Among the agenda items that came before the Keene City Council last night was a request by Tom LePage, who runs Armadillo’s Burritos, to extend his sidewalk cafe around the corner onto Railroad Square. I’m in favor of it! As we head into the summer season, I’ll be going to Armadillo’s a lot. I always want to sit outside, but there are only a few tables out front, and they’re usually occupied. Around the corner, where the restaurant abuts Railroad Square, there’s more space available, and it’d be fun to have a ringside seat for the various musical, artistic, and political activities that happen in the square.
Tom’s proposal came up at this point in the meeting. The relevant piece of video, served up by Granicus, lasts only about five seconds. That’s how long it took for city clerk Patty Little to mention the item, and for mayor Dale Pregent to refer it to the Planning, Licences, and Development Committee. But thanks to a new feature added to the Granicus service, that bit of city business now has a permalink and also a hashtag (#granicus732_7716).
This is a simple idea, it’s easy to implement, yet it’s a powerful enabler of modes of communication that we all envision. When the folks on the Planning, Licenses, and Development Committee gets around to considering Tom’s request, they could — and I hope they will — search the web for pages (like this one) that use the permalink, and tweets (like the one I’m about to write) that cite the hashtag. Citizens who want to express views on the matter can do so in their own online spaces, wherever those may be. No single authority is responsible for monitoring, or gathering, or moderating, or displaying the set of items joined together by these unique tokens. But the web’s ability to find that set of things, easily and reliably, assures that they can be brought together in a variety of contexts, to serve a variety of purposes.
The title of a recent post, Every package has its own home page on the web, echoes an epiphany that Andrew Schulman had in 1997 when he realized the implications of every Fedex package having its own unique URL. Every piece of public business should have one too. It’s easy to mint new unique names for things. It’ll be a bit harder to show people how and why to use those names as rendezvous points for loosely-coupled, decentralized interaction. But I hope examples like this one will help get the idea across.