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First POST: Transitions

BY Miranda Neubauer | Thursday, December 13 2012

Morning must-reads

  • More changes in WH open-gov land: White House Deputy Chief Technology Officer Chris Vein is joining the World Bank.

    What this means for transparency advocates: One of Vein's responsibilities was to help push transparency goals across the U.S. government that were outlined in a plan the White House concocted in cooperation with transparency and open-government hawks as part of its obligations to the Open Government Partnership. The U.S. and Brazil led the OGP's first year, and the entire idea traces back to a challenge President Barack Obama issued before the U.N. General Assembly in 2010. Meanwhile, both the U.S. and another key transparency partner, the U.K., have lost top staff. Tim Kelsey, who was executive director of transparency and open data at the Cabinet Office, left to become national director for patients and information at the National Health Service. Vein himself is the second White House official to have this flavor of open government in his portfolio, following former White House Deputy CTO Beth Noveck. So — keep an eye on who picks up this dossier, if anyone does, in Obama's second term.

  • Smart and bold, or solutionism? An effort in Afghanistan proposes to use "mobile learning," or lessons taught via mobile phones, to teach Afghan women to read. The idea is that this will be an end-around to Afghan inhibitions against women leaving the home, and reduce the risks to women who want to become literate. For TechPresident's WeGov vertical, journalist and Afghanistan-watcher Naheed Mustafa writes that there isn't enough information about illiteracy in Afghanistan or about mobile learning to say with any certainty that this is a good idea. And mobile learning comes with its own set of problems — especially when people are trying to use it to overcome gender inequalities.

  • Cri de coeur: For Wired, Quinn Norton offers a "eulogy" for Occupy.

  • WCIT Watch: Delegates to WCIT agreed yesterday that the U.N. should take a more "active" role in shaping the Internet, Cnet reported, "and appeared to take the U.S. and Europe by surprise." Access Now, the Internet freedom group, also offered its analysis of the developments.

  • A former ITU chief policy maker called the organization "the most failed body in the history of international telecommunications," according to Cnet.

The year according to search and social media

  • Google has released its 2012 trends. "Election 2012" is #3 in top trending searches. "KONY 2012" is #10. "How to vote" was the #3 "How To" trending search, after "How to love" and "How to rock." "What is SOPA" is #1 in "What is" trending searches, with "What is KONY" at #3 and "What is Obamacare" at #7. Within News, "Big Bird," "47 Percent" and "Binders full of women" were the political gaffes with most trending interest, while top politicians were Paul Ryan, Ron Paul and Barack Obama. Top trending election issues were abortion, gay marriage and immigration. Among the top trending "Donate" searches was "Donate to Obama" at #1 , "Donate to Romney" at #3 and "Donate to KONY" at #4. Top trending news sources were NBC News, FiveThirtyEight Blog and Chi Magazine. Google defines trending as "Search queries with the highest amount of traffic over a sustained period in 2012 as compared to 2011." In international searches, "What is ACTA" was a top trending "What is" search in Austria and Poland.

  • Facebook also released its 2012 year in review. Its top Politics related keywords are "Barack Obama," "Mitt Romney," "Voted" and "Four More Years." Obama and Romney were also the top public figures overall, beating out One Direction. SOPA was #7 in Techology keywords. The U.S. presidential election was the top event above the Super Bowl and the death of Whitney Houston, with the death of Trayvon Martin at #6 and Obama's gay marriage endorsement at #10. Within Memes, Kony was at #3 and Big Bird at #9. In France, Francois Hollande was the most discussed, above The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part II.

Obama for America developer: Team Romney was biting our style

  • Kyle Rush from the Obama campaign has posted a lengthy piece that goes into technical detail about some aspects of the optimization and a/b testing that helped the campaign win. The campaign tested out a new donation form layout they called "Sequential," which replaced a long donation form with four smaller steps. Here's Rush:

    By turning the long donation form into 4 smaller steps we increased the conversion rate by more than 5%. Turns out you can get more users to the top of the mountain if you show them a gradual incline instead of a steep slope.

    We began a/b testing the first iteration of Sequential on July 26th, 2012 and it replaced our standard donation form on August 7th. After vigorous optimization we ended up with what would almost be the final version of Sequential on August 7th. On November 1st we were delighted to see that our friends at the Romney campaign liked it so much.

    Click through to Rush's blog for screenshots of the Romney donation page side-by-side with Obama for America's.

Because of course there are

Around the web

And now for something completely different

  • In a blog post regarding the legalization of marijuana in Washington state, the Seattle Police write that the "police department believes that, under state law, you may responsibly get baked, order some pizzas and enjoy a Lord of the Rings marathon in the privacy of your own home, if you want to."


News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.


The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.


tuesday >

Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.


Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.


monday >

Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.


friday >

In Google Hangout, NYC Mayor de Blasio Talks Tech and Outer Borough Potential

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio followed the lead of President Obama and New York City Council member Ben Kallos Friday by participating in a Google Hangout to help mark his first 100 days in office, in which the conversation focused on expanding access to technology opportunities through education and ensuring that the needs of the so-called "outer boroughs" aren't overlooked. GO

thursday >

In Pakistan, A Hypocritical Gov't Ignores Calls To End YouTube Ban

YouTube has been blocked in Pakistan by executive order since September 2012, after the “blasphemous” video Innocence of Muslims started riots in the Middle East. Since then, civil society organizations and Internet rights advocacy groups like Bolo Bhi and Bytes for All have been working to lift the ban. Last August the return of YouTube seemed imminent—the then-new IT Minister Anusha Rehman spoke optimistically and her party, which had won the majority a few months before, was said to be “seriously contemplating” ending the ban. And yet since then, Rehman and her party, the conservative Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), have done everything in their power to maintain the status quo.


The #NotABugSplat Campaign Aims to Give Drone Operators Pause Before They Strike

In the #NotABugSplat campaign that launched this week, a group of American, French and Pakistani artists sought to raise awareness of the effects of drone strikes by placing a field-sized image of a young girl, orphaned when a drone strike killed her family, in a heavily targeted region of Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. Its giant size is visible to those who operate drone strikes as well as in satellite imagery. GO

Boston and Cambridge Move Towards More Open Data

The Boston City Council is now considering an ordinance which would require Boston city agencies and departments to make government data available online using open standards. Boston City Councilor At Large Michelle Wu, who introduced the legislation Wednesday, officially announced her proposal Monday, the same day Boston Mayor Martin Walsh issued an executive order establishing an open data policy under which all city departments are directed to publish appropriate data sets under established accessibility, API and format standards. GO

YouTube Still Blocked In Turkey, Even After Courts Rule It Violates Human Rights, Infringes on Free Speech

Reuters reports that even after a Turkish court ruled to lift the ban on YouTube, Turkey's telecommunications companies continue to block the video sharing site.