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First POST: Portents

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, February 19 2015


  • The White House has its first chief data scientist, DJ Patil, a veteran of LinkedIn, eBay, PayPal, Skype and Greylock Partners, blogs CTO Megan Smith.

  • On Backchannel, Nancy Scola takes a close look at a startup called DataMi that is pioneering a new way for many more companies to offer mobile phone users "sponsored data." The prospects look bright--but they may break the principle that on the Internet all bits are treated equally.

  • Major tech and media companies are joining Twitter's fight to overturn Patriot Act gag orders preventing any disclosures regarding the National Security Letters it receives, Jeff John Roberts reports for GigaOm.

  • Google is escalating Cryptowar II with a statement to a congressional committee that the Justice Departments insistence on expanded digital search warrant powers would have "monumental" negative implications, reports Dustin Volz for National Journal.

  • The UK Parliament's House of Lords says the Internet should be classified as a public utility, Sebastian Anthony reports for ArsTechnica.

  • As announced a year ago, Reddit is donating 10% of its 2014 ad revenue to the top ten nonprofits to get votes from its community, based on the proportion of the vote each organization gets. So far, the top vote-getters are the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Doctors Without Borders, NPR, the Wikimedia Foundation, the Internet Archive and Planned Parenthood. More than $820,000 is up for grabs.

  • This is civic tech: Philadelphia's new 311 platform--developed with SalesForce and Unisys--does more than collect non-emergency complaints about city services, it connects people directly with local organizations and city officials, reports Jason Shueh for GovTech. “It’s something new in government for us. We’ve never done this before; we’ve always had the reactive, ‘Send us your request and we’ll get back in contact with you,’ type of transaction,” Rosetta Lue, the city's chief customer service officer told him. “Now we’re actually talking to people and having conversations online in one big portal where people are generating ideas and coming together.”

  • Need a definition? "Civic hacking happens whenever people work together quickly and creatively to make where they live better," writes Code for Atlanta's Luigi Montanez. "Writing code is just one tool in our belt. We're also designers, data analysts, project managers, journalists, lawyers, policy wonks, and subject-matter experts of all stripes. Anyone who wants to make their community a better place can be a civic hacker."

  • I got these links wrong yesterday: Here's Jon Ward on why some conservatives are into Gavin Newsom. And here's Alex Howard on how open mapping platforms MapBox and CartoDB are using open government data.

  • Tonight at Civic Hall: Mark Pesce on "Hypercivility" (starts at 5:30pm). And, a pop-up information session on the Knight News Challenge: Elections, hosted by Jennifer Preston, Shazna Nessa and Lucas Hernandez of the Knight Foundation (starts at 6pm). The focus: How might we better inform voters and increase civic participation before, during and after elections?
    RSVP here.

  • If you're in Washington DC Feb 25, Join Congressman Alan Grayson for an advance viewing of KillSwitch, a new documentary film about the battle for control over the Internet, followed by a discussion with Professor Lawrence Lessig at the Capitol Visitor Center, 6pm. RSVP by February 23, 2015 to Seating is limited.