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New York City Has a More Level Playing Field for Access to Real Estate Data

BY Miranda Neubauer | Friday, July 26 2013

New York City's Department of City Planning recently opened up free access to data files that link up maps of individual tax lots with financial data about those lots, following pressure from transparency advocates and media coverage. The data merges together information like owner name, assessed value and even details like floor-to-area ratio, a function of how tall a building is and how big a lot it sits on, which is a useful index of building density. (An area with zoning rules that allow for high FAR is an area that will have more, taller, buildings.) Read More

Michelle Obama's Name Loaned to DNC in its First Use of OFA Email List

BY Miranda Neubauer | Thursday, July 25 2013

The Democratic National Committee directly reached out to Obama for America supporters with emails sent early this week in what appears to be the first time the full, storied Obama email list has been pressed into service by the DNC, at least since the end of the 2012 campaign. Some recipients saw emails sent on the DNC's behalf with First Lady Michelle Obama's name in the "Sender" field. Read More

How Much Did Anonymous Really Get From Congressional Staffers?

BY Miranda Neubauer | Tuesday, July 23 2013

A recent release of email address and password combinations apparently used by congressional staffers to manage mass emails to constituents raises concerns about security, but likely won't lead to much change in the use of third-party services by members of Congress, according to Brad Fitch, president and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation. People claiming to be affiliated with Anonymous announced last week that they had obtained and released emails and passwords for 2,000 congressional staffers in a move designed to attract attention to their displeasure over online surveillance by the National Security Agency. But the passwords were not paired up with email address when they were released, rendering them of less use to actually breach security, and The Hill reports that they appeared to be login information for the widely used iConstituent email newsletter service. Read More

With Kickstarter Funding, FOIA Machine Wants to Help Fix Public Records

BY Miranda Neubauer | Friday, July 19 2013

(Kickstarter)

FOIA Machine, a platform that aims to streamline the process of tracking of filing and tracking public record requests, has raised more than $29,000 on Kickstarter — exceeding its funding goal by more than $10,000. Read More

What If Writing State Legislation Worked Like Writing Open-Source Code?

BY Miranda Neubauer | Thursday, July 11 2013

The OpenGov Foundation is receiving $200,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to help bring a crowdsourcing platform for comments on legislation to state and local legislatures. Read More

German Lawmakers Have a New Platform For Their Policies — SimCity

BY Miranda Neubauer | Thursday, July 11 2013

(Facebook/SimCity)

Three German lawmakers may differ when it comes to policy positions, but all of them enjoy computer games. In the run-up to the German national election in September, Electronic Arts has arranged for three German members of the Bundestag to play the German edition of SimCity and will feature their progress online over four weeks. Read More

Looking to Tech for Help With Life After the Voting Rights Act

BY Nick Judd and Miranda Neubauer | Wednesday, July 10 2013

(Jesse Kriss/Speakerdeck)

With a key section of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court, some states, cities and counties might have new election laws and rapid voting policy changes to look forward to. These are exactly the kind of things that created some of the confusion that beleaguered the 2012 election. In 2012, though, activists were able to clear the fog for some voters by getting them the information they needed online and through SMS. Now, they're looking to the tech tools of last year as they plan for the future. Read More

What Electronic Surveillance Would Mean in James Comey's FBI

BY Miranda Neubauer | Tuesday, July 9 2013

At his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing today, nominee for director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation James Comey said that the collection of metadata is an important tool for counterterrorism efforts, but suggested that a different standard applied to the content of communications. The secret court that authorizes counterterorrism surveillance, he said, is "anything but a rubber stamp." Read More

Knight Moves Beyond Experimentation with Open Gov News Challenge Winners

BY Miranda Neubauer | Tuesday, June 25 2013

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has awarded more than $3.2 million to eight Open Government projects has part of the Knight News Challenge, including tools that would make courts more accessible and the procurement process more user friendly. Six additional projects received funding through the Knight Prototype Fund, which awards up to $50,000 for projects to go from an idea to a demo stage. Read More

Online Petitioners Call for White House to "Pardon" Edward Snowden

BY Miranda Neubauer | Monday, June 24 2013

A We the People petition to pardon NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has reached the 100,000 signature threshold needed for a White House response, but for at least one group of Snowden supporters that petition might be one step too far at the moment. "We don't think he should be charged," said Zaid Jilani, an investigative blogger and campaigner for the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which has been raising money for a possible Snowden legal defense fund. "You can't pardon anyone until they've been convicted. Maybe that petition is a little premature." Read More

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NYC Open Data Advocates Focus on Quality And Value Over Quantity

The New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications plans to publish more than double the amount of datasets this year than it published to the portal last year, new Commissioner Anne Roest wrote last week in an annual report mandated by the city's open data law, with 135 datasets scheduled to be released this year, and almost 100 more to come in 2015. But as preparations are underway for City Council open data oversight hearings in the fall, what matters more to advocates than the absolute number of the datasets is their quality. GO

Civic Tech and Engagement: Announcing a New Series on What Makes it "Thick"

Announcing a new series of feature articles that we will be publishing over the next several months, thanks to the support of the Rita Allen Foundation. Our focus is on digitally-enabled civic engagement, and in particular, how and under what conditions "thick" digital civic engagement occurs. What we're after is answers to this question: When does a tech tool or platform enable actual people to make ongoing and significant contributions to each other, to a place or cause, at a scale that produces demonstrable change? GO

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Tweets2Rue Helps Homeless to Help Themselves Through Twitter

While most solutions to homelessness focus on addressing physical needs -- a roof over the head and food to eat -- one initiative in France known as Tweets2Rue knows that for the homeless, a house is still not a home, so to speak: the homeless are often entrenched in a viscous cycle of social isolation that keeps them invisible and powerless. GO

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