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Tim O'Reilly
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Tim O'Reilly

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Code for America does amazing work.  Public service is hard, but everyone should try it.  This is a unique opportunity for coders, designers, and other folks with technology experience to make a difference in government.  Visit to learn more about projects done by past fellows.

I am on the board, and I love this organization.
Code for America is seeking fellows for their 2015 Fellowship! Application site is as follows, and deadline is 7/15.

Code for America fellows are developers, designers and project managers committed to discovering new ways that technology can help address the challenges that our governments face.  

Modern technology tools and approaches can foster collaboration and build trust while helping cities better address the challenges they face. If you want to make a difference while doing what you love, this is your chance — use your skills to build technology that helps local governments work better for the communities that they serve.

Fellows and government staff work together to foster new approaches to problem solving, build apps and effectively use technology and data to address social issues. In past years, teams have worked on increasing access to social services, exploring alternatives to incarceration, and providing new avenues for public input. It's your turn to help change the society you live in!
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Wow even 2 nonsensical comments in a row :-O
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+Lawrence Lessig's MayDay PAC, a crowdfunded super PAC to end the influence of big money in politics, is closing in on $4 million of its $5 million target.

Help get it over the finish line! This is really important. Pledge now
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I must have chosen 'whatever helps" but I can't see many republican candidates running against big money and having party support. 
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Tim O'Reilly

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 +Maria Konnikova's NY Times article about the role of time and attention scarcity in the cycle of poverty was arresting and important. It really echoed some of the issues that we've seen at +Code for America - there's a section at the end of the article that is going to be quoted often by people involved in the business of improving government services:

"If poverty is about time and mental bandwidth as well as money, how does this change how we combat its effects? 'When we think about programs for the poor, we don’t ever think, hey, let’s give them programs that don’t use a lot of bandwidth,' says Mr. Mullainathan. Instead, we fault people for failing to sign up for programs that are ostensibly available, even though we don’t factor in the time and cognitive capacity they need to get past even the first step.

“'If I give people a very complicated form, it’s a big demand on cognitive capacity,' Mr. Shafir says. 'Take something like the Fafsa' — the Free Application for Federal Student Aid — 'Why is pickup for the low-income families less than 30 percent? People are already overwhelmed, and you go and give them an incredibly complicated form.'

"To him, the obvious conclusion is to radically change our thinking. 'Just like you wouldn’t charge them $1,000 to fill out a form, you shouldn’t charge them $1,000 in cognitive complexity,' he says. One study found that if you offer help with filling out the Fafsa form, pickup goes up significantly."

It starts with empathy

Jake Solomon has another take on the issue, which he explains so well in his post People, Not Data about the work he and the other Code for America fellows in San Francisco did last year to simplify the compliance for Food Stamp recipients.  

What I love about Maria's article, though, is that it gives another way of thinking about why complex government forms are even worse than they appear, especially when it comes to providing services to people least able to deal with them.
The poor are under a deadline that never lifts.
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Great, walled gardens of gated communities. What could possibly go wrong?
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Tim O'Reilly

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A good reason to never buy anything from Restoration Hardware ever again! This is an epic piece of junk mail. They claim they did it in some ecologically neutral way, but I don't buy it. In today's world, this is immoral and monumentally stupid.
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I got the same junk.  It sat for a few days before going in the recycling. What a waste/shame.
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This is ridiculous! Companies submit inaccurate data, so the SEC wants to let them just hide it by going back to paper documents. #opendata makes the errors obvious. The answer is to fix the errors, not to blame open data for showing them, and give public companies a free pass on inaccurate reporting!
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There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger.
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Tim O'Reilly

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Amazing sidewalk succulent on a street in Oakland.
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le nombre d'or, encore, toujours, omniprésent---
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Have him in circles
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Tim O'Reilly

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It's almost fireworks time in Tulsa!
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Flaming Balls? Didn't they open for the Butthole Surfers back in 95?
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Fundraiser for Libby Schaaf for Mayor of Oakland at the BlueSprout industrial co working space. Oakland is a Maker city. Libby will be a Maker - friendly mayor. But she is most of all a doer who will help city government to work for its citizens!
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There is so much variety in Oakland! Sitting on a deck overlooking the water, looking up to the city, after just having toured the BlueSprout "industrial coworking" space (think Maker space meets factory) at Embarcadero Cove.

Around the corner, lunch at Quinn's, overlooking the water.
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Look like kind of place to enjoy
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"We don't need new policies. We need better implementation."

Last night, I hosted Oakland City Councilor and mayoral candidate Libby Schaaf at a house party to introduce her to my neighbors. In response to a question about what to do about one of Oakland's many problems, she said "We don't need new policies.  We need better implementation."  And in response to a question about disengaged city employees, she talked about the ones who really want to make a difference, and are just waiting to be activated.

That resonated so strongly with me, because just the night before, I'd been at a talk by +Mikey Dickerson about the rescue effort, which sounded almost exactly the same notes.  It's easy to imagine heroic Silicon Valley coders riding to the rescue, but Mikey pointed out that they wrote very little code.  Much of the rescue work was done by the same people who built the broken site.  What the Silicon Valley team provided was clear management focus from people who knew what they were doing. They were able to debug all the bad process and broken communications between the various contractors who'd built the site, figure out what they needed from each of them, and then encourage and bring out the best in those people. They also had the guts and the force of will to get the recalcitrants on board.  (I wrote more about this at )

So much of the work we do at Code for America is drawn from the same playbook (though we usually don't have the kind of mandate that the "Code Red" rescue team did!)  It's about debugging a process, making small tech interventions, but even more about helping "the system" to work better by understanding needs and figuring out why they aren't being met.  (See for example Jake Solomon's brilliant post about his work in San Francisco last year:

We have a constant parade of politicians who tell us what we want to hear: that they have a new policy idea, and that if we follow their advice, everything will be great.  This kind of "magic bullet" thinking is what gets us the same dismal results, over and over.  To be sure, there are times when we do need new policies, and I'm sure Libby has her share of policy ideas too.  But getting away from policy and digging into implementation is so important! So much of the problem isn't what we set out to do, it's how we do it.  I love hearing someone speak truth about that.

P.S. As a city councilor, Libby is in a non-executive role.  If she is in charge of actual implementation, I'm super-excited to see what she can do.  If you're an Oakland city resident, I hope you turn out and vote for her in November.  If you'd like to learn more, I'm co-hosting another, bigger event for Libby at the new (still under construction) BlueSprout Maker space in Oakland next Sunday.  Sign up to attend here:
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Desde que o Mundo existe foi assim: Ricos ficam cada vez mais Ricos...*< Democracia? 0 que e isto?
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As you may know, I'm a big fan of the idea that government should act as a platform, not always as an end-to-end solution provider.  The government open data movement is a big step in this direction, because it lets outside innovators build on top of one major government asset:  the data it collects.

To that end, any API designers (or potential users) who want to give feedback to the US Department of Education on the design of their open data APIs, now is your chance.  Details below.
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+michael interbartolo, per our discussion on SLS and Orion. NASA as a platform is definitely a better play, no question...
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Great talk by Maciej Ceglowski.  Funny, smart, and with an important message.  Just like Maciej all around.  It is too long since I've spent time with him!

I loved his thoughts on regulation, quoted below.  I don't agree with his initial statement that it should be "illegal to collect" certain kinds of data but do agree that it should be "illegal to permanently store" it. I think that's what he thinks too, if you read on beyond that first line.


It should be illegal to collect and permanently store most kinds of behavioral data.

In the United States, they warn us the world will end if someone tries to regulate the Internet. But the net itself was born of a fairly good regulatory framework that made sure de facto net neutrality existed for decades, paid for basic research into protocols and software, cleared the way for business use of the internet, and encouraged the growth of the commercial web.

It's good regulation, not lack of regulation, that kept the web healthy.

Here's one idea for where to begin:

1. Limit what kind of behavioral data websites can store. When I say behavioral data, I mean the kinds of things computers notice about you in passing—your search history, what you click on, what cell tower you're using.

It's very important that we regulate this at the database, not at the point of collection. People will always find creative ways to collect the data, and we shouldn't limit people's ability to do neat things with our data on the fly. But there should be strict limits on what you can save.

2. Limit how long they can keep it. Maybe three months, six months, three years. I don't really care, as long as it's not fifty years, or forever. Make the time scale for deleting behavioral data similar to the half-life of a typical Internet business.

3. Limit what they can share with third parties. This limit should also apply in the event of bankruptcy, or acquisition. Make people's data non-transferable without their consent.

4. Enforce the right to download. If a website collects information about me, I should be allowed to see it. The EU already mandates this to some extent, but it's not evenly enforced.

This rule is a little sneaky, because it will require backend changes on many sites. Personal data can pile up in all kinds of dark corners in your system if you're not concerned about protecting it. But it's a good rule, and easy to explain. You collect data about me? I get to see it.

5. Enforce the right to delete. I should be able to delete my account and leave no trace in your system, modulo some reasonable allowance for backups.

6. Give privacy policies teeth. Right now, privacy policies and terms of service can change at any time. They have no legal standing. For example, I would like to promise my users that I'll never run ads on my site and give that promise legal weight. That would be good marketing for me. Let's create a mechanism that allow this.

7. Let users opt-in if a site wants to make exceptions to these rules. If today's targeted advertising is so great, you should be able to persuade me to sign up for it. Persuade me! Convince me! Seduce me! You're supposed to be a master advertiser, for Christ's sake!

8. Make the protections apply to everyone, not just people in the same jurisdiction as the regulated site. It shouldn't matter what country someone is visiting your site from. Keep it a world-wide web.
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Founder and CEO, O'Reilly Media. Computer book publisher, conference producer, internet activist.  Involved in open source, open standards, web 2.0, and open government. Current interests: "gov 2.0", sensors and collective intelligence applications based on them, DIY, shaping how people think about emerging technologies. I also spend a lot of time encouraging people to work on stuff that matters.
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