Well-Rounded

Advances in e-voting; a new front in the battle for net neutrality; and more.


  • This is civic tech: This year’s #GivingTuesday generated $274 million from more than 2.5 million donors, an increase of $97 million from last year, the NonProfit Times’ Andy Segedin and Mark Hrywna report using preliminary data from major fundraising platforms.

  • Here’s Meetup’s Scott Heiferman sharing his vision of a billion people meeting up by 2027.

  • Mozilla has released an open source speech recognition model and data called Common Voice

  • This is civic dreck: Twitter’s terms of service warns users that they cannot promote violence against, threaten or harass people on the basis of their religion, among other things, but when it comes to allowing the far-right Britain First party to post videos supporting violence against Muslims (which President Trump retweeted), a company spokesperson tells CNN’s Ivanka Kottasova that “To help ensure people have an opportunity to see every side of an issue, there may be the rare occasion when we allow controversial content or behavior which may otherwise violate our rules to remain on our service because we believe there is a legitimate public interest in its availability.”

  • Life in Facebookistan: Maybe it is possible to quit you, Facebook. That’s the upshot of Pivotal’s analysis of August Nielsen data, which suggests usage of Facebook dropped 3% that month compared to the previous year.

  • Men behaving badly: Axios’ Jim Vandehei takes apart President Trump’s m.o. for dominating daily news cycles, concluding “We are all amplifying and participating in this endless sideshow. There is no easy solution, other than clinging to reality and clinically exposing Trump’s make-believe. Check the facts, pay attention, but ignore the pure crap.” (It’s somewhat refreshing to see Vandehei, who admitted to me that Politico, his co-creation, bears responsibility for speeding up the insanity of the American news media, now trying to find a way out of this nightmare.)

  • Rewire’s Jodi Jacobson explains why Senator Al Franken needs to actually take responsibility for his pattern of inappropriate behavior with women, or resign his seat.

  • Uber investor and Silicon Valley loudmouth Shervin Pishevar, last seen in First Post a year ago for his idiotic call for California to secede from the United States, has been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women, Emily Chang reports for Bloomberg. Pishevar is denying the charges. Last year, he publicly came to the defense of Travis Kalanick, Uber’s founder, after he was ousted by its board. Pishevar hosted a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton headline by George and Amal Clooney at his home in 2016.

  • Battle for the net: Telecom expert Susan Crawford says that rather than fighting just to defend the principle of “net neutrality” from FCC chair Ajit Pai’s plans, we should be insisting that private telcos shoulder the public obligation of providing utility fiber service as competitive prices.

  • Humans responding to the FCC’s call for comments on its net neutrality proposal favor the current regulatory regime by a margin of 2-1, Ragtag’s data team reports.

  • It’s time to learn from Estonia’s e-voting system, which gives each citizen a unique digital signature, if we don’t want online commenting systems like the FCC’s to be swarmed by bots, Kalev Leetaru writes for Forbes.

  • Privacy, shmivacy: If you have a new iPhone X, it may be sharing your facial data with third-party developers, The Washington Post’s Geoffrey Fowler warns. (h/t Mark Pesce)

  • Trump watch: As an army lieutenant in Baghdad, Senator Tom Cotton—who is now being touted as the next director of the CIA—wrote the editors of the New York Times calling for them to be put behind bars for publishing a story about a financial surveillance program. As Matt Welch, the editor of libertarian magazine Reason reminds us, Cotton also thinks the US should preemptively invade Iran and replace it with a pro-Western regime, that “we should be proud for the way we treated these savages at Guantanamo Bay” and that the NSA needs to be able to collect bulk metadata on Americans.

  • Apply: The Hewlett Foundation is looking for researchers to tackle a six-month consulting engagement “to help design a potential, longer-term research collaborative to study the application of behavioral insights to civic monitoring platforms.”

  • Apply: The Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago is looking for its new round of fellows.

  • Long-read, must-read: Leslie Jamison in the Atlantic on the still thriving world of Second Life. Here’s a taste:

    Intellectually, my respect deepened by the day, when I learned about a Middle Eastern woman who could move through the world of Second Life without a hijab, and when I talked with a legally blind woman whose avatar has a rooftop balcony and who could see the view from it (thanks to screen magnification) more clearly than the world beyond her screen. I heard about a veteran with PTSD who gave biweekly Italian cooking classes in an open-air gazebo, and I visited an online version of Yosemite created by a woman who had joined Second Life in the wake of several severe depressive episodes and hospitalizations. She uses an avatar named Jadyn Firehawk and spends up to 12 hours a day on Second Life, many of them devoted to refining her bespoke wonderland—full of waterfalls, sequoias, and horses named after important people in John Muir’s life—grateful that Second Life doesn’t ask her to inhabit an identity entirely contoured by her illness, unlike internet chat rooms focused on bipolar disorder that are all about being sick. “I live a well-rounded life on SL,” she told me. “It feeds all my other selves.”