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First POST: Incentives

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, December 10 2013


  • is "vastly improved," reports the New York Times' Lizette Alvarez and Jennifer Preston. "In the first week of December, about 112,000 people selected plans — compared with about 100,000 in all of November and only 27,000 in October. Last week, more than half a million people created accounts on the federal website, according to people familiar with the health care project."

  • Members of the congressional committees that oversee the U.S. intelligence community have received millions of dollars in campaign contributions from industry contractors who receive billions from the intelligence budget, Maplight reports.

  • The competition for online attention is driving some news sites to post stuff that is too good to be true, reports Ravia Somaiya and Leslie Kaufman in the Times. Ryan Grim, the Huffington Post's DC bureau chief says, “If you throw something up without fact-checking it, and you’re the first one to put it up, and you get millions and millions of views, and later it’s proved false, you still got those views. That’s a problem. The incentives are all wrong.”

  • News sites are already seeing a big surge in traffic due to Facebook's changes in its News Feed algorithms, but Buzzfeed notes that everyone is waiting for the inevitable crash to come.

  • David Karpf has been keeping an eye on's top petitions, and he questions whether, in pursuit of growth (Change just hit 50M users) the site has sacrificed importance. Noting that at the moment the top petition at Change is a local animal abuse case, while the top petition at (MoveOn's platform) is on protecting Obama's Iran policy, he writes, "But the top of the homepage is valuable digital real estate and algorithms can automate value-judgments.  The campaigns that you promote and highlight say something about your identity as an organization."

  • The second most talked about topic on Facebook in 2013, after Pope Francis, was "election," the company's data editor Robert D'Onofrio reported. Number three, the "Royal Baby." The second most talked about topic in the U.S. was the government shutdown.

  • Google is now letting people add their own images to Street View. "This feature can now enable environmental non-profits to document and promote the beautiful places they strive to protect," writes Google product manager Evan Rapaport.