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[Op-Ed] We Need a Yelp for Civic Engagement to Get the 21st Century Democracy We Want

BY Matt Leighninger | Thursday, February 26 2015

"Citizens could be assessing all kinds of civic opportunities." (yelp.com)

We have more opportunities to get involved in our communities, through a wider array of tools, processes, meetings, and apps than ever before. Some of these opportunities are interesting and beneficial, while others—especially the ones supported by governments in the name of public participation—can be frustrating and may even be harmful. So how should we judge? What kinds of public engagement are helpful?

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First POST: Foreshadowing

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, February 3 2015

The emerging FCC deal on net neutrality; Obama's plans to expand federal digital teams; Google's plans to compete with Uber; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Video Stars

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, January 26 2015

How the White House hit a home run on YouTube post-State of the Union; why the Barrett Brown sentencing casts a chill on online security research; how media producers use Crowdtangle to optimize their Facebook audiences; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Turbulence

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, January 13 2015

Why David Cameron's call to ban encrypted communications in the UK is stupid and unworkable; what "democracy in the digital age" might look like; the open data movement's turbulent teenage years in the US; and much, much more. Read More

How Brigade is Taking Shape: An Interview with James Windon

BY Alex Howard | Tuesday, November 25 2014

James Windon speaking at Fusion Riseup 2014

The following is an edited transcript of an interview that Alex Howard conducted with James Windon, the president of civic engagement startup Brigade, last Wednesday November 19 at the Fusion RiseUp event in Washington, DC. That morning, Brigade had announced that it was partnering with a “carefully curated” set of organizations: Rainforest Action Network, Americans for Tax Reform, the Drug Policy Alliance, Represent.Us, Generation Opportunity, Forecast the Facts, FreedomWorks and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. With more than $9 million in venture funding from Napster co-founder Sean Parker, Brigade has been amassing a staff of more than 50 while remaining quiet about how it plans to launch and grow a new social network for civic engagement. In this interview, Windon explains why he thinks there’s still room for “yet another social network” and how Brigade will attract users: “one of the biggest reasons that people have stopped participating civically is because their civic lives have become decoupled from their social lives,” noting that the company will be primarily focused on people’s relationship to local issues and down-ballot representatives. He also addresses the inevitable questions about a for-profit business entering the civic space, saying,“our best bet at how we will monetize is through advertising.” Read More

First POST: Sad Reality

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, November 25 2014

How social media changed the course of the Ferguson story; Ready for Hillary's 3-million-member email list; why Mark Cuban opposes net neutrality rules; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Downplaying

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, November 6 2014

Debating what happened to the Democrats' vaunted tech-powered turnout machine in 2014; how Healthcare.gov hurt Democratic incumbents; understanding the participatory engine that is Wikipedia; and much, much more. Read More

Civic Tech and Engagement: In Search of a Common Language

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, September 5 2014

Marten van Valkenborsch, Construction of the Tower of Babel (c. 1600)

We need much clearer language to describe civic tech. Too often, people working in this field struggle to put into words what it is they are striving for. It's not enough to assume that, like the Supreme Court and obscenity, we know good civic tech when we see it. And if we can't say why something is good (or even great), how can we know what to design for? Indeed, how do we even know if we're after the same design goals? Read More

First POST: Jumping

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, August 12 2014

The US Digital Service arrives; what hashtag activism is really good for; unmasking some anti-net-neutrality sock puppets; new voting technology advances; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Differentiation

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, August 6 2014

A second national security leaker surfaces; Russian criminals amass a horde of passwords and email addresses; President Obama contradicts his FCC chair on net neutrality; Snoop Lion and the New York Times editorial board have an online party; and much, much more. Read More