First Post: Subversions

Is it really a "social media election"? How #BlackLiveMatters is engaging Hillary Clinton; and the White House Presidential Innovation Fellows program grows up.


  • Tech and the Presidentials: Welcome to the social media election,” writes David McCabe for The Hill. Really? Does anyone have any evidence that shows that the presidential campaigns putting a lot of effort into their candidate’s social media postings are doing better than their less-savvy peers? McCabe’s examples include both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, who are doing better than expected in the polls, and Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker, who are all doing as predicted or worse, despite their social media prowess.

  • Here’s the video of Hillary Clinton’s August 11 meeting with five #BlackLivesMatter activists in New Hampshire last week, posted by GOOD Magazine’s Gabriel Reilich. The activists press Clinton on her support for the massive increase in “tough on crime” measures in the 1990s, championed by her husband while he was President. Interestingly, Clinton appears to admit that she is a “sinner” in the context of the rise of mass incarceration of black people. As MSNBC’s Ari Melber tweeted, “Candor & tension in Clinton-‪#BlackLivesMatter‬ mtg shows why citizen Qs for pols are powerful.”

  • Spending on online political ads is projected to top the $1 billion mark in the 2016 cycle, Jon Lafayette of Broadcasting & Cable reports. That would be a first, but at the same time most political dollars, $8.5 billion, will go to broadcast TV ads.

  • Opening Government: A new executive order from President Obama has made the White House Presidential Innovation Fellows Program, which pulls technologists from the private sector into government for one-year stints, a permanent federal government program, as this post on Medium explains.

  • The winner of the Federal Trade Commission’s “Robocalls: Humanity Strikes Back” civic hacking competition is a mobile app appropriately called RoboKiller, which uses audio-fingerprint technology to identify and block likely robocalls. As they explain on their Kickstarter page, “Before a user’s phone rings, we trick robocallers to start playing their recorded messages so that we can start our analysis. Live callers hear traditional ringing during this process. If RAE [their “rob analytics engine”] determines that a call is from a robot, it never rings through; we send it straight to the user’s SpamBox in the RoboKiller app. Humans, on the other hand, ring through to the user as soon as their legitimacy is confirmed.” (h/t Consumerist)

  • This is civic tech: Google engineer Carl Elkin used his 20% time to build Project Sunroof, which uses Google Earth mapping to help people figure out their home’s solar energy potential. It’s available in the San Francisco, Fresno and Boston areas now. As Elkin explains, the tool “first figures out how much sunlight hits your rooftop throughout the year, taking into account factors like roof orientation, shade from trees and nearby buildings, and local weather patterns. You can also enter your typical electric bill amount to customize the results. The tool then combines all this information to estimate the amount you could potentially save with solar panels, and it can help connect you with local solar providers.”

  • New on Civicist: Contributing editor Mark Headd notes the increasingly cozy relationship between civic hackers and government, and argues that “a little subversion is still necessary.”