Optimizing For

New local news funds for New Jersey and North Carolina; how Facebook is changing online comedy; and more.


  • This is civic tech: With the controversy over Sidewalk Labs’ plans for Toronto’s waterfront in the background, Carleton University professor of critical media and big data Tracey Lauriault explains what a values-based approach to smart cities could look like.

  • To foster stronger local news ecosystems, the Democracy Fund (with some help from the Geraldline Dodge and Knight Foundations) is putting $2 million into local news lab funds in New Jersey and North Carolina.

  • Code for America has published a directory of contact information and social media handles for all the Brigade captains around the country.

  • In Wired, Susan Crawford makes the case for a massive new government investment in broadband.

  • After an extensive process of consultation, the Wikimedia Foundation has published a new strategic direction statement focused on strengthening the infrastructure of free knowledge and knowledge equity.

  • Paula Goldman announces the launch of the Omidyar Network’s Tech and Society Solutions Lab, which is backing the newly formed Center for Humane Technology and Nancy Lublin’s Loris.ai startup, and also is helping Data4Democracy spread a code of ethics for the data science community.

  • Here’s Edward Snowden’s tribute to John Perry Barlow.

  • Life in Facebookistan: Comedy writer Matt Klinman explains how Facebook killed off his employer Funny or Die, in a conversation with Sarah Aswell of Splitsider:

    “Facebook is our editor and our boss. They decide what is successful and what isn’t successful via seemingly meaningless metrics. They hide behind algorithms that they change constantly. And it seems to me that they are not favoring things that are high-quality — they are favoring things that are clickbait, things that are optimized for Facebook, low-quality things that appeal to the lowest common denominator and, honestly, just things at random. Facebook has created a centrally designed internet. It’s a lamer, shittier looking internet. It’s just not as cool as an internet that is a big, chaotic space filled with tons of independently operating websites who are able to make a living because they make something cool that people want to see.

  • Facebook is testing “down voting” for comments, reports Taylor Lorenz of the Daily Beast.

  • Trump watch: In Slate, Dahlia Lithwick explains, with precision, how the treatment of White House secretary Rob Porter exposes all the ways men are protected from credible charges of abuse.

  • Russian hackers penetrated the voter registration rolls of several states in 2016, Jeanette Manfra the head of cybersecurity at the US Department of Homeland Security tells NBC News.