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

Salesforce Chatter Might Slow Down the Avalanche of Government Email

I HAD the honor of serving as an elected official in the heart of Silicon Valley. As a Registrar of Voters and Assessor, my office received lots of email from constituents which in turn generated a load of internal emails. Sometimes it was crushing.

Toward the end of my term of office I began to ask questions like, 'how could we significantly reduce the number of emails we generated and at the same time, 'how could we build organizational knowledge and a greater understanding of our mission and purpose.'

I never got to a solution.

But in my next job, as CEO of a community media organization, I discovered Salesforce Chatter and we began using it.

It has reduced the email traffic and done exactly what I attempted to do in my previous job.

Chatter has a pretty interesting story.

It has become, according to ReadWriteWeb, "...a social network for business, and we're just now waking up to that fact."

Dave King, Saleforce's director of product marketing for Chatter says, "It really changes the paradigm of how you consume information." He's referring to a function in the current Chatter application where resources, schedule items, projects and opportunities or groups that collect any of these things together with people, may be followed like a feed in Twitter or a member of Google+.

Each Chatter user's feed is updated with updates, some of which are submitted, others generated, others triggered by events.

Chatter might be a good tool for your public organization.

It would allow members of your organization to connect with experts, collaborate with remote employees, share large files easily, manage team projects, ensure that all members get the same version of important information, the reactions of their colleagues and create a shared repository of the work history on a project.  It can be used to brainstorm ideas and you can control the breadth of the audience that you wish to include. It's an easy way to work in a more collaborative and distributed fashion.

And the email box overload?  Gone.

And...speaking of using Chatter in the public sector, we wonder aloud if the company plans to enter the governmental space in a big way anytime soon? They did hire Vivek Kundra, the former CIO of the federal government, as an Executive Vice President of Emerging Markets, "...a role in which he will be a highly visible face to the market, particularly for major public-sector projects," according to an article in Information Week.

>Read more here

>Learn a bit about Chatter down below.

January 25, 2012

Kaiser Members Get Access to Their Medical Information on Smartphones

KAISER PERMANENTE already has the largest electronic medical record system in the world. On Wednesday, the health care organization announced that 9 million Kaiser Permanent patients now can easily access their own medical information anywhere in the world on mobile devices through a mobile-optimzed website.

The health care organization has released a new app for Android devices, and users of other mobile devices, including the iPhone, can also get full access to that information from the KP health record system with the mobile-optimzed version of kp.org. An additional app for iPhone will be released in coming months.

>Read more here

US Now: A Film That Brings Together Noted Thinkers in Participative Governance to Describe the Future of Government

US NOW tells the stories of online networks that are challenging the existing notion of hierarchy. For the first time, it brings together the fore-most thinkers in the field of participative governance to describe the future of government.

The film follows the fate of Ebbsfleet United, a football club owned and run buy its fans; Zopa, a bank in which everyone is the manager; and Couch Surfing, a vast online network whose members share their homes with strangers.

US Now takes a look at how this type of participation could transform the way that countries are governed. It tells the stories of the online networks whose radical self-organizing structures threaten to change the fabric of government forever.

Us Now from Banyak Films on Vimeo.

Web Tool for Creating Easy to Understand Budgets

BUDGET VISION is similar to Wikipedia, but built specifically for city and town budgets. It's an easy way to create, view, edit and collaborate with others to learn more about how a city or town generates revenue and spends money.

Budget Vision charges a monthly fee which ranges from $29 for a small hamlet with less than 1,000 people to $1,000 a month for a metropolis of over 500,000 people.

The app is web based and lists several reasons why cities might want to use it that include: it's printable, allows for comparisons, contains interactive charts, allows comments, is capable of imports and exports, has trends charting capability and provides for goal setting.

Take a look at Hancok, Maine's budget.

Seems like the Budget Vision app might be a good way to simplify important financial data for the public and at a pretty reasonable price it may be just the ticket.

Public Invited to Design a New Voting System

LOS ANGELES County has an aging voting system and the public is invited to participate in designing a new one. Asking the question, "How might we design an accessible election experience for everyone," the county introduced its challenge.

The challenge is being conducted in partnership with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation Accessible Voting Technology Initiative and is funded by a grant from the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission. The challenge runs from January 24 through March 22.

The initiative aligns with the County's broader effort to modernize the current voting system through a collaborative, participatory and transparent process. The underlying goal of the initiative is to design, acquire and implement a new voting system that meets the needs of current and future Los Angeles County voters.

This will prove to be an interesting crowdsourced project. The difficult part will come at the end when  it's time to design and build a voting system. There are many hurdles to overcome but we do wish LA County every success - God knows we need better voting systems.

Some of the difficult issues presented by the development of a new voting system include:

1) Must meet the needs of election professionals

2) Must be secure, accurate and dependable (and withstand the close scrutiny of computer scientists)

3) Can get certified through the California Secretary of State's mandatory certification process

4) Is easy enough for poll workers to set up and operate

5) Any new voting system must allow all voters to vote privately and quickly

6) It's a costly proposition to build, manufacture and sell voting systems

>Participate in this challenge by going here

A Summary of the White House State of the Union TweetUp

MAX MOLL had the privilege to participate in the White House State of the Union TweetUp last night. He shares his experiences as a private citizen and student from American University in a post on GovLoop.

>Read Max's summary here

How Twitter Helped the White House

IF YOU were trying to strike up a conversation on Twitter about the merits of extending the payroll tax cut, what hashtag would you use?

The White House New Media team considered several options last month as the debate intensified, including #notaGame, #100dollarsbuys, #40dollarsbuys, #40addsup and #40dollarsmeans.

Eventually, they settled on #40 dollars.

Speaking Monday at the What's Next D.C. conference in Washington, Kori Schulman, White House deputy director for digital strategy, said her team chose #40dollars based on a prominent White House talking point: That eliminating the tax cut would have cost a family earning $50,000 a year about $40 a paycheck.

At about 4:15 PM on Monday, December 19, as Obama made a final push for the tax cut, Schulman's team began asking the 2.6 million @WhiteHouse followers "What Does $40 Mean to You?"

By 5:00 PM, #40dollars was trending worldwide and the hashtag was generating about 6,000 tweets per hour. At the height of the push, WhiteHouse.gov received about 5,000 responses per hour to the question.

Eventually, one participant, Amber Morris was invited to sit with the first lady during the State of the Union address. And of course, the $40 dollar issue was talked about during the president's SOTU speech.

>Read more here

President Obama Hosting a Hangout on Google+

WE'RE SUDDENLY very close to science fiction becoming reality television, live streamed to large and small screens around the world. On Monday, January 30th, 2012, the fireside chats that FDR hosted on citizens' radios in the 20th century will have a digital analogue in the new millennium: President Barack Obama will host a Google+ Hangout from the West Wing, only a few weeks after the White House joined Google+.

If you have a question for the president, you can ask it by submitting a video to the White House;s video channel, where you can also vote upon other questions. The president will be answering 'several of the most popular questions that have been submitted through YouTube, and some of the people who submitted questions will even be invited to join the president in the Hangout and take part in the live conversation.

>Read more here

January 24, 2012

Democracy Live Brings Ballot Box to G.I.s Overseas

DEMOCRACY LIVE is playing an important role in the presidential primaries in Florida, Virginia and California by making it easier for American military personnel stationed overseas and other citizens living abroad to vote in U.S. elections.

Since voting began, more than 1,200 Florida voters in 40 countries have accessed ballots using LiveBallot, a technology developed by Democracy Live and hosted on Microsoft's Windows Azure platform.

>Read more here

Cruise Ship Accident, Election Top Public's Interest

THE PEW Research Center for the People & the Press just released data that says that the protest by popular websites against proposed online piracy legislation (SOPA/PIPA) was a top story for young people. Nearly a quarter (23%) of those younger than 30 say they followed news about the online piracy fight most closely. Among the public as a whole, just 7% say they followed news about web protests.

News about the election and the battle for the Republican nomination received much more media attention than any other story. Election news accounted for 41% of coverage.

>Read more here

Enhanced Broadcast of the State of the Union

IF YOU choose to watch the online-only enhanced version of President Obama's third State of the Union Address, you'll be able to see charts, stats and data that helped inform the President's policy decisions as he delivers his speech to the nation.

Right after the speech a panel of senior advisors will answer your questions. Questions can be asked on Twitter using the has tag #WHchat and on the White House Facebook page.

The event starts at 9 PM EST on Tuesday, January 24, 2012.

>Go to the White House site

January 22, 2012

Sundance Film Festival Streams 9 Short Films for Online Audience Award Voting

AFTER YOU watch the San Francisco 49ers beat the New York Giants today, you can continue the 'living room party' by watching nine shorts from the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. After you watch them all, you can vote for your favorite and your effort actually counts for something - the film that receives the most votes over the days days of the festival wins $5,000.

The nine shorts represent that amazing range of styles and topics on display in this year's programs.

On the lighter side, the evocatively titled "92 Skybox Alonzo Mourning Rookie Card" is a hilarious exploration of sibling rivalry between two brothers. "Una Hora Por Favora" stars former Saturday Night Live cast member Michaela Watkins as a single woman who finds love with a day laborer. And "The Arm" is a charming look at a text-based relationship.

Say you like documentaries?

"Acquadettes," explores the life of a synchronized swimming senior citizen and "The Debutante Hunters introduces us to a group of proper Southern ladies who wear pearls when they go shooting. And then there's "Odysseus Gambit," about a charming chess hustler with a shocking personal history.

There are stunning dramas including "Dol," "Henely," and "Long Distance Information" which is about a dad (Peter Mullan) who has a tense phone conversation with his son.

In addition to the finger food, there's lots more to enjoy at your 'living room' 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

Down below is a trailer for "Long Distance Information" to get your started.

Check out the nine shorts here.

January 21, 2012

The White House Wants to Hear From You!

DAYS AHEAD of President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, the White House on Friday unveiled a new web video and blog post mapping out all the ways people can use social media to engage directly with White House officials during the president's January 24th speech and in the days to follow.

You can ask questions about your future, your ideas about the economy, how the president's ideas impact your community. As a White House spokesperson said, "you're not just watching the speech, you're engaged afterwards and able to really talk with us."

The Week the Web Changed Washington

YESTERDAY, SENATOR Harry Reid (D-NV), the Senate Majority Leader, said in a statement that he would postpone next week's vote on the Protect IP Act (PIPA). Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) followed with a statement that he would also halt consideration of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Collectively, millions of people rose up and told Washington that these bills shall not pass.

This outcome was driven by an unprecedented day of online protests on Wednesday of this week, and the resulting coverage on cable and broadcast news networks had an effect.

Consider the following statistics:

  • 162 million Wikipedia page views, with some 8 million visitors using an online form to look up the address of their Congressional representatives
  • 7 million signatures on Google's petition
  • 200,000+ signatures on the Progressive Change Campaign Committee petition
  • 30,000+ Craigslist users called Congress through the PCCC's website
  • 250,000+ people took action through the EFF's resources
  • 2.4 million+ SOPA-related tweets were sent between 12 a.m. and 4 p.m. on January 18
  • 140,000 phone calls made through Tumblr's platform
  • Nearly 1,000 protesters outside New York's U.S. Senators' office in New York City

The key metric to consider for impact of this action, however, was not measured in digital terms bu by civic outcomes: 40 new opponents in Congress.

>Read more here

>Also consider reading the New York Times' article, "After an Online Firestorm, Congress Shelves Antipiracy Bills

January 20, 2012

How Social Media Will Convert Followers into Voters in Election 2012

IN 1960, Americans turned on their TV sets to watch a presidential debate for the first time. They saw Richard Nixon, awkward and sweaty, gripping his podium, his grey attire blending into the grey background. To his right was John F. Kennedy, Jr., calm, tanned, deliberate, standing out in his dark suit. There wasn't much question about who won the first televised debate that night. In an election in which nearly every vote counted, media power shifted public opinion.

Fast forward to 2012. New media have entered the picture and candidates' online social presence is just as, if not more, likely to affect voting. Sixty percent of social media users responding to a survey in October 2011 said they expect candidates to have a social media presence; for almost 40 percent, information found on social media will help determine their voting choices as much as traditional media sources like TV or newspapers. For anyone doubting that a social message is fleeting, 94 percent of social media users of voting age watched a political message in its entirety on a social media site and 39 percent then went on to share it with an average of 130 other users, according to a May 2011 study by Social Vibe.

>Read more here

iPads and Kindles Explode E-Book Lending at Libraries

WHEN THE the concept of libraries lending out e-books first came about, the idea had its skeptics. Some in the publishing industry worried that the practice could eat into e-book sales, while others questioned whether such a system would be popular or effective among consumers. Some recent statistics suggest that library e-book lending is taking off.

Driven in large part by the proliferation of tablets and e-readers, digital book lending is on the rise, according to OverDrive, a leading supplier of digital content to U.S. libraries. The company, which partnered with Amazon for its Kindle lending program, reported recently that it saw a 130% increase in traffic to its "virtual branch" websites last year. OverDrive works with 18,000 libraries to offer e-books and other digital content to members.

>Read more here

What Does a Chief Innovation Officer Do?

SAN FRANCISCO and Maryland are two jurisdictions that have 'Chief Information Officers.' Did you ever wonder exactly what the people with those job titles do?

Maryland's first CIO explains his job and his goals here.

Live at Noon EST: SOPA & PIPA: Lessons Learned and What's Next?

TUNE IN here 12-1:45pm EST today for the livestream (below) of TechFreedom's joint Capitol Hill briefing, "Unintended Consequences of Rogue Website Crackdown," co-sponsored by the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute. The expert panel will discuss the recent outpouring of public opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), what's next for these troublesome bills, possible compromises, and the proposed alternative, Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade (OPEN) Act. Our panelists are:
Follow the discussion on the #SOPAnel hashtag or submit a question for the panel to @Tech_Freedom!

January 19, 2012

Revolution 2.0

A YEAR ago - on January 25, 2011, a revolution broke out in Egypt. The world watched as tens of thousands of protesters gathering in Tahrir Square demanding political and economic reforms and ultimately toppling longtime Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak.

In Wael Ghonim's new book, Revolution 2.0, he maintains that the January 25 movement in Egypt was a leaderless revolution. He details his experiences leading up to and during the Egyptian Revolution, and lays out the way revolutions might look in the future.

>Read a Fast Company interview with Mr. Ghonim

12-Week Social Media in Government Training Course

STARTING FEBRUARY 7, the General Services Administration will be piloting a 12-week course centering on social media in government. The course "aims to help new and aspiring social media practitioners understand the strategy and tools that will help them succeed in their roles. E

Each of the 12-week sessions will be 90 minutes in duration and divided into three parts: 1) a class discussion of an assigned reading; 2) a presentation by a guest lecturer; and 3) hands-on training on some type of social media tool or practice.

The course runs until April 24.

>Check out the full syllabus here

Now Government Can Create and Publish Multi-Touch Manuals, Regulations and Policies for the iPad

THERE'S NO doubt that the manuals published by government agencies use lots of paper. Three ring binders jam packed with manuals, procedures, regulations and policies adorn the book shelves of many offices. Using Apple's free new iBooks Author application, however, government agencies can take a big step toward being more green by publishing their paper manuals electronically in a cheap, interactive and easy to use way.

At an event at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City this morning, Apple executives introduced two new applications that the company hopes will revolutionize the way textbooks are created and consumed: iBook Author, a brand new application for the Mac intended for textbook writers and publishers to create iPad-optimized textbooks, and iBooks 2, an update to the iBooks app with several new note-taking and study features.

The magic of publishing comes from a new OSX application called iBooks Author, which gives users a simple way to integrate different types of media in order to create iBooks of any stripe. What's more, iBooks Author is available right now for free.

The process of creating an iBook is pretty easy. Creators can type their text directly into iBook Author. But some folks may prefer doing their writing in Microsoft Word, for example. No problem. iBook Author works with Word, and automatically picks out and creates sections and headers from the text itself when the document is dragged into a new iBook chapter. Adding images is just as straightforward, users drag them onto a page and the text reformats itself around the added content.

The real cool thing, however, is the ability to add interactive elements to an iBook. Presentations created in Keynote can be dragged directly into iBook Author for inclusion as an interactive widget. Also, and this will be handily for those especially thick books of regulations, included are a nifty glossary creation tool and the ability to publish the iBook directly into the store.

>Read more here

January 18, 2012

U.S. House Launches Website, iPad App

MORE THAN eight months after proposing a new website that aimed to make House of Representatives legislation and documents more readily available, the House Administration Committee launch a new website and iPad app to help do just that.

The website, docs.house.gov will provide legislative documents in the machine-readable XML format, while the new iPad app, The Congressional Record, will provide improved access to the official Congressional Record.

>Read more here

And speaking of Federal websites, the IRS is reportedly spending $320 million over 10 years to improve its website content, design and usability, according to a GAO report.

Better Activism Day Livestream

TODAY, JANUARY 18TH many sites are dark in protest over SOPA/PIPA. The blackout is important - it raises awareness and helps people get motivated to act on the bills.

To learn more about online activism and how Congress works, join 'Better Activism Day' where you'll learn through a livestream of experts who will talk about how to improve your power in Washington from people who've been successful at making change.

The tentative agenda:

Introduction by Clay Johnson
Understanding 'Theory of Change' with Lola Elfman
How a Bill Becomes a Law with Ernest Falcon
The Outside Game: Media and Persuasion Tactics with Kari Frisch
How to Watch What Congress Does with Jeremy Carbaugh
I Am a Lobbyist, Ask Me Anything with Andrew Shore
I Used to Answer Phones at a Congress Office
Delivering Effective Messages to Congress with Marci Harris

> Learn more here or just watch the live cast down below.

January 17, 2012

Going Google-Free: The Best Alternatives

IF YOU'RE thinking about ditching Google for alternative services, Lifehacker has a good rundown on the choices.

A quick summary of the best alternatives to Google services are down below.

  • Search alternative - DuckDuckGo
  • Gmail alternative - Hotmail
  • Google Calendar alternative - Zoho Calendar
  • Google Maps alternative - Bing Maps
  • Google Reader alternative - NetVibes
  • Picasa Web alternative - Flickr
  • Google Docs alternative - Zoho Docs
  • Google Voice alternative - Phonebooth

Wikipedia to Go Dark on Wednesday to Protest Bills on Web Piracy

THE WAVE of online protests against two Congressional bills that aim to curtail copyright violations on the Internet is gathering momentum.

Wikipedia is the latest Web site to decide to shut on Wednesday in protest against the 'Stop Online Piracy Act' and the 'Protect IP Act.' The bills have attracted fierce opposition from many corners of the technology industry. Opponents say several of the provisions in the legislation, including those that may force search engines and Internet service providers to block access to Web sites that offer or link to copyrighted material, would stifle innovation, enable censorship and tamper with the livelihood of businesses on the Internet.

>Read more about Wikipedia's closure in the NY Times here

Will Gov Agencies Pay for Social Media Advice?

THE RISE of social media has forced government agencies to revamp their online offerings in order to keep pace with perceived public expectations. Some departments have made a smoother transition than others to e-government strategies that often center on Facebook and Twitter.

There are many issues to sort out - such as usage policies for social media, Web design and back-end system integration. There's sentiment that many governments may no have enough expertise to make these decisions themselves, especially with an aging workforce that was hired long before "Retweet" was a word.

At least a few companies believe this perceived knowledge gap is bringing forth a business opportunity: social media consulting that caters to government clients.

>Read more about social media consulting in government here

January 16, 2012

GAO Report on Weekend Elections is Flawed

AS A former Registrar of Voters in California, I've always thought that we should try weekend voting as a way to potentially increase voter participation. Other countries do it and the process seems to work well. And a few of those places have some of the highest turnout on the planet, as the United States continues to experience low participation rates.

The Government Accounting Office (GAO) recently released a report on weekend voting for federal elections. Below is a part of their abstract.

'Many U.S. citizens who are eligible to vote in federal elections do not do so. fr instance, in the 2008 general election, about 62 percent of eligible citizens voted. To increase voter turnout by enhancing convenience, some states have implemented alternative voting methods, such as in-person early voting - casting a ballot in person prior to Election Day without providing a reason - and no-excuse absentee voting - casting an absentee ballot, usually by mail, without providing a reason. In general, since 1845, federal law has required that federal elections be held on Tuesday.

The committees on appropriations directed GAO to study and report on costs and benefits of implementing H.R. 254 - the Weekend Voting Act - including issues associated with conducting a weekend election. Specially, this report addresses: alternatives to voting on Tuesday that states provided for the November 2010 general election, (2) how election officials anticipate election administration and costs would be affected if the day for federal elections were moved to a weekend, and (3) what research and available data suggest about the potential effect of a weekend election on voter turnout.'

Unfortunately, the report is based on Saturday and Sunday voting - voting over a two day span. That starting point flaws the analysis of the report. The GAO, in my opinion, should have focused on one day weekend voting - either Saturday or Sunday.

Understandably, election officials were negative on the idea of two day weekend voting saying that it would increase costs and complexity. 

But what if weekend elections were held on one weekend day - either Saturday or Sunday? I suspect that many of those issues would disappear and turnout would increase.

>Read the GAO report here - also, check out Why Tuesday, a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization founded in 2005 to find solutions to increase voter turnout and participation in elections.

Note: Down below is what Presidential candidate Rick Santorum had to say about Tuesday elections.

7 Ways Citizens Can Use Social Media to Improve Government

USE OF social media is becoming a more common and important aspect of people's lives, and the political sphere is no exception. More than ever, social media is proving to be a useful platform for helping citizens to engage with their elected officials and government agencies.

OhMyGov has 7 ways that citizens can use social media to improve how government works for them.

1. Call for transparency
2. Pushing grassroots ideas to the top
3. All politics is local
4. Saving time and money
5. Drawing attention to unequal or unacceptable city services
6. Crises management/Disaster relief
7. Grassroots organizing

>Read the article here

January 15, 2012

Wiki on How Governments, Campaigns and Elected Officials Are Using Social Media

JOSH SHPAYHER is an attorney and founder of GovSM.com, a website that tracks how government uses social media. He says, "...my website which aims to help Congress, elected officials and their staffs from the Hill and around the country and the world, the media, and the public at large track who in government uses which forms of Social Media. Keep checking back as I will be constantly adding new offices of federal, state and local government, campaigns, and government agencies."

The video down below is an excerpt of Mr. Shpayher speech on the Wiki and Social Media at a 2011 event.

>Check out GovSM

Poster From the CES

Canada to Reform Law Banning Election-Day Tweets

IN OTTAWA the Conservative government says it will allow federal election results to be released as they are available instead of making Canadians across the country wait for the last polls to close on the West Coast.

Tim Uppal, the Minister of State for Democratic Reform, announced Friday via Twitter that the government will stop penalizing people who report results from the east before the final votes are cast in British Columbia.

As Canadian newspapers reported, the law had initially been enacted to prevent overs in the west from being influenced by reports of election results from the east.

Mr. Uppal said, "The ban, [enacted] in 1938, does not make sense with widespread use of social media and modern communications technology. Canadians should have freedom to communicate about election results without rear of heavy penalty."

January 14, 2012

California Police Agencies Lead the Way with High-Tech on Patrol

INTERNET ACCESS, real-time communications and other tech are delivering faster and better information to cops in California.

Despite the economic and bureaucratic challenges of today's local and state government, California's police agencies - the largest of their kind in the nation - are finding cost-effective solutions to bring the Web and the latest communications gadgets into patrol vehicles.

In November, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department announced that it's replacing mid-1980s-era mobile digital technology with a mobile data computer system that has been battle-tested by soldiers in Iraq. The new state-of-the-art computer systems are being installed in more than 2,400 vehicles and allow deputies to access the following:

  • Sheriff's Data Network and criminal databases, including FBI records
  • Email
  • California DMV photos
  • GPS routing to emergency calls
  • Biometric data, such as fingerprints
Then there's the California Highway Patrol, which is responsible for 15,181 miles of highway in the Golden State.

Recognizing the need for effective interoperable communications during an emergency, CHP has taken nine Chevy Tahoes and transformed them into sophisticated SUXs called Incident Command Vehicles that operate as public safety command centers on wheels. Each vehicle is a buzzing trove of high-tech connectivity with the latest communications equipment, including satellite, cellular, VoIP and Internet access. At the center of this mobile command and control unit is the ACU-1000, which can cross-connect different radio networks, connect those networks to phone or satellite systems and function as a network connection on its own.

>Read More here

New Federal Website to Create Jobs?

THE OBAMA administration is building a new online presence to empower job creators with the information - and financing - they need to reverse the nation's unemployment figures.

The site will be aimed at simplifying the ocean of economic-related information floating throughout the dot-gov domain, administration officials said Friday. With unemployment at 8.5 percent this election year, officials announced a government reorganization that would consolidate federal agencies that support business and trade.

The new site will lasso resources from imports and exports agencies, the Commerce Department's business divisions, and the Small Business Administration.

>Read more here

Can We Rely on Social Media in An Emergency?

CAN WE rely on social media in an emergency?

The knee-jerk reaction to yesterday's news that the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok had used Twitter to quickly spread information about a terrorist threat appear to have been blown out of proportion.

While there is no denying that Facebook, Twitter and other social networks help spread critical information when emergencies strike, they can still be problematic and ineffective when compared to other forms of communications. Even the Bangkok terror alert was met with initial skepticism, and while the embassy has close to 40,000 Twitter followers, many of those were not in the area of the threat.

>Read more of Dave Copelan's article on ReadWriteWeb here

Is YouTube Starting to Morph Into 'YouTV?'

FOR THE past sixty years, TV executives have been making decisions about what we watch in our living rooms. YouTube and especially Robert Kynel, a highly placed senior official at the company, want to change all that. Therefore YouTube, the home of grainy cell-phone videos and skateboarding dogs, is going pro.

Kyncl has recruited producers, publishers, programmers, and performers from traditional media to create more than a hundred channels, most of which will debut in the next six months - a sort of YouTV. Streaming video, delivered over the Internet, is about to engage traditional TV in a skirmish in the looming war for screen time.

>Read John Seabrook's article in The New Yorker here

January 13, 2012

House Launches Transparency Portal

MAKING GOOD on part of the House of Representative's commitment to increase congressional transparency, the House Clerk's office launched a one stop website where the public can access all House bills, amendments, resolutions for floor consideration and conference reports in XML, as well as information on floor proceedings and more. Information will ultimately be published online in real time and archived for perpetuity.

The project has been driven by House Republican leaders as part of an push for transparency.

>Visit the House of Representative's site here

January 12, 2012

1st County in America Deploys Super Wi-Fi Network

WHAT'S BEEN marked as a first-in-the-nation launch, New Hanover County, North Carolina, will begin a phased deployment later this month of a "super Wi-Fi" network in the TV white space spectrum.

"We will be using this new technology to extend our networks outdoors into our parks and gardens to provide enhanced services to our citizens," said county Board of Commissioners Vice Chairman Jason Thompson."

White space spectrums are created from the area of spectrum that's left over between TV channels. When TV stations switch from an analog spectrum to digital, leftover spectrum remains, freeing up accessible space.

In 2010, the FCC freed up a block of the unlicensed white space spectrum and since then has implemented new rules for its use.

New Hanover County is deploying the super Wi-Fi in three public parks, starting with a playground area.

Currently New Hanover County is the only area in the U.S. that has been certified by the FCC to use the white space spectrum.

>Read More here

January 11, 2012

Presidential Primary Elections and Voter ID

IN THE last four years, half-dozen states have added laws that require voters to present a government-issued photo ID in order to cast a ballot in an election. Opponents say it disenfranchises poor and minority voters, while proponents say it's needed to stem voter fraud.

In 30 states across the county, when voters hit the polls this year, they'll be required to present identification.

Already there have been examples of perfectly legal voters who have been turned away because they were unable to get the ID needed to vote.

States that request or require a photo ID: Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, South Dakota and Wisconsin

States that require ID - photo not required: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia and Washington

>Are voter identification requirements aimed to reduce turnout? Read more here

Readers' Comments - Share Your Thoughts:

January 10, 2012

Do Hackathons and Civic Hacking Matter?

THERE ARE lots of smart people asking tough questions about civic hacking and hackathons as the new year begins - a new year that promises to see lots of action on the civic hacking front.

A lot happened in the world of civic hacking, open data and hackathons in 2011. But does all of this activity matter? Are the events and activities we are seeing in the civic hacking space making a lasting difference? Is the civic hackathon a construct that we will see used in the long run to promote new ideas and lasting civic change?

> Read more here

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SeeClickFix: A Municipal Problem Reporting Tool - How Effective Is It?

SEECLICKFIX IS a web app that allows city residents to report neighborhood issues and "see them get fixed." The site also ranks municipalities by civic activity and responsiveness.

As of today's post, the top five cities for responsiveness were: Warringah, New South Wales, Darwin, NT, Richmond, VA, Raleigh, NC and Nightcliff, Northern Territory.

How would you use SeeClickFix?

It's pretty simple. Let's say you are driving down a city street and your car suddenly hits a huge pothole. The car bounces from the shock and you have a few choice words for the local public works department. Then you pull your car over to the side of the road and grab your smartphone. A few key strokes and the pothole problem and location gets posted on SeeClickFix.

After that, theoretically, a city official responds to the post and a repair team is sent to the pothole location and the road gets fixed. The city reports the pothole problem as "closed."

That explanation is somewhat simplified but you get the idea. Here's a demo video of how it works.

So, I was curious.

In my county there are 20 cities. Since the site allows you to search by areas, I did a search on each of the cities in San Mateo County. The table below contains the results.

But in fairness to the cities, just because there is an open issue listed on SeeClickFix, doesn't mean it's a real issue - I saw several entries that were "suspect." Also, the city may have already fixed the issue and not have reported it through the website. In short, the data might be flawed.

City                       Incident Report #                        Issues Not fixed                Oldest Report

Atherton                      4                                                     4                                    1 year
Belmont                       0                                  
Brisbane                       0
Burlingame                   0
Colma                          0
Daly City                      2                                                     2                                    3 years
East Palo Alto               0
Foster City                   2                                                      2                                    3 years
Half Moon Bay              1                                                      1                                    9 months
Hillsborough                 1                                                      1                                    4 days
Menlo Park                   4                                                      4                                    3 years
Millbrae                       0
Pacfiica                        1                                                      1                                    1 year
Portola Valley               0  
Redwood City               5                                                      5                                    3 years
San Bruno                     1                                                      1                                    1 month
San Carlos                     2                                                      2                                   1 year
San Mateo                     16                                                    16                                  1 year
South San Francisco       3                                                      3                                    3 years
Woodside                      0

Readers' Comments - Share Your Thoughts

January 9, 2012

5 Inexpensive and Easy Ways Governments Can Humanize Their Online Presence

MANY GOVERNMENT websites don't "connect" with citizens. Often they are cold, bureaucratic warrens where it can be difficult to find what you are looking for and even harder to get help.

Here are some inexpensive, quick and easy ways for public sector sites - especially those of elected officials - to "connect" with constituents and help humanize online efforts.

1. Post some photos - maybe even a couple of portrait photos so people can put a "face" on the department, agency or government. Consider a Flickr account.

2. Respond quickly to citizen inquiries. Try live chat.

3. Listen to what people are saying about your organization by doing some web intelligence work. Check "Yelp."

4. Develop a voice. Have a conversation rather than a top down communication strategy. Use social media like Facebook and/or Twitter.

5. Use multiple distribution channels. Be certain to consider using video - remember, it's a "visual world."

Readers' comments - Share your thoughts:

California Deserves a 21st Century Voting System

DEBRA BOWEN, California's Secretary of State, "...campaigned as a tech-savvy innovator but has failed to significantly update or improve the state's clunky elections systems," says an editorial in the Sacramento Bee. Bowen blames the state's size and complexity and a cumbersome state government procurement process that requires her office to get clearance from both the Department of General Services and the California Office of Technology before it can take action.

"She's right about the obstacles. Nonetheless, after five years in office and tens of millions in state and federal funds expended, the public is weary of excuses. California want and deserve a modern election system, one that allows them to do at least what voters in Oregon, Washington and Arizona can do - register to vote online."

California has received around $500 million to modernize its voter registration and vote tabulation systems.

"But the fixes remain incomplete...a statewide voter registration database that would allow counties to easily and speedily clear deadwood from voting rosters, and to update registrations when voters move, remains undone. California is the ONLY state in the union that has failed to put a final voter database in place..."

Editorial readers' comments include - "It is incomprehensible that California, the home of the IT revolution, is the only state in the union that has failed to modernize their voter registration and vote tabulation systems." And, "I would be very willing to have a 20th century system, if we can only upgrade out politicians."

>Read the editorial here

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App Development Lesson One: Start With the Needs of Citizens

HANA SCHANK, a Principal at Collective User Experience, thinks New York City has a 'digital deficiency' and she explains why in a Fast Company expert blog.

Ms Schank writes, "You are circling the block again, desperately seeking a parking space - - and then you remember there's an app for that. You whip out your phone and pull up Roadify, the high-profile winner of New York City's second BigApps contest, which is supposed to provide a real-time list of parking spaces near your location. You watch as Roadify loads and quickly discover there are no free parking spaces within a 10-mile radius of where you are currently circling the block. This shouldn't surprise you because there are usually almost no parking spaces listed in the app, rendering it fairly useless."

Another example of an app that received a fair amount of media attention but has lagged in user adoption is Sportify. "It, too, is a great idea in principle (find people near you who want to play pickup sports!), which has yet to catch on. All of this is the predictable result of the city's approach to digital development, which focuses on plenty of sizzle, not much steak."

The author claims, "these missteps tend to be true with all of New York City's digital efforts."

Whether you agree with Hana Schank's perspective or not, the learning lesson is to take into account the needs of citizens - not, 'let's make something neat.' In other words, start with the end users of the system and go from there.

>Read New York City's Digital Deficiency here

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January 8, 2012

Airline Passengers Can Choose Seat Partners Based on Social Media Profiles

AND NOW some airlines are letting passengers choose who they sit next to on their flight. KL's new "Meet and Seat" service will enable passengers to access their fellow travelers' LinkedIn and Facebook profiles.

The Meet and Seat service will allow passengers to choose their in-flight neighbors based on their occupation, mutual interests and appearance. By connecting to LinkedIn and Facebook during online check-in, passengers will be able to pick their ideal seat buddy, although both parties will have to choose to participate in the service. KLM believes it will provide an opportunity for networking, though other reports suggest it's more likely to be used as a matchmaking tool.

Malaysia Airline's has a similar service called MHBuddy but it is based only on Facebook.

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Zapaday: A Global, Public Events Calendar

I USE Zapaday because I might be addicted to information research and this webapp gives me lots of the stuff I crave.

Zapaday is a free global events calendar you can tap into to find out what's happening - from holidays to cultural events, trivia, facts and news. It scrapes 4,000+ sites for future events and also pulls important public calendars. Numerous sub-sections categorize upcoming events in a wide variety of ways and the site contains sections on countdowns to events, fairs and festivals and business exhibitions and conferences (and a great deal more).

To stay up to date, you can browse by event category and then subscribe to iCal feeds in Google Calendar, Outlook and other calendar apps.

If you need to monitor what's happening - or going to happen - around the world or for a given topic, connect with Zapaday.

> Visit Zapaday here

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A Library for Helping Limited English Speakers

IF CITIES, counties or states are strapped for the resources it takes to offer new or existing services for people who speak limited English, the Migration Policy Institutes's Language Portal holds the key to their problems. It's an online database filled with almost 3,000 documents that state and local agencies have used to helped this often had-to-reach segment of the population.

Users can narrow their search for resources by language, service, issue and state. Over a third of the documents address education - an area where language has emerged as a divisive issue and the one that governments seem to care about most.

> Visit the site here

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Social Media for Government 101

WANT TO attend a free Webinar on "Social Media for Government?"

DigitalGov Group is conducting a Webinar covering an overview of issues related to government use of social media. You will learn the building blocks for developing a successful social media program in even the smallest agency, department or unit.

Topics to be covered include policies, monitoring, helpful tips and more.

The date of the event is January 12 and it starts at 9:00 AM PT.

> Register here

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Crowdsourced Ideas Make Participating in Government Cool Again

HARNESSING THE knowledge citizens and government employees are willing to share on social media applications in the public sector is one of the most difficult things to do in the era of Government 2.0. Every day thousands of citizens are commenting on government Facebook posts and blog entries or reshare information published on Twitter. Rarely has government the opportunity to harvest innovative ideas and knowledge that is published through these channels. The main reason for many agencies to set up an organizational account is still "to be where the people are." Recently Open Innovation platforms have started to address this disconnect and are providing an easy access to participate in making government cool again.

Social media tools, such as blogs, Twitter or Facebook, are great channels to collect and encourage citizens to provide their insights on the issues and plans of government. Unfortunately, today's standard social networking services do not have the capability to automatically extract and collect new knowledge or ideas from content that citizens are submitting through existing commenting channels.

Open innovation platforms are designed to fill this gap.

>Read Ines Mergel's entire article entitled, "Crowdsourced Ideas Make Participating in Government Cool Again," that appeared in a special edition of PA Times, published by the American Society of Public Administration here

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January 7, 2012

Free Campaign Webinar

NATIONBUILDER IS offering a free Webinar for campaigns on 'voter outreach and online donations.' The event will be hosted by Gov 2.0 expert Adriel Hampton and will cover topics like:

  • Voter file options
  • Advanced searches using voter data
  • Turf cutting, walk lists and call sheets
  • Messages: bulk email setup and list targeting
  • Donation processing options
  • Questions and Answers
The campaign Webinar is scheduled for Tuesday, January 10 @ 9:30.

> Sign up here

Watch a Live Webcast of 21st Century Statecraft

THE U.S. Department of State has designated January 2012 as 21st Century Statecraft month. Twenty-first Century Statecraft complements traditional foreign policy by harnessing and adapting the digital networks and technologies of today's interconnected world.

The Secretary of State's Senior Advisor for innovation, Alec Ross, will participate in a Live at State video web chat with journalists and bloggers from around the world to discuss 21st Century Statecraft on Tuesday, January 10 at 9:45 AM EST.

You can watch a live webcast of the discussion on video.state.gov.

Other events include "Twitter Briefings" - A department spokesperson will answer questions selected from the Department's 10 official Twitter feeds.

> Get more details on the details of Statecraft Month here

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How Government Can Share and Repurpose Open Source Software

NICK GROSSMAN, Director of Civic Commons and Jeremy Canfield of Civic Commons demo the 'Civic Commons Marketplace,' a repository and apps showcase for open source civic and government development projects. The marketplace launched in December and it's a new app helping cities connect around the software they build and buy.

CfA Summit: The Civic Commons Marketplace from Code for America on Vimeo.

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