Congressional Rep Makes A Pull Request On GitHub, Which Is Then Merged By US Gov't CIO

from the open-government dept

Well, here’s a possible first in open government: a Congressional Representative issuing a pull request on a government policy posted to GitHub, leading the US CIO to merge the request into the document. The White House has actually been using GitHub a bit lately. In fact, we had just noted how the White House CIO, Tony Scott, had been using Github to solicit feedback on various proposals, including the one to require all federal government websites go HTTPS only.

Another proposal concerned the Management and Oversight of Federal IT Resources. That included a draft policy document. A few weeks ago, Rep. Gerry Connolly (or, perhaps, a staffer…) made a pull request, adjusting some of the language in the draft policy:

For those of you not used to using version control systems like Github, a pull request is a way to submit a contribution to a project. Here, Rep. Connolly was basically suggesting a language change to the policy. Then, this week, as the policy was finalized, the White House merged the pull request, thereby making it a part of the final policy.

Chances are there was a lot of behind-the-scenes coordination to make this happen. I doubt that we’ll be seeing Congress critters crawling around Github, posting bills, reviewing and merging pull requests and such — but is it such a crazy idea? Yes, right now it’s mostly useful for folks with some technical background, but given how well such processes have worked for more open development of code, why can’t it work for many other things up to and including regulations?

Yes, this particular example may be something of a stunt, but it’s still a milestone, and one worth paying attention to. It shows how we could move much more towards truly open government if we really had the will to go there.

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Comments on “Congressional Rep Makes A Pull Request On GitHub, Which Is Then Merged By US Gov't CIO”

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14 Comments
ronabop (profile) says:

Re: Push vs. Pull

It’s not a push, it’s a pull, but that’s a common mis-conception, usually found when people are coming from centralized version management systems.

In Git, push actions are done to put changes into a local, decentralized, system, and pull requests are used to move from one decentralized system to another.

White House has repository A.
Connolly forks/clones A to make repository B.
Connolly makes changes, and pushes those changes into repository B.
Connolly then issues a pull request to the white house, asking them to pull changes from repository B to put into repository A.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Now THIS is transparency

My state has a rudimentary lookup for legislation. You can lookup original drafts and finalized approved drafts. You can also lookup those bills that don’t make it out of the legislature, at least until adjournment.

The way Github does it is much better. Maybe the states AND Congress can learn a few things.

Anonymous Coward says:

Would be FAKE "transparency"!

Actually it is and will be “a lot of behind-the-scenes coordination”.

Worse than useless! At best, a PR tactic to allay public fears and deflect anger while the deals are STILL made in secret. Be a good start on The Ministry Of Truth, promising good times just ahead, then a memory hole to hide what really happened by editing the repository!

So, NO THANKS. BAD IDEA.

It’s a lot like Google’s PR stunt after Snowden of going to court so can publish numbers of how many NSA requests, but which the public has no way to verify. You’re better off ignorant than falsely informed!

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