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First POST: Unveilings

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, April 3 2015


  • Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago is blocking the release of emails between him, his chief of staff, and Michael Sacks--the vice chair of a quasi-public agency that handles the city's outreach to the business community, who also happens to be one of the mayor's top political donors, Matthew Cunningham-Cook and David Sirota report for the International Business Times. Since all three are public officials, their email correspondence is subject to public records requests.

  • Do you want to use live media to change the political process in 2016? One way--quasi-demonstrated here by BuzzFeed's Jason Ross--is to pull back the veil on the "spin alley" scene during and after a political debate. Ross reports from behind the scenes of yesterday's "Leaders' Debate" in the UK, but he only grazes the target by sharing just a few tidbits of the actual game of spin played during these high-stakes events.

  •, a searchable database showing which countries have contributed what to major US think tanks, is now open in beta. Its founder, Brooke Williams, wrote a major article on the topic for the New York Times, and the site was developed last weekend as part of a hackathon at the MIT Media Lab, reports ThinkTankWatch.

  • Follow Friday: Chelsea Manning is now on Twitter at @xychelsea, though she hasn't tweeted yet. (h/t Renata Avila)

  • Responding to Jason Goldman's call for ideas on how to improve #socialcivics, Tim O'Reilly suggests that one way is to "think about standardized parts and the unit size for participation." As he notes, "Government tends to communicate with long speeches, detailed policy documents, and enormous bodies of law and regulations.The larger the unit of participation, the harder it is for people to take part. That’s why, for example, the growth in the size of modern legislation is so antithetical to democracy."

  • The Sierra Club has launched AddUp, a new platform for environmental activism, centered on a personalized recommendation algorithm that will present site visitors with opportunities for action that are most likely to interest them. "We’ve invested in building this new tool because we want to show how easy it is to take action, and how individual actions can add up to real, meaningful change,” Chris Thomas, the Sierra Club’s Chief Innovation Officer, says in a press release. “The Sierra Club created chapters over a hundred years ago to build local change from the ground up, and now we’re creating a similar kind of infrastructure for supporting grassroots environmentalism in the digital age.” AddUp was built by Blue State Digital.

  • Department of war of all against all: In FastCompany, Sarah Kessler reports on Gunfree Geo Marker, an app in the Google Play Store that pinpoints the names and addresses of politicians, gun control advocates and "random anti-gun trolls." She says it is "a response to another app called Gun Geo Marker, which allows people to mark on a map the locations of guns that they believe are unsafe." Both apps are extensions of early websites. (After Kessler's report appeared, the Gunfree app appears to have been removed from the Google Play Store.)

  • Looking closely at the Facebook-based Jersey Shore Hurricane News, Josh Stearns reports for PBS' Idealab on the tradeoffs involved for any news organization contemplating building its content on someone else's platform.

  • Bookmark this: Julien Burns reports for MobLab on "how small organizations can punch above their weight in a digital world." Among the people offering sage advice: Drew Bernard of Action Sprout, Eugene Flynn of 54 Degrees, Sarah Alexander of Food and Water Watch, Jed Miller of the Transparency and Accountability Initiative, Jesse Littlewood of Echo & Co., Michael Silberman of MobLab, Marty Kearns of Netcentric Campaigns, Farra Trompeter of Big Duck, Leda Dederich of ScoutSeven.

  • Talk about punching above your weight (or is it just punching down?): People who support the right of an Indiana pizza shop, Memories Pizza, to refuse to serve gay couples, have donated more than half a million dollars to it via GoFundMe.

  • Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code and similar programs are growing rapidly, reports Dennis Keohane for Pando Daily.

  • The Women Who Tech telesummit is coming up April 29. WWT is also running a women startup challenge and building a database of women-led startups.

  • Internet researcher Lawrence Alexander has mapped more than 20,000 pro-Kremlin Twitter accounts using the network analysis tools NodeXL and Gephi, for Global Voices. The results show a tightly-knit network with "no isolated groups or outliers," he reports, "strongly supporting the idea that the bots were created by a common agency".