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First POST: Edges

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, April 15 2015


  • Today at 2:35 ET, President Obama will have a town-hall meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina with the women's news sites BlogHer and SheKnows, streaming live there as well as, focusing on checkbook issues as we all get our tax returns done. The moderator, BlogHer's Lisa Stone, explains more here.

  • Friday, the White House is also hosting a Tech Meetup which will be streamed live at 9am ET.

  • While we're on the subject of White House tech, you can send feedback on its news redesigned website here.

  • Related: Speaking at the Omidyar Network's "Business of Civic Tech" conference at Civic Hall yesterday, White House CTO Megan Smith said that the United Kingdom's government was about two years ahead of the US, and the tech industry here needs to "show up." As Issie Lapowsky reports for Wired, Smith declared, "Government is only what we make of it; if we show up, it'll include our skills."

  • Mike Bracken, the director of the UK's Digital Office, who was in the audience as Smith spoke, responded that he expected the US to "race ahead" due to "more positive willingness to change, vibrant tech sector, less turf wars."

  • Thinking about the business of civic tech from a different angle, David Moore of the Participatory Politics Foundation (and PDM friend) asks whether the most highly capitalized civic tech companies (think, NextDoor, MindMixer, Socrate and possibly Brigate) are obtaining a bigger return on investment in terms of "continual engagement within communities." He also asks if less-capitalized, community-based non-profits like his, 596 Acress, OpenPlans' Shareabouts, CKAN, LittleSis, BeNeighbors and participatory budgeting tools that have less scale but "more open-source, open-data tools that can be remixed" do a better job on continual engagement.

  • Scott Goodstein, one of Obama '08's top social media strategists and the founder of Revolution Messaging, takes to the pages of Time magazine to argue that without a competitive primary, the Democratic edge in political tech is fated to whither. He writes:

    There is no question that Republicans are catching up when it comes to putting technology to work on the campaign trail — a competitive Democratic primary would allow us to stay out in front. We can pressure-test the new advances in ad-technology and mobile marketing by experimenting in each state primary with real deadlines and real results. Can hyper-geo-fencing different messages affect turnout on an election day? Can Democratic campaigns better divide their resources between direct-mail universes, walkable precincts and geo-fenced ads in gated-communities that can’t be canvassed? Can connected TV be integrated in a campaign’s field and in fundraising efforts?

  • Internal emails among California Highway Patrol commanders obtained by Darwin BondGraham of East Bay Express show how counter-terrorism task force members monitor social media usage by political protesters in the US. One email read: "A quick reminder ... as you know, our TLO [Terrorism Liaison Officers] officers are actively following multiple leads over social media." The note continued, "this morning, we found posts detailing protesters' interaction with individual officers last night. In the posts, protesters are stating that we (CHP) were claiming to follow them on social media. Please have your personnel refrain from such comments; we want to continue tracking the protesters as much as possible. If they believe we are tracking them, they will go silent."

  • One protestor commented to BondGraham, "They've built this big network and they have tremendous resources,. But they don't have enough to do, so they're using this to watch political protesters. It's mission creep."

  • The NYC city council has rolled out a "public technology plan" aimed a greater digital inclusion and open government, reports Samar Khurshid for the Gotham Gazette. "We want to meet people where they are digitally active and we want to expand the conversation around civic tech so that it reflects the diversity of this city," said council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

  • The plan, Council 2.0, promises a community summit on best practices for digital engagement, an experimental website at, major improvements in the council's website and other digital properties, a partnership with Textizen around participatory budgeting, and a "default to open" for sharing the workings of the council online.

  • The latest volume of Digital Citizen, which covers news on human rights and technology in the Arab world, is out, and it's full of stories about governments blocking news sites and arresting bloggers and tweeters for statements critical of authorities.

  • Our Knight News Challenge proposal for a 2016 Election Technology and Journalism Resource Center made it to the semifinalist round, along with many other great ideas. If you have comments or suggestions on how to improve it, please chime in!