Tag Archives: civmedia

The Dawn of the Municipal Chief Innovation Officer

Emily Badger in The Atlantic recently wrote about “The Dawn of the Municipal Chief Innovation Officer”. Technically Philly had a conversation with Philadelphia’s Adel Ebeid, Philadelphia’s first Chief Innovation Officer, back in November last year:

“There’s this one side of the coin where people see just this disenchantment and negative view of government,” says Jay Nath, the Chief Innovation Officer for the city of San Francisco. “But there’s also this flip side where people actually believe that working with government, we can make a better solution and better improvements for our society.”

…There are, by our count, just two major cities in the U.S. that currently have someone sitting in this role, and they’ve both settled in within the past six months. Adel Ebeid stepped into the job in Philadelphia after working as the chief information officer for the state of New Jersey. Like Nath, he views his role largely as connecting city hall and all of its resources with a new generation of problem-solvers outside of it.

…The birth of the municipal chief innovation officer job is a response to these two trends: to fundamental changes in technology that are revolutionizing citizen engagement, and to a cultural movement that is turning the data-dense inner workings of city halls into public challenges that are actually kind of a kick to solve.

“There aren’t that many of us right now,” Ebeid says, “but I can tell you we’re certainly an early testbed for what will become mainstream by 2015.”

Related:

City of Philadelphia: Office of Innovation and Technology

Change By Us Philly in Beta: civic media & software

“Change by Us Philly” recently launched in beta, part of the “Change By Us” effort started by “CEOs for Cities”, “Local Projects” and “Code for America” and is funded by The Knight Foundation and The Rockerfeller Foundation. It describes itself (and lives up to it!) as “an online marketplace for community projects that allows you to share ideas for making the city better, and to turn those ideas into projects that have real impact. From tools to network and manage events to helping you connect with local resources, the site supports a number of ways to get involved.” Check out the ideas posted, get involved in making one happen, or share your own.

For more on getting involved with the site, check out OAPCivicFusion on Google Groups.

Life and Code: a blog to follow

I’ve really been enjoying Lisa William’s blog titled “Life and Code” and think it’s a great one for your RSS reader every day. She started to blog to document her passage to a programmer who can toss together an app on a whim in a weekend and her background in online media and journalism makes for some great posts and links to follow.

The following is a quote from her, on her motivations to start coding (“Code to make a point; code to make change; on newshacking”, which resemble motivations that keep me wanting to continue code and to volunteer my skills:

I believe a program can stand in opposition to Things That Suck, just like a documentary, a work of art, or a protest march.  

That’s why I like work like this, which shows where the money goes when it comes to Congresscritters and their free cars.  

Or this, which is an Android app to help vets with PTSD.  

I wanna code because SHIT IS BROKEN.  I want to code because corruption is real, because people are getting thrown out of their houses, because veterans aren’t getting what they deserve, because racism is real and has real effects, because yes it does matter when you cancel a bus line, because it’s really hard to shut a computer program up, because you can’t say it’s an isolated incident when there’s a bigass Google Map in your face showing you it’s not.  

And journalism’s response to the biggest problems of our age — global warming, global health, economic crises — are, all too often, pathetic: he said/she said talking heads on TV, tearjerker anecdotes about one person who loses their house to a flood or rapaciously unethical lenders standing in for THE VAST TSUNAMI OF PEOPLE GETTING F**D OVER BY THESE THINGS.  No wonder facts just seem to bounce off so many Americans, and so many of the powerful are able to claim that nothing needs to be done when doing nothing suits their moneyed interests.  

Our age doesn’t just NEED computational journalism: it DEMANDS it. 

Recent highlights:

“Code to make a point; code to make change; on newshacking”

“Learning to Program for Journalists: The Epic HOWTO”

“Notable News Apps on Github”

Alex Hillman: “Want a Hall Pass for Bureaucracy?”

That’s the question Alex Hillman posed in his latest post, a great introduction to the efforts of Jeff Friedman, Manager of Civic Innovation and Participation for the City of Philadelphia and Code for America. Both, along with The Media Mobilizing Project are helping to surface, and connect people and resources leveraging in great part what Tim O’Reilly had called “the architecture of participation” way back in 2004.

I’ve always believed, due to personal experience, that when you enable people to connect and communicate with who and what they need to, with each other, great things are possible. These efforts provide gateways for those who work in technology to make contributions strengthening neighborhoods, communities, and the world.

BTW – check out the NYTimes piece on IndyHall, founded by Alex, which from everything I’ve ever heard from everyone who has worked there, sounds based on enabling the above.

Related

The Freedom Rings Partnership

OpenDataPhilly

Prometheus Radio

The Hacktory

NewAmerica.net: Preston Rhea: “How to Create a Public Computer Center”

O’Reilly Radar Gov 2.0

Quora: “How should the United States Congress use social media to enhance the legislative process?”

Wired: “Disrupting poverty: How Barefoot College is empowering women through peer-to-peer learning and technology”

Wired.com: “How Khan Academy Is Changing the Rules of Education”

flying kite: “Radio Revolution: West Philly’s Prometheus Promotes Stations by the People, For the People”

“Why new internet and software architecture will define the future of society”

Lots of thought provoking bits to think about in Thomas Bjelkeman’s post: “Law is hard. Code is harder. Why new internet and software architecture will define the future of society”

If you combine the thought that our communications infrastructure is going to start dictate how we think about the world with what Laurence Lessig says: “The Code is the Law”. Then a number of things which are going on in the world today can be seen in a very different perspective than what you see in your average newspaper opinion piece.

…Imagine actually managing the lawmaking process in Github, with actual contributors and their affiliation clearly marked. Revisions tracked and open to view for all. The current residents of the corridors of power would never let that happen. But maybe it doesn’t matter, because the law is moving into the code.

…I think that it is fairly clear that information architecture changes how society works, and maybe it changes it in bigger ways and faster than “those in charge” anticipate. Which is why I have stopped saying you have to be a politician to change how things work. A hacker can be just as powerful, if not more so.

An open data challenge from Anil Dash

Anil Dash: “The Health Graph: Mortal Threats & Signs of Life”:

As a community of developers and technologists, we have to build powerful, indispensable apps and services on top of this data. Killer apps that save lives. If we can make ourselves invaluable, they won’t have the chance to try to cut off our oxygen.

Recent Space-X on NPR highlights how little we read

A story is posted about a private company working to build the largest capacity lifter in service and what do a significant number of commentors fret about?

That the government is wasting its money on building it!

It is pretty clear that most of those who are commenting that way have not read (or worst – understood) the story, but the ‘private company’ part was highlighted in the summary.

Check it out – NPR.org (on Facebook): Plans For World’s Most Powerful Rocket Unveiled

Sad, huh?

But don’t you think there are multiple failures taking place exemplified here? And where do you feel they stem from?

Hyper-local is about community or it fails

There have been numerous efforts at building services focused on local communities, and almost all of them, that have not had a community element to them, have failed to one degree or another.

Just being an aggregator is not enough. You need to curate. Moderate. Collate. Summarize. Connect. Most of all – communicate! Sure software helps. But it requires hands on work by people too. And it takes time. Like forming any relationship does.

GigaOm: Mathew Ingram: “Hyper-Local News: It’s About the Community or It Fails”

ReadWriteWeb: Marshall Kirkpatrick: “Hyperlocal Heartbreak: Why Haven’t Neighborhood News Technologies Worked Out?”

Nancy Scola gives the good news and bad news about participatory democracy

A good thought provoker I’d thought I’d pass along: Personal Democracy Forum: “Talk Notes: The Invention That Is American Democracy”:

I’d argue that much of what has passed for participatory democracy in these early stages of its reinvention has been obsessed with re-engineering a system — while largely ignoring the role of real-live flesh and blood people in that system. Tools like Twitter, and Facebook, and mobile, and the good old World Wide Web are potentially incredibly powerful. But they are the how of participatory democracy; they’re not the what. The hopeful side is that the what consists of exactly what I’ve talked about social media being very good at – sharing ideas and shaping our engagements with other people. Once we figure out how to apply the same new power we have over our personal lives to our political lives, that’s when I suspect we might see democracy’s real re-invention.

I think there is a challenge there to take up and that she succinctly outlines it for everyone.