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First POST: Agility

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, October 25 2013

How two Democratic tech gurus would fix HealthCare.gov; how the NSA scandal is threatening US-Europe relations; how a Syrian Kurd living in exile built a mobile tool that alerts subscribers in Syria when a government-fired Scud missile is headed their way; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Twitterization

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, September 3 2013

Exclusively for Personal Democracy Plus subscribers: The download on Peter Hamby's must-read report on Twitter's impact on 2012 campaign coverage; Jeff Bezos gives some clues to his plans for the Washington Post; Ethan Zuckerman thinks citizen science could help reduce NIMBYism; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Oversight

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, August 5 2013

Exclusively for Personal Democracy Plus subscribers:How congressional "oversight" of the NSA doesn't work; Bruce Sterling and Tom Scott's mordant takes on our times; the growing backlash against Jim Messina going Tory; and more in today's round-up of news about technology in politics from around the web. Read More

Democratic Promise: Aaron Swartz, 1986-2013

BY Micah L. Sifry | Saturday, January 12 2013

Aaron Swartz at a Boston Wikipedia Meetup, August 2009, By Sage Ross.

Aaron Swartz, a leading activist for open information, internet freedom, and democracy, died at his own hand Friday January 11. He was 26 years old. There is no single comprehensive list of his good works, but here are some of them: At the age of 14 he co-authored the RSS 1.0 spec--taking brilliant advantage of the fact that internet working groups didn't care if someone was 14, they only cared if their code worked. Then he met Larry Lessig and worked closely with him on the early architecting of Creative Commons, an immense gift to all kinds of sharing of culture. He also was the architect and first coder of the Internet Archive's OpenLibrary.org, which now has made more than one million books freely available to anyone with an internet connection. "We couldn't have come this far without his crucial expertise," Open Library says on its about page. He also co-founded Reddit.com, the social news site, and Demand Progress, an online progressive action group that played a vital role in the anti-SOPA/PIPA fight. He also contributed occasionally to Personal Democracy Forum, writing this article on why wikis work and this essay on "parpolity" or the idea that nested councils of elected representatives could be used to represent a whole country, for our 2008 book, Rebooting America. He was a fellow traveler. Read More

Wikipedia Was Prophetic, Sort Of, If You Roll Back the Tape on Ryan VP Pick

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, August 13 2012

We now know that Mitt Romney offered Paul Ryan the VP slot on Sunday August 5th. Which means that as of Monday August 6th, when I noted the recent Wikipedia edits might offer a clue to Romney's intentions, my suggestion that Ryan was the one to bet on was, ahem, prescient. Or just lucky. Read More

NBC Scoops Romney's VP App

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Saturday, August 11 2012

With its report on Mitt Romney's pick of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan as his vice president on Friday night, NBC News effectively scooped the campaign with its intent to make the announcement via smart phone ... Read More

Wikipedia VP Watchers: Now There's an App for That

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, August 10 2012

There's nothing like the ingenuity of mobile app developers, apparently. This just in: In response to my story Monday suggesting that edits on the Wikipedia pages of potential Republican vice presidential candidates could be a tip-off to Mitt Romney's pending announcement, a Silicon Valley engineer and author named Martin Ford has built "Romney VP Predictor," an Android app that automatically checks the Wikipedia pages for Mitt Romney's leading vice presidential candidates and then tabulates the number of recent edits to the pages. Read More

Game Over: Wikipedia Locks Down Potential VP Pages In Response to Colbert Mischief-Making

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, August 8 2012

The act of observing something can sometimes change the thing being observed. Case in point: my observation on Monday that we might be able to get useful clues as to the identity of Mitt Romney's vice president pick by watching for a surge of edits on their Wikipedia page. Not any more. Those pages have been protected from excessive editing by site administrators, apparently acting after comedian Stephen Colbert called on his viewers last night to help pick the VP by editing their favorite's page. Read More

How to Spot Romney's Vice President Pick in Advance

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, August 6 2012

If past history is any guide, the tip-off to Mitt Romney's choice for his running mate may come from watching the Wikipedia pages of the likely contenders — and spotting a last-minute surge in edits. Read More

Wikipedia Russia Strikes for 24 Hours in Protest of Proposed Legislation to Create Internet Blacklist

BY Lisa Goldman | Wednesday, July 11 2012

The Russian Wikipedia went dark for 24 hours on Tuesday to protest proposed government legislation that opponents believe is a thinly disguised attempt to censor the Internet. Democracy activists and Internet freedom advocates say the legislation would give the government sweeping powers to censor the Internet. But the government denies harboring any intention to restrict Internet access, accusing its opponents of not having read the text of the proposed legislation, which they say is designed to protect children from predators and illegal content. Read More

News Briefs

RSS Feed tuesday >

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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monday >

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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wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.

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The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.

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