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Hip or Hype?

This is where we distinguish between the truly important and the simply shiny, the technology efforts that matter and the ones that are just fluff, the bold claims vs the reality. From social media to fundraising to community engagement, there's plenty of hype. We need to become digitally literate enough to distinguish what is smoke and what is real. What follows is an eclectic selection of posts that try to put the discussion on solid ground.

The Game: How Campaigns' New Obsession With Social Media is Hurting America

BY Nick Judd | Monday, January 9 2012

The thing about attaching numbers to people's names is that it usually makes them want to make the number go up. Call it gamification if you want. The truth is that it's human nature, and as more people pay attention to social media, it is creating a sort of downward behavioral spiral. Candidates wanting more points on the social media scoreboard are urging supporters to tweet and post to Facebook on their behalf — spreading borderline spam on social networks and doing nothing to make the campaign season less of a horse race when that doesn't necessarily have to be the case. Read More

BuzzKill, or Why We Don't Believe The Social Media Hype

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, January 5 2012

Illustration by David Colarusso

Micah Sifry writes: Just because you can count something and put it into a chart, doesn't mean that you've gleaned its meaning. Caveat emptier. Read More

Not Brain Candy: A Review of The Information Diet by Clay Johnson

BY David Eaves | Friday, December 16 2011

Open government activist David Eaves reviews Clay Johnson's new book, The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption, published by O'Reilly Books, which is available now for pre-order.

Eaves writes: "At its most basic, it's a self-help book that provides some solid frameworks and tools for keeping these skills sharp in a world where the opportunities for distraction and confirmation bias remain real and the noise-to-signal ratio can be hard to navigate. To be clear, none of this advice is overly refined, but Johnson doesn't pretend it is. You can’t download critical thinking skills – no matter what Fox News’s slogan implies. In this regard, the book is more than helpful – it’s empowering. Johnson, correctly I believe, argues that much like the fast food industry – which seeks to exploit our body’s love of salty, fatty food – many media companies are simply indulging our desire for affirming news and opinion."

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If You're Measuring Buzz Online, Measure the Buzzworthy, Not the 'Top Tier'

BY Nick Judd | Friday, August 19 2011

The Washington Post has started tracking the online buzz generated by the presidential candidates on Twitter: Over the past four days, Perry has gone from a whopping 51,578 mentions on Twitter (these mentions could be ... Read More

Grassroots vs Grassrootsy: How to Parse Technology's Role in Politics

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, July 18 2011

For a whole bunch of reasons, we should be on guard against claims that money given online, as well as tallies of small donations versus large donors, or other newer metrics of public participation like Twitter retweets ... Read More

"Ask U.S.": State Department 2.0 on Sudan, Darfur and Public Engagement

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, November 9 2009

Tomorrow afternoon at 3:00pm EST, Special Envoy Scott Gration and Samantha Power, NSC Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs, are going to sit down at the White House with the leaders of the largest, most vocal ... Read More

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In Mexico, A Wiki Makes Corporate Secrets Public

Earlier this year the Latin American NGO Poder launched Quién Es Quién Wiki (Who's Who Wiki), a corporate transparency project more than two years in the making. The hope is that the platform will be the foundation for a citizen-led movement demanding transparency and accountability from businesses in Mexico. Data from Quién Es Quién Wiki is already helping community activists mobilize against foreign companies preparing to mine the mountains of the Sierra Norte de Puebla.

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NY Study Shows How Freedom of Information Can Inform Open Data

On New York State's open data portal, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation has around 40 data resources of varying sizes, such as maps of lakes and ponds and rivers, bird conservation areas and hiking trails. But those datasets do not include several data resources that are most sought after by many New York businesses, a new study from advocacy group Reinvent Albany has found. Welcome to a little-discussed corner of so-called "open government"--while agencies often pay lip service to the cause, the data they actually release is sometimes nowhere close to what is most wanted. GO

Responding to Ferguson, Activists Organize #NMOS14 Vigils Across America In Just 4 Days

This evening peaceful crowds will gather at more than 90 locations around the country to honor the victims of police brutality, most recently the unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, on Saturday. A moment of silence will begin at 20 minutes past 7 p.m. (EST). The vigils are being organized almost entirely online by the writer and activist Feminista Jones (@FeministaJones), with help from others from around the country who have volunteered to coordinate a vigil in their communities. Organizing such a large event in only a few days is a challenge, but in addition to ironing out basic logistics, the National Moment of Silence (#NMOS14) organizers have had to deal with co-optation, misrepresentation, and Google Docs and Facebook pages that are, apparently, buckling under traffic.

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