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First POST: Finding Nemo

BY Nick Judd | Friday, February 8 2013

The End of Hyperlocal?

  • NBC has shuttered EveryBlock for good. The site was a prolific aggregator of local information, bringing together government data, news reports and forum posts about almost any neighborhood in the nation. Its founder, Adrian Holovaty, left in August — long after it was acquired by MSNBC.

    EveryBlock was founded with the help of a $1.1 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and another project, OpenBlock, turned the code open-source with another infusion of Knight money.

    Both projects are now defunct. In a blog post yesterday, OpenBlock maintainers OpenPlans reveal that they are working on a project that may be a successor to the now-shuttered hyperlocal aggregator.

    NBC Universal Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Officer Vivian Schiller told us in an email: "Hyperlocal is not part of our focus for the future."

    A commenter twists the knife:

    ... [T]his closure underscores the very, very sad reality of what journalism has become - a profit venture for tech entrepreneurs' that is sucking up capital, grants, and market share only to be jettisoned when it is not profitable enough.

    How many millions of dollars were spent on this failed project so a few people could monkey with code while journalists making $30,000 a year were laid off by the hundreds? And how much of that money did these guys just pocket and walk away with?

Finding Nemo

  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released a new app that asks users to identify what kind of precipitation is coming down where.

Republican data plans

  • Republicans knocked on doors 14.5 million times in 2012 to support Mitt Romney's presidential ambitions and the broader GOP cause, according to the Republican National Committee, but it just wasn't enough. Data-driven decision making and better technology management are part of the Republican Party's plans for renewal — and techPresident has a look behind the scenes.

Around the web

  • Joe Green is out at NationBuilder, and moving on to Andreesen Horowitz.

  • Former Tea Party organizer Mark Meckler writes that open government offers the promise of "self-governance."

  • We've avoided talking about MOOCs — massively open online courses — for a long time now. But a piece in The Awl by Clay Shirky, which does more to question the politics of access to education now and to gesture vaguely at the promise of some better and more equitable Internet future than it does to champion the MOOC as-is, has a lot of Internet-and-society thinkers aflutter.

  • BBC reports that kids as young as 11 are using "malicious code" to acquire ill-gotten virtual currency in online games, which we're noting mostly to pour cold water on the idea that this is in any way news. "Script kiddie" is a term dating back at least as far as the 1990s used to demean any malicious actor who uses someone else's code, or some other simple and poorly written software, for their own ends. Why kiddie? Because it was kids who were doing this then, and it's kids who are doing this now, even if there were fewer actual dollars involved back in the day.

  • ICYMI: Betabeat editor Nitasha Tiku's scathing, spot-on essay on race in the tech industry and the tech press.

  • A petition asking the U.S. to intervene in the case of a Russian activist believed to have committed suicide in a Dutch prison is the first to pass We the People's new 100,000-signature threshold.

  • A hacker has writes that with Knight's next grantmaking challenge, focused on open government, it should support projects for which the government is the client, not citizens.

  • You know what's lame? Having to pay money to electronically access records your tax dollars already paid for.

  • UN Dispatch anoints "The @CoryBooker of Uganda."

  • Here's an idea: Look at the technology stack of newsrooms.

  • A scalp for Politwoops: a spokesman for Rep. Raul Labrador lost his job over an ill-advised tweet in response to a racy Super Bowl commercial about the sitcom "Broke Girls." How you "likey" them now, Phil Hardy?

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

Another Co-Opted Hashtag: #MustSeeIran

The Twitter hashtag #MustSeeIran was created to showcase Iran's architecture, landscapes, and would-be tourist destinations. It was then co-opted by activists to bring attention to human rights abuses and infringements. Now Twitter is home to two starkly different portraits of a country. GO

At NETmundial Brazil: Is "Multistakeholderism" Good for the Internet?

Today and tomorrow Brazil is hosting NETmundial, a global multi-stakeholder meeting on the future of Internet governance. GO

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.