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Announcing BOF ("Birds-of-a-feather") Sessions at PdF09

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, June 17 2009

A number of people have asked about opportunities for collaboration during this year's Personal Democracy Forum, and in response to their suggestions, we're pleased to announce that Monday evening June 29, immediately after the first day's formal sessions end and during the conference cocktail party, we're inviting attendees to lead or join in informal BOF sessions at Jazz at Lincoln Center. BOF as in "birds-of-a-feather flock together," that is.

Here are the details on three sessions that various folks have already been working on: Hacking the City, Demoing DemDash, and Open Questions/Citizen Media. We're also going to put up a conference wiki shortly, to enable attendees to sign up and start connecting around these session, post additional ideas, and also share other self-organized plans like themed dinners or late-night jaunts. Stay tuned for details.

Hacking the City:
Grab a cocktail and join editor-in-chief Aaron Naparstek, members of The Open Planning Project, and John Geraci, the founder of, for a freewheeling discussion of how online journalism, advocacy and community-building tools are being used to hack the urban political machine, rewrite city government's operating system and transform city dwellers' relationship to their local politics in New York City and across America. Streetsblog and TOPP are on the front lines of the fight to transform New York into a more livable and sustainable city and have achieved some remarkable successes in moving new policy ideas from the Internet to asphalt in New York and many other cities. DIYcity is a network of developers and urban hackers spanning dozens of cities worldwide, applying and sharing the same ideas across varying environments. If you are interested in applying ideas and techniques of Personal Democracy to urban government, come by and join the conversation.

Demo DemDash
Come get a pre-alpha preview of DemDash, a new social online tool for political and civic engagement. The system enables multi-group, one-click action alerts, asymmetric follow for campaigns and organizations, personal ballot and slate generation, and an individualized view of elected representatives and governing bodies. To RSVP, please contact Jenifer Ancona, jenifer-at-simplerevolutions-dot-com.

Open Questions and Citizen Media
In 2007 and 2008, the left-right Open Debate Coalition won major concessions from television networks that liberated debate footage to be freely posted on YouTube, blogged about, and shared without violating copyright law. In addition, the coalition got now-President Obama and Senator McCain to agree to "open debate principles" that included bubble-up selection of questions and a reduced role for a moderator (principles sadly rejected by the top-down Commission on Presidential Debates). Here at PdF, we launched the project to try to inject voter-generated and -approved questions into the presidential primary debates, and more recently Ask the President made a similar push around White House press conferences. Can we build on these efforts? Can we figure out how to institutionalize more bottom-up questioning of public officials in settings like debates and press conferences? And is there a way to galvanize a larger movement of citizens directly questioning authorities, as Dan Gillmor wrote recently on techPresident? Come join Adam Green, Ari Melber, Dan Gillmor and Micah Sifry for an open discussion on how citizen media can foster a more questioning and accountable culture.

(Photo of starlings in formation courtesy of Fi in Eden)