This column debuted eight years ago. I recall flipping to the back page of the January 2002 issue of Government Technology and savoring the moment. Ink on paper can be a heady thing. I wasn't thinking about the length of the run. I was worrying about what I'd do for the second column. This month's entry is the 97th consecutive column.

The column's name -- signal:noise -- set a high bar for these essays. It sought to differentiate the quality information from the irrelevant or incorrect information.

It's been a great romp through myriad developments at the intersection of government and technology -- both of which have had to count time in Internet years (the idea that three months on the Internet equals a full human year, but that could be as much noise as signal).

One quote has had a strong signal, and I've cited it more than once. I first heard it from the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse's Beth Givens in the late 1990s when I was deputy state CIO in Washington. She said, simply, "The Internet will show us what happens when the public record is actually public."

That formulation held up well as governments launched home pages and portals, freed documents from file cabinets to online repositories, and debated whether an online record was official and authoritative (or if it needed a disclaimer that referred users back to the paper record if they were going to rely on it for decision-making). Making the public record public went to the heart of developing policies and practices around privacy and security. And now, in an era of transparency and live government data feeds that power Web sites, mobile apps and augmented reality, we're beginning to see what else it means -- warts and all -- when the public record is actually public.


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Paul W. Taylor  |  Contributing Writer