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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 >

Brazilian President Signs Internet Bill of Rights Into Law at NetMundial

Earlier today Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff sanctioned Marco Civil, also called the Internet bill of rights, during the global Internet governance event, NetMundial, in Brazil.


tuesday > Reboots As a Candidate Digital Toolkit That's a Bit Too Like launched with big ambitions and star appeal, hoping to crack the code on how to get millions of people to pool their political passions through their platform. When that ambition stalled, its founder Nathan Daschle--son of the former Senator--decided to pivot to offering political candidates an easy-to-use free web platform for organizing and fundraising. Now the new is out from stealth mode, entering a field already being served by competitors like NationBuilder, Salsa Labs and And strangely enough, seems to want its early users to ask for help. GO

Armenian Legislators: You Can Be As Anonymous on the 'Net As You Like—Until You Can't

A proposed bill in Armenia would make it illegal for media outlets to include defamatory remarks by anonymous or fake sources, and require sites to remove libelous comments within 12 hours unless they identify the author.


monday >

The Good Wife Looks for the Next Snowden and Outwits the NSA

Even as the real Edward Snowden faces questions over his motives in Russia, another side of his legacy played out for the over nine million viewers of last night's The Good Wife, which concluded its season long storyline exploring NSA surveillance. In the episode titled All Tapped Out, one young NSA worker's legal concerns lead him to becoming a whistle-blower, setting off a chain of events that allows the main character, lawyer Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), and her husband, Illinois Governor Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), to turn the tables on the NSA using its own methods. GO

The Expanding Reach of China's Crowdsourced Environmental Monitoring Site, Danger Maps

Last week billionaire businessman Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce company Alibaba, appealed to his “500 million-strong army” of consumers to help monitor water quality in China. Inexpensive testing kits sold through his company can be used to measure pH, phosphates, ammonia, and heavy metal levels, and then the data can be uploaded via smartphone to the environmental monitoring site Danger Maps. Although the initiative will push the Chinese authorities' tolerance for civic engagement and activism, Ethan Zuckerman has high hopes for “monitorial citizenship” in China.


The 13 Worst Bits of Russia's Current and Maybe Future Internet Legislation

It appears that Russia is on the brink of passing still more repressive Internet regulations. A new telecommunications bill that would require popular blogs—those with 3,000 or more visits a day—to join a government registry and conform to government-mandated standards is expected to pass this week. What follows is a list of the worst bits of both proposed and existing Russian Internet law. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter if we missed anything.


Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.


wednesday >

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.