This is a terrible, terrible idea. Not only a terrible idea even to have a “CTO position,” but to put Lessig or Arrington or any other Silicon Valley technolibertarian or socialist. Bad, bad idea.

    Lessig has been struggling for greater power and influence ever since he left Creative Commons, where he worked intensively to destroy the connection between intellectual property and commerce, and now he thinks “transparency” and “corruption” in government are a lucrative field — except, of course, if Obama comes in, he’s not going to be wanting to look too closely at Obama and his supporters (he’s an Obama advisor) so what will he have to do? So he’ll look to get appointed to some position in government next, and is only being coy about claiming he ‘doesn’t want the job”.

    The larger issue, however, is the notion that you should even have such a technology czar untethered to the rest of our nation’s policy machine. No, you don’t get to install twittered and facebooked web 2.0 entities with flash mobs in power circumventing elected officials and the will of the American people.

    Re: “View #1 is a person who could help shape our nation’s tech policies. This person would need to be a great speaker, because he or she would need to go to places like the World Economic Forum and communicate what our tech policy should be.”

    No, we don’t need them to communicate what our tech policy is at some global body which will be politicized and reflect the tech policies of other great powers, some direct enemies. The UN or the WEF is the last place you go to shape policy; you have to start at home. And that means starting in the political process, and not installing extremists with agendas.

    Just as the above poster said about “Energy Czar” (and we still have them for some regions like Eurasia), it’s a way of creating less responsibility in government, not more, and giving a windfall to one lobby, in this case, Silicon Valley. No thanks.

    Like

  99. Why not Steve Jobs?”

    Because he has a real job to do.

    There is no need for yet another federal official to interfere with the computer industry. We got where we are today because we were largely left alone.

    “Carly is a fantastically intelligent, technically literate, strategically effective, driven person who has the unique ability to work in both the tech and consumer worlds at the same time. ”

    I see you’ve been reading her PR. Try talking to any HP employee for a different opinion. For that matter, try talking to any of the people from Lucent who were thrilled to see her go.

    Like

  100. Why not Steve Jobs?”

    Because he has a real job to do.

    There is no need for yet another federal official to interfere with the computer industry. We got where we are today because we were largely left alone.

    “Carly is a fantastically intelligent, technically literate, strategically effective, driven person who has the unique ability to work in both the tech and consumer worlds at the same time. ”

    I see you’ve been reading her PR. Try talking to any HP employee for a different opinion. For that matter, try talking to any of the people from Lucent who were thrilled to see her go.

    Like

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