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Clay Johnson of the Sunlight Foundation and David Almacy (Edelman’s public affairs VP and former Director of Internet Operations, White House) are talking about government and engagement.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Clay says he’s a product guy who likes building things. Coming out of the Dean campaign, he co-founded Blue State Digital. When asked why Obama was successful online, he says he replies “Because Howard Dean had bad lawyers.” He could just build stuff there without consulting lawyers. Now, when they try to apply this stuff to governing, the lawyers are involved, and creativity is coming to a screeching halt, Clay says. But, he says, there’s another way: Publishing data. aggregates data from the executive branch. Lots of businesses have been built using gov’t data, and this will be a seed bed.

Clay says that Twitter is as important to a political campaign as email. “I’m willing to go on record that in 2012 Twitter will be a bigger fund-raiser for campaigns than email.” Obama raised 80% of his funds through email. E.g., Tim O’Reilly has 200,000 subscribers.

He talks about Apps for America, a contest for apps that do useful things with open data. The new round has people working with the data at

Q: [me] How can we encourage the gov’t and others to produce data in open formats?
Clay: I’m more focused on just getting the data out. I don’t care about the format. We should tell them just to do it in plain text, if that’ll get it out faster. Once the gov’t starts pumping it out we can have the debate about which standards.

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