Unburdened

Fitbits go to university; a history of gov'ts hacking human rights orgs; and more.


  • Yesterday’s civic-tech must-read had one problem: the wrong link! Here it is, to Emily Shaw’s excellent take on how to understand and define the mission of civic tech.

  • Their article has a dry-as-bones title, but “Open Data and Civic Apps: First-Generation Failures, Second Generation Improvements” by Melissa Lee, Esteve Almirall, and Jonathan Wareham is an excellent and clear-eyed look at apps contests built on open government data and how civic hacktivists are evolving smarter strategies for making civic tech that matters. (h/t Wendy M. Grossman)

  • Fabian Girardin of the Near Future Laboratory unveils Humans, a new app that helps users turn the tables on their social media addictions. Count me in.

  • Brave new world: Oral Roberts University is requiring incoming student to buy and wear a Fitbit tracker, with its data fed into their online grade books, and school administrators are already crowing about the opportunity to link fitness to academic achievement, Samantha Allen reports for The Daily Beast.

  • Nearly 200 security experts, companies and organizations spanning 42 companies have signed onto an open letter organized by Access Now declaring that “encryption isn’t a security problem, it’s a security solution.”

  • Related: Morgan Marquis-Boire and Eva Halperin detail for Amnesty International “a brief history of governments hacking human rights organizations.”

  • Tech and the presidentials: The White House is joining Snapchat, TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez reports.

  • But what about Meerkat? Isn’t this the “Meerkat election“? As former-White-House communications director Dan Pfeiffer told us last spring: “By the time voters start showing up at VFW halls and high schools to caucus next year, it will be clear that yet another new technology is in the process of revolutionizing our politics.”

  • The No Republic: Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes is putting The New Republic up for sale, barely a year after a staff upheaval left the venerable opinion magazine in turmoil, and Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo has some choice words for “Chainsaw Chris.”

  • And where does Hughes post his memo to his New Republic staff? On Medium.

  • Saying Kaddish: On the third anniversary of his brother Aaron’s suicide, Noah Swartz writes that he’s “finally ready…to stop hiding how I feel and be seen for who I am.” He shares with great courage the burdens of losing an older brother, of surviving, of being expected to join with Aaron’s being turned “into a figurehead for American injustice” when he knows that his brother was a far more complicated and less saint-like figure, of not being allowed to forget him, and of being regularly called Aaron(!) by friends and fellow travelers.