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First POST: System of a Down

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, November 21 2013

System of a Down

  • Clay Shirky unpacks the management and cultural problems that produced the debacle, arguing that procurement processes alone do not explain what went wrong. To wit:

    Every time there was a chance to create some sort of public experimentation, or even just some clarity about its methods and goals, the imperative was to deny the opposition anything to criticize. At the time, this probably seemed like a way of avoiding early failures. But the project’s managers weren’t avoiding those failures. They were saving them up. The actual site is worse—far worse—for not having early and aggressive testing.

  • Shirky also points out that is having a phased rollout now, "just one conducted in the worse possible way," adding "The vision of “technology” as something you can buy according to a plan, then have delivered as if it were coming off a truck, flatters and relieves managers who have no idea and no interest in how this stuff works, but it’s also a breeding ground for disaster. The mismatch between technical competence and executive authority is at least as bad in government now as it was in media companies in the 1990s, but with much more at stake."

  • And in case you think this is just a partisan political issue to pick sides on for or against Obamacare, he concludes: "Now, and from now on, government will interact with its citizens via the internet, in increasingly important ways. This is a non-partisan issue; whichever party is in the White House will build and launch new forms of public service online. Unfortunately for us, the last new technology the government adopted for interacting with citizens was the fax; our senior political figures have little habit of talking to their own technically adept employees."

  • Here's the 18-page House Republican playbook for taking down Obamacare complete with talking points, social media, "digital flyers" (i.e. shareable infographics) and the like, courtesy of The New York Times. Among its directives: "You should use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram to update your constituents daily with posts linking to press releases, photos, video and graphics that drive our messaging."

  • "The system is down at the moment." The New York Times reports that while some people are having an easier time enrolling on, "navigators in states that depend on the federal insurance exchange say they still cannot get most of their clients through the online enrollment process."

In other news around the web:

  • The unavoidable Mike Allen and his business-friendly Playbook gets eviscerated by Erik Wemple in the Washington Post for subtle but consistent shilling for Politico's corporate advertisers. Google doesn't lie.

  • The Guardian reports that citizens of the United Kingdom have had their phone, Internet and email records analyzed and stored by the NSA, "under a secret deal that was approved by British intelligence officials."

  • Politico reports that the Obama 2012 voter data--voter IDs, voter "scores" and turnout models--is being transferred to the DNC, but that the campaign's vaunted 20 million member email list of small donors, volunteers and activists is being leased to Organizing for Action.

  • Ashton Kutcher and Walmart had a Twitter war yesterday over the giant company's treatment of its workers.

  • The Massachusetts House of Representatives approved online voter registration and early voting by 141 to 10. If the Senate agrees, the Bay State will become the 20th in the US that allows online voter registration.

  • With the help of Marc Smith and NodeXL, Alex Howard has a put together a fascinating post visualizing and analyzing the "OpenGov" community based on the the people who used that term on Twitter in the month of October.

  • If you're in a holiday giving mood, check out the Crowdrise Holiday Challenge, which is being backed by PDM friend Craig Newmark's craigconnects, The Huffington Post, and a host of celebrities.