Decrapification

Lessons from Iowa; Apps that work; Truth matters; and more.


Tech and politics: Evan Henshaw-Plath, a veteran developer of technology tools used in politics, writes for Civicist about the deeper reasons that the IowaReporterApp built by Shadow, a Democratic tech firm, failed to work. He writes, “The fundamental problem is we’ve got a very broken way we fund campaign tech on the Democratic side of the aisle in the United States. There is tons of money in politics but it doesn’t get used in the way which builds anything sustainable.”

Sam Frank, a relative newcomer to the political tech space since the 2016 election, who has worked closely advising state Democratic parties on the use of tech, adds more context.

Here’s a mea culpa interview with Shadow’s founder, Gerard Niemira, done by Joshua Green and Eric Newcomer of Bloomberg News.

Here’s some very welcome transparency from Tara McGowan, the ex-journalist-turned-progressive-powerhouse who started ACRONYM, the 501c4 organization that invested in Shadow in early 2019 in the hopes of building better tools for organizing and data management.

Warning that we still aren’t ready for the fall general election, Princeton computer science expert Ed Felten writes in the Washington Post that, “What we need most from our election systems is resilience.” He adds, “Even in the absence of a cyberattack, things will go wrong. A resilient system can detect problems, recover and reconstruct the accurate result from solid evidence. That’s what we saw in Iowa. Voters made their intentions clear, and the in-precinct paper ballot count was low-tech and public — as resilient as one could hope for. When something went wrong, officials fell back to a verifiable solution. The system worked, even if the app didn’t.”

This is civic tech: Say hello to Assembler, a new tool from the folks at Google Jigsaw that is aimed at helping news organizations spot doctored photographs.

San Francisco’s digital services team, led by Carrie Bishop, gets a glowing write-up from Alisha Green in SF Weekly.

Here’s a great checklist from Democracy Labs for software developers to use to help answer the question: should we build our own app or use an off-the-shelf product. The second tab of that spreadsheet is a guide to nearly three dozen free or affordable apps that Democracy Labs has tested for use in politics, activism, and advocacy.

Info disorder, continued: As conspiracy theories seem to appear and spread even faster than ever, futurist Mark Pesce writes that we must remember “the truth is slow and will ever be thus because to know anything at all takes time and effort.”

In the same light, Howard Rheingold, who coined the term “online community” and charted its contours before almost everyone else, writes for Public Seminar about how “Democracy is losing the online arms race.” Folks may recall that Rheingold started warning about the need for online “crap detection” more than a decade ago; in this piece, he argues that, “The biggest obstacle to de-crapification is the power of Facebook.”

Privacy, shmivacy: Teens are fooling Instagram’s tracking systems by creating accounts shared by several users, creating combined data trails, Alfred Ng reports for Cnet.

End times: Who says resumes have to be honest?

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