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New PdF 2010 Speakers: Julian Assange, Bryan Sivak, and Many More!

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, April 19 2010

With the seventh annual Personal Democracy Forum conference just over six weeks away, here’s an update on some exciting new keynoters and panels. We’re still juggling some speakers and breakout sessions, and I’ll have more details to share soon. But hopefully this will get your juices flowing.

First, we’re pleased to announce several exciting new keynote speakers, starting with Julian Assange of, which has been much in the news of late. This will be Julian’s second PdF appearance, after coming to our inaugural PdF Europe conference in Barcelona last year. He’ll be joining a keynote session that we’re calling “In Search of a Theory of Change: The Internet and Democratization,” along with previously announced speakers Evgeny Morozov, Ethan Zuckerman and Cheryl Contee.

Second, we’re happy to announce that Bryan Sivak, the new Chief Technology Officer of Washington, DC, America’s most technologically advanced city administration, will be anchoring a whole track of sessions on “” He’ll be talking about the growing OpenMUNI movement along with Jen Pahlka of Code for America and Philip Ashlock of The Open Planning Project.

More on We.Gov Track

While I’m on the topic of our track, here’s what else we have planned session-wise: Ken Goldberg, the Berkeley University lead developer of OpinionSpace; Anil Dash, the founder of Expert Labs; Ginny Hunt, the project lead for Google Moderator; and Conor White-Sullivan, the co-founder of; will all speak on Tools for Listening and Engaging the Public. Conor, I should note, may be the youngest-ever PdF speaker; he’s a senior at U-Mass Amherst.

Also in the track, we’re going to take a close look at Open Source Crisis Response with Katie Stanton of the State Department, Patrick Meier of Ushahidi, Heather Blanchard of CrisisCommons; and Katrin Verclas of They’ll be focusing on the recent and ongoing crisis in Haiti as a case study for new kinds of citizen-developer-government-NGO collaboration. We’re also working on a fourth breakout session in this track, of which more details soon.

Skills-Building Tracks Added This Year

If you’re reading your PdF emails, you already know that we’ve created two skills-building tracks covering the application of best practices and emerging technologies. The idea for both came out of last year’s conference, when many attendees mentioned wanting more time devoted to digging in on the nitty-gritty of online advocacy.

The Quick Start Track is for those who want to get up to date with the basics in search engine optimization, online advertising, web analytics, and social media and the Advanced e-Campaign Track will explore advanced techniques for blogs, online advertising, and innovation in online campaigns. Here’s who’s speaking on each one (some speakers still to be announced):

Quick Start Track

Search Engine Optimization: How to Make Sure People are Finding You and Your Cause: Vanessa Fox, creator of Google's Webmaster Central and author of Marketing in the Age of Google; Kevin Lee, CEO of and author of Search Engine Advertising; and Sara Holoubek, CEO, Luminary Labs and outgoing President of the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization board of directors

Online Advertising for Beginners: How to Reach the People You Need to Reach Most Efficiently: Peter Greenberger, Team Manager, Elections & Issue Advocacy, Google; Amy Auerbach, Baruch College; Kate Kaye, ClickZ and author of the book Campaign ’08: A Turning Point for Digital Marketing

Using Web Analytics Tools to Make Your Organization More Effective: Case Studies in How to Start: Shabbir Safdar, Measurement Guru; Alisa Aydin, US Fund For UNICEF; Shayna Englin, Englin Consulting; Ken Deutsch, Morningside Analytics

Refining Your Social Media Smarts: From YouTube to Facebook to Twitter: J.D. Lasica, Founder,; Jonah Sieger, Bloomberg '09; Barnet Zitron, Why Tuesday?

Advanced e-Campaign Track

The Enduring Power of Blogs as Organizing Hubs: Jane Hamsher, Firedoglake; Erin Kotecki Vest, Political Director and Producer of Special Projects for BlogHer; Markos Moulitsas, Founder,

Online Advertising: New Tricks of the Trade: Eric Frenchman, Chief Internet Strategist for Connell Donatelli Inc.; Josh Koster, Managing Partner, Chong + Koster; Mark Skidmore, Director of Advertising & Promotion at Blue State Digital; and Emily Williams, Senior Interactive Account Executive at MSHC Partners and Online Advertising Campaign Manager for Obama ‘08

How the Right is Innovating in Online Campaigns: David All, Founder, David All Group; Mindy Finn, Partner, EngageDC; Rob Willington, online campaign director, Scott Brown '10; Ryan Gravatt, online campaign director, Rick Perry '10

How the Left is Innovating in Online Campaigns: Dan Cantor, Executive Director of the NY Working Families Party; Natalie Foster, new media director, Organizing for America; Stephanie Taylor, co-founder, Progressive Campaign Change Committee; Ari Melber, Net Movement Correspondent, The Nation

Coming soon: details on a track for Developers of political technology, and on a track about Media. Plus, more news about the structure of our plenary sessions, which will be featuring people like Jimmy Wales, Ory Okolloh, John Perry Barlow, Saul Anuzis, Scott Heiferman, Jane Hamsher, Craig Newmark, Eli Pariser, Aneesh Chopra, Beth Kanter and Allison Fine, Bernard Avishai, Susan Crawford, Markos Moulitsas, Clay Shirky, Howard Rheingold, and Arianna Huffington.

News Briefs

RSS Feed 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.