Treasure Chests and Dream Maps

The Library of Congress releases first digital strategy; European regulators consider investigation into Facebook; and more


  • This is civic tech: The Library of Congress has released Version 1.0 of its digital strategy, emphasizing three goals: “We will throw open the treasure chest, we will connect and we will invest in our future” in order to ensure that “all Americans are connected to the Library of Congress.”

  • Paul Ford explains in a tweet thread just how big a shift in vision and practice this is. Ten years ago, the Library of Congress had actively turned off access to its collections, he notes.

  • Some poor neighborhoods in America offer more upward mobility than others, according to a massive new study from the Census Bureau, working with researchers at Harvard and Brown, that used anonymous data on 20 million Americans following them from their childhood into their mid-30s. The work, called Opportunity Insights, and accompanying interactive map, called the Opportunity Atlas, “seeks to bring the abstract promise of big data to the real lives of children,” Emily Badger and Quoctrung Bui write for The New York Times, adding, “Across the country, city officials and philanthropists who have dreamed of such a map are planning how to use it. They’re hoping it can help crack open a problem, the persistence of neighborhood disadvantage, that has been resistant to government interventions and good intentions for years.”

  • The good folks at Apolitical have built a nifty online quiz that in five fast questions will tell you “Which city should you be mayor of?” (I got Bangalore.)

  • Here’s a new report from the MetroLab Network on best practices in civic data integration, written by Natalie Evans Harris and group of colleagues.

  • Here are ten data visualizations that depict the state of criminal justice in the United States today, compiled by Alexander Frandsen of StoryBench.

  • Apply: The Community Listening and Engagement Fund is taking applications for subsidies for newsrooms to adopt a suite of tools (the Coral Project’s Talk, Document Cloud and Muckrock) aimed at helping them strengthen their relationship with their communities.

  • Ever wonder what happened to civic tech startups like Vote.com, Voter.com, Hotsoup.com, Speakout.com, Ruck.us, Jumo, ChangeByUs, VoteIQ, or Votizen? Or maybe you’re thinking of starting something new in civic tech and want to learn from past efforts that didn’t succeed? New on Civicist: “Learning from the Civic Tech Graveyard,” written by yours truly as part of the ongoing work of the Civic Tech Field Guide.

  • Life in Facebookistan: European regulators are considering opening a formal investigation into the latest data breach to hit the giant social network, which affected somewhere between 50 million and 90 million users. The company could face a fine of around $1.6 billion from the EU, Arjun Kharpal reports for CNBC.

  • As Guy Rosen, Facebook’s VP of product management, explains, the company doesn’t know “who’s behind these attacks or where they’re based.”

  • Facebook held a two-day summit last week with representatives from Myanmar, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, with one tangible shift, report Davey Alba and Charlie Warzel for Buzzfeed News. The company “indicated it was willing to discuss and consider country-specific policies and community standards tailored to crucial cultural nuances of the regions, rather than blanket policies for its 2.23 billion users worldwide.”

  • In the Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal argues that years from now, we’ll look at Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg the same way Americans now see Microsoft founder Bill Gates: not as someone who still runs a giant and fallible tech company but as a benevolent philanthropist. “Like Carnegie and Rockefeller, Stanford and Vanderbilt, if you give away enough money, your name eventually becomes synonymous with goodness, charity, wisdom, competence, even warmth,” he writes.

  • Twitter has updated its election integrity efforts, tightening rules on fake accounts and distribution of hacked materials, according to a post by Del Harvey and Yoel Roth of its trust and safety team. They also report removing about 50 accounts misrepresenting themselves as members of various state Republican parties

  • Brave new world: Workers at Whole Foods, which was recently bought by Amazon, are starting to organize collectively to push back against what they see as draconian work rules, Michael Sainato reports for The Guardian. One employee involved in the labor organizing in the New England area said, “They want us to become robots. That’s where they are going, they want to set it up so they don’t have to pay someone $15 an hour who knows all about the food, they can pay someone $10 an hour to do these small tasks and timed duties.”

  • This morning, Amazon announced that it is raising its minimum wage for all US employees to $15 an hour, including the 100,000 seasonal employees it hires every year, and employees at subsidiaries like Whole Foods. “We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we want to do and decided we want to lead,” company CEO Jeff Bezos said. The company also says its public policy team will begin advocating for an increase in the federal minimum wage.

  • At the Shiru Cafe next to Brown University in Providence, you can’t pay for coffee with cash. Instead, you have to be a student, in which case you can get free coffee if you sign up with the the shop and give it your personal data, including name, email address, major, date of birth and professional interests, Chaiel Schaffel reports for Rhode Island Public Radio. Corporate sponsors then pay the cafe to reach the students, who have to order their drinks via smartphone, a model Shiru has already implemented in Japan and India.