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FCW : March 15, 2014
Editor'sNote 6 March 15, 2014 FCW.COM I recently reread "Spacewar," Stewart Brand s seminal article on IT s transformative potential, which was written for (of all places) Rolling Stone magazine in 1972.* It s a prescient piece that is worth reading for any number of reasons, including some great nuggets of in-the-beginning nostalgia. "At present, some 20 major computer centers are linked on the two-year-old ARPAnet," Brand wrote, not long after noting that "Digital Equipment Corporation manufactures the most popular research and education computers on the market." What really resonated, however, was the reporting on the types of individuals who drove those early innovations and the inherent tensions between them and their employers. The hackers and the planners have been at odds since the beginning, it seems, and success depends on striking a delicate balance between the two. The question, though, is whether such a balance is possible in today s agencies. In 1972, Brand wrote, computers "cost and size [have] kept them in the province of rich and powerful institutions, [that], understandably, have developed them primarily as bookkeeping, sorting and control devices." "When computers become available to everybody," he predicted, "the hackers take over." Yet massive processing power now costs pennies, we carry computers in our pockets, and it s hard to nd a more structured, top-down environment than federal IT. That s not to say that today s agencies would be better served by of ces lled with beanbag chairs and coders working on whatever they feel like. (The Spacewar of Brand s article was one of the rst multiplayer computer games, and it was developed largely on the mainframes and payrolls of Stanford, MIT and the Advanced Research Projects Agency.) But the cutting-edge technologies of 2014 won t be maximized through top-down planning either. It s not enough to sprinkle a few Presidential Innovation Fellows and Challenge.gov projects through our planner-centric government. We need to identify the projects and places where it makes sense to let the hackers take over. --- TROY K. SCHNEIDER firstname.lastname@example.org, @troyschneider * No, I did not read Brand s essay when it was rst published. My fascination with technology is long-standing, but there are limits: I was two at the time. Hackers vs. planners EDITOR-IN-CHIEF EXECUTIVE EDITOR Troy K. Schneider John Bicknell MANAGING EDITOR Terri J. Huck STAFF WRITERS Amber Corrin, Frank Konkel, Adam Mazmanian, Mark Rockwell CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Richard E. Cohen, Alan Joch, Konstantin Kakaes, John Moore, Colleen O'Hara, Katherine Reynolds Lewis, Richard A. Spires, Sarah Lai Stirland CREATIVE DIRECTOR Jeff Langkau ASSISTANT ART DIRECTOR Dragutin Cvijanovic SENIOR WEB DESIGNER Martin Peace EDITORIAL FELLOW Reid Davenport PRESIDENT James Causey CHIEF CONTENT OFFICER Anne Armstrong CHIEF REVENUE OFFICER Wendy LaDuke CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER Carmel McDonagh PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER Neal Vitale SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT AND CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER Richard Vitale EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT Michael J. Valenti VICE PRESIDENT, FINANCE & ADMINISTRATION Christopher M. Coates VICE PRESIDENT, INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY& APPLICATION DEVELOPMENT Erik A. Lindgren VICE PRESIDENT, EVENT OPERATIONS David F. Myers CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD Jef frey S. Klein HOW TO REACH THE STAFF A list of sta members can be found online at www.fcw.com. E-mail: Sta members can be reached by using the nam- ing convention of first initial followed by their last name @1105media.com. Vienna O ce (weekdays, 8:30 a.m. -- 5:30 p.m. ET) (703) 876-5100; Fax (703) 876-5126 8609 Westwood Center Drive, Suite 500, Vienna, VA 22182-2215 Corporate O ce (weekdays, 8:30 a.m. -- 5:30 p.m. PT) (818) 814-5200; Fax (818) 734-1522 9201 Oakdale Avenue, Suite 101, Chatsworth, CA 91311
March 30, 2014