March 1, 2010 By Russell Nichols
Off the clock, you could find Chris Vein experimenting in his kitchen, a pastime that precedes his role as San Francisco's first CIO in 2001. "It's the creative part of cooking that I like," Vein said. "You're not sure if it's going to work or come out right. It's all about creating something with a few resources and a little bit of risk."
Vein approaches his culinary passion and technology profession the same way: He starts with a plan, gathers the right ingredients, then executes. For the city, Vein started with a specific five-year plan. Some of his biggest projects include virtualizing servers in the city's main data center (in progress), advocating his causes at the federal level (ongoing), and extending the city's fiber network to some of the most disadvantaged citizens in the city and county (completed).
Vein works directly with the community to find creative ideas for cutting costs and providing better city services. He recently launched DataSF.org, a Web portal that publishes more than 100 public-sector data sets that residents can mash up to create shared applications. DataSF.org now has more than 20 applications. Also recently launched was a platform that provides an online collaboration opportunity for the community to crowdsource new ideas.
"We are opening up a dialog that's never been there before between the city and citizens," Vein said. "They're sharing their experience and expertise to help improve government." Such constructive criticism, he added, helps him and his dedicated team know how and where to make changes - a method he uses after serving a meal.
"I wait until the end and I ask the guests, 'If you could tell me one thing to make it better, what would you tell me?'" he said. "I'm all about feedback."
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