Empirically Useless

The future of USDS & 18F; what will happen to all the data under Trump; and more.


  • Senator Bernie Sanders printed out a tweet from Donald Trump in May 2015 promising to not cut social security, Medicare, or Medicaid, and brought it to the Senate floor, Matt Novak reports for Gizmodo. “If he was sincere, then I would hope that tomorrow or maybe today he could send out a tweet and tell his Republican colleagues to stop wasting their time and all of our time,” Sanders said. “And for Mr. Trump to tell the American people that he will veto any proposal that cuts Medicare, that cuts Medicaid or that cuts Social Security.”

  • Glenn Greenwald is up in arms about fake news at the Washington Post that is never corrected visibly enough to reach the original audience exposed to the first, misleading story. And then after eviscerating the “media groupthink” at the root of the problem, explains how he has been the victim of a smear campaign ever since he started criticizing these stories, “transformed, overnight, into an early adherent of alt-right ideology, an avid fan of Breitbart, an enthusiastic Trump supporter, and—needless to say—a Kremlin operative.”

  • For the New York Times, Mattathias Schwartz profiles Hacking Team, the company that sells surveillance software to governments around the world, in the wake of the company’s own recent hack.

  • Apple complied with requests from the Chinese government to remove New York Times apps from the mainland app store last month, Katie Benner and Sui-Lee Wee report for the New York Times.

  • Brian Feldman investigates for New York Magazine whether a 14-year-old really could have hacked John Podesta. Short answer: yeah maybe but that’s not what the evidence shows. “So, could have a 14-year-old have done this?” Feldman asks? “I mean, sure, but that’s like saying anyone with the ability to use a keyboard could have done this. It’s a claim so general and unsupported by the evidence as to be empirically useless. Rhetorically, however, it’s really come[s] in handy.”

  • Medium gets smaller: Yesterday Medium CEO Ev Williams announced that they were reducing the Medium team by a third, including most of the New York and D.C. offices, framing it as an opportunity to “refocus” on the original mission of the site. Medium’s failing, per Williams, is that the platform was at best an slight improvement on the ad-driven publishing model, “not the transformative model we were aiming for.” Doesn’t say much about the transformative model they’re hoping to build, though.

  • Nashville is set to release 100 or more new open data sets this year, more than tripling the city’s current offering, Jason Shueh reports for State Scoop.

  • 538 has put out a podcast on the future of government data and transparency, covering the rush to back up environmental data as well as the future of criminal justice data (which has improving slowly but surely over the past few years) and of the census, job reports, and other $$ data.

  • For Bloomberg, Blake Eskin peers into the future of 18F and the U.S. Digital Service under Trump.

  • In case you weren’t convinced yesterday that the Republican switcheroo on the Ethics Committee decision was because of people power, not “two Trump tweets,” here is a chart of Google searches for “who is my representative” climbing long before Trump jumped into the conversation.

  • In advance of the inauguration, several entrepreneurs have banded together to produce a “Love-a-thon” on Facebook Live to raise money for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, Planned Parenthood, and Earthjustice, Sara Ashley O’Brien reports for CNN.

  • This is civic tech: Derek Eder has posted Chi Hack Night’s 2016 Year in Review, citing lots of fun statistics (like the total bill for running events), and sharing the three projects that have had a direct impact on city policy, including one that led to stronger recycling ordinances and one that prompted the removal of hazardous petroleum coke piles. Kudos!