The ways that civic engagement is changing in Philadelphia was the focus of a short keynote I gave to help kickoff the Penn Public Policy Challenge at the Fels Institute of Government on Friday.
I focused on the public-private efforts that have been a defining part of the civic-minded technology community I’ve covered in Philadelphia for the last years. I spoke to about 40 mostly Penn graduate students who will be participating in the competition over the next few months. Find my notes below.
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Governing is messy, so there has been no shortage of attempts by one party to overthrow the other through history. Among the most recent, high-profile coups came in Egypt where, as is almost always the case, the military led the overthrow — at some level.
This summer, as the Egyptian revolution has taken place, government leaders from China and the United States held their first talks on cybersecurity, spurred by reports that the second largest economy was snooping on the first.
It got me thinking: when will be the first coup led by a technology leader? There’s no doubt that military force will become increasingly controlled by technology. I wonder if that work will ever grow outside of a military or, if not, will there come a time when a military-based technology leader leverages control over systems, security and other digital processes using that power to take over control. It can’t be too far removed.
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What was one big takeaway from all of the ONA national conference attendees from Philadelphia? We hosted a local meetup to hear them, and here they are.
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Civic hacking is the act of using simple technical solutions to address or better understand bigger social problems. That’s something I found myself saying in an effort to better convey why open data and digital civic engagement isn’t just a distant issue for technologists but instead the conversation of transparency for today.
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As part of a Philadelphia magazine issue on the ‘Millenial’ generation, I was interviewed in a Center City coffee shop by Nick Vadala, the bright, bearded and 20-something magazine contributor who was a former intern of mine at Technically Philly.
He was asking me about trends in our generation’s employment goals, and I found myself saying that we seemed defined (and work) by three themes, which made it into his nut graf but isn’t online yet so I wanted to share here.
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If journalism is going to evolve to a savvier appreciation for ‘impact,’ its makers need to have a clearer idea of their target audience.
Like you would for any business, you need to know how big your market is, and you need to understand how hard (and necessary) it is to create that audience by acquiring new users — in this case, civic-minded residents.
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I work at a startup. Not a tech startup or, to be honest, according to some, any kind of startup at all. I help lead a growing, young, small media business that happens to cover technology companies and startup culture, so I’m around conversations about definitions a lot.
Let me be clear: in this post, I’m using the definition I use for ‘startup,’ meaning a young company testing a business model. I’m writing here about what type of person I’m finding can work best in such an environment, which is different (but neither better, nor worse) than a large corporation or even another smaller, but more stable and more clearly defined, organization.
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The Geek’s Guide to Dating is a new cheeky, self-help style instructional book for finding the right person from my friend and frequent collaborator Eric Smith.
Read my review of the book here.
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For much of the 20th century, the newspaper industry had this curious role filled by “rewrite men” — though, of course, women, too, served these positions. For breaking on-the-scene news, when telegraphs and then faxes couldn’t do the trick, a reporter would get on the phone with a rewrite man and assemble a story live, using notes and standard formatting.
The reporter would speak his story — an impressive feat, actually, having heard a few veterans do this and often trying it to keep up the old tradition — and the rewrite man would record it, transcribe it, clean it up and run it. If you talk to a newspaper reporter of a certain age, she might have stories about the good rewrite men and bad rewrite men. The good ones would take your rough story and turn it into a gem (with the help of other editors too). A rewrite man might go years without ever seeing his byline in a newspaper, never getting any official acknowledgement of his work to put out a finished piece of copy.
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Today is the most accessible moment in the history if mankind. We are new enough with tools that they are still used personally by many leaders but advanced enough that adoption is rampant.
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