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Daily Digest: Questions, Cats, and Chaos Avoidance

BY Nancy Scola | Wednesday, January 14 2009

  • Quizzing RNC Hopefuls: The race to be the next Republican National Committee chair is heating up, and it remains particularly fascinating because no clear front-runner has emerged. With two weeks left before the vote takes place, the grasstops-led Rebuild the Party has teamed up with YouTube to put together a video forum to question the six declared candidates. If you remember our 10 Questions project, then you get how it works. (One neat improvement: submissions can be auto-posted to Twitter.) The forum isn't entirely community-driven, though. To ensure a diversity of relevant questions, editorial discretion will determine the final queries -- though who's serving as editors here isn't altogether clear. What's also fuzzy is whether the candidates have agreed to participate. The Rebuild the Party forum is meant to crack open the process of picking a chair to lead the beleaguered party. In the end, though, who gets the job is the sole decision of the RNC's 168 voting members.

  • Congressional Cats: We're curious about your reaction to a bit of YouTube fun Nancy Pelosi's office had yesterday. As it opens, it's a gauzy silent video featuring a pair of cats wandering her Capitol Hill suite. Just when you start to scratch your head over the Speaker going all Fellini, though, it fades into...a Rickroll! The video is meant to highlight the new YouTube House Hub and Senate Hub -- and the Speaker's awareness of Internet traditions. The irreverence of the video is, however, lessened a bit by the copious notes on just what Rickrolling is, lest one wonder whether Rick Astley has joined the Speaker's staff.

  • Like Tivo for the Hill: Speaking of the new congressional YouTube walled garden, open-government site GovTrack has quickly adapted by adding the video feeds to each member of Congress' dedicated page. Here's an example. GovTrack has also set up a tracker capturing the full stream of videos from the Hill flowing through the new YouTube setup.

  • Programming for Good: The Sunlight Foundation has officially launched a contest that awards a healthy cash prize to the developers who make the best use of the organizations data troves and APIs.* Apps for America builds off of the District of Columbia's successful Apps for Democracy contest, which generated a collection of innovative software for the city at a fraction of what it would have cost under a traditional RFP-based model. The top prize of $15,000 goes to the app that best makes Congress "more accountable, interactive and transparent." That's certainly a nice chunk of change. But we'll have to wait and see if it's incentive enough when the recipient of a developer's hard work is an advocacy group, not their city. Interested? The first step is joining the contest's Google Group.

  • Tweeting as Chaos Avoidance: Speaking of what DC Mayor Adrian Fenty's team are up to online, they're newly using Twitter to send out useful safety and planning tidbits on upcoming inauguration weekend. Recent tweets included notice of a bike valet program designed to ease traffic congestion downtown.

  • The People, the Press, and the Inauguration: The Harvard-affiliated Citizen Media Law Project has put together a guide for anyone interested in documenting the inauguration, whether it's for a high-profile blog or personal use. Are you free to let the camera's roll on the National Mall? Good question. The answer is in the report. No one is expecting anything less than a peaceful inauguration, but given the debacle with arresting press at the Republican National Convention in St. Louis this summer, CMLP is highlighting advice designed to distinguish journalists (citizen and otherwise) from the rabble: "[A]void wearing insignia, carrying signs, or joining in chants with protest participants."

  • Brainstorming Beltway Collaboration: If you're a federal employee who digs social media, get thee to the Collaborative Government 2.0 conference happening in Springfield, Virginia at the end of this month. (Sorry, it's not open to the general public.) The event is being hosted by the Transportation Security Administration, which will be sharing lessons learned from iShare, its intra-TSA social network.

In Case You Missed It...

Nancy Scola reports on what winning's Ideas for Change in America contest, now in its closing hours, means for the top ten ideas. And Nancy shares the latest video from Elizabeth Warren, director of the Congressional Oversight Panel charged with overseeing how the Treasury Department spends the many billions of dollars allocated to the federal bailout of the financial industry.

Sarah Granger reports on the second annual Crunchies, awards given to the best tech accomplishments of the proceeding year. Of particular note: an award given to the "Startup Most Likely to Make the World a Better Place." Beating out microlending site Kiva and Facebook's Causes was GoodGuide, a ratings site for safe and green products.

And Alan Rosenblatt has, naturally, composed a haiku in honor of the news that the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is on Twitter.

*Note: Our Andrew Rasiej and Micah Sifry are senior advisors to the Sunlight Foundation.

Got tips, leads, or story ideas for the Daily Digest? Get in touch. Email or contact @techpresident on Twitter.