Last night at the Austin Tech Happy Hour, I ran into William Hurley, who showed me his plan to create a new web site for the City of Austin with help from crowdsourcing experts IdeaScale, and input from citizens and open-source developers, and $10,000 all at 10 percent of the cost the city thought it would pay. The catch is that Austin already has a plan with a California firm to build the city’s web site, which involves spending up to an estimated $704,088.
Member of Austin’s tech scene, including its numerous web design shops, were angered by the news of a non-local firm getting the contract, and packed a city meeting to pressure the city council to halt the plan. The contract was subsequently postponed for a month to give the city time to reevaluate its options. With the web site contract in limbo, Hurley contacted the folks at IdeaScale and on Monday will place the request for proposal (RFP) for the City of Austin web site online. His goal is to let the community and developers build out the site to the RFP’s specs.
I have some concerns about that approach, notably whether or not the detailed specifications included in an RFP can be effectively crowdsourced. But there’s a deeper issue here about whether or not such work, provided for free, hurts the industry that was protesting the loss of the contract in the first place.