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First POST: Moneyballed

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, January 23 2015


  • The Gates Foundation is going to fund the creation of a "massive self-registered database of 'global citizens'" that qualified nonprofits will then be able to access., reports Randall Lane of Forbes. The "database gatekeeper" will be the Global Poverty Project, he reports. Lane comments: "The results could herald the Moneyball era of activism, with the database sortable by interest area, region or any number of fields."

  • According to Lane, Gates says: “The dream is to have people in the big list declare, ‘OK, I’m particularly interested in the environment.’ And then we go to Al Gore’s people or whatever, and say, “OK those people, you figure out what messages go to them.” If they say health, OK we’re enough of a fair broker in the health game that we can come up with a finite set of messages that would include all the health people, if it’s hunger, if it’s education, and how you partition that out the right way. I think it’s very doable. I’m quite optimistic.”

  • If this isn't the dumbest big idea I've ever heard of, I can't think of another right now. Not only is it likely to raise the cost of member acquisition to most organizations (because the Gates Foundation will have to spend heavily to create such a list), it's all push when successful online organizing in our age of distraction is all about pull. There's a good reason big list organizations like MoveOn have adopted much more open, "distributed" campaign models enabling their members to self-mobilize each other; the Gates solution, as described by Lane, looks like an attempt to turn the clock backwards.

  • The NSA is more popular among young people than older people, according to a new Pew Research Poll highlighted by Alexis Madrigal of Fusion. Could this be because young people worry less about privacy violations, and older people remember past government power abuses?

  • Facebook is offering advertisers the ability to target ads at its users in near real-time as they talk about the upcoming Super Bowl, reports Tim Peterson for Ad Age.

  • New York City is using Palantir's data-analysis tools to spot building with clusters of short-term rentals, reports WNYC's Ilya Marritz. "I guess maybe you could call it 'Moneyball' for quality of life violations," the acting director of the Mayor's Office of Special Enforcement, Elan Parra, commented. (h/t Sonia Roubini)

  • Since observant Muslim taxi drivers pray five times a day, it may be possible to identify Muslim taxi drivers in New York City based on their travel activity data (released by the city for 2013), per this report by Anna Berlee of the Interdisciplinary Internet Institute.