Doing Great Things

Hurtling towards a digital meltdown; why Mark Zuckerberg should be made to justify the unjustifiable; and more.


  • Tech and politics: Email security is the hot new trend for political campaigns, reports Jon Christian for The Outline, with Maciej Ceglowski’s Tech Solidarity group providing a helpful guide.

  • In the New York Times, technosociologist Zeynep Tufekci warns that we’re headed for a “digital meltdown” because “we have built the digital world too rapidly.”

  • Opposition watch: Data on the 4.1 million Americans who have signed up to use Resistbot show they are concentrated in large metro areas and university towns, data scientist Sohan Murthy reports.

  • This is the second year in a row that CES, the giant computer industry trade show, has rolled out an all-male list of keynotes, and the good folks at Gender Avenger are pushing back hard, as Jessica Guynn reports for USA Today. To plug in, follow the hashtag #CESSoMale and join their Thunderclap.

  • Life in Facebookistan: Elevation Partners’ Roger McNamee, an early investor who started mentoring CEO Mark Zuckerberg the company was just two years old (and Zuck was 22) writes for The Washington Monthly that he tried to warn him and COO Sheryl Sandberg in the fall of 2016 that the giant platform was being abused by bad actors including supporters of extremism, but that they told him “We appreciate you reaching out; we think you’re misinterpreting the news; we’re doing great things that you can’t see.” Then, energized by the election results, he describes how he came to partner with Tristan Harris and their agenda for “How to fix Facebook before it fixes us.”

  • McNamee offers a long list of strong reforms, starting with: that Facebook should inform every user who was exposed to Russian-generated content in 2016 (about 146 million people), and that its CEO—along with those of Google and Twitter—testify before Congress in open session. He writes, “Forcing tech CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg to justify the unjustifiable, in public—without the shield of spokespeople or PR spin—would go a long way to puncturing their carefully preserved cults of personality in the eyes of their employees.

  • Facebook is starting to share data with the third-party fact checking organizations that have been helping it respond to fake news, Jason Schwartz reports for Politico.

  • Longtime web guru Doc Searls says it’s time Mark Zuckerberg admitted failure.

  • Writing for Alternet, Civic Hall regular Rick Gell argues that the original sin of the tech media sector was Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which has protected platforms from responsibility for the content they host.

  • This is civic tech: The New York City Council’s decision to formally adopt David Moore’s open source project Councilmatic gets covered by Tyler Woods for Technical.ly Brooklyn.

  • “What we’ve learned during this first year of Open Savannah is that civic-tech isn’t at all just about building civic apps or scraping interesting datasets,” writes Carl Lewis, the Code for America Brigade captain there. “Rather, at its core, civic-tech is about building a community, a movement, a sustainable, scalable, longterm citizen-driven network of actual humans to support bottom-up innovation and experimentation in government services and technology.” Amen to that!

  • Civic Hall members Andrew Hoppin, Christopher Sealey, and Peter Shanley have been working on a healthcare start-up called CoverUs, which gets a glowing write-up in Fast Company by Ben Schiller. CoverUs, which aims to help users store and monetize their personal health data, recently won the Blockchain for Social Impact Coalition hackathon.

  • Apply: Microsoft is looking to hire managers in Los Angeles, Dallas, Charlotte and Miami to join its civic tech team.

  • Apply: Nesterly, a housing startup that is a mentor to Civic Hall Labs’ CivicXCel program, is looking to hire a senior software engineer. Nesterly tackles the challenges of aging in place and urban housing affordability by connecting households who have spare space with young people willing to exchange help around the house for lower rent.

  • Apply: Civic Hall has opened applications for the second round of our Organizers-in-Residence program. Get yours in by January 24.

  • Attend: The Stanford Social Innovation Review is presenting a free webinar on “Sustaining Civic Tech: seeding and Scaling Nonprofit Startups” on January 31, with Jonathan Sotsky, Shannon Farley, Jonathan Kartt, and Erin Barnes.

  • There’s a new Civic.hall, and it’s in development in Romania, founded by the good folks at Code for Romania.

  • Food for thought: RIP NASA Astronaut John Young, who went to the moon twice, but more importantly got yelled at by Congress for smuggling a corned beef sandwich into space, as William Hughes notes for AV Club (H/t Jesse Lieman-Sifry)

  • Food for deep thought: The Weekly Sift’s Doug Muder argues that Cory Doctorow’s new novel Walkaway offers a plausible vision of a future beyond scarcity economics.