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First POST: Stunts

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, April 8 2014

USAID pushes back in defense of ZunZeneo; Indian candidate copies from Obama data playbook; cities from Boston to Philly to San Francisco roll with the web; and much much more. Read More

First POST: Role Models

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, March 24 2014

Applicants to George Washington University have an unusual role model; Is Twitter public, or should you only quote tweets with permission?; the future of open government in Philadelphia; and much, much more. Read More

Ready to Launch, A New Platform to Ask Elected Officials Anything

BY Miranda Neubauer | Friday, February 7 2014

Last week, the White House made something of a splash with its Big Block of Cheese Day, encouraging internet users to ask members of the Obama administration and the White House staff questions on social media. A new platform officially launching Monday hopes to provide voters with the opportunity to pose questions to elected officials and other prominent figures every day of the year, in some ways echoing an ongoing Ask Me Anything concept. Read More

FastFWD Puts the Civic Accelerator Inside City Hall

BY Sam Roudman | Wednesday, October 30 2013

Philly's FastFwd puts civic entrepreneurs in direct contact with city hall

City governments and tech entrepreneurs both want to make government more efficient and effective (who doesn't?), but that doesn’t make the task easy for either side. City requests for procurement define problems with such precision that they can block out creative solutions, and established bureaucratic folkways can make process shake-ups a challenge to implement. On the tech side, there isn’t always an understanding of where government might actually be helped, or that some problems will require more than an weekend of app making. “We’re trying to solve both ends,” says Garrett Melby, founder of GoodCompany Ventures, which supports early stage companies with a positive social impact. Melby is looking to bridge the gap between tech entrepreneurs and city government. Along with the City of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business he's promoting a new civic start up accelerator called FastFWD. The program will bring the leaders of ten early stage civic tech projects to Philadelphia in January. The fellows will receive a $10,000 fellowship from Bloomberg Philanthropies, and three months of intensive business mentorship, and access to people working directly in government. When the accelerator or “urban innovation refinery” as it styles itself concludes, the best ideas will get a try out within the city of Philadelphia. Read More

First POST: Boom

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, October 16 2013

Glenn Greenwald's leaving The Guardian for a new journalism start-up financed by Pierre Omidyar; news from the Code for America Summit; HealthCare.gov's dismal sign-up numbers; and much, much more. Read More

Is This How to Breathe Life Into a City's Vacant Land?

BY Sam Roudman | Wednesday, July 10 2013

A new online effort hopes to revive Philadelphia's vacant lots. Photo: Matt Bevilacqua

For urbanites in Philadelphia looking to make a garden from one of the city’s 35,000 or so unused lots, the most common advice has consisted of two words: good luck. That’s because while data on any given parcel is technically open there, actually figuring out who owns it, or if anything can be done with it, can require a spelunking expedition into the dark caverns of city bureaucracy. Organizers and developers have launched a new project to make it easier to find and utilize vacant land. Read More

San Francisco Tells New York: Our Data Is Bigger Than Your Data

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Monday, March 25 2013

Photo: Thomas Hawk/Flickr

San Francisco city officials have watched their brethren in New York have a day in the sun for a new emphasis on what you might call data-driven governance — and they're ready for their turn. Read More

What Philadelphia's New "Director of Civic Technology" Is There to Do

BY Nick Judd | Tuesday, January 15 2013

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter's administration continues its own experiment in building a tech-savvy City Hall by appointing a "director of civic technology." Tim Wisniewski, 24, will move to the role from a position as assistant city managing director. He has been part of the city government since January 2012, and served prior to that as the executive director of a nonprofit working to improve commerce in the business corridor of a low-income neighborhood. While working for the city, he was the project manager on development of a mobile application for the city's 311 non-emergency services system. Read More

Philadelphia Opens Up Crime Incident Data

BY Sam Roudman | Wednesday, December 12 2012

Today the City of Philadelphia released crime incident data for all major crimes going back to 2006, and started mapping the last 30 days of crime data on the city’s portal. The release puts the city in line with similar programs in Chicago and Baltimore. Read More

What is "New Urban Mechanics" and Why Does Philadelphia Want Some?

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, October 3 2012

When Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter announced on Monday that Philadelphia will get a new arm of city government called the Office of New Urban Mechanics, he was signing on to a sizable experiment in how government is supposed to work.

Nutter's administration is emulating a program Boston City Hall put in place two years ago to find innovative — you might also say "untested" — ideas and see if they can make government work better. The Boston Office of New Urban Mechanics is just a handful of people led by Nigel Jacob, a former programmer, and Chris Osgood, a city official who came to Boston after a stint at New York City's Department of Parks and Recreation. Their job is to help those new solutions to old problems navigate the often tricky hallways of city bureaucracy.

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News Briefs

RSS Feed wednesday >

Another Co-Opted Hashtag: #MustSeeIran

The Twitter hashtag #MustSeeIran was created to showcase Iran's architecture, landscapes, and would-be tourist destinations. It was then co-opted by activists to bring attention to human rights abuses and infringements. Now Twitter is home to two starkly different portraits of a country. GO

What Has the EU Ever Done For Us?: Countering Euroskepticism with Viral Videos and Monty Python

Ahead of the May 25 European Elections, the most intense campaigning may not be by the candidates or the political parties. Instead, some of the most passionate campaigns are more grassroots efforts focused on for a start stirring up the interest of the European electorate. GO

At NETmundial Brazil: Is "Multistakeholderism" Good for the Internet?

Today and tomorrow Brazil is hosting NETmundial, a global multi-stakeholder meeting on the future of Internet governance. GO

Brazilian President Signs Internet Bill of Rights Into Law at NetMundial

Earlier today Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff sanctioned Marco Civil, also called the Internet bill of rights, during the global Internet governance event, NetMundial, in Brazil.

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Ruck.us Reboots As a Candidate Digital Toolkit That's a Bit Too Like Democracy.com

Ruck.us launched with big ambitions and star appeal, hoping to crack the code on how to get millions of people to pool their political passions through their platform. When that ambition stalled, its founder Nathan Daschle--son of the former Senator--decided to pivot to offering political candidates an easy-to-use free web platform for organizing and fundraising. Now the new Ruck.us is out from stealth mode, entering a field already being served by competitors like NationBuilder, Salsa Labs and Democracy.com. And strangely enough, Ruck.us seems to want its early users to ask Democracy.com for help. GO

Armenian Legislators: You Can Be As Anonymous on the 'Net As You Like—Until You Can't

A proposed bill in Armenia would make it illegal for media outlets to include defamatory remarks by anonymous or fake sources, and require sites to remove libelous comments within 12 hours unless they identify the author.

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The Good Wife Looks for the Next Snowden and Outwits the NSA

Even as the real Edward Snowden faces questions over his motives in Russia, another side of his legacy played out for the over nine million viewers of last night's The Good Wife, which concluded its season long storyline exploring NSA surveillance. In the episode titled All Tapped Out, one young NSA worker's legal concerns lead him to becoming a whistle-blower, setting off a chain of events that allows the main character, lawyer Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), and her husband, Illinois Governor Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), to turn the tables on the NSA using its own methods. GO

The Expanding Reach of China's Crowdsourced Environmental Monitoring Site, Danger Maps

Last week billionaire businessman Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce company Alibaba, appealed to his “500 million-strong army” of consumers to help monitor water quality in China. Inexpensive testing kits sold through his company can be used to measure pH, phosphates, ammonia, and heavy metal levels, and then the data can be uploaded via smartphone to the environmental monitoring site Danger Maps. Although the initiative will push the Chinese authorities' tolerance for civic engagement and activism, Ethan Zuckerman has high hopes for “monitorial citizenship” in China.

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The 13 Worst Bits of Russia's Current and Maybe Future Internet Legislation

It appears that Russia is on the brink of passing still more repressive Internet regulations. A new telecommunications bill that would require popular blogs—those with 3,000 or more visits a day—to join a government registry and conform to government-mandated standards is expected to pass this week. What follows is a list of the worst bits of both proposed and existing Russian Internet law. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter if we missed anything.

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Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

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