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First POST: "Scoops"

BY Miranda Neubauer | Thursday, March 8 2012

    Must-reads

  • The New York Times takes another look at the Obama campaign's high-tech voter outreach tools:

    It has tested various messages sent to different profiles of Internet users to see which get the best responses in terms of commitments of money or time - a single color change, advisers say, can keep an online user on site for longer. That effort has been helped along by the chief scientist, Rayid Ghani, who joined the campaign last year from Accenture Technology Labs in Chicago.A review of Mr. Ghani's academic papers during his time at Accenture shows that he specializes in gleaning consumers' personal interests from available data online, and then developing messages to entice them to buy certain products based on predictive models of human behavior.

    Trend watch: We noted ProPublica's look at the same ideas yesterday, and when we did, observed that we noted it late last month.

    Let's add one more nugget to the pile: There are third-party tools like Optimizely that allow anyone to build different messages and test them on the same page. Campaigns including Rick Perry's failed presidential run used tools of exactly this sort; A/B testing, as it's called, is so ubiquitous in the left's online organizing space that it has become a running joke.

    It's true, though, that Obama's campaign may be doing this more effectively and in a more sophisticated way. At TechPresident HQ, we've certainly seen more recruitment of data experts and statisticians from Team Obama than from any other presidential campaign.

  • Elizabeth Warren is asking her supporters which charity Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown should donate money to after his supporters violated both campaigns' pledge against third party ads. The Brown campaign has agreed to donate the money to a charity of the Warren campaign's choice.

  • Footage of President Obama during his time as President of the Harvard Law Review caused a bit of a tiff Wednesday among "scoop"-hungry Internet media hounds.

    In the video, President Obama, then president of the Harvard Law Review, speaks alongside Harvard Prof. Derrick Bell on behalf of a female black professor denied tenure when, Buzzfeed reported, "three of the law school's professors were black and only five women." Obama's grad-school connection to Bell was something Big Government, site of the late Andrew Breitbart, planned to "expose" as part of an exclusive to be rolled out with a media appearance on a Fox channel later that day.

    Problem was, Buzzfeed licensed the video from WGBH Boston and beat Big Government to the scoop. Big Government responded by alleging that Buzzfeed or WGBH had selectively edited the footage to shelter Obama, promising to release uncut footage later that day.

    Putting an end to this dizzying round of Internet media one-upmanship, Frontline's Andrew Golis pulled a trump card: Seeing as Frontline is produced in offices at WGBH, he was able to find that the footage had been available online since 2008, that Buzzfeed had included all available footage from Obama's speech, and that the footage appeared on Buzzfeed as it did years ago when it was first aired on television — as that was how it had been archived.

    One thing was missing: During the event, Obama had given Bell a hug.

    This, for Big Government, "shows a young Barack Obama leading a protest at Harvard Law School on behalf of Prof. Derrick Bell, a radical academic tied to Jeremiah Wright--about whom we will be releasing significant information in the coming hours."

    Buzzfeed and Big Goverment continue to trade shots.

  • Techdirt spoke with Jerry Moran, Republican Senator from Kansas, and an early opponent of PIPA. He said:

    The ability to convince the Majority Leader not to put this bill on the floor really was a significant moment -- not just for that legislation, but I have no doubt that the ability of people who use the internet to influence the outcome of decisions made in Washington DC is significant. We now know that it can be done ... I don't see it at all as a one time event. My colleagues are much more likely to be paying attention to tech issues, knowing that there is a voice that can come our way very quickly, very easily and in significant magnitude.

  • Ad Age looks at projections for election ad spending:

    Online spending is also expected to get a huge bump and is projected to reach $159.2 million, a sixfold increase from 2008, though it would still represent only 1.5% of overall campaign spending. (Some political strategists estimate that it will be higher for many races this cycle, approaching 12%.) Spending on paid search is projected to rise, because buying up Google keywords with opponents names' and other campaign buzzwords has become a basic step in the political playbook, though paid search's share of online spending could fall to about one-third from 49% in 2008. Meanwhile, targeted display ads are projected to get a larger share, approaching 30%, as candidates look to hone digital messaging for specific audiences.

  • Notable

  • Syria's Deputy Oil Minister announced his defection on Youtube.

  • The New York Times looked at the spread of I Paid a Bribe websites in India, Bhutan, Pakistan and beyond.

  • Anonymous said that it shut down the website of the Vatican yesterday. The New York Times had previously reported on an unsuccessful attack on the Vatican by the group. Anonymous also attacked the web site of the Spanish security firm PandaLabs, apparently as part of retaliation for the arrests of LulzSec members.

  • A new version of the Federal IT dashboard, which provides new data, visualizations, and tools, has been released. The new version also has fewer errors and inaccuracies in cost and scheduling of projects. The Dashboard was originally launched in 2009 and was meant to help make government investments more transparent.

  • On Quora , users are answering the question, "Which U.S. government programs have most successfully achieved their stated goals?" The respondents include Matt Lira, Majority Leader Eric Cantor's Digital Communications Director, who discusses the success of the Marshall Plan.

  • Researchers who hacked into a test of a Washington D.C. e- voting system in 2010 have now released an academic paper about the experience. As part of the hack, they manipulated the system to play the University of Michigan fight song when people voted, installed fictional candidates, and accessed the security cameras watching the e-voting servers.

  • Wikipedia does not plan on becoming a political campaigning organization after its advocacy against SOPA, founder Jimmy Wales said at a digital media conference in London.

  • New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed an open data bill that was previously covered by techPresident . That legislation was also the topic of discussion at a panel discussion at the Columbia Journalism School earlier this week, for which the webcast is available. Moderated by Alex Howard, participants included City Council member Gail Brewer, a key backer of the bill. Philip Ashlock, from OpenPlans, and others.

  • The New York City Campaign Finance Board and its Voter Assistance Advisory Committee have launched a new campaign called "Your Vote Counts" aimed at encouraging voting among women in honor of Women's History Month.

  • Apple announced its new iPad yesterday, but both the New York Times and Reuters see parallels between the current outcry over working conditions in Apple factories with the outcry over Nike factory working conditions in the late 1980s and 1990s.

  • The Modern Language Association recently issued directions for citing tweets in an academic paper.

With Nick Judd and Raphael Majma

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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