First Post



The new Huffington Post; the rebirth of Politwoops; inside Facebook’s News Feed (kinda); and more.

  • News feeders: Politico’s Nancy Scola offers a smart look at why so many political players are turning to Medium to post their thoughts, rather than running the gauntlet of old media’s op-ed editors. (I have to add: isn’t Medium just the Huffington Post with a much better publishing platform and less of an overtly liberal slant?)
  • On Medium (naturally), Andrew Hayward of MIT Media Lab’s Electome project offers some first findings from the project’s comparison of political news coverage to Twitter conversation (in English) related to the presidential election. Given that Electome has access to the full Twitter “hose,” there’s good reason to expect some fresh insights here from exploring what Twitter users talk about compared to what the media focuses on, but count me dissatisfied so far. Heyward gives us some pretty charts that imply that Electome’s data scientists have figured out how to measure such things as Donald Trump’s percentage share of media coverage—when in fact they are only looking at 12 news publications, not the entire universe of news media. Nor does he explain how his team counts the coverage a candidate gets when they are one of several mentioned in a story, or how they weight headlines vs text. But hey, it’s “big data,” so enjoy!
  • CrowdTangle tracks engagement on Facebook, and here lists the top ten progressive Facebook pages in terms of the total engagement they drove in 2015. It’s worth noting that none of these ten pages had even one-tenth the total interactions that Crowdtangle’s list of the top ten overall most influential pages on the social networking site. No, we haven’t heard of any of them.
  • Will Oremus of Slate got an inside look at how Facebook keeps tweaking its News Feed algorithm, and the result is a long piece that impressively manages to avoid asking any hard questions about its workings.
  • Government works: Here’s a lovely ode to the value of public infrastructure, disguised as a paean to the U.S. Post Office, by Zeynep Tufekci writing for the New York Times.
  • It remains a mystery how a database containing the voter records of 191 million Americans briefly surfaced online. Here’s the full report from Chris Vickery, who originally found the database, working with and Steve Ragan of Salted Hash. Their assumption is that the data came from NationBuilder, given that some of the fields in the database used NationBuilder’s data format. But Jim Gilliam, NationBuilder’s founder, issued a statement denying that the database belonged to it.
  • This is civic tech: Self-described “govgeek” Abhi Nemani offers some pungent thoughts on what he’d like to change about how we talk about and do civic tech in 2016.
  • Here’s how cities like Los Angeles are using open government data to save lives, reports Alex Howard for the Huffington Post.
  • Twitter has come to an agreement with the Open State Foundation and the Sunlight Foundation allowing them to restart their “Politwoops” services tracking deleted tweets by politicians in dozens of countries worldwide, the company’s VP for global public policy Colin Crowell announced.
  • The online townhall startup Agora will be live-streaming next week’s New Hampshire primary student convention, at which several presidential candidates are expected to speak, Olivia Vanni of BostonInno reports
  • Brave new world: Internet connection speeds in the United States have risen in the last three years, according to a new report from the FCC, but they are still below those of two dozen other countries, David Shepardson reports for Reuters.
  • Uber is having trouble expanding in Germany, the New York Times’ Mark Scott reports, as both drivers and customers have been repelled by its no-holds-barred tactics. General Motors is partnering with Lyft to develop a fleet of on-demand driverless cars to be hailed exclusively through the Lyft platform, Johana Bhuiyan reports for BuzzFeed.

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