Prep Time

Coronavirus Tech Handbook; Shifting to Virtual Work; How COVID-19 Will Change Politics; and much more.


This is civic tech in a time of pandemic: The Code for America 2020 Summit was canceled Friday, just a week before it was due to happen in Washington, DC. And this morning, The Impacts of Civic Tech Conference (TICTeC) sent out an email to attendees letting them know its planned meeting in Reykjavik March 24-25 was canceled as well.

Here in NYC, our friends at the Data & Society Institute have decided to pause all public-inclusive events as of yesterday, as its executive director Janet Haven explains.

The invisible human network-for-good that inevitably comes together in a crisis is starting to take form. For starters, check out the Coronavirus Tech Handbook, A crowdsourced resource for technologists building things related to the coronavirus outbreak initiated by The London College of Political Technologists at Newspeak House. Holy cow is this useful!

CovidTracking.com is a crowd-sourced Google Doc that a bunch of volunteers including Alexis Madrigal and Robinson Meyer of The Atlantic, and Jeff Hammerbacher, a tech industry veteran, have built to aggregate up to date state-by-state data on the virus’ spread.

Democracy Labs has launched the Coronavirus Atlas, a free app they created after they learned that the CDC had stopped reporting how many people had been tested for the Coronavirus.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is funding the development of home-testing kits for people who are worried they may have coronavirus, Sandi Doughton reports for the Seattle Times. The goal is to eventually be able to process thousands of tests a day, according to Scott Dowell, leader of coronavirus response at the foundation.

Need some data-viz on corona-vuz? Neel Patel of MIT Technology Review offers a guide to the best and worst dashboards.

Bad idea factory: We don’t think holding a in-person hackathon to fight coronavirus is a good idea, UC Berkeley!

Apply: The Anti-Defamation League’s Center for Technology and Society, which is now run by this guy Dave Sifry, who happens to be my smarter little brother, is looking to hire several staff, including a senior software engineer, a product manager, a machine learning engineer, an interaction designer, and an editorial director.

Going virtual: Lots of organizations are figuring out how to shift to virtual meetings as the virus spreads and health authorities urge people to stay home if possible. With that in mind, here are some fresh resources to learn how to do this well (and avoid the classic problems of video conference calls).

The World Cafe Community Foundation is offering an online community café on “Staying Connected Online in a Time of Social Distancing” this Thursday from 1-3:30 EDT.

Anjali Leon and Stephanie Allon are holding a Lean Coffee Monday, March 16 at noon EDT on “Remote Work: Effective Practices to be Productive and Stay Connected.”

What is a Lean Coffee, you may ask?

Three veteran facilitators—Maggie Chumbley, Carolina Ribeiro de Almeida, and Fernando Murray Loureiro are offering a four-part 10-hour class in virtual facilitation, starting April 7.

Related: Matt Stempeck is working on an article for Civicist, drawing on the Civic Tech Field Guide, covering the various tools and platforms currently available for virtual meetings and other forms of online work. Feel free to write to him at info@civictech.guide with your suggestions.

Media matters: Dan Froomkin says that political reporters are no use when it comes to covering coronavirus, because “they don’t distinguish between right and wrong.”

And our friend and Civic Hall member Dan Gillmor writes that now is the time for journalism organizations to stop competing against each other and forge real collaborative partnerships to provide the public the authoritative information it desperately needs.

Thinking ahead to how this changes things: In Wired, Jon Stokes ponders how coronavirus might impact voter turnout this November, or even prompt “a vicious fight over whether to postpone the election.” One way to avert that, he suggests, is for Congress to fund a rapid transition to vote-by-mail, building on top of existing state systems for providing people with absentee ballots.

A group of progressive organizers and communicators, led by Kat Barr, Anna Galland, Aaron Goldzimer, Sarah F. Ismail, Eli Pariser, and Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, have written a smart essay on Medium aiming to sketch out how society and politics may change as we go through the pandemic. Among their most interesting points: the possibility that the virus will exacerbate divisions in society, with the elderly, poor and sick worst hit while younger, middle-class families skate by; the reminder that there’s no such thing as “work from home” for construction workers, caretakers, retail and restaurant workers; and the likelihood that people spending more time online will be prey to spreading more disinformation than now. Read the whole thing.

End times: And as lots of organizations rapidly shift to remote working arrangements, Dan Sinker wins the thread.

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