A few days back, Clay Johnson suggested that our government could use more computer developers in Congress to better streamline, communicate, and provide clarity to the legislative process (h/t Andrew Sullivan) Many voices replied to his comments, with either stereotypical views of computer programmers that live in their parents’ basements (1) (2), or helpful commentary on how to build such a movement (3).
However, Johnson has many points that struck me as relevant to this blog…so consider this a call for more developers to enter the ministry!
First, Johnson argues that increasingly bureaucratic institutions are more technological and thus need technology-savvy people to administrate them.
Government’s problems are becoming increasingly technical… check out the first piece of legislation this Congress passed: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 isn’t just a 1000+ page bill that’s now a law, it’s also a technical specification for recovery.gov written by people who don’t know how to write specifications.
It strikes me that as our existence is increasingly technological, pastors need to speak to the role of technology in our lives and I doubt many of them have strong understandings of the technology itself. Hysteria over privacy and facebook are great sermon topics but are easily fixed by simply understanding the system. Parental concerns over their children’s increasing transparency online are pastoral concerns too. By encouraging more developers to enter the ministry, we will have more pastors that can speak to the role of technology in our lives.
Second, Johnson suggests that computer developers are masters at transparency:
[G]reat developers are systems fixers and systems hackers. There is no system more ripe for elegant process hacks than the United States House of Representatives. Put a developer in Congress, and they’ll start exposing data on their own. They’ll build systems to make it so they can hear from their constituents better.
Now, this is a sticky area for hacker pastors: communications in churches can’t be scripted or coded. There can be procedures in place but human participants will not keep to them. However, the entire system of communication could be looked at from a human systems perspective, or the application of communication theory to human systems. The image of smoky back rooms where church decisions are made (which are on the down anyway) can be more nuanced with a clearer communication center.
Third and finally (OK, he has five points in the original article), Johnson notes that developers may be nerds but they’ve figured out how to get feedback in novel ways:
Finally, Developers are great digital communicators. They’re great at using the medium to connect directly with people in ways that others cannot. They can build their own tools to connect with people, too. With a Developer who understands the guts of the web in a leadership spot inside Congress, Congress can start communicating more effectively online. And as this developer becomes more successful, the rest of Congress may very well follow suit.
Yes, an unfortunate percentage of nerds are (a) socially awkward and (b) unable to communicate their feelings well. However, for those who are able to overcome such things, developers take what their constituency wants and re-presents it in creative ways.
What do you think? How would computer developers fare in the parish? For those of you who are hacker pastors (and probably online and will respond…yay!), what shared skills are important in both professions?