User stories for open government?

Posted: December 1st, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Design, Transparency | Tags: | No Comments »

As we build tools that make government more accessible, are we addressing the actual needs and wants of citizens, or the needs and wants we wish they had?

In Sunlight Foundation’s Open House/Open Senate Project discussion, Clay Shirky wrote:

Without a middle step that helps large, disorganized groups take advantage of the newly transparent information, transparency may in fact further increase the net asymmetry betwee ‘interest group with lobbyists’ vs. ‘interest groups without lobbyists’ in getting the Government to craft the needed bargains their way.

The extreme programming technique of defining “user stories” to be
handled by the software could be useful here. One format is

As a (role) I want (something) so that (benefit).

Possible user stories:

  1. As a voter wondering whether to respond to Politician X’s
    fundraising appeal, I want a summary of his track record on Issue Y so
    that I can decide quickly whether to send him $25.

  2. As an “Issue Y” voter, I want to know whether today is the day I
    should spend the four hours a year I have budgeted for calls and email
    to my Senator, and what I should say to him, so that my four hours
    have as much impact as possible on the Federal Government.

  3. As a policy analyst, I want to identify the Senator who has been
    most vocal and consistent with my position on Issue Y, so can I get a
    Senatorial hold placed on a bad bill. (e.g.
    http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2007/12/18/victory/ )

  4. As an investigative reporter, I want to know what changed in seven
    months, so that I can explain why FISA legislation that failed in
    December 2007 then passed in July 2008.

  5. As a mash-up programmer, I want access to the geographical
    locations of all the sites earmarked for funding in Bill Z, so I can
    place them on a Google Map.

More on user stories:
http://www.agilemodeling.com/artifacts/userStory.htm.