Bait and Switch

The unsung heroes of gov tech; Facebook's attempt at curbing clickbait; and more.


  • This is civic tech: Here’s a wonderfully written post by Code for America founder Jen Pahlka about the unsung heroes inside government who keep its systems working, and the new tech talent coming in to help them.

  • Writing for GovTech, Jason Shueh reports on how VisGov, a civic tech consultancy, is seeing more adoption of its open source budget visualization app. The app was inspired by its co-founders’ experience working for Arlington, Virginia and wanting a tool that could help better educate its citizens about the city’s budget.

  • Inc. Magazine’s Zoe Henry profiles progressive political activists Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins and Ben Jealous, both of whom have shifted into the tech sector in order to achieve their goals.

  • Online harassment around political topics is up since 2014, while sexual harassment is down, according to a new poll of internet users commissioned by Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist and craigconnects (and longtime Civic Hall friend and supporter), Rad Campaign, and Lincoln Park Strategies.

  • Tech and politics: Foot traffic to Donald Trump-branded hotels, casinos and golf courses is down since he announced his candidacy, Foursquare’s data scientists report.

  • Tech journalist Greg Ferenstein reports that some major tech companies may come out, as companies, as opponents of Trump’s presidential bid.

  • Apple CEO Tim Cook is hosting a fundraiser in Silicon Valley for Hillary Clinton later this month, Hamza Shaban of BuzzFeed reports.

  • Life in Facebookistan: Facebook says it is taking steps to reduce “clickbait”-styled stories in its users’ News Feed, both by “reducing the distribution of posts that lead people to click and quickly come back” to their feed, and also “by using a system that identifies phrases that are commonly used in clickbait headlines.” In addition, “Links posted from or shared from Pages or domains that consistently post clickbait headlines will appear lower in News Feed. News Feed will continue to learn over time — if a Page stops posting clickbait headlines, their posts will stop being impacted by this change.”

  • While this is another (welcome?) sign of Facebook steadily embracing its role as an editor, just think of all the human talent wasted— between the thousands of coders now forced to come up with new ways to game News Feed and their opposite numbers inside Facebook trying to outsmart their tactics.

  • As Dan Gillmor pointed out on Twitter, Facebook’s decision to deactivate 23-year-old Korryn Gaines’ account while she was in the middle of a standoff with the Baltimore police, at the department’s request, shows that we shouldn’t trust that Facebook Live will automatically lead to more power for the public to expose police misbehavior. The standoff ended in the police shooting and killing Gaines, who police say hoisted a shotgun at them, on Monday.