Why civic hacking is almost dead in Madison, Wisconsin; why the Open Gov’t Partnership isn’t working out as planned; and more.

  • Today’s civic tech must-read: Like many other cities, Madison, Wisconsin, decided to open up public data back in 2012, responding to the rising demand from local civic hackers. But as Laurel White reports for the Capital Times, “Almost exactly three years later, while other cities have built thriving partnerships between civic hackers and municipal government, Madison’s civic hacking and open data communities are almost dead.” As he reports, resistance from stubborn city bureaucrats about releasing useful datasets—”the city forester’s office had security concerns about the release” of data about ash trees!? (talk about covering your ash)—as well as a top-down attitudes from government officials who viewed the hackers as free labor, appears to be the cause. (h/t Derek Eder)
  • Related:’s Jason Shueh profiles the work of Palo Alto’s CIO Jonathan Reichental and his new Civic Technology Center, which is part of City Hall. Part of.
  • The U.K.’s Government Digital Service is setting up an exchange program with their counterparts in the U.S. federal government, Sophie Curtis reports for The Telegraph. (Oh, there’s also some vaporous musings in her story as well from UK Cabinet Office minister Matthew Hancock about the potential of the blockchain to revolutionize government.)
  • Urban community problem-solving platform SeeClickFix is the “most influential and innovative company to launch in New Haven since the days of the cotton gin, the frisbee, the apizza, the hamburger, the clock, and the oyster,” writes veteran local journalist Paul Bass for the New Haven Independent. Now I know what an apizza is!
  • Government opening: Set aside your cynicism and take a look at this post by Joseph Feti from the Open Government Partnership, exploring many of the reasons why the highfaluting promises made by OGP countries to be more transparent and accountable don’t get implemented. My favorite reasons:
    • “Start date happens after the action plan ends…Believe it or not, some commitments have a start date in 2017 for a 2013-2015 action plan.”
    • “No one is holding anyone else responsible. IRM [Independent Reporting Mechanism] researchers are regularly surprised at how few governments have internal tracking systems (like spreadsheets) to check in with commitment leads.
    • “Vested interests: the Commitment would disadvantage someone high in the administration (or legislature) who would suffer loss due to commitment being completed.”
  • Don’t miss our Christine Cupaioulo’s round-up of political debate news from around the world: did you know that Taiwan’s presidential debates included questions from the public that were voted on by the public using a Google platform? Sign up here to get her Rethinking Debates biweekly newsletter delivered straight to your email.
  • From agriculture to law-making, here’s the Sunlight Foundation’s Julia Keseru with a handy guide to the benefits of government transparency around the globe.
  • Sharing economy: Uber is paying a $20,000 fine and promising to adopt stringent privacy practices in a settlement with the New York Attorney General’s office over an investigation of its use of a “God View” tool to track riders, Johana Bhuiyan reports for BuzzFeed.
  • Chris Messina, the popularizer of the #hashtag (and old friend of Personal Democracy Media), explains why he’s decided to go work for Uber helping evangelize for its developer platform: “As I see and understand it, Uber exists at the beginning of the inevitable shift from an internet experienced on screens to an internet that is present in and connects the everyday things that are all around us….The question is not if, but when—and importantly, how—we will interact and engage with this emerging era of the internet.”
  • Andrew Golis, the founder of (and Civic Hall member), has found an ingeniously simple way to explain “why social media is broken.” (And how This is helping fix it, he might have added.)
  • Tech and the presidentials: Meet “Field the Bern,” a new open-source canvassing app developed by Feel the Bern and Coders for Sanders. As Issie Lapowsky reports for Wired, “On the app, supporters get access to information on how to canvass, including sample scripts and information on Sanders’ platforms. Volunteers can see where other canvassers have been, but they’re free to knock on any door they choose. As they move from home to home, they can enter an address and input information on people’s names, party affiliations, and how interested or disinterested they are in voting for Sanders. That information gets sent straight to the Sanders campaign. Volunteers get five points for every door they knock on and 10 points for every piece of information they update, so they can see how they rank against other volunteers.”
  • Alyson Krueger explains for Fast Company how Hillary Clinton’s campaign operation put together its diverse staff, where “each department boasts steals from impressive firms including IBM, General Assembly, Etsy, Yelp, Google, Gawker, Facebook, Kiva, and DreamWorks.”
  • Political GIFs, helpfully defined by Harper Reed, former Obama campaign CTO, as “miniature movies,” are having their heyday, Nick Bilton writes for the New York Times.