Reading List: Advice, Energy, Truthfulness and Language

This week's reading list touches on energy, cloud technology, truth in government and what the future may hold for some big industry players.

Marybel Batjer, secretary of the state Government Operations Agency, hasn’t even taken over in her new role as president of the California Public Utilities Commission, and she’s already being advised on what she needs to prioritize. In a commentary published in, representatives of the California Environmental Justice Alliance and the Center for Energy Efficient and Renewable Technologies weigh in on why Batjer must corral the state away from natural gas and toward more use of electrical power. Whether you agree with their conclusions or not, they lay out their arguments clearly.


In a recent edition of our Techwire reading list, we linked to a piece about what made Steve Jobs such a good emailer. Today, we link to a piece about how Amazon kingpin Jeff Bezos’ memo system has made meetings fewer and more valuable. Hint: It involves having others read material before the meeting — or instead of it. Have a look.


When Los Angeles County government switched from a traditional call center infrastructure to Amazon Connect’s cloud-based contact center solution, it realized a cost savings of 60 percent — and improved the timeliness and quality of the call center services it provides to both employees and residents. An added bonus has been the new streams of automated customer feedback that the Amazon Connect service makes possible. Benny Chacko, deputy general manager of information technology services for Los Angeles County, spelled out all the benefits of the shift in this recent article. “We were able to change how we look at call centers and communicate with customers,” Chacko said. The new system has also allowed agents to work on higher-level tasks and less on routine work.  


IBM’s $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat earlier this month sent ripples of speculation across the IT community: What will it mean? Will Red Hat change? Who’ll be in charge? In this Red Hat blog post, Red Hat’s executive vice president and an IBM senior VP kick around these questions and more. Their answers are frank and illuminating.


Ben Damman has worked in state and federal IT, and he’s a code-writer, an engineer, an applications developer and an innovator. Lately, he’s been writing about his views on the topic of how government can best shape and harness technology. And he has some very specific advice for Gov. Gavin Newsom when it comes to fixing California’s IT problems: Find the truth, and tell the truth.


We’ll close out this reading list with a short entry from Techwire contributor Rob Klopp. Like Damman, Klopp worked on IT for the federal government during the Obama administration — culminating in his role as chief information officer for the Social Security Administration. Herewith is a recommended read from Klopp:

I would like to call your attention to a very smart publication titled Embracing Innovation in Government, Global Trends 2019. There is one innovation in particular I would like to highlight, titled “Law as Code.”

Whether I am at work in the federal or the state government, I find a difficult repeating problem: Laws and policies are captured imperfectly in programming logic. The imperfection has several flavors. First, the laws composed in natural language may be ambiguous, and the ambiguity is imperfectly captured by the programmer. Next, the law may be perfectly written but imperfectly transcribed into the target programming language. Finally, the law may be unambiguous and perfectly transcribed but in conflict or ambiguous when added to the entire corpus of laws.

I imagine the idea behind Law as Code as an initiative requiring all law and policy to be composed as a set of rules that are written in a formal rules language. The formal rules language should be readable by non-programmers and run through a rules engine that can identify conflict and force decisions about precedence when conflict arises.

Further, I imagine “Law as Code” as a law, written as code, that requires all new laws to be coded before they are made lawful to ensure that they accurately capture the intent without ambiguity. Imagine that.

Dennis Noone is Managing Editor of Techwire. He is a career journalist, having worked as a reporter and editor at small-town newspapers and major metropolitan dailies in California, Nevada, Texas and Virginia, including as an editor with USA Today in Washington, D.C. He lives in the Northern California foothills.