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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?

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.


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.