Friday, July 24, 2009

Freedom of Information

I like the idea of freedom of information. To 'inform' means to shape knowledge; just as knowledge is data given meaning, information is knowledge given usefulness. But 'information' carries with it the sense of being bound. You have shaped it, like clay is made into a pot — how then can it be free?

Freedom of information, I suppose, simply means that usefully shaped meaningful data is made public, so that anyone who can use it may use it. Because the data are most often linked to real-world phenomena and real-world organisations, such stuff can be used to keep a handle on reality. If Atlantis loses 35 billion gold crowns, how much is that? Is it something that could have been used to save the world?

It is therefore with great happiness that I have been delving away on the banks of the river, mining information. What did people do? What did they say they did? Did they know what they were doing?

You see, when an agency declares that they have done X1 and X2, and you point out that X1 is not consistent with X2, then you have caught them. They have no choice but to admit to a) inconsistency, b) falsehood, and/or c) incompetence. Sometimes it's just laziness, which I'd put under c) for corporate incompetence.

I remember all too well the day that I received an email from a ministry requesting a list of all the awards issued to us by that same ministry. I told them to go get it themselves, since it was on their own website. I even provided links. Some people were not happy. I replied, "If these people are too lazy to pick up their own stuff which is lying around in public, why should we encourage it?"

A certain person said, "Help them, why not?" I replied, "Yes I am, I am helping them to stop looking like lazy idiots."

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3 Comments:

Blogger LoneRifle said...

I suspect that they were not lazy, but were trying to optimize by speculating that you had the information already cached somewhere in your brain, and the stall incurred in transmitting that information would not have been too great a cost to you

Saturday, July 25, 2009 1:20:00 am  
Blogger Trebuchet said...

I don't suspect that; rather, I am quite certain of it. The reason I am so certain is that I know for a fact that if one department in some ministry wants data from another department, they'd rather go through a third party.

Example: I once got a letter from MOE asking me for my wife's educational qualifications (down to the specific subject results for O & A levels, and university). I told them to go look it up themselves.

Saturday, July 25, 2009 5:59:00 am  
Blogger toh said...

Well sometimes the truth can be painful as opposed to convenient. And when it comes down to how you "look", that might be all that matters...

Sunday, July 26, 2009 10:02:00 pm  

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