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Radical Transparency

Page history last edited by Leo Babauta 14 years, 11 months ago

The Project

I'm going to try an experiment with Zen Habits and all my related projects: radical transparency.


This will be an evolution, and won't happen overnight. I'm starting with this wiki, where I'll lay out plans, and start to create pages to make everything I do with Zen Habits public.


We're shooting for complete transparency. Read on for more. Also see my Radical Transparency FAQ.


What is Radical Transparency?

Basically it's taking everything that is now private in an organization, and making it public. That includes communication (from private email to public discussions), decisions, finances, and any other internal processes. It hasn't ever been completely done, as far as I know. Some organizations have done a little bit here and there, basically giving the public a small peak into what they do and discussing things publicly that haven't been discussed publicly in the past, but it's on a very limited basis.


From Wikipedia:

Radical transparency is a management approach in which (ideally) all decision making is carried out publicly.


Draft documents, arguments for and against a proposal, the decisions about the decision making process itself, and final decisions are all publicly accessible and remain publicly archived.


Exceptions to full transparency typically include data related to personal privacy, security, and passwords or keys necessary for access required to carry out publicly negotiated decisions. Technical actions perceived to be controversial or political are considered to lack legitimacy until a clear, radically transparent decision has been made concerning them.


Read more: Wikipedia on Radical Transparency, and Wired's The See Through CEO


Why do it with Zen Habits?

I believe in being the change I want to see in the world. Change must start with me.


I'd like to see government and corporations aim for complete transparency. I think it would mean that the public interest is protected at all times, because if everyone knows what's going on, you don't want to do anything dirty, anything harmful to people or the community. And while that's not convenient for corporations or the government, and probably uncomfortable, it's in the best interest of the community at large. That's a good thing.


And if I want to see that in other organizations, why not start with me? That's what I've been asking, and I haven't come up with an answer yet: why not?


Radical transparency with Zen Habits will mean that everyone will know my business. It'll mean that all decisions will be transparent. No behind-the-scenes maneuvering, no secret deals, no secrets period. It will mean others will know what I'm working on before it's done, which means they can steal my ideas. And that's traditionally a bad thing. But I'm not convinced it has to be, especially if I embrace it -- I'm sharing with the world, and take what you like.


It will lead to trust between my readers and me, and to more participation by the public in my blog. Best of all, it will set an example for others.


How I'll do it



I'm not going to change everything overnight, but I can start with this wiki. This is phase 1. It's a way to announce my intentions and plans, and start to let people in on the decision-making process.


But one by one, I intend to try to make the following public:


  • All decisions regarding Zen Habits and related projects, as well as the decision-making process.
  • All communications regarding Zen Habits -- if you want to contact me, you'll have to let everyone see our conversation. Not sure how I'll accomplish this yet. Read more: Public Discussions.
  • All details regarding Zen Habits and my projects as they develop. Projects will no longer be secret. Should be interesting to see how this works.
  • All upcoming post ideas. I'll list my ideas, and others can submit suggestions and perhaps vote on them. I'll still choose what I want to write each day, but I'll reveal my reasons for deciding.
  • All upcoming guest writers. I'll have a schedule of guest writers (I allow one per week), and people can submit their names as candidates, and others can vote for who should get the slots.
  • Commenters. I'd like to have a system where readers mark spam, instead of me having to moderate, and where people could look into the spam folder and unmark comments that are erroneously in there.
  • My next book. I'll put it on the web from the start. You can read the "beta" versions, comment, give suggestions, help me improve as I write. It'll be freely available, even in final draft, although I'd love it if you would buy the print version too. Update: website is now up!
  • Possibly: financial information about Zen Habits. I'm thinking of a simple spreadsheet that shows general expenses and income for each month. Scary as hell, but why not?



I've just started this project, but here's what's going on:



Also read: Radical Transparency FAQ.


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