November 9, 2012

This Is Democracy!


THE SERVICE pictured above was offered by a true "citizen" just after Sandy dumped on the East Coast. It's neighborhood Democracy at its best!

November 6, 2012

Election Coverage: Real Political Junkies Will Watch Election Coverage on TV as Well as Follow the Results Online

IT'S DECISION time for voters. Finally, after months of campaign ads and TV coverage, all that's left is the actual voting. Once that's done, the election coverage starts. Traditional media outlets will be covering the results as they happen. There will be electronic interactive maps, videos and public polling results along with the analysis of pundits.

This election cycle, however, there are other choices for political junkies that want to multi-task their election coverage.

YouTube's Election Hub will be live streaming results. CNN will offer live video feeds of the election results and some users will find Facebook's Election Insights tool just the ticket.

Other sites offering live-streamed video coverage include Politico, Washington Post, HuffPostLive and UStream.

We will be watching election coverage on TV as well as following election results online.

2016 is just around the corner!

November 3, 2012

Campaigning and Governing in the Digital Age

The digital media team at President Obama's
Chicago campaign offices in October.
THE FIRST presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney set the social networking world of Twitter on fire. The debate was the most tweeted political event in U.S. history, with Twitter users sending a record 10.3 million tweets during the 90-minute televised debate.

Once upon a time, in a far off land, officials and candidates did things the old-fashioned way - you know: telephones, letters and fax machines. Then, along came the digital age, the Internet and social media. It's hard to argue with 10 million tweets, but do new technologies really make a difference when it comes to governing and running political campaigns? Is the digital age really a game changer or just a fairy tale?

Read More >

October 27, 2012

Rate Your Voting Experience on Election Day

THE ASH Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University has unveiled MyFairElection.com, a new crowd sourced election monitoring platform that allows voters across the United States to rate the quality of their voting experience during Election Day on November 6, 2012.

Archon Fung, the creator, said, "We hope that the results of MyFairElection collects will democratize the assessment of our nation's electoral institutions in their role administering the most fundamental right of modern democracies."

On Election Day, voters will be able to access MyFairElection via smart phone, laptop, or destop computer to describe and rate the quality of their voting experience: five stars for fulfilling experience at the ballot box or one star for very long lines, broken machines, or intimidation. Voters will also be able to record wait times, comment about their experience, report problems, and upload photos. In addition, MyFairElection will also supply voters with the location of their polling place, voter identification requirements, and other Election Day information such as current average wait times.

Both real-time during Election Day and afterwards, MyFairElection will aggregate voter-provided data into heat maps and other data-rich displays to identify and display the quality of electoral access across the country. The site will allow voters to identify and locate problems as they emerge in real time, compare and rank states and localities according to the quality of access to the vote they provide, and share the experience exercising their right and ability to vote.


October 15, 2012

Creating a Smarter City with Technology

SAN FRANCISCO tech icons have made a new video imagining what civic technology could do for a "smarter city."

sf.citi, short for San Francisco Citizens Initiative for Technology and Innovation, is a nonprofit organization created by a consortium of San Francisco technology leaders to leverage the power of the technology community around civic action in San Francisco.

Watch their video below.

October 12, 2012

Youth Engagement Falls, Registration Also Declines

YOUNG VOTERS are significantly less engaged in this year's election than at a comparable point in 2008 and now lag far behind older voters in interest in the campaign and intention to vote. The share of voters younger than 30 who are following campaign news very closely is roughly half what it was at this point four years ago (18%, down from 35%). Just 63% of young registered voters say they definitely plan to vote this year, down from 72% four years ago.

No only are young registered voters less engaged, but fewer young people are registered to vote. In all Pew Research Center polling conducted over the course of 2012, only half of adults under 30 say they are absolutely certain that they are registered. This compares with 61% in 2008 and 57% in 2004. Registration rates typically rise over the course of election years, but for youth voter registration to reach 2008 levels the figures will have to shift decidedly over the coming days.

Read more here >

October 2, 2012

Seattle Police Department Uses Twitter to Report Crime in Neighborhoods

EUGENE O'DONNELL, a professor of police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, describes the Seattle Police Department's use of Twitter in a project called, "Tweets by beat," trailblazing. "It shows a willingness I haven't seen in large supply to really affirmatively make available, warts and all, a clear picture to people of what's going on."

The business of policing, as cops have known since at least the first bobbies on the beat, is partly about being seen on the job, having a local presence, even if it is just twirling a baton down the avenue.

But does "local" mean the same thing in the disembodied chatter of social media? The Seattle Police Department, which presides over one of the nation's most tech-savvy - if not saturated - cities, is diving in to find out, in a project that began last week with 51 hyper-local neighborhood Twitter accounts providing moment-to-moment crime reports.

Read more here >

September 19, 2012

California Voters May Now Register Online

SENATOR LELAND Yee, D-San Francisco, authored a bill in 2011 (SB 397) which created an online system for people whose signature is already on file with the state Department of Motor Vehicles to transfer their voter registration form electronically to county elections officials from the secretary of state's website.

"This change could certainly increase voter registration among young voters and other Internet-savvy Californians," said UC San Diego political science Professor Thad Kousser - but he doesn't expect it to change the political landscape in November.

State Senator Yee, who championed other efforts to increase voter participation, said "online registration is a logical step."

Just under 60 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the last presidential contest, and only 44 percent of eligible citizens voted.

Read More >

Register to vote >

September 7, 2012

Economic Indicator Dashboard Brings Transparency to Local Government

REDWOOD CITY, California has unveiled a very cool online tool, the economic indicators dashboard. It delivers information on the city's current conditions like sales tax data and the value of building permits issued.

The dashboard also includes at-a-glance information such as commercial building data and links, sales tax by business segments and districts, top sales tax generators, top private employers and economic news related to the city.

Vice Mayor Jeff Gee and council members Rosanne Foust and Jeff Ira, both members of the mayor's economic development subcommittee, helped create the dashboard and its web pages.

The site also includes a feedback page for users to tell the city what other kinds of information they'd like to access and what new businesses would be a valuable addition to the city.

San Mateo County and other jurisdictions could benefit from an Economic Indicator Dashboard!

Visit the site at http://www.redwoodcity.org/business/dash

September 1, 2012

Update on Election Bills

THERE WERE some 98 bills passed by the California legislature before the Friday deadline. It doesn't look like any of the election reform bills mentioned in the previous article passed.

So, Assembly Bill 1436 that would have allowed for Election Day registration, is dead as is Assembly Bill 2054, that would have allowed an absentee voter to return their vote by mail ballot at any polling place in the state on Election Day. And finally, Assembly Bill 1466 that would have loosened the rules on ballots that don't arrive at the Registrar's office on Election Day, is also DOA.

Election reforms like these will obviously come up again. It's only a matter of time.

August 24, 2012

California Legislature May Ease Rules for Voters to Cast Ballots

THE CALIFORNIA legislature, in its final days of Capitol action in 2012, might reform state election law, generally making it easier for voters to cast their ballots.

Assembly Bill 1436 would allow voter registration right up until just before the polls close on Election Day. If passed and signed into law by Governor Brown, it would put California on par with ten other states and the District of Columbia in allowing some form of "same day" voter registration.

Assembly Bill 2054 would allow an absentee voter to return their vote by mail ballot at any polling place in the state on Election Day.

Assembly Bill 1466 would loosen the rules on ballots that don't arrive on Election Day. Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is seeking to give voters an extra 72 hours for their vote to count - as long as it's been postmarked by Election Day, or if the voter signs a legal certification that the ballot was filled out on time. Current rules require the ballot to be in the hands of elections officials by the time the polls close. If not, the ballot is not counted.

August 17, 2012

One Company's Fix for Jobless Veterans

THEY ARE everywhere, but we don't usually see them - the nearly 300,000 of the 2.4 million veterans of the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan who are without work. That's a 12% unemployment rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As a veteran recently said, "It's like people say, 'Thank you for your service...but don't ask me for a job.'"

They deserve better. So this past spring at TiVo they filled a conference room with veterans on staff and said, "We're not doing enough for people getting out of the military. Figure it out." Those veterans of wars going back to Vietnam took 90 minutes to conceive and design a paid annual internship program for men and women just getting out of the military, or who have recently finished school after service.

The TiVo Summer Veterans Intern Program is based on two ideas. First: Since we have internships for college students, why not vets? Second, a resume credential "buffer," such as the internship, answers the critical question of whether a veteran can successfully transition to civilian employment.

Read more about TiVo's creative program for vets here >

August 5, 2012

Civic Startups Introduce New Technology to Government

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FORMER CONGRESSIONAL aide Marci Harris was frustrated with the way information and messages flooded into the office of Representative Pete Stark, D-Calif, and got lost. In 2010, she left to solve government's biggest problems.

She subsequently founded PopVox, a tech startup that works to improve the communication between Congress and its constituents.

Last month, more than 600 entrepreneurs and government and technology leaders came together at the Next Generation of Government Summit to hear speakers, attend presentations and participate in workshops about how to improve government. The workshops included "Tech Tips: 50 ways to be more effective," "Problem Solving: Improving Technology" and "How to Drive Big Changes in Government."

With technology advancing at a rapid pace and billions of people receiving information on Internet and their mobile phones, entrepreneurs and developers are trying to bridge the gap between new technology and old government habits. These civically focused startups are building products that they hope will change the way things are done. But their odds for success are tough, as many of them navigate uncharted waters and face competition from thousands of other startups for users and funds.

Read more here >

August 3, 2012

Imagine a Whole New Way to Get Around Town

ONE OF the topics that gets discussed on the campaign trail is transportation. Questions often center around SamTrans, our bus system, and Caltrain. There is pretty widespread agreement that both those transportation systems could be improved.

What if a new idea that uses technology had the power to bring some innovation to our commutes? Imagine a whole new way to get around.

SideCar, an app that aims to connect passengers in need of a ride with drivers who have extra space in their cars. It's a "community-based, real-time ridesharing marketplace."

SideCar's drivers are not professionals. They are ordinary folks looking for a way to make some extra money or help their community.

How does the app work?

Passengers enter their pick up and drop off information.  SideCar then shows them the nearest drivers and their ETA. Another cool feature is that the user can view their driver on a map as they get closer to picking them up.

Making a donation to the driver is easy because the app uses a "community average" to determine an appropriate donation based on what other riders have paid for comparable rides.

The app also relies on a crowdsourced passenger and driver rating systems.

SideCar isn't the ultimate solution for San Mateo County's transportation woes but it's a creative step in the right direction. It uses technology and shared services to improve community.

Maybe some young developer could build a SideCar like app for the Peninsula?

Learn more about SideCar here >

July 31, 2012

Palo Alto Opens Its Arms to Open Government



PALO ALTO is already well known as a global center of technology innovation. But now the city is embracing technology with a potential to disrupt local government.

The city of Palo Alto announced today the launch of a new open data platform that represents a first step to becoming a truly digital city. The platform, powered by Junar, will give the city's tech-savvy residents and other interested developers a wealth of easily consumable data in hopes that they will go off and create new, useful applications that tie the city's residents closer together and change their view of government from a provider of services to a facilitator of community building.

Imagine, for instance, a developer creating an app with public data that lets users adopt a roadside storm drain and volunteering to clear it if it clogs - such an app would create a sense of community involvement for the user and potentially save the city money. (Seattle already does this least you think it's a crazy idea).

At first, Palo Alto will be releasing the following information to developers as part of the project:

-2010 census data for Palo Alto
-Pavement condition ratings
-City tree locations
-Bicycle paths and hiking trails
-Creek water level
-Rainfall tide
-Utility data

Read an interview with Palo Alto's Chief Information Officer here >

July 23, 2012

Legislators' Daily Words, In Your Hands

ATTENTION REAL, political junkies: this app is for you.

It's the Congressional Record and it's put out by the Library of Congress and it presents the daily Congressional Record in app form. The app, like the report, is broken down into sections and users can quickly access the daily digest, the Senate section, the House section and the Extensions of Remarks. You can select any issue of the Congressional Record dating back to January 4, 1995 and users can copy text from the record in case they need to quote something later.

I must admit - I downloaded the app for my iPad and it's pretty cool.

You can perform keyword searches, share documents via email, save documents to your preferred iPad PDF reader and more.

Download the app here >

July 21, 2012

Participatory Budgeting

PARTICIPATORY BUDGETING is a decision-making process in which community members decide how to spend parts of a public budget. It allows citizens to identify, discuss and prioritize public spending projects and gives them the power to make real decisions about how money is spent. While the model is flexible and various forms exist, the basic process involves citizens in the analysis, deliberation, decision-making, implementation and monitoring of public spending.

A sample general mode might include:

1. Local officials give guidance on general budget guidelines and may specify spending ceiling.
2. Residents identify and prioritize local needs and brainstorm ideas to respond to these needs.
3. Residents develop concrete projects that address the identified needs.
4. Residents vote for which of these projects should receive funding given budget constraints.
5. The government implements the chosen projects.
6. Residents monitor the implementation of these public spending projects.

July 11, 2012

Project Raises over $150,000 for Park Project with Crowdfunding

It's amazing today how citizens can recognize their local diversity, culture, creativity, and innovation and run with it. While taking the steps to garner support from the community and pitch the idea to the city can be hard work, it can yield some truly awe-inspiring results.

Back in 1999, in New York City, resident in Manhattan's westside proposed renovating an abandoned rail like and turning it into a park. They were successful with the campaign and eventually construction began on the park, known as the High Line. The park opened to the public in 2009 and was quickly recognized as a cherished green space within the city. Build on an elevated railway that runs for about 16 blocks, there is elevator access and street entrances along the way.


Recently, entrepreneurs Dan Barasch, a social innovator, and James Ramsey, designer and former NASA engineer, proposed turning an unused trolley terminal beneath Delancey Street on New York City's Lower East Side into an underground park. A major part of their plan is a technology developed by Ramsey that would direct sunlight below ground via fiber optic cables, allowing plans and trees to grow in the underground space.

Recognizing the need to look for support both online and offline, project leaders utilized the crowd funding platform, Kickstarter, to get the word out about "the world's first underground park." They raised $100,000 in a week.

Read more here >

July 7, 2012

Tech Companies Leave Phone Calls Behind

QUORA IS a Web site that crowd sources answers to just about any question imaginable, including "What is the meaning of life?" and "Is it possible to stick someone to the wall with Velcro?" But anyone searching for a phone number for the company is out of luck. Not only is the number unlisted, but the very question "What is the phone number for Quora?" has gone unanswered for months.

Quora is not the only social technology company that presents an antisocial attitude to callers. Twitter's phone system hangs up after providing Web or e-mail addresses three times. At the end of a long phone tree, Facebook's system explains it is, in fact, "an Internet-based company." Try e-mail it suggests.

Voice calls have been falling out of fashion with teenagers and people in their 20s for some time. But what is a matter of preference for the young is becoming a matter of policy for technology companies; phones cost money, phones do not scale. Besides, why call when you can use Google or sent a Twitter message?

Read more here >

July 5, 2012

Hacker Hostels in the Bay Area

FROM THE outside it's just a beige three-story building in a quiet residential neighborhood. But inside, in a third floor apartment, there are enough Ikea bunk beds to sleep 10 people, crammed into two bedrooms. The living room is bare except for a futon, a tiny desk and laptop power cables strewed across the hardwood floor like a nest of snakes.

The tenants, mostly men in their 20s, sleep next to heaps of dirty laundry. There is no television set; the men watch online video, on laptops with headphones. On a recent afternoon, 23-year-old Steve El-Hage, who came here from Toronto in May, ate slices of ham straight out of the package: "As you can see, I was going to make a sandwich, but I didn't get there."

This is not some kind of dorm, but a "hacker hostel." It's one of several in the Bay Area that offer short-term or long term stays for aspiring tech entrepreneurs on the bottom rung of the Silicon Valley ladder, those who haven't yet achieved Facebook-level riches. These establishments put a twist on the long tradition of communal housing for tech types by turning it into commercial enterprise.

Read more here >

July 3, 2012

Online Town Hall Lets Residents Improve Their Own Neighborhood Without Leaving the Couch


A FEW years ago, Omaha urban planners Nick Bowden and Nathan Preheim arrived at a conclusion that has haunted anyone who has ever sat through a four-hour plea for a new traffic light: The current model for city planning is broken. "We were doing traditional town hall meetings and nobody showed up to them," Bowden says. People don't have time to sit through an hours-long meeting for a couple minutes at the microphone, the pair thought. And the few who do are often loud, cranky or long-winded - - those views about what towns and cities really need to improve are hardly ever representative. So Bowden and Preheim decided to build a town hall online instead.

Their web-based platform MindMixer is a virtual meetup for citizens and officials to connect, share ideas, and spur the most popular conversations into real action. Since launching in March 2011, more than 200 communities including tech hubs like San Francisco have signed on, paying anywhere from $4,000 to $25,000 a year to subscribe to a homepage where citizens log on to view a blueprint of upcoming city projects - or suggest their own - and then riff on ways those things should work.

Read more here >

Visit SF's MindMixer site here >

June 30, 2012

Nearly Half of Young Adults Participate Politically Online, New Survey Finds

NEARLY HALF of the nation's young adults in the United States receive their news at least once a week from their family and friends through social media, according to a new survey released from the MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics.

The survey found that 45 percent of people between the ages of 15 and 25 receive their news through Facebook and Twitter. This compares with the 49 percent who read the news at least once a week in newspapers and magazines.

The data also found that 84 percent of the young adults and teens surveyed said that they would benefit from learning how to tell if the material that they come across online is trustworthy.

Read New Media and Youth Political Action >

June 20, 2012

Voters to Decide if County Controller Should Be An Appointed Position

THE SAN Mateo County Controller's position has been an elected position since 1856 when the county was first incorporated. At November's Presidential General election county voters will decide if the position should be changed into an appointed position.

It will take a two-thirds majority of the vote to make the change which will appear on the November 6 ballot. The last time a Charter Amendment was approved by the voters to change the status of elected offices was over 20 years ago when the Assessor and County Clerk-Recorder were merged into one office. At that time, the voters gave up one elected position.

Nine of 58 counties in California that have appointed controllers.

Now it's up to the voters.

Read more here >

June 12, 2012

An Alternative Justice Program

THE MARIN County Civil Grand Jury is calling for broader use of "restorative justice," a law enforcement philosophy that emphasizes reconciliation over punitive retribution.

In a new report, "Restorative Justice: Its time Has Come in Marin County," the grand jury acknowledged that the practice strikes some as "soft on crime."

But after studying its use elsewhere - in places such as New Zealand, Brazil, Vermont and major California cities - the grand jury said its expanded use in Marin could save the taxpayers money, reduce recidivism and ease the burden on courts, the county jail and Juvenile Hall.

"Expansion of restorative justice in Marin County - by schools, the adult and youth criminal justice systems, and neighborhoods and communities - must be undertaken," the report said.

Under the restorative justice approach, offenders meet with community facilitators and sometimes the victims, discuss the impact of their actions, and negotiate how to make appropriate amends.

The offender then has a chance to perform community service, make restitution or seek therapy for addiction or behavioral problems. If the offender meets the agreed-upon obligations, he or she can avoid prosecution.

"Proponents assert that this approach provides satisfaction to the victim as well as to the community affected by the crime and prepares the offender for a crime-free future in ways the traditional punitive justice system does not," the grand jury said.

Read More Here >

June 11, 2012

Designing New Digital Public Spaces to Engage a Disconnected Public

GOVERNMENT POLICY is written by those who show up. Unfortunately, most of us don't. Most don't see the point: we don't trust government. Or politicians. And we don't believe that there's anything we can do to influence them. "Digital" can help change this. Not set democracy on fire, suddenly re-igniting our latent passions for civic engagement. But just maybe break down the barriers so it's easier to take part. Our personal tipping point is reached sooner, sustained longer.

None of this is new. The democratic drift in mature democracies started in the 1950s and has caused serious erosion in political participation and trust. And a concomitant complacent absolution of responsibility for our civic spaces. We delegate to elected representatives, public officials and - increasingly - private corporations.

Read More Here >

June 10, 2012

The San Mateo County Fair is Worth a Visit!

THE SAN Mateo County Fair has been entertaining and educating Peninsula residents since 1926. This year's fair, which is now in full swing, is its 78th year in its current location at the San Mateo County Fairgrounds.

This year's theme is "Where Tradition Meets Innovation."

The fair's got something for everyone. There are carnival rides and midway games, entertainment and concerts and loads of exhibits and competitions.

Fair hours are generally 11 AM to 10 PM, Monday through Sunday. Single day admission prices are $10 for adults along with a $10 per day parking pass.

Learn more at the San Mateo County Fair site.

June 9, 2012

Crystal Springs Road Near Sawyer Camp Trail to Close Monday, June 11, for 18 Days

CRYSTAL SPRINGS Road between Polhemus Road and Skyline Boulevard (Highway 35) - a popular access point to the Sawyer Camp Trail hiking and cycling path west of San Mateo - will be closed for 18 days from Monday, June 11, to Friday, June 29.

The road closure is necessary so the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission can replace a regional water pipeline as part of the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System improvement project. The PUC is providing further details and detour infer on its project website.

While motorized vehicles will not have access for the duration of the work, bicycles will have through access on Sundays only to Sawyer Camp Trail.

For more detour information, please visit www.sfwater.org/SCT or call 866.973.1476.

June 7, 2012

Farm Hill Boulevard Street Design Meeting

IF YOU live in Redwood City, most likely you've driven on Farm Hill Boulevard.

Well, Farm Hill Boulevard is going to be resurfaced this summer and as part of that project, the city is considering ways to make the street safer and more livable for residents. Changes may include reconfiguring lanes, adding bike lanes, or other options?

You are invited to join this community meeting. City officials will be on hand to listen to your concerns and get your input. 

Light refreshments will be provided.

Mark your calendar for June 12. The event starts at 6:30 PM and will be held at the Peninsula Covenant Church, Fellowship Center at 3560 Farm Hill Boulevard.

For more information, please contact Jessica Manzi, Senior Transportation Coordinator, City of Redwood City at 650.780.7372 or email to jmanzi@redwoodcity.org

May 20, 2012

Warren Slocum for District Four Supervisor


May 16, 2012, 05:00 AM Editorial

There are seven high-quality candidates for District Four supervisor who all bring key points of view to the discussion about who would be best to serve as the district’s representative on the five-member Board of Supervisors.

However, there is one candidate who has the experience and track record of innovation who is the best choice for the position — Warren Slocum.

Slocum served as chief elections officer and assessor-county clerk-recorder in San Mateo County since 1986 before he retired in 2010. In that position, Slocum was well known for his interest in technology, innovation, democracy and civic engagement. Slocum has differentiated himself as a technologically savvy proponent of updated voting systems, all-mail ballots and an overall push for voter participation.

After the contentious 2000 presidential election revamped voting rules and equipment — typically lumped together under the 2002 Help America Vote Act — Slocum moved away from his support of paper voting to embrace the handicap-accessible eSlate electronic voting system and would still like to see all-mail ballots for their savings in both time and money.

Slocum also established shapethefuture.org and smcare.org websites to help residents navigate the office remotely and increase accessibility and transparency.

In his time in office, he also properly handled what could have been a controversy when same-sex couples asked him to allow for them to be married. In a 2007 letter to 57 other county clerks and copied to state leaders, Slocum asked his peers to support the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act which would have granted clerks the authority to conduct marriages for same-sex couples. Slocum’s stance drew wide praise in the local LGBT community and attention on a wider scale.

As assessor, Slocum also oversaw a number of declining valued property reassessments — maintaining paperwork on ownership and foreclosure proceedings all while managing budget cuts to his departments.

In this campaign, no one has been able to knock Slocum on his government experience, which is sterling. One concern may be the situation in which a former elected official is seeking another elected office after retiring and his ability to question the establishment both in the County Manager’s Office and the sitting Board of Supervisors. However, those concerns can be diminished in two ways. First, elected officials returning to another elected office is nothing new. Supervisor Don Horsley’s experience as a former sheriff was seen as a benefit. And voters supported Jerry Brown when he returned to office as mayor of Oakland, California attorney general and governor, his former office. Political experience is important in elected office and should not be seen as a liability unless that person’s tenure was less than sterling, which is clearly not the case with Slocum. As far as questioning establishment, Slocum’s experience in county government should give him the stature to stand up for what he believes without suffering from a steep learning curve that a newcomer would encounter. One decision the board made recently that Slocum disagreed with was the purchase of the Circle Star properties in San Carlos for $40 million because the county should be investing in properties that make money. More than a year after the purchase, the county is contemplating leasing part of the property after moving certain county offices there didn’t make sense. Slocum also believed the board should have placed the issue of district elections on the ballot for voters to decide — an example of him standing apart from the status quo.

But more importantly, Slocum brings a certain innovative spirit to any endeavor. One innovation he directed was the wedding cam at his office so family members near and far could witness what is often a once-in-a-lifetime event. It’s a small thing, but an example of out-of-the-box thinking. Another example Slocum illustrates is using Zipcar technology to save money with the county motor pool and looking into other ways of using computer programs at the county level to save the cost of buying individual programs. In his time in his previous positions, we enjoyed seeing the cutting edge thinking and Silicon Valley spirit behind his new ideas while also adhering to the philosophy of ensuring that whatever is introduced still has an overall benefit to the entire community.

Simply put, Slocum is the best candidate and voters have an opportunity to take advantage of his innovative spirit and ability to speak his mind without a learning curve.

Click here to read complete article.

May 18, 2012

Six Guidelines for Government Leaders

HERE ARE a few simple (and brief) guidelines for government leaders to contemplate.

1. Agility - community needs change. Government needs to be nimble.

2. Establish a road map - We need to define where we are going. Every action has to be judged against a plan.

3. Do fewer things better - We can't do everything so focus on a limited number of initiatives.

4. Principles trump rules - A set of organizational beliefs is much stronger than rules.

5. Accountability - Risk-taking and entrepreneurial behavior should be encouraged.

6. Candor and Courage - If you make a mistake, explain why it happened and how you have adjusted the system for the future.

May 16, 2012

Saving Money with New Technologies

ONE OF ways that San Mateo County could save money is through using the cloud, online apps and collaboration tools provided by Microsoft and/or Google.

Historically, government would purchase licenses for an individual applications like Mircosoft Office for every worker. If there were 5,000 employees in an organization, that meant that 5,000 licenses would be purchased.

This is an expensive proposition and leads to some parts of the organization using one version of software (those with money would have the latest version) while others, who lack funding for replacement software, would be straddled with older versions of the software.

And as we know, at some point there are "compatibility" issues.

A Community College District in Los Angeles is using a different approach to its software needs.

There, Mircosoft just inked a deal with the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) to deploy its Live@edu online suite for more than 250,000 students and faculty. Live@edu gives educational users access to hosted versions of Exchange and Outlook, SkyDirve online storage and the Office Web productivity suite which includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

One of the requirements of the deal was that Live@edu be accessible through multiple platforms including Apple iPads, iPhones and Google Android devices.

This approach is the future.

San Mateo County should explore this kind of technology option. In my experience organizations have issues supporting different versions of software plus every several years they have the painful experience of paying for replacement costs. Using an online approach would make modern software available organization wide and perhaps reduce the need for help desk support and might even reduce costs.

Read More >

May 11, 2012

The Need for a Mobile Election App

AS ELECTION day approaches, it brings to mind the fact that San Mateo County voters could benefit from a mobile election app. It's not impossible - voters in Louisiana have a new tool to help them prepare for the next election.

The Louisiana election app works on IOS devices and Android operating systems. Users can find out whether they are registered, an address and map of their polling place and the contents of their ballot. Voters can also enter their name or address to access personalized data.

According to a Louisiana Secretary of State official, the app has been downloaded more than 10,000 times to date.

The Secretary of State's office has another mobile app in development to help improve voting access for military and overseas voters. The app will allow voters to register online and receive their absentee ballot electronically. These overseas voters will also be able to mark their ballots online and then return their ballots in the mail.

They're also planning to add subscription-based email notifications to voters, pertaining to Louisiana elections which is aimed at keeping voters engaged in the political process.

May 10, 2012

Fostering Civic Innovation and Engagement in San Mateo County

HOW CONNECTED do you feel to San Mateo County government?

Survey after survey shows that people want to have a better idea of what their elected officials are doing and they want their voices to be  heard.

The intersection of technology, policy and civic engagement is increasingly central to making local governments work for everyone. There are information and innovation gaps between municipalities throughout the sate, and we should be discovering ways to bridge those gaps and provide opportunities for governments to learn from one another and share innovative technologies that have real impact in their communities.

Now there is a statewide project that seeks to make all of that happen.

The California Civic Innovation Project (CCIP) focuses on identifying the best practices to improving service delivery, opening new channels for public voices and bridging the state's digital divides. It promotes innovations in technology, policy and practice that deepen engagement between government and communities throughout the sate. Through research and information-sharing, CCIP plans to build communities of practice within California's local governments.

I think this is an important initiative and it got me thinking.

What steps could San Mateo County take to give residents a better sense of what the Board of Supervisors is doing and how could more public voices be heard using technology?

Here are some ideas to consider:

1. The county could allow for YouTube testimony on the issues

2. The county could publish its checkbook online so people would have a better understanding of where the money comes from and how it's spent - and the site would allow for comments and the sharing of public ideas

3.  The county could sponsor a county "hackathon" aimed at the development of civic apps which residents would find valuable

4.  The county could experiment with online participatory budgeting

5. The county could explore ways to foster people driven viral marketing (and other online strategies) where the community sees a problem and the community harnesses new media tools to try and solve those problems

6. The county could use social media tools to leverage conversations with users of its various services

7. The county could supplement it's popular once a year "Citizens Academy" with an online version so that information sharing would be more widespread and ongoing. A community of interest could be developed of all past graduates and an online forum would provide for ongoing discussions of issues

8. The county could encourage the use of mobile media to promote healthy life style choices for young people

What are your ideas for using technology to help people connect with county government?

April 28, 2012

California Sheriff to Open Inmate Auto Shop

THE TEHAMA County Sheriff, Dave Hencratt, is trying to deal with the burden of increased jail population due to state prison realignment in Assembly Bill 109.

AB109, which took effect in October, sent some low-level offenders who would have gone on parole, from state prisons to county probation jurisdiction, and rewrote the laws so new low-level offenders would be sentenced to county jail instead of prison.

With an increased inmate population, Sheriff Hencratt needed to save space and money in the jail.

His idea?

Start a county vehicle maintenance shop where 70 inmates, who spend nights at their homes, could learn auto repair and maintenance skills.

The California Corrections Partnership thought his idea was solid and they gave roughly $45,000, mostly in startup costs, to create the work release program. Offenders who qualify for the program would be eligible to train in fields such as auto detailing, oil changes, changing tires and other minor vehicle maintenance duties.

The Sheriff figure he can keep 12 guys very busy, everyday.

Eventually the job training program could include certifications of completion for participants who successfully work through each skill or training portion. The participants would be supervised by a deputy with experience in mechanics and vehicle maintenance. All major vehicle repair work would still be done by certified mechanics but the routine maintenance done by the work release inmates would save the department money.

Bottom line - this creative program helps with Tehama County's jail overcrowding, it saves the county money and in the long term it may reduce recidivism because it gives inmates a job skill which could be used to land real employment.

Read more here >

April 23, 2012

YouTube Testimony



I HAD the occasion this weekend to visit the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors website (http://bit.ly/hTy3wC) because I was looking for information that was presented at a particular meeting. I found a memorandum from the County Manager’s office on the subject I was looking for but there was no video archive of the actual hearing.

Without that video archive, I couldn’t hear what members of the board had to say about the issue nor could I benefit from listening to what the people who showed up at the meeting had to say.

That got me thinking.

The system that’s used at Board meetings is most likely similar to the one that was in place in 1856 when the county was formed. People who wanted to address the board filled out slips of paper and turned them in. When called to speak, a person was given two minutes to make their case.

That process was OK in the 19th Century but what would a 21st Century board process look like? How could technology change the way we do things? How could the hearing process be more open?  

What if...
...all Board of Supervisors meetings were streamed live over the Internet?
...all Board of Supervisors meetings were archived immediately following the meeting?
...the Board of Supervisors allowed people to submit comments and testimonies on YouTube?   

Board meetings are held on Tuesdays during the day when many people work, are at school or taking care of their families. That kind of scheduling potentially excludes people from sharing their views on a particular matter before the Board.

Permitting YouTube testimony would mean that even if you were busy at the time of the hearing and couldn’t physically be there - you could still have your voice heard.  

Sure.  There would have to be rules. Regular testimony is limited to two minutes; YouTube testimony would have to be the same. And, there could be rules that would help make testimony more civil - like no profanity, for example.

Maybe more voices, more openness and more democracy would make county government more efficient and more responsive? It definitely would help make it more inclusive and more participatory.

Although not everyone has Internet access (although the vast majority do) and many may not  know how to make a YouTube video (but there could be an instructional video online),  I think it’s a step in the right direction.  Let’s use technology to open up government.

What do you think?

April 22, 2012

San Francisco Puts Brakes on an App for Transit

IF ALL goes according to the five-year plan approved by the Board of Supervisors, the city and county of San Francisco will upgrade its technology infrastructure to accommodate such trendy things as social networks, cloud computing, crowd-sourcing, open-source software and location-aware apps. But by then it will be 2016, or more than 10 product cycles by Silicon Valley standards.

Meanwhile, a small team of volunteers took just 10 days last summer to create an Apple iPad app that uses Global Positioning System technology to track all of the city's buses in real time, allowing transit managers and passengers to monitor problems and delays.

But now, 10 months later, the app is unused. Muni is $29 million over budget and can't afford to buy the iPads required to run the software.

According to the article, government cannot keep up with the rapid technology advancements that consumers are accustomed to because despite cost savings that agile projects like SMART Muni can offer, government officials are adverse to the risks that many tech companies routinely take.

Read more of Shane Shifflett's article in the NY Times here >

April 21, 2012

Just for Fun - Watch This Video

HAVE SOME fun today, Saturday, and watch this video. It might make you smile. It's only 1:46 in length.

February 8, 2012

Feds to Employees: Use Your Own Mobile Devices at Work

A NEW survey finds that 62% of federal agencies encourage staffers to bring their own mobile devices to work to save the agencies money. Close to half of federal employees are doing just that.

The report, based on a survey of 414 federal employees and IT staff, also found that the majority of employees - 89% - think that using mobile devices at work makes them more productive, while 69% of respondents said this increased mobility will allow the feds to deliver better services to citizens.

Sixty-two percent of agencies have a "bring your own device" policy, allowing employees to use their own mobile devices at work, and 44$ of federal employees are using their own in the workplace.

Allowing agencies to bring their own devices to work saves money and allows agencies to support mobility initiatives, such as a standard mobile strategy U.S. CIO Steven VanRoekel is working on across federal agencies to accelerate the adoption of mobile technologies.

Having employees use their own devices at work does, however, raise security concerns, which agencies are trying to alleviate through a number of measures, including secure mobile device management.

>Read more about the study here

Multitaskers Need Multiscreens

WORKERS IN the digital era can feel at times as if they are playing a video game, battling the barrage of emails and instant messages, juggling documents, Web sites and online calendars. To cope, people have become swift with the mouse, toggling among dozens of overlapping windows on a single monitor.

But there is a growing new tactic for countering the data assault: the addition of a second computer screen. Or a third.

This proliferation of displays is the latest workplace upgrade, and it is responsible for the new look at companies and home offices - they are starting to resemble mission control.

For multiscreen multitaskers, a single monitor can seem as outdated as dial-up Internet. "You go back to one, and you feel slow," said Jackie Cohen, 42, who uses three 17-inch monitors in her home office in San Francisco, where she edits a blog about Facebook.

>Read multiscreens in the NY Times here

February 7, 2012

The Net's Sweeping Impact on Growth, Jobs and Prosperity

THE INTERNET is a vast mosaic of economic activity, ranging from millions of daily online transactions and communications to smartphone downloads of TV shows. But little is known about how the  web in its entirety contributes to global growth, productivity, and employment.

New McKinsey research into the Internet economies of the G-8 nations as well as Brazil, China, India, South Korea, and Sweden finds that the web accounts for a significant and growing portion of global GDP. Indeed, if measured as a sector, Internet-related consumption and expenditure is now bigger than agriculture or energy. On the average, the Internet contributes 3-4 percent to GDP in the 13 countries covered by the research - an amount the size of Spain or Canada in terms of GDP, and growing at a faster rate than that of Brazil.

>Read the McKinsey Global Institute's report here.

Lights, Camera, Causes: YouTube's 2012 Nonprofit Video Awards



YESTERDAY YOUTUBE announced that they have teamed up with See3 Communications for the third year to present the DoGooder Nonprofit Video Awards. The DoGooder awards are a celebration of the best in nonprofit video and members of the YouTube Nonprofit Program are invited to submit their non-profit videos by February 29, 2012 for the chance to win recognition, some great prizes and the opportunity to spread the word about their organization and the good they are doing in the world.

Ramya Raghavan of YouTube Nonprofits writes on the YouTube blog, "It doesn't matter if your organization is small and scrappy, large and global, or somewhere in between. We'll award prizes like $3,500 grants, free admission to the Nonprofit Technology Conference, and a spotlight on the YouTube homepage to small, medium and large organizations, plus a special award for the Best Video Storytelling."

Not sure if your organization qualifies for the YouTube Nonprofit Program? Find out and apply at http://www.youtube.com/nonprofits.

February 3, 2012

YouTube's Top Star Bipasses Traditional Media



IT DOESN'T take media to make a media star any more.

The new economics of entertainment have enabled a foul-mouthed performer working on his own to carve out a very lucrative business. He doesn't have the backing of a traditional media conglomerate. He's a lone comic with a YouTube channel.

Ray William Johnson curses constantly, often gives his audience the finger and sometimes dresses up as a penguin, but he is attracting more than five million regular viewers to his twice weekly video commentaries, making him the biggest draw at Google Inc.'s online-video outlet.

Known as RayWJ, the 30-year-old has morphed into an idol of the teen set at home and abroad by ranting about others' viral YouTube videos on subjects ranging from a hippopotamus defecating to people who staple the heads of co-workers.

Thanks to his cut of his shows' ad revenue and merchandise tied to his persona, he's taking home about $1 million a year.

>Read more on the Wall Street Journal here.

February 2, 2012

No More Angling for a Seat Next to the Boss: Stand Up Meetings Have Arrived

 
IN SOME fast-moving high tech circles, sitting at meetings has become synonymous with sloth. Take the case of Atomic Object, a Grand Rapids, Michigan, software-development company. It holds company meetings first thing in the morning and employees must follow strict rules: Attendance is mandatory, nonwork chitchat is kept to a minimum and everyone has to stand up.

The object is to eliminate long-winded confabs where participants pontificate, play Angry Birds on their cellphones or tune out.

Atomic Object even frowns upon tables during meetings. "They make it too easy to lean or rest laptops," explains Michael Marsiglia, vice president. At the end of the meetings, which rarely last more than five minutes, employees typically do a quick stretch and then, according to the Wall Street Journal, "go on with their day."

Holding meetings standing up isn't new. Some military leaders did it during World War I.

>Read more about the thinking behind "stand up meetings" here.

February 1, 2012

Innovation Without Age Limits

VENTURE CAPITALISTS in Silicon Valley prefer to fund the young, the next Mark Zuckerbert. Why? The common mantra is that if you are over 35, you are too old to innovate. In fact, there is an evolving profile of the perfect entrepreneur - smart enough to get into Harvard or Stanford and savvy enough to drop out. Some prominent figures are even urging talented young people to skip college, presumably so they do not waste their "youngness" on studying.

To a degree, the cult of Silicon Valley has been built around young people makes sense - particularly in the Internet and mobile technology. The young have a huge advantage because they aren't encumbered by the past. Older technology workers are experts in building and maintaining systems in old computer languages and architectures. They make much bigger salaries. Why should employers pay $150,000 for a worker with 20 years of irrelevant experience when they can hire a fresh college graduate for $60,000? After all, the graduate will bring in new ideas and doesn't have to go home early to family.

> Read more here

Beyond the Personal Automobile

THE CONNECTED car has finally arrived. Our smart phones sync up with our dashboards, and soon vehicle-to-vehicle communication could make car crashes a thing of the past. Ford recently announced it's working on a "smart seat" that will detect when a driver is having a heart attack.

How about using technology to allow millions of us to move beyond car ownership? You won't hear large automobile companies talk about it, but information technology gives society the greatest chance in decades to rethink transportation. Instead of cars equipped with medical sensors, I would like to see fewer cars and more room for bike paths.

> Read more here

U.S. Secrecy System "Literally Out of Control"

SEVERAL PIECES of news about government secrecy emerged this week that show just how far away the United States has gotten from the principle of open government. The secrecy system is beyond control of the president.

First, we got a reminder that there are still 50,000 pages of government record relating to the JFK assassination that are being kept secret, nearly a half-century after that event. That's despite the 1992 passage of the JFK Act, which specifically called for the "expeditious" release of these records.

Second, the New York Times reported on an almost comically long delay in the government response to a Freedom of Information Act request the newspaper filed in 1997. A response to the Times request was finally sent out earlier this week.

Any journalist who has attempted to use FOIA - which was designed to open up the workings of a democratic government - knows that the legal requirement of a response to a request within 20 days is entirely perfunctory.

>Read more here

January 31, 2012

Elections 2.0: Personalized Voting

A RECENT post on the Election Updates Blog introduced the concept of 'personalized voting.' The idea came to Thad Hall while attending an Accessible Voting conference.

Mr. Hall explains - "the group broke into 4 groups, discussing different aspects of the voting process - from the pre-voting registration and voter information component through voting modes (remote and in-person) and ballot design."

"Several groups independently agreed on the need for two things in the voting process. First, there should be more options for voting - early, absentee, and vote centers - because it provides individuals with special needs options for voting that can accommodate their needs. Second, and more interesting, several groups wondered why each of us do not have the ability to create a voter profile that specifies the voting experience we want to have."

So now, think about the possibilities.

After you registered to vote you could complete a survey either online, on a mobile device or on a scannable document that asked you for your voting preferences.

The survey could ask a voter to make 10 choices (or more). For instance, voters' choices would include:

1. I would like to receive a voter guide before the election - by mail or via email.
2. I would like to receive a voter guide with large print.
3. I would like to receive a ballot in a different language.
4. I would like to be a permanent vote by mail voter.
5. I would like to receive a list of early voting locations.
6. I have a Handicap Parking permit and will need that parking at my polling place.
7. I will be using the accessible voting machine at my polling place.
8. I would like an email reminder of my polling location.
9. I would like an email notification that my absentee ballot was received.
10. I would like election results sent to me for "my election contests."

The goal of personalized voting is to put all the choices a voter could make into one "app." The app would be simple to use and provide voters with a preference-enhanced experience that would simplify the "nuts and bolts" of elections and all of the choices voters have a right to make.

January 30, 2012

Mobile Fundraising Might be the Transformational Technology of the 2012 Presidential Campaign

IN THE 2012 presidential campaign cycle, mobile payments could be the transformational technology.

On Monday, President Obama's re-election campaign announced that it would immediately begin using Square, a mobile payments start-up, with campaign staffers and some approved volunteers. The New York Times reports that, "Squares are being sent to our campaign offices across the country," said Katie Hogan, a spokeswoman for the Obama re-election.

An F.E.C. spokeswomen said the Square application would need to collect the name, address, city, state and ZIP code, and occupation and employer of the donor on a smartphone. All of this information, along with the date of the contribution, would be collected from a Square-enabled smartphone application.

Mitt Romney's campaign plans to announce a similar Republican-themed Square application on Tuesday that will allow campaign officials to collect donations on a smartphone.

>Read more here

Government Leaders Should Take a Lesson From the President's Playbook




PRESIDENT BARACK Obama held a Google+ Hangout this afternoon and I was tuned in from the very beginning.

Steve Grove, head of community partnerships at g+, moderated the event and took live and sometimes tough questions from citizens (two men, two women and one classroom of young students) and a few people who taped their questions beforehand.

The president answered questions about the economy, jobs, small business and the use of drones - and there were a few difficult moments especially when one woman, whose engineer husband had been out of work for some time, pressed him on work visas. (The president promised to follow up with her). He also addressed SOPA and veteran homelessness.

The event was a social media first and seemed to benefit all concerned - Google, the president's re-election efforts and the American people.

Overall, I thought the forum showed a more human side of the president and he proved to be engaging and charming. He showed a sense of humor and he clearly connected with the folks asking the questions.

Perhaps as important as anything, however, was the Google+ event painted a picture of how the confluence of  government, technology and 'we the people' might look in the future. It clearly demonstrated how the Internet can be used to directly connect people and public officials.

Government leaders at all levels might take a lesson from the president's playbook.

The Rise of the Toilet Texter

WE KNOW where some of you are reading this.

A recently released survey of the mobile phone habits of American s, going where few other surveys care to go, has found that 75 percent of the populace have used their mobile devices while on the toilet. Among those aged 28 to 35, the figure is 91 percent.

The survey of 1,000 people by the marketing agency 11 mark found that private contemplation has given way to toilet-time talking, texting, shopping, using apps, or just surfing the Web, by both sexes and most ages. Among those 65 and older, however, only 47 percent have used their mobile devices on the toilet.

>Read more and learn about conference calls from the toilet here

January 29, 2012

Twitter is a Critical Campaign Tool

WHEN NEWT Gingrich said in a recent debate that he was a man of "grandiose" ideas, Mitt Romney's campaign pounced. It sent mocking Twitter messages with a hashtag, "#grandiosenewt," encouraging voters to add their own examples of occasions when they felt Mr. Gingrich had been "grandiose."

Within minutes, the hashtag was trending on Twitter. Reporters picked up on it, sending out their own Twitter posts and writing their own articles. The result: for at least one news cycle, the Romney campaign had stamped a virtual "grandiose" on Mr. Gingrich's forehead.

>Read more here

Nevada Caucus Results to be Shared on Twitter

THE NEVADA Republican Party announced that it will release its official caucus results live on Twitter and will also use Google maps to display the live results visually on its website.

While it's the second time election results were reported via Google maps - Iowa did it in January - it's the first time a live Twitter stream has been dedicated to reporting official results.

"The Nevada Republican Party wanted to be very innovative, very cutting edge, and utilize these platforms as a way to get these results out in the fastest most effective way we think that has been done to date," said Jim Anderson of Cap Public Affairs, the consulting firm hired by the party to help conduct the caucuses. "We think we've to a tool for this caucus that could be a model tool moving forward for primaries and caucus for states all around the country."

Before the results are released, Twitter will authenticate the party's handle = @nvgop - to ensure the information is secure and accurate. That handle, which had only 609 followers as of noon Friday, will be used to report aggregate results. A second Twitter handle will be established to report precinct-by-precinct results as they come in. The name of that handle hasn't been released.

>Read more here

January 28, 2012

State of the Union Goes Social

THE PRESIDENT'S election-year State of the Union messaging strategy this week has included increased use of social media channels in an attempt to reach audiences in a different way and extend the conversation beyond a single day news cycle.

>Read about the 8 specific tactics used here

Shi*t Entrepreneurs Say



WE LIKED the 'Shit Silicon Valley Says' so much and this morning we came upon a new 'Sh*t' people say series. This one is 'Sh*t Entrepreneurs Say."

On Town Halls and Social Media


THE SOCIAL media town hall has become a staple of the Obama Administration with events conducted via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube in the past three years and a Google+ hangout scheduled for Monday, January 30.

Federal agency heads have followed suit, often taking Twitter questions during live streamed events. This month State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland is answering questions every Friday from the department's 10 major Twitter feeds.

Taking debate questions from Twitter and YouTube, a novelty during the 2008 campaign season, has become standard fare during the 2012 contest's numerous Republican debates.

Political pundits' verdict on these social media town halls has been generally positive and even dubious observers can't seem to find a political downside.

Whether these social media experiments bring something new to the table - and what metric they should be measured by - has sparked more spirited debate on Twitter and elsewhere. Having followed that debate along with the events themselves for about nine months now, I have a few humble thoughts.

>Read more here

January 27, 2012

'Shit' Silicon Valley Says



LIVING IN the Silicon Valley, this YouTube video caught my attention. The production comes from husband and wife team Tom Conrad and Kate Imbach.

Is Your Boss a Psychopath?

PSYCHOLOGISTS ROBERT Hare and Paul Babiak have developed a test for psychopaths in the workplace, fashioned from the clinical test for psychopathy Hare developed which has become the industry standard in the mental health world.

Broadly speaking, psychologists test for the presence of these traits in would-be psychopaths:

1. Superficial and grandiose notions of themselves

2. Pathological lying and conning

3. Impulsive behavior showing a need for stimulation without regard to consequence

4. Shallow emotions with little sign of sympathy, remorse or guilt

5. Poor behavioral controls, often marked with childhood problems and histories of juvenile delinquency.

>Quiz: Is your boss a psychopath? Take the exam here

January 26, 2012

Twitter May Censor Certain Tweets in Certain Countries

TWITTER WILL censor tweets in certain countries while still pushing them throughout the rest of the world, according to ReadWriteWeb.

"As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression. Some differ so much from our ideas that we will not be able to exists there," the company said. "Others are similar but, for historical or cultural reasons, restrict certain types of content, such as France or Germany, which ban pro-Nazi content."

>Read more here

Google Supports a New and Open World for Learning

GOOGLE HAS launched an online warehouse for education resources called Google in Education, designed for teachers, administrators and advocates.

The website has three main portals: for teachers, for organizations and for students. A click into the teachers section reveals links to Google apps for education, a lesson plan search, classroom videos, professional development webinars and tutorials, and online communities for teachers to share their ideas.

The organization tab includes links to repositories for both non-profit and community organizations and school districts and higher education institutions. The student section offers an opportunity to join competitions, participate in online programs and apply for Google-sponsored awards.

In an introductory blog post, Jordan Lloyd Bookley, head of global K-12 education outreach at Google, said the website was developed with input from teachers and students. "...We hope these resources will inspire and enable teachers, while affirming our commitment to increasing access to an excellent education for all."

Russia Puts Webcams in Polling Places

IN A BID to prevent vote fraud, the Russian government has begun installing web cameras at polling stations, nationwide.

In a report, The Moscow Times says, the "...unprecedented and ambitious effort was ordered by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in the wake of mass protests over alleged ballot-box stuffing and other "irregularities" in last month's elections for the lower house of parliament, which Putin's ruling United Russia party.

The program to place cameras at 93,000 polling stations will cost about $478 million. Cameras won't be set up in about 1,000 stations in prisons, hospitals, military units and in "far flung areas of the Novgorod region serving about 1,900 residents, officials said.

On February 1, a site is to be launched to allow anyone to watch voting at any poll place.

>Read more here