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First POST: A Data Democracy

BY Nick Judd | Tuesday, January 29 2013

The forest and the trees

  • At the Google Political Innovation Summit on Friday, participants — a mix of campaigners from both sides, academics, foundation funders and nonpartisan crusaders for civic participation — fell into two camps: Those that were concerned about the selective nature of campaign turnout efforts, and those that aren't.

    The basic premise is that turnout was less in 2012 than it was in 2008 except for a few key battleground states — the ones where the presidential campaigns put all of their efforts. TechPresident's Micah Sifry put it this way: A few trees are doing okay, but the forest is getting sicker. Participants at the Friday event worried aloud that this targeting might be suppressing turnout in general, motivating people in swing states to tune out the noise and making people in other states believe their votes didn't matter.

    Aaron Strauss, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's targeting director, explains in a graph of turnout by state to illustrate that, yes, this is true: As a percentage of the voting-eligible population, turnout declined less in battleground states.

    Anthea Watson Strong, an event co-organizer and Obama 2012 alum, writes that civic hackers who want to get more people involved generally should reach out to the partisans who worked on campaigns.

    Jason Putorti, a co-founder of recent Causes acquisition Votizen, counters that the focus should be on what people can do with one another, not on top-down efforts coming from some centrally planned initiative.

  • In an upcoming techPresident podcast, we put this question to you and hope you'll answer on Twitter using the hashtag #pdchat: Suppose campaigns are going to get better and better at only targeting the voters they need. What do you do to make politics better? Do you do anything?

Silicon Valley's political awareness

  • With early investments in Google, Facebook and Twitter, prominent venture capitalist Ron Conway made investments and connections that helped to define Silicon Valley's cultural identity. Sarah Stirland reports that as the national gun debate rages on, he's trying to do the same for its political identity, too.

Around the web

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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

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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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