Reorientation

Open data advances in NYC, Facebook's election war-room, & more


  • This is civic tech: New York City has released its annual update on its Open Data for All program, cataloging more than 600 new datasets that have been published by 38 agencies over the last year.

  • BetaNYC reports on how community boards are using tech to manage their information flows and make decisions and focuses on their most pressing technologies needs going forward.

  • Theo Blackwell, London’s first chief digital officer, talks to Apolitical about what he’s learned from his first year on the job.

  • Apply: Canada’s Digital Justice Lab, in partnership with Tech Reset Canada and the Centre for Digital Rights, are offering micro grants of $1000-$3000 for public education on digital rights.

  • Members of Congress are calling for entrants in the annual Congressional App Challenge, a district-by-district competition that had 1,200 entries spanning 225 congressional districts last year.

  • Information disorder: Data & Society researcher Rebecca Lewis reports on how far-right influencers are using YouTube to evangelize ideas like white nationalism to young and gullible viewers.

  • Life in Facebookistan: ProPublica has yet another story about discriminatory advertising practices enabled by Facebook, this time by Ariana Tobin and Jeremy Merrill, detailing how employers have been using it to target ads only to men.

  • Facebook’s elections and civic engagement team and its 2018 election “War Room” gets profiled in The New York Times by Sheera Frankel and Mike Isaac. At the center of the story is Samidh Chakrabarti, who is now overseeing more than 300 people across the company and who up until now has mainly been known to folks in the civic tech world for his work stewarding civic features of the Facebook platform like badges for constituents and reminders to register to vote. Chakrabarti says Facebook’s efforts to combat election interference is ““probably the biggest companywide reorientation since our shift from desktops to mobile phones.”

  • Analyzing random Facebook friendship pairs produces a fascinating map of social relationships across local and state borders in the United States, Emily Badger and Quoctrung Bui show in a series of data visualizations for The New York Times.

  • Brave new world: John Hancock, the life insurance company, has announced that it will only sell interactive politics that are based on customer data collected from wearable devices like FitBits and smartphones, Suzanne Barlyn reports for Reuters. Policyholders get discounts if they hit exercise targets.

  • Linus Torvalds, the programmer who has led the development of the open source Linux operating system, has decided to take a temporary leave of absence to “get some assistance on how to understand people’s emotions and respond appropriately” after The New Yorker’s Noam Cohen asked him a series of questions for a story about complaints about his abuse behavior toward women programmers.

  • Deep thoughts: Don’t miss Civicist contributing editor Dave Karpf‘s essay in Wired magazine on what he learned from a summer of reading all of its back issues in chronological order. Along with “flashes of uncanny foresight buried in old print” and some truly stinky predictions, he found that the magazine kept optimistically predicting a future that was always on the horizon and just out of reach.

  • Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Jonathan Zittrain explains the thinking behind making platforms behave like fiduciaries protecting their users from predatory or unsavory uses.

  • End times: The City of High Point decided to spice up its public meeting announcements. (h/t Marci Harris)