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PdF 2010: Announcing the Developer Track

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, May 18 2010

We're doing something new this year at Personal Democracy Forum, a special Developer breakout track to create some time and space for shop talk and idea-sharing among the technologists who actually make the platforms and tools that the rest of us rely on so heavily.

The Developer track is inspired by an idea from Clay Johnson, the director of Sunlight Labs, who notes, "Going to conferences as a technologist in this space often means speaking a foreign language, since building great tools and innovating depends on a lot more than using social media to build your email list." He adds,

Here we're getting designers & developers to talk to each other, and hopefully we will start pushing the field forward for better civic participation--whether it be elections or governing or organizing or plain old journalism. We're facing similar problems, and doing innovative things, so let's take the opportunity to spend some time talking about what's under the hood of what we do.

Unlike our other breakout tracks, the Developer track will use the cumulative four hours of breakout session time for eight half-hour presentations/conversations by individual coders or designers. Each is doing cutting edge work, either for partisan or nonpartisan ends--though as with all our other sessions, we'll park the partisan politicking at the door and instead focus on how technology itself is changing the game.

The schedule of presenters are:

--Thursday, June 3rd, 2:00-3:00pm: Fernanda Viegas and Martin Wattenberg (creators of IBM's Many Eyes data visualization platform and co-founders of Flowing Media); Aaron Brown (senior product manager at Google, discussing Fusion Tables)

--Thursday, June 3rd, 3:30-4:30pm: Bob Ellsworth (senior technical fellow at the Republican National Committee), Jascha Franklin-Hodge (CTO, Blue State Digital)

--Friday, June 4th, 2:00-3:00pm: Andrew Hoppin (CIO, New York State Senate) and Nathan Freitas (lead developer, New York State Senate CIO's office); Joe Edelman (founder and CEO of Citizen Logistics, former developer of Couchsurfing.com)

--Friday, June 4th, 3:30-4:30pm: Matt deBergalis (CTO, ActBlue); Chris Lundberg (Co-founder and CTO, Democracy in Action)

Chris DiBona (open source and public sector programs manager at Google) will be moderating the 2:00-3:00pm sessions, and Clay Johnson will be moderating the 3:30-4:30pm sessions.

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Denmark, Finland, Norway, the United Kingdom and Sweden have come out on top of the Web Index, a ranking of the Web Foundation measuring the economic, social and political benefit that countries gain from the web. The United States is at number six. For the authors of the report accompanying the index, the results reflect how inequality has an impact on access to the web. "Nordic policy-makers have been quick to adopt and promote the free Internet - and open access to information - as a 21st century public good," the report states. " Others, as this year's findings show, need to move fast to catch up." The report attributes the Scandinavian countries' advantage to the countries' broader efforts to invest in public goods and establish a welfare and acting against " excess concentrations of wealth and power." With the lower inequality in those countries than in others, "the skills, means and freedoms to benefit from new technologies are widespread, which helps to explain why Scandinavian countries score highly on the political, social and economic impact of the Web GO

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