All-You-Can-Ship

The TL;DR Act; when Amazon comes to your town; and more.


  • Why things are the way they are: Writing for the New Republic, our very own Micah Sifry explains why our country is stuck with a two-party system with next-to-no chance of viable third party candidates—especially for the office of president.

  • First of all, there is a piece of legislation tentatively titled the “Too Long; Didn’t Read Act” that would require government agencies to put actionable and important information at the very top of official mail, Issie Lapowsky reports for Wired, the product of a veteran’s complaint about buried info in a six-page letter. Second, the OpenGov Foundation has been researching communication between constituents and representatives in the hopes that productive changes like the above can become more common. The waded through the morass of constituent management systems so you don’t have to, and Lapowsky shares their top-level findings.

  • Yesterday, NetChange released a new report on the digital engagement landscape in 2018, based on interviews with 80 advocacy-oriented nonprofits, co-authored by Austen Levihn-Coon and Jason Mogus. You can download the report here.

  • Ben Berkowitz celebrates ten years of SeeClickFix, from a nights and weekends project to a fully-fledged civic tech company with more than 30 employees.

  • A grassroots campaign to donate water to Cape Town—which people anticipate will run dry in April—began on WhatsApp and exploded on social media this week, Gianluca Mezzofiore reports for CNN. (h/t Beth Becker)

  • Checkout the 10 finalists from the Women Startup Challenge on Emerging Tech here.

  • Social media matters: The scourge of fake followers on Twitter is the symptom of a problem, not its cause, Ian Bogost writes in The Atlantic. “The problem with Twitter—and with social media in general—isn’t that influence can be faked,” Bogost writes. “It’s that it is seen to have so much significance in the first place.”

    “The only reason there can be a market, let alone a black market, for social-media engagement is because these services are marketplaces of attention, not of ideas, products, or services,” Bogost continues. “That’s why Twitter counts followers, likes, retweets, and all the rest so prominently. If the numbers were less visible, or entirely hidden, everyone might live more meaningful, more productive lives online, using posts as means to ends rather than as circulations within the system.”

  • Life in Facebookistan: The social media platform lost a million users in the U.S. and Canada in the last quarter of 2017, Abhimanyu Ghoshal reports for The Next Web.

  • Although Amazon’s HQ2—I can’t believe we’ve all agreed to call it that but there you are—is dominating headlines, in a recent article for The Atlantic, Alana Semuels reminds us that they have a significant presence in cities around the country, everywhere they’ve opened one of their “fulfillment centers,” and that those warehouses are not all sunshine and buttercups. “Workers say the warehouse jobs are grueling and high-stress, and that few people are able to stay in them long enough to reap the offered benefits, many of which don’t become available until people have been with the company a year or more,” Semuels writes. “Some of the jobs Amazon creates are seasonal or temporary, thrusting workers into a precarious situation in which they don’t know how many hours they’ll work a week or what their schedule will be. Though the company does pay more than the minimum wage, and offers benefits like tuition reimbursement, health care, and stock options, the nature of the work obviates many of those benefits, workers say.”

    “It’s a step back from where we were,” Pat Morris, the former mayor of San Bernardino, which got a fulfillment center in 2012, told Semuels. “But it’s a lot better than where we would otherwise be,” he said.

  • Related: Last night an acquaintance confessed to me that she has started ordering canned tomatoes from Amazon. Perhaps you, too, order all of your household and kitchen sundries from the internet giant. But is that Prime membership worth it? The Washington Post’s (yes, the paper owned by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos) Geoffrey A. Fowler crunched the numbers and writes that the free and fast shipping alone may not be worth it, but the convenience of buying items you don’t want to think about very much—items like canned tomatoes, I suppose—is priceless. As Fowler writes, “It’s an all-you-can-ship buffet.”

  • While we’re on the subject of technology near-monopolies, former Stanford University president John Hennessy was named the new chairman of Alphabet, the parent company of Google, this week, after Eric Schmidt stepped down in December, Tekla S. Perry reports for IEEE Spectrum.

  • What sharing economy? The Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Marc Scribner reports that Uber wants to outlaw privately-owned self-driving cars. In a document titled “Shared [Ed. note: LOL] Mobility Principles for Sustainable Cities,” the company wrote: “We support that autonomous vehicles (AVS) in dense urban areas should be operated only in shared fleets.”

  • Jobs board: 18 Million Rising is hiring! They’re looking for a product strategist and a social media organizer. Learn more here.