Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Why is Mr Tufte going to Washington

I'm doing this because I like accountability and transparency, and I believe in public service. And it is the complete opposite of everything else I do. Maybe I'll learn something. The practical consequence is that I will probably go to Washington several days each month, in addition to whatever homework and phone meetings are necessary.

-Mr Tufte

So Obama hired Edward Tufte;

Though often cast as a free-floating information guru, Mr. Tufte has a highly specific mission: on March 5, he was appointed by President Obama to a panel to advise the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, which monitors the way the $787 billion in the stimulus package is being spent...

“Political practice today too often skips right by evidence,” he said by e-mail. “When I listen to True Believers (left or right) talk about the problems that governments are seeking to solve, I keep muttering to myself, ‘How boring, it’s more complicated than that.’ And those who best know that it’s more complicated than that are public servants.”

The board has two missions: to root out waste, fraud and abuse in spending and to inform the American public how the stimulus money is being spent...

In an e-mail message, Mr. Tufte recalled the meeting and said that generally his advice had been to add more information to the site so that a visitor could see things in context. “It shouldn’t look like a government Web site, and it shouldn’t look like a corporate Web site,” he said. “This is a reporting thing — about factual, credible reporting.”...

Jerry Brito, a senior research fellow at George Mason University, has been monitoring the stimulus at his site, stimuluswatch.org.

“What we want is the raw data. We don’t need a beautiful site,” Mr. Brito said.

In fact, he says that recovery.gov is too flashy and too crowded, and uses maps too much instead of simple tables. “Tufte can do a lot of good here,” he said. “There is a lot of low-hanging fruit.”

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