Fishbowl

Why this civic technologist left gov't for the private sector; Sanders' virtual ground game; and more.


  • We’re thrilled to announce that the theme of Personal Democracy Forum 2016 is The Tech We Need. There are some amazing mainstage talks to look forward to, but we’re also still filling up the afternoon panel discussions, so if you’d like to pitch one you can learn how to do so here.

  • Writing for Technical.ly Philly, Juliana Reyes digs in on why a civic tech engineer left Philadelphia city government for an adtech firm. To start, the city didn’t treat him right, enforcing rigid rules about when and where one can work that discouraged autonomy and creativity, and relegating technologists to a cramped, dark office nicknamed “The Fishbowl.” The technologist in question, Gabriel Farrell, also complained about changing priorities that come with new political leadership, and hinted at purpose-fatigue when he said, of his new job, “There’s something to be said for not having to spend brain waves on the larger moral weight of whatever one is doing.”

  • Writing in Civicist, mySociety’s Emily Shaw asks why there is an enormous (no, really enormous) disparity in the number of academic articles about “e-government” and “civic tech.” Shaw also clarifies the difference between the two and why on earth e-gov still matters.

  • Ch-ch-ch-changes: Fast Company’s Michael Grothaus interviews Scott Goodstein—CEO of Revolution Messaging, the digital media agency at the heart of Bernie Sanders’s social media operation—about how social media campaigning has changed since the 2008 Obama campaign.

  • Politico’s Nancy Scola has a different angle on the Sanders’ campaign “virtual ground game” story, looking at the distributed organizing model that puts more campaign volunteers in higher-level organizing positions than in past campaigns. Scola also talks to a Clinton backer and former Obama organizer who expressed doubts about the Sanders’ model, wondering “if they’re getting the highest possible return on their investment in volunteers without a staffer to help them out.”

  • Saving democracy, and having fun, too: Iceland’s Pirate Party is preparing its election campaign as protesters push for a vote sooner rather than later in the wake of the Panama Papers scandal, Daniel Oberhaus reports for Vice Motherboard. Asta Gudrun Helgadottir, a Pirate Party representative in the Icelandic Parliament, told Oberhaus: “I’m really excited to see who is going to answer our call when we ask people to join us…It’s going to be a real party, not just a political party. This is a chance to fix this broken democracy that we have and maybe it will survive this crisis that democracies all around the world are facing. We’re going to have so much fun together, and if [our agenda] goes through, democracy might have some hope in this world.”

  • Remember ZunZuneo? What a crazy story that was. The AP’s Jack Gillum, one of the reporters of the original story, has an update on how USAID officials counted on the lengthy FOIA process to hold up, while interest died down, unflattering stories that could embarrass the agency.

  • If historical precedent is followed, Hillary Clinton is not likely to be indicted for using a personal email server to handle classified information, Josh Gerstein writes for Politico.

  • Albert Wenger, a managing partner at the venture capital firm Union Square Ventures, has released a draft of a book entitled World After Capital, which addresses how we should live in a world “in which the only scarcity is our attention.”