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Back to the Future Day; the root anxiety in the “uber for” economy debate; and more.

  • Today’s civic tech must-reads: danah boyd, founder of the Data and Society Institute, on “What World Are We Building,” in which she reminds us how technology mirrors and amplifies existing patterns in society: “Data is power. And, increasingly, we’re seeing data being used to assert power over people. It doesn’t have to be this way, but one of the things that I’ve learned is that, unchecked, new tools are almost always empowering to the privileged at the expense of those who are not.”

  • Building on Susan Crawford’s recent critique of Uber, technosociologist Zeynep Tufekci says the deeper issue is whether we want a future where even more jobs are turned into contingent, cheap labor that is on-call all the time.

  • On Civicist, guest contributor (and longtime PDM friend) Douglas Rushkoff argues that Uber’s bid to be a platform monopoly is dangerous.

  • Culturing tech: Today is “Back to the Future Day,” the date in the Back to the Future II that the characters traveled forward to, and at Civic Hall we will be mark it with all-day showings of the first two movies in the series followed by a 6pm workshop led by Civic Hall civic imagination fellow Andrew Slack. His larger Back to the Future Campaign, which calls for a revival of positive future visions, also launches today.

  • Even the White House is commemorating Back to the Future Day, connecting with scientists and technologists “for a day of asking questions, sharing, and nerding out together.” Topics will include time travel, self-driving vehicles, women in STEM, and brain mapping. The Obama administration does believe, however, that where we are going we will still need roads.

  • In partnership with the Harry Potter Alliance, Andrew Slack’s fellowship has also launched Odds in Our Favor which is working with groups on economic equality issues throughout the country. People can submit their own personal stories around the topic of economic inequality here.

  • Marking the release of the Star Wars trailer, leading conservative Bill Kristol tweets that he was “rooting for the Empire from the first moment,” saying “it was a benevolent liberal empire, after all.”

  • Meanwhile, back in the real world: Twenty-two top tech companies, including Apple, Google, and Twitter, are against the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, a new report from Fight for the Future reveals. Comcast, HP, Cisco and Verizon back the bill, which is now on the floor of the Senate.

  • The Tides Foundation is taking nominations for the annual Antonio Pizzigati Prize for Software in the Public Interest. The $10,000 award goes to “one individual who has created or led an effort to create an open source software product of significant value to the nonprofit sector and movements for social change.”

  • Coming in November: A conference on “Responsible Use of Open Data: Government and the Private Sector,” co-sponsored by NYU’s Department of Media, Culture and Communication; the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology; and the Information Law Institute. Lots of great speakers, including Amen Ra Mashariki, NYC’s Chief Analytics Officer; data scientist Cathy O’Neil; and Chris DiBona, Google’s Director of Open Source and Science Outreach. (h/t Matt Stempeck)

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Civics in the age of mistrust; Microsoft’s Civic Graph; and more.

    • Today’s civic tech must-reads: MIT Center for Civic Media director Ethan Zuckerman offers the fullest expression of his ideas about civics in the age of mistrust, arguing that the “insurrectionist” temper to overthrow today’s broken institutions can be channeled through making changes in code, markets, norms and by promoting “monitorial citizenship.”

    • 18F’s Melody Kramer and Michelle Hertzfeld offer a fabulous hands-on guide to how they make distributed teams work.

    • Jason Shueh reports for GovTech on Microsoft’s Civic Graph, built by John Paul Farmer and the company’s civic tech team in New York (and at Civic Hall, we might add!).

    • Meme wars: For part of yesterday, a #BoycottStarWarsVII hashtag was trending across the United States, fueled by online racists upset that the forthcoming movie includes a multiracial cast, Jen Yamoto reports for the Daily Beast.

    • The response #hashtag #CelebrateStarWarsVII—created by Selma director Ana DuVernay—quickly overtook the meme, as Topsy shows.

    • Twitter has come out against the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) “as written,” because “security+privacy are both priorities for us.”

    • Opportunities: The Detroit Community Technology Project is looking to hire a Data Justice Community Researcher.

    • The Citizen Engagement Lab has extended the deadline (to October 25) for its new OPEN-US Kairos Fellowship, which offers a six month on-the-job training program for emerging digital campaigners of color.

    • This Friday in Washington, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) are hosting the second annual congressional hackathon. The event is free but advance registration is required.

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Canadian conservatives have a police hotline for “barbaric cultural practices,” and other election news from the north.

  • About that other election: Canadians are voting today in national elections that could remove the ruling Conservative party from power. It’s only been an eleven-week campaign, which for Canadians is apparently too long, Ben Terris reports for the Washington Post. (If American national elections were that truncated, the whole political campaign/tech industry would probably go up in smoke.)
  • Here’s a backgrounder from Google Canada on the role the internet is playing in #elxn42 (that’s the hashtag you want to follow). Some interesting tidbits: 30 percent of Canadians say the internet is their primary information source for politics. A similar number are digital-only and have no cable TV or satellite connection. Voters who favor a change in government are more likely to rely on the internet for news. And 56 percent of Canadian voters say they have used a search engine to fact check something a candidate or party has said.

  • Evan Solomon’s review of the campaign’s major turning points explains fairly well how the “change” theme has played in the election and why it is likely to put Liberal Party candidate Justin Trudeau into power.

  • Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s declaration that he opposed the niqab—stating that he wouldn’t permit a Muslim woman to wear the traditional veil during a citizenship ceremony—apparently got the most interactions on Facebook, reports. The Conservatives tried to capitalize on that attention by announcing a police hotline for people to report “barbaric cultural practices.”

  • The Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau has promised to pour nearly a billion dollars into the country’s start-up and innovation sectors, the CBC reported.

  • Here’s a binder full of some of the sillier social media blowups of the Canadian election campaign, courtesy of Micki Cowan of CBC News.

  • Elsewhere in our brave new world: Writing for Medium’s Backchannel, Susan Crawford explains why she doesn’t think Uber is a good idea for American cities.

  • Watch live or follow the hashtag #CityLab2015 to track the urban innovation conversation underway today in London hosted by The Atlantic, the Aspen Institute and the Bloomberg Foundation.

  • Martdha Lane Fox offers a vision of Britain as “the most incredible place in the world for a woman to be in technology.”

  • The always-provocative Cathy O’Neil has a fun suggestion for everyone following the rising questions around the “disruptive” blood-testing company Theranos: users should get their blood tested and share the results, comparing them to regular tests.

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Misleading data from the LAPD; online civic centers for NYC neighborhoods; and more.

  • Ben Poston, Joel Rubin, and Anthony Pesce report for the L.A. Times that the LAPD mis-classified 14,000 serious assaults as minor offenses over eight years, making it appear as though violent crime dropped off in the city more than it did. “We know this can have a corrosive effect on the public’s trust of our reporting,” the Asst. Chief Michel Moore is quoted as saying. Ya think?

  • Is this civic? My colleague, Micah Sifry, often identifies items here as “This is civic tech.” Sometimes it is that obvious—you know it when you see it. But what about quality life apps, like the NYC Map the Homeless app launched by 25-year-old David Fox this summer. What about apps that seem civic to some, and invasive to others? Brendan O’Connor talks to Fox and asks similar questions in this piece for The Awl.

  • The city will launch neighborhood websites (like in early 2016, Jennifer Ferimo reports for the Daily News. The description given on, where New Yorkers can go for a preview, is: “a new online platform that community groups can use to develop online hubs for civic engagement, online organizing and information-sharing.”

  • Nextdoor’s CEO Nirav Tolia has responded to the allegations that users of the site have racial profiled their neighbors, and says that the company will make appropriate changes to the platform, Sam Levin reports for the East Bay Express. Writing on the Nextdoor blog, Tolia said: “We are incredibly saddened that some neighbors have used Nextdoor in this way. Simply stated: we consider profiling of any kind to be unacceptable.

  • Maybe there’s a political/campaign app in this New York Times story by Kit Eaton that you haven’t heard of yet?

  • Twitter chatter: Anil Dash shared some thoughts about the OpenGov funding announced yesterday (be sure to scroll down to get all of them). Then Marci Dale jumped into the conversation with some observations about the differences between civic tech, gov tech, and open gov.

  • Crisis Text Line recently closed a $7 million funding round with support from the Knight Foundation and the Omidyar Network, according to this press release.

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Spreading spyware; behavioral science in the White House; $25 mil to OpenGov; and more.

  • This morning The Intercept published The Drone Papers, a collection of stories about the Obama administration’s drone assassination program, written by Jeremy Scahill, Cora Currier, Ryan Devereaux, and others based on a new collection of secret documents provided by a whistleblower.

  • In other Obama administration news, Danny Vinik reports for Politico on the White House’s Social and Behavioral Science Team, which has been applying behavioral science to policy making and just released their first annual report.

  • new report from Citizen Lab, a research lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, details the expanded use of the spyware for governments, FinFisher—the same FinFisher that was breached in 2014. In spite of that, Citizen Lab has found 32 countries are using the spyware in at least one government office.

  • In Sudan, the government surveillance of websites has led many to download the encrypted messaging app WhatApp in order to share news items and voice dissent, Khalid Albaih reports for The Guardian.

  • Former Time magazine managing editor Richard Stengel is now at the State Department and pushing for more soft power to be deployed on social media, Alex Howard reports for the Huffington Post.

  • Cable news channels edited out Bernie Sanders criticisms of the media when they aired his supportive comments about Hillary Clinton’s email disaster, Lee Fang points out in The Intercept.

  • Josh Stearns interviews Justin Auciello, the founder of the Jersey Shore Hurricane News, an outlet run almost entirely on social media and on citizen tips and contributions.

  • Connor Barwin, all-pro linebacker and citizen activists, reports for the Philadelphia Citizen on how Philly’s civic health stacks up against New Orleans, home of the Saints (the team they beat this Sunday), touching on the issue of gentrification. This is a recurring feature! Look out next week for the face-off with the New York Giants. (h/t Erin Simpson)

  • OpenGov announced an additional $25 million in financing today, Sarah Buhr reports for TechCrunch. The company, which tracks government spending, also announced that Marc Andreessen has joined the board.

Direct Action organizing Protests



Just over a year after the People’s Climate March, the largest climate-related demonstration in history, the People’s Climate Movement is finally finding its legs.

This morning a group of climate activists and canoe enthusiasts will float from Columbia, Missouri, to Jefferson City, Missouri, to
deliver petitions supporting carbon reductions to the Governor. This afternoon, protesters will demonstrate outside of a Volkswagen dealership in
Tucson, Arizona. And this evening, New York activists and intellectuals will ponder the
city’s relationship to trash. These are just three events, of roughly 175, planned as part of the
National Day of Action for the people’s climate. Just over a year after the People’s Climate March—the largest climate-related demonstration in history,
even if the oft-touted estimate of 400,000 marchers is too generous
—the People’s Climate Movement is finally finding its legs.

After the wildly successful demonstration last year, the fate of the coalition responsible for the People’s Climate March was uncertain. As I wrote in May, support for the hubs platform, the
digital infrastructure that made the march
inclusive and easy to join, was discontinued after the march was over, in part because of a lack of resources as well as skepticism about the platform’s
usefulness moving forward.

The hubs platform wasn’t the only piece to be neglected in the months following the march. “There was lots of organizing and
infrastructure that we created for the march that wasn’t maintained,” Tammy Shapiro, the hubs coordinator, told Civicist earlier this year.

“Once you move a lot of people into action and build structures it’s really important to keep those structures supported,” says Paul Getsos, a national
coordinator both this year and last, as well as an author of the book Tools for Radical Democracy. “Nobody realized
how big and how important and how successful the march was going to be at getting people engaged.” As organizers from told Civicist earlier this
year, the original intention was not to create a permanent “People’s Climate” organization.

It wasn’t until a retreat this February, attended by representatives of around 50 organizations, that they decided to turn the “March” into a “Movement”
and began planning the October day of action.

Although Getsos says partner organizations have been great at financially supporting a core staff, he characterized the operation this year as “barebones,”
a stark contrast to the march last year, which was so well-financed that it attracted criticism for being a corporate PR campaign.

If the march last year was about demonstrating unity and sheer numbers—to the detriment, some argued, of a “meaningful agenda”—the coordinated
action this year is about individual communities. “The fourteenth is a day to really lift up local organizing work,” Getsos explains to Civicist.


To support the National Day of Action, the People’s Climate Movement (PCM) created a downloadable toolkit, a resource for organizers that
includes a suggested to-do list (“Prioritize building an inclusive team”; “Reach out to local organizations that may be supportive, especially
underrepresented groups”); suggested targets (elected representatives; local corporations) and actions (office takeover; banner drop; flash mob); and how
to spread the word and boost attendance. They also provided tip sheets, press release templates, and talking points of various lengths in both English and
Spanish. In collaboration with Climate Prints, PCM released downloadable posters designed by artists like Marcus Blake, Chip Thomas, and Melanie Cervantes,
that people could use to spread the word about the National Day of Action.

Getsos says that the open source aspect of the organizing allows anyone to pick it up, although the capacity to support them isn’t what it was last year:

In the march planning last year we had a very strong digital operation. We had a very strong social media operation. I think we had a very strong open
source hubs model situation. 

I think trying to transfer those skills and that work into 100 places around the country is a little bit challenging…we really don’t have the resources
and the capacity now to do that in a way that we were able to do it when everything was focused in on one spot.

Through partner organizations like the Sierra Club and, campaign director Nick Espinosa says more than two million emails have been sent directing
people to the online map of national actions to join. PCM also emailed the 65,000 people who signed up
during the march last year, and the 40,000 who have liked their Facebook page. On behalf of PCM, Tammy Shapiro reached back out to the listserv of hub

I emailed the coordinators I was in touch with for my earlier story. Of the six, only Christopher Wahmhoff, a coordinator in Kalamazoo, got back in touch
with me to say that he was organizing an action today, targeting Congressman Fred Upton

Although the hubs are all but defunct, at least officially (they’ve been essentially archived here), the quirkiness, individualism, passion, and creativity they were made to support is still evident in the National Day of Action (see: the canoe enthusiasts in Missouri). Months ago, the social media coordinator for the march last year tweeted that many hubs were still active on Facebook.

“We were surprised to see such a strong response to the call for action around the country, with over 175 events registered as of today,” Nick Espinosa
wrote in an email to Civicist. “To me that is a strong sign that there is a lot of movement energy out there to be harnessed, especially on the road to
the climate negotiations in Paris.”

“Our hope,” he added, “is that the tools we’ve given people will help them continue organizing in their local communities, and that we can continue to
offer some support over time.”

If the PCM suffered through neglect last year, it seems as though that mistake will not be repeated. Paul Getsos tells Civicist that they are already “thinking
strategically” about what to do after October 14.

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People’s Climate Movement National Day of Action; failing because too tech-bro; and more

  • The internet declared Hillary Clinton the winner of the Democratic debate last night, Alan Rappeport reports for the New York Times, although everyone quoted works in media, with the exception of two pollsters, and the internet in this case is decidedly the medium for, not the entity itself, weighing in.

  • The Congressional Management Foundation has released a new report detailing how Congress acts and reacts on social media. Two gleaned factoids indicate that the volume of feedback can be modest, but that promptness matters. From the press release: “80 percent of staff surveyed said 30 or fewer responses to their social media posts are enough to get the office to “pay attention.” But the survey also indicates that staff tend to review only those reactions posted within the first 24 hours.”

  • An app used by Georgetown businesses and the police to photograph and share reports about shoplifting suspects is highlighting racial tensions in the community, Terrence McCoy reports for the Washington Post. More than 90 percent of the images that have been shared are of black men and women, and some of the messages exchanged have racial/racist or transphobic overtones. McCoy places Operation GroupMe in the context of other neighborhood surveillance apps that have been criticized for similar reasons, including NextDoor, SketchFactor, and

  • The New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo dives deep for this postmortem of Leap, the upscale bus service that failed in San Francisco. “Tech deaths often go unstudied,” Manjoo observes. Aside from the goodbye posts on Medium, they don’t often get the critical examination—which might be of use if entrepreneurs want to avoid making the same mistakes twice. Leap’s root problem? “Too-close an association with Silicon Valley’s tech-bro sensibilities,” writes Manjoo.

  • John Hermann writes “Notes from the Platform’s Edge” for The Awl. It’s about media and social media and the morass that is media and social media. I clearly haven’t had time to truly process it yet but it seems worth reading!

  • Today is a National Day of Action organized by the People’s Climate Movement. Read my latest report on how the Movement is finding its legs, in spite of neglect and indecision following the wildly successful demonstration last year, and find an action near you.

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When gov’t wants to (or has to) crowdfund humanitarian aid; Brigade’s ballot guide; and more.

  • “It remains to be seen whether crowdfunded humanitarianism will “crowd in” or “crowd out” the public variety,” Anand Giridharadas writes in the New York Times about the Obama administration’s decision to crowdfund a portion of the humanitarian aid going to Syrian refugees. “Does it matter if we help one another collectively and by law versus privately and voluntarily?” Giridharada concludes, “Is it old-fashioned to do things in the name of a nation? Is there a difference between a public and a crowd?”

  • Glenn Thrush and Annie Karni of Politico have the behind-the-headlines story of the Clinton email disaster, and how it unfolded in her camp.

  • Brigade has rolled out an interactive ballot guide for municipal elections in San Francisco and Manchester, NH, an experiment they write will “will inform our strategy for building robust and engaging election tools in more cities and states ahead of the 2016 election.”

  • Three cities have blocked Fixed, an app that helps people fight traffic citations like parking tickets, from accessing their parking ticket websites, Sarah Perez reports for TechCrunch, forcing Fixed to suspend some of their operations in those cities.

  • A Motor City Muckraker story by Steve Neavling about an “Improve Detroit” app that led the city to fix over 10,000 problems received thousands of upvotes and hundreds of comments on Reddit this weekend, Ben Berkowitz, CEO of SeeClickFix, notes on Twitter.

  • Edward Snowden and Black Lives Matter leader Deray Mckesson briefly discussed state violence and state surveillance on Twitter yesterday, with the suggestion of more conversation to come.

  • Mesh-network messaging app FireChat has announced a partnership with a city in the Philippines to build a city-wide mesh network for use during natural disasters, Liz Stinson reports for Wired. (H/t Erin Simpson)

  • The New Organizing Institute was folded into Wellstone Action last week, and yesterday Civicist contributing editor Matt Stempeck shared these thoughts on “why we still need what NOI gave me.”

  • Open culture advocates, lovers, and participants might find Paul Ford’s recent ruminations in the New Republic on the creation of Wikipedia pages interesting. On the subject of the Encyclopædia Britannica, Ford writes, “It was impossible to imagine what could displace it, until it was displaced.” I feel like there is something for civic technologists in that as well.




They were the new guard in politics, disrupting the establishment players not with computers and data, although they had those, too, but with a renewed interest in and patience for populism, meritocracy, and participatory politics.

Last Friday, the New Organizing Institute’s Board announced that the organization would be folded into another political training organization, Wellstone Action. The announcement followed major internal conflict in February of this year. Here Matt Stempeck reflects on the community NOI built in the often tumultuous industry of political organizing.


The New Organizing Institute was always a community as much as it was an organization. After the 2004’s presidential campaign loss, some of the top digital agents from the Howard Dean and John Kerry campaigns got together with colleagues to rebuild. Their network was looser and more diverse than the formality suggested by the word “institute.” They were the new guard in politics, disrupting the establishment players not with computers and data, although they had those, too, but with a renewed interest in and patience for populism, meritocracy, and participatory politics. There weren’t always congressional candidates worthy of their talents, but they set to work changing how candidates campaign anyway, buoyed by the Democrats retaking Congress in 2006 and the election of Barack Obama to the Senate, among other victories.


The Howard Dean campaign was a short-lived but illuminating moment in the nation’s political imagination. It opened the doors of the professional campaign industry to a new generation that was eager to employ technology more effectively. Yet by the time I graduated college in 2006, DC’s political operatives and consultancies—including the Democrats—had hardly budged in their top-down worldviews. It wasn’t clear if the new generation’s tech-driven, empathy-centric way of doing things was going to disrupt the Beltway, or just get us all jobs on social media teams. Since then, I’ve seen my peers assume influential roles in important institutions where they’re involved in strategic decision making. The United States Digital Services (a common example recently, but hardly the only one) has worked to administration-proof itself and insulate its hundreds of forthcoming staff across the federal government, where they are better situated to outlast individual administrations while continuing their vital capacity building. The full impact of our disruption is still to be determined, but at least we’re doing more than tweeting.


I found the NOI community because on my graduation day, my undergraduate thesis advisor handed me the semi-translucent business card of one Michael Silberman. My advisor had connected the dots between my sprawling thesis on the disruptive influence of participatory media on the traditional political establishment, and the online politics panel where he’d seen Michael. Michael was the wünderkind coordinating the Dean campaign’s supporter engine of Meetup groups and rallies. Following the campaign, the core tech team started EchoDitto (now Echo & Co.), an open-source Drupal development shop, aspiring to build not just open websites, but open movements. EchoDitto was small by design; its founders never wanted to scale like their peers at Blue State Digital.


I managed to parlay Silberman’s business card into an awkward K Street Starbucks interview, and then an internship with a monthly stipend that covered the exact amount of my rent. After spending the fall learning to manage clients, I was hired full-time to the strategy team. My job at EchoDitto was never easy, but it was exhilarating. I believed in our clients’ work and benefitted from my coworkers’ talents. It took a long time for it to sink in that people were paying me money to use the coolest new tech to do good in the world. EchoDitto was a small company and very much a part of the broader D.C. political tech community that NOI inhabited. That community provided many of the opportunities, much of the meaning, and most of the camaraderie I ever found working in the trying industry of idealist politics.


As an NOI Advisory Board member, Michael introduced me to NOI founder and executive director Judith Freeman, and my awe and shyness disappeared when she dropped her first casual curse minutes into our conversation over beers in Cleveland Park. People like Judith, Michael, and Nicco Mele (also EchoDitto) ruined me for life by establishing very early in my career the formidable precedent of politically important and talented managers and mentors who were also humble, genuine, and nice.


I joined NOI on the first business day of 2010. In the year-and-a-half that I worked as one of the core staff members, I assumed the de facto role of communications and new media, mainly because I was simultaneously incredibly proud of the work my colleagues were doing and shocked that no one was sharing it on our website, much less with the rest of the world. Nearly every single staff person outside of a core admin team was running a program—many of them junior-level employees. They were individually leading national programs with a leanness that made DC’s other resource-strapped nonprofits look bloated, somehow extending themselves into ever-larger cascading networks of organizers, instructors, master trainers, volunteers, and trainees. I made it my job to take on any and all tasks that would employ tech and communications to scale such a tiny cadre into more capacity than we had any right achieving. I also learned pretty much everything I now know about campaign strategy, theory of change, and engagement organizing, lessons I’ve taken with me everywhere I’ve gone since.


NOI as we knew it is gone now. I’ll let those who were closer to the action write, or not write, about the particulars of the past year. The relationships the organization cultivated live on (see the #NOIgaveme hashtag Evan Sutton started for a small sample, and note how often other people are mentioned). Maybe this is the real benefit of a network-modeled organization that invested in forging ever more dense connections within its ever-expanding community: even if the organization shuts down, the network remains. I hope that Wellstone Action can integrate the best of NOI into their trainings.

One of the more unique things NOI achieved was establishing a home base in the transient and often lonely, always challenging profession of campaign work. Beyond the professional opportunities NOI opened to so many, and the peer network that helped keep you at the top of your game, the NOI community provided comfort when you needed it, as recently as Jake Brewer’s memorial service just two weeks ago. Whether or not it comes with 501(c)3 status and programmatic work, we still need a home for organizers.

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The racism on Nextdoor; clever campaign finance maneuvering by Google’s Eric Schmidt; and more.

  • Tech and the presidentials: Adam Pasick and Tim Fernholz report for Quartz on The Groundwork, an until-now little-known tech vendor for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign that is funded by Google billionaire Eric Schmidt and run by Michael Slaby, the CTO of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. They write: “Groundwork has been tasked with building the technological infrastructure to ingest massive amounts of information about voters, and develop tools that will help the campaign target them for fundraising, advertising, outreach, and get-out-the-vote efforts—essentially to create a political version of a customer relationship management (CRM) system, like the one that runs for commerce, but for prospective voters.” In other words, Groundwork is supposed to solve the data integration problem that has bedeviled modern campaigns since the dawn of time.

  • Pasick and Fernholz deftly point out that Schmidt’s investment in the Groundwork has allowed him to avoid the complex dance required of Super PACs that supposedly don’t coordinate with campaigns: “a well-connected donor like Schmidt can fund a startup to do top-grade work for a campaign, with the financial outlay structured as an investment, not a donation.”

  • The Irvine Foundation has published a new report, “Testing New Technologies in Mobilizing Voters of Color.” It found that personal contact is still the most effective way to turn out voters, beating texting voters or using Facebook ads to urge them to vote. (Is that really surprising?) The report notes that since the study took place in the context of the 2014 off-year election, voter attention was lower. The study did not look at how the use of voter targeting or mobile canvassing tools might improve voter turnout.

  • Brave new world: In the last ten years, social media usage by American adults has zoomed from 7 percent to 65 percent, Pew Research Center’s Andrew Perrin reports. The shift has been pronounced even among people over the age of 65, of whom 35 percent now use social media.

  • The internet is a mirror of the real world, sometimes making more visible what was invisible and sometimes amplifying our worst impulses. That’s the import of this long and incredibly detailed story by Sam Levin of the East Bay Express on how white Oakland residents are increasingly using to racially profile their black neighbors. Roughly 20 percent of all Nextdoor conversations in Oakland are about crime and safety, he reports. Levin’s story is nuanced enough to point out that the problem predates Nextdoor, noting that when listservs starting gaining usage in Oakland they also became hotbeds for rumor-mongering. He also notes that the company, which has more than $100 million in venture funding and has expanded rapidly in the city in recent years, isn’t responding to concerns that its neighborhood social networking sites are intensifying white racism. If anything, the company seems to like that it is becoming a de facto “neighborhood watch” platform.

  • Pulitzer-winning national security report Barton Gellman describes how the video a public talk on the NSA and Edward Snowden he gave at Purdue University in late September was “scrubbed” from the school’s website after someone reported to the Defense Security Service that a few of his slides were still officially classified even though they have been widely reported in the press.

  • The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Dave Maass is cheering the enactment of the state’s new Electronic Communications Privacy Act, saying that it will protect Californians by “by requiring a warrant for digital records, including emails and texts, as well as a user’s geographical location. These protections apply not only to your devices, but to online services that store your data. Only two other states have so far offered these protections: Maine and Utah.”

  • Boston’s data-driven city managers are now trying to combine all of their data on everything from crime to housing to Wi-Fi availability and turn it into a single numeric, called CityScore, reports Jess Bidgood for the New York Times. Anthony Townsend, the author of Smart Cities, says, “It seems to me like an unnecessary oversimplification.”