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First POST: Sucks

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, September 25 2014


  • "Being a federal CIO means buying a used car, driving it off the lot, and only then looking under the hood and seeing what engine you've bought," says David Bray, the FCC's CIO. "And I've got a pretty old engine," he adds in a detailed story by the Washington Post's Nancy Scola on how that agency's web comment form collapsed as millions of responses surged in on its "open Internet" rulemaking proposal.

  • Most revealing about her story: how tech-savvy net neutrality activists built work-arounds to make sure the flood of comments would be captured and properly tallied--and how the agency responded. Also this line from Scola is priceless: "Today the FCC is a communications agency that can't communicate, and that irony is not lost on those inside the agency."

  • The giant sucking sound you are hearing from Washington, DC to California is Silicon Valley buying up tons of Beltway political operatives, and Ben Smith of BuzzFeed has got a list. The latest hire: former Obama and Clinton aide Jonathan Prince is going to work for Spotify.

  • While tech is getting more political, some companies are doing little to disclose just how much lobbying--including the deep kind--they are actually doing, reports Derek Willis and Claire Cain Miller for the New York Times' Upshot section. Among the most transparent companies: Microsoft, Qualcomm and Intel. At the bottom: Netflix and Salesforce.

  • Yesterday, reports GovTech, during the Code for America summit, the livestream was shut down and the audience was asked not to tweet during a session on the lessons of with Mikey Dickerson and Jini Kim, two top coders who helped save the site. Dickerson is now setting up the US Digital Service. Still, we're told, this is "the most transparent administration in US history."

  • Related: The White House sometimes forces reporters to alter the pool reports they file before they are distributed to the rest of the press, Paul Farhi details for the Washington Post.

  • Two University of Maryland law professors are urging their state's attorney general to prosecute Facebook and OKCupid for violating a state law limiting research on human subjects, reports Robinson Meyer for The Atlantic.

  • Yelp left ALEC months ago, ahead of Facebook and Google, but the news is just out new, reports Dustin Volz for National Journal.

  • Ever since a recent crackdown on people using Facebook with pseudonyms or unverifiable names, a previously obscure social network called Ello has seen a big jump in new users, particularly from the LGBTQ community, reports Jack Smith IV for BetaBeat. Unlike Facebook, Ello "doesn't mine or sell data or have ads," its founder Paul Budnitz tells Smith.

  • Ello's "manifesto." You need to request an invitation to join.

  • "A simple coding mistake" reportedly allowed Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) to access detailed secret fundraising records from a website run by the Republican Governors Association, reports Jonathan Weisman for The New York Times. A spokeswoman for the RGA charged that "CREW accessed those documents from behind a password-protected website." In a tweet, Weisman explains that the documents "were behind a firewall but a simple Google search breached the security."

  • Tech for good: MIT's recent "Make the Breast Pump Not Suck!" hackathon gets an adoring write-up from Michelle Nijhuis in The New Yorker.

  • More tech for good: The good folks at Public Lab (disclosure: I'm on their board) have launched a new Kickstarter to create a "homebrew oil testing kit" that will sell for $50. The kit is an extension of an earlier Kickstarter that funded PL's DIY Spectrometer kit, and "will provide everything needed to collect and prepare samples, scan and analyze them, and share the results online. Also, a blu ray laser!

  • Tech for evil: How some people who fall behind on their auto loans are having the cars remotely disabled by debt collectors--even when they desperately need their car for an emergency, as reported by Michael Corkery and Jessica Silver-Greenberg in the New York Times.

  • The Open Government Partnership turns three, and Alex Howard catalogs its accomplishments and challenges

  • has a new executive director, Shelby Clark, the founder of RelayRides.

  • The Knight Foundation is expanding and reorganizing its journalism and media innovation staff, promoting John Bracken, Chris Barr, and Marie Gilot, and bringing on Shazna Nessa. Michael Maness is leaving Knight after three years as VP for journalism and media innovation and becoming the first innovator in residence at the Harvard Business School's Digital Initiative.

  • Just in time for the Days of Awe: Joichi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, blogs about his befriending Timothy Leary when he was younger, and how that changed his life.