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First POST: Precognition

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, August 30 2013

Exclusively for Personal Democracy Plus subscribers: New revelations about the government's "black budget," new warnings about facial recognition technology; and some hints about 2016 and tech from the RNC's CTO and Democratic campaign strategist Joe Trippi. Read More

If Obama Wins on Tuesday, Give the Nerds More Credit

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, November 5 2012

While Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight, math nerd and poll-meister supreme, has gotten a tremendous amount of attention of late for his confident prediction of an Obama victory in tomorrow's election, the largely unwritten story of 2012 includes a different group of math nerds who specialize in figuring out which voters might be persuaded to vote for their candidate and then making sure that they maximize the number of people who actually come out to vote that way. We know very little about their work for two big reasons. First, neither campaign has wanted to tip off their opponent to what they're doing, and second, with just a few rare exceptions, political reporters and their story-assignment editors aren't even looking to find out. But tomorrow is the biggest test yet for their analytic approach to targeting, persuading and turning out voters. Read More

[CALL - JOIN US]: Thursday, 1 p.m.: What Ad Targeting Is Doing to Democracy

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, May 2 2012

We all know how the Internet is enhancing the power of citizens to band together to take action around common causes. And these days you can hardly spend more than a few minutes online before you bump into some campaign led by consumers taking on a company, demanding changes and often getting them. But what if while all this is going on, a deeper power shift is under way that is quietly tilting the playing field towards anyone with the money and motive to manipulate web users by collecting all kinds of data about them and then assiduously targeting people in ways they're barely aware of? That's just one of the big questions I'm looking forward to covering on this Thursday's PDPlus call with Joseph Turow, author of the valuable new book, "The Daily You: How the New Advertising Industry is Defining Your Identity and Your Worth." RSVP here. Read More

The Data Superiority Wars Take a Semantic Turn

BY Nick Judd | Friday, April 6 2012

Well known to many is "microtargeting," the practice of gathering data on individual supporters from across a variety of sources, profiling those supporters to identify the right cohort to reach with a given message, and then reaching out — perhaps in selectively placed online ads. The New York Times' Nick Confessore writes that the successor to Voter Vault, the Republican National Committee's current voter database, will instead "nano-target," whatever that means — while it probably means picking out individual voters as opposed to groups, no definition is offered in the piece — to the derision of some on the left. Read More

Election 2012: It's Not Facebook. It's the Data, Stupid.

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, April 20 2011

Now that President Obama, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty have all declared their intentions to run for President in 2012 and rolled out their initial campaign ... Read More

Inside the "Hope Factory": Max Harper on the Obama Media Machine

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, May 4 2009

Run, don't walk, to go watch Max Harper's detailed presentation on the "Hope Factory," the Obama campaign's system for connecting media, membership, fundraising and activism over the course of 2008 race. I've seen and ... Read More

"Lebanese-Americans for McCain"? Huh?

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, September 23 2008

The other day, I got an email from the McCain-Palin campaign urging me to sign up and get involved. "Take a Few Minutes to elect the McCain-Palin Ticket" it read. As it is my practice to join in all these efforts in ... Read More

MoveOn Gears Up for 2008

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, March 13 2008

MoveOn.org Political Action is hiring, looking for someone to work "on the development of cutting edge online organizing tools." The job description lays out an ambitious but not unrealistic plan for the giant e-group, ... Read More

Over the Horizon: User-Centered Online Politics?

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, February 12 2008

Esther Dyson argues that while Google and a host of start-ups are refining their ability to target advertising at consumers, the long-term news is in how web users are learning, through sites like Facebook, to control ... Read More

News Briefs

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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

Oakland's Sudo Mesh Looks to Counter Censorship and Digital Divide With a Mesh Network

In Oakland, a city with deep roots in radical activism and a growing tech scene at odds with the hyper-capital-driven Silicon Valley, those at the Sudo Room hackerspace believe that the solution to a wide range of problems, from censorship to the digital divide, is a mesh net, a type of decentralized network that is resilient to censorship and disruption and can also bring connectivity to poor communities.

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