Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Daily Digest: On Split CTOs, Search Strategies, and Stickiness

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, February 3 2009

  • CTO Post Likely Split Into Two Roles: A recent Congressional Research Service Report confirmed that what we know for absolute certain about the new federal CTO job, as Nancy Scola noted yesterday, doesn't amount to all that much. But Christopher J. Dorobek has some intriguing new reporting that shines much light on the situation. What we've been talking about as the CTO post, writes Dorobek, actually breaks down into two jobs. The first is the existing job of e-government administrator in the Office of Management and Budget. That's a staffed and resourced, but entirely inward-looking, post. DC CTO Vivek Kundra is widely rumored to fill that slot. The second job -- and the actual "CTO" post -- would be house in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The OSTP CTO's mission would be to take a wide-ranging look at the potential of American tech. But as one of the President's geeks, the role is largely an advisory one. The news is disappointing to those who hoped for a far-ranging federal CTO with considerable juice.

  • Critiquing's Bill Review: Mother Jones's Jonathan Stein covers the shortcomings of's attempt at posting the State Children's Health Insurance Program legislation for public review. For one thing, notes Stein, the comments aren't at all public. For another, the text field granted to citizens is limited to just 500 characters. We'll add yet another: try finding the legislative-review section on the White House site without resorting to searching for "SCHIP."

  • At the Right Hand of Obama: "It's not the Democratic party anymore," says one "highly placed" Democrat. "It's the Obama party." That's one of the more striking bits of Lisa Taddeo's new Esquire profile of Obama campaign manager David Plouffe. The full lushly-written multi-thousand word piece is, though, well worth a read, as our Micah Sifry notes. Taddeo doesn't just indulge our fascination with Plouffe's beer pong expertise. She traces the evolution of the thinking behind the new Organizing for America. "The model they came up with will be an independent entity under the umbrella of the DNC," she writes, "with a separate staff in Washington, its own structure and Web site, and field offices with technical staff and fieldworkers across the country." (No website yet. All that's public about OFA resides on Plouffe has chosen to stay outside the official White House/DNC structure, instead attempting to craft an outside-inside model of nationwide activism that would be new to American presidential politics.

  • Can Bureaucracy Be Made Sticky?: National Journal's David Herbert makes the case that what's limiting federal agencies' online impact isn't so much the Paperwork Reduction Act and other regulations as it is the challenges of connecting to an audience. Departments like Commerce, Herbert notes, aren't finding much success YouTubing dry conference sessions -- but some snappy how-tos on small business loans might attract eyeballs. Besides, our Micah Sifry notes in the piece, it's not the size of the audience that matters. It's whether you're reaching the right people to further your mission. Heck, if TSA can write a compelling blog, than anything's possible. One agency's web presence to keep an eye on: the State Department. Beyond a decent blog, State's polished web presence makes good use of online video. While much of State's online acheivements pre-date Hillary Clinton's arrival, the department does seem to have been ramping up content since her arrival. Perhaps she's trying to redeem her online cred after her less-than-stellar showing during the campaign.

  • What a Party Chair Race Looks Like Today: Conservative online consultant (and techPres contributor) David All was part of the team that tried using new media to get Michigan GOP chief Saul Anuzis elected Republican National Committee chair. (Anuzis, of course, came up short, losing to Maryland's Michael Steele). All's out with a debrief of the campaign. He generously shares lessons learned. So what should have team Anuzis done differently? Used text messaging, says All. Set up a "truth squad" to combat rumors. And invested in Google Ads to help tell Anuzis's story.

  • Inside the Franken-Coleman Battle of the Search: Speaking of Google Ads, here's a second useful debrief, this one from progressive new media consultant Josh Koster, of DC-based Chong Designs. Koster goes into detail on on how Al Franken used search advertising to get himself this close to the Senate. Koster breaks down how the campaign used different techniques to persuade voters and to pick up committed supporters. For the former, for example, Franken's team used keywords like "large animal veterinarian" and "farm supply" to reach that coveted Minnesota farm vote. And to find potential donors, Koster set up Google Ads for terms like "Jonathan Zucker." Well forgive you for asking "Who's that?" Zucker signs ActBlue's emails. Anyone searching his name, the thinking goes, might just be someone prone to giving online cash to Democrats. [UPDATE] Koster writes to clarify what will henceforth be known as the "Zucker Technique." The way the content-based ad buy off of the ActBlue executive's name worked is that Franken ads were triggered to appear in Gmail when Zucker's name was found in the body of an email. So, in short, get an ActBlue missive in your inbox (marking you as a potential Democratic donor) and a Franken fundraising ask might appear in the Gmail ad space -- both immediately and over the course of the next few days.

  • The Argument Against Stimulating Broadband: There's some chatter starting to happen around the idea that the some $9 billion or so in broadband money in the stimulus package is a bad bet. The New York Times' David Herszenhorn has the story. The concern is that the investment won't do much to stimulate the economy in the near term, and that with so huge a sum suddenly hitting the space, some of the money will go to the selfsame Internet providers who've not wired parts of America thus far. What might be in order: a hub dedicated solely to tracking how the broadband stimulus plays out.

  • Webcasting? Inconceivable!: This is pretty funny. While the New Mexico state legislature hashed over the merits and feasibility of webcasting, New Mexico Independent reporter Gwyneth Doland took it upon herself to, that's right, quietly webcast the hearing with the free CoveritLive.

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

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

Brazilian President Signs Internet Bill of Rights Into Law at NetMundial

Earlier today Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff sanctioned Marco Civil, also called the Internet bill of rights, during the global Internet governance event, NetMundial, in Brazil.


tuesday > Reboots As a Candidate Digital Toolkit That's a Bit Too Like launched with big ambitions and star appeal, hoping to crack the code on how to get millions of people to pool their political passions through their platform. When that ambition stalled, its founder Nathan Daschle--son of the former Senator--decided to pivot to offering political candidates an easy-to-use free web platform for organizing and fundraising. Now the new is out from stealth mode, entering a field already being served by competitors like NationBuilder, Salsa Labs and And strangely enough, seems to want its early users to ask for help. GO

Armenian Legislators: You Can Be As Anonymous on the 'Net As You Like—Until You Can't

A proposed bill in Armenia would make it illegal for media outlets to include defamatory remarks by anonymous or fake sources, and require sites to remove libelous comments within 12 hours unless they identify the author.


monday >

The Good Wife Looks for the Next Snowden and Outwits the NSA

Even as the real Edward Snowden faces questions over his motives in Russia, another side of his legacy played out for the over nine million viewers of last night's The Good Wife, which concluded its season long storyline exploring NSA surveillance. In the episode titled All Tapped Out, one young NSA worker's legal concerns lead him to becoming a whistle-blower, setting off a chain of events that allows the main character, lawyer Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), and her husband, Illinois Governor Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), to turn the tables on the NSA using its own methods. GO

The Expanding Reach of China's Crowdsourced Environmental Monitoring Site, Danger Maps

Last week billionaire businessman Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce company Alibaba, appealed to his “500 million-strong army” of consumers to help monitor water quality in China. Inexpensive testing kits sold through his company can be used to measure pH, phosphates, ammonia, and heavy metal levels, and then the data can be uploaded via smartphone to the environmental monitoring site Danger Maps. Although the initiative will push the Chinese authorities' tolerance for civic engagement and activism, Ethan Zuckerman has high hopes for “monitorial citizenship” in China.


The 13 Worst Bits of Russia's Current and Maybe Future Internet Legislation

It appears that Russia is on the brink of passing still more repressive Internet regulations. A new telecommunications bill that would require popular blogs—those with 3,000 or more visits a day—to join a government registry and conform to government-mandated standards is expected to pass this week. What follows is a list of the worst bits of both proposed and existing Russian Internet law. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter if we missed anything.


Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.


wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.


The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.