Category Archives: Open Gov

Personal Democracy Forum: A New Generation of Thinkers

Last week I was at Personal Democracy Forum (PDF) in New York City. PDF is known as the premier global conference on how technology is changing politics and government. This was my second year attending and it was a remarkable few days.

My favorite panel was “Truth, Fact Checking and Online Media” with Jay Rosen, NYU Journalism professor, Bill Adair, creator of Politifact, and Marc Ambinder, politics editor at Atlantic. During the panel, they discussed the maze of misinformation that exists online, and how we, as professionals, can seek to be “trusted brokers” of facts.

Politifact is an especially compelling project – and one of my Tweets quoting Adair got a lot of buzz online. As Adair said, “Obama made 500 campaign promises,” and @politifact rates them as kept, compromised, broken, stalled or in the works on ‘Obameter.’

And as always, I enjoyed hearing what Professor Rosen had to say. He opened up his presentation with a photograph of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, and stated – There have been many situations in which “the press have been put in the service of untruth.” I think that’s an important quote to remember as we find our way through this new digital forrest of information, sourcing, news gathering and fact checking.

If you don’t know much about Rosen – his ideas are worth exploring. He is one of the most disruptive thinkers in our “future of journalism” crew. To see what I mean, check out his  suggestions to CNN to save their programming, or his advice for Meet the Press: fact check what your guests say on Sunday and report it online the following Wednesday.

Why not?

The whole idea of these panels is to bring together those “disruptive” thinkers – and another one worth noting is Newark Mayor, @CoryBooker, who joined the conference for the final key note. Booker uses Twitter as one way to connect to his community and crowdsource information about their needs.

Finally, here are some other great tid bits from my live tweeting:

  • Move over, Bit.ly. The U.S. government created a URL shortener.
  • What can you do with a kite, string and a digital camera? MIT’s Jeffrey Warren is mapping the Gulf oil spill with it.
  • See a pot hole? Broken street light? See Click Fix is a new web application allowing people in communities to report non-emergency situations - and get help, fast.

Who is the "Tea Party?" – My Tax Day Video

Who is the “Tea Party?”

A college student. A coal miner.

Check this out video from Tax Day, where I shadowed supporters of the “Tea Party,” (which was initiated by Freedom Works), and were out engaging the government about what’s going on in their lives.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhaD1g9-Dp8[/youtube]

As a side note, finally! I am back. As a video journalist, that is. It was a long journey to transition and upgrade all my gear. I’m happy to report that I have officially gone from a Panasonic Mini DV cam (MTV vids), to a Flip Cam (CNN iReport vids) to a Canon Vixia and a Kodak Zi8 Pocket, which are both HD quality. In this video, you’ll notice some imperfections, in part due to experimenting with different file formats. That’s OK though. No one is expecting technical perfection – I think we all get at this point, it’s all about creating content that is raw, unfiltered and authentic…and in some way makes you feel like by watching it you are closer to a truth you had not considered.

As for my editing gear, I also transitioned to a MacBook Pro and Final Cut Express. I won’t bore you with the details, but it was a dramatic, drawn out process getting the Canon Vixia HD filed (AVCHD .MTS) ready to go into Final Cut. In fact there’s no easy way, it requires tons of conversion and compression. That’s what video editing is all about. Tedious, challenging problems that require solutions. Over and over. Thanks to @AnthonyFears, who suggested I use HandBrake, an excellent converter that made my life so much easier and got these old clips ready to produce.

West Wing Week: Direct-to-Voter Videos From The White House

I was completely intrigued when I stumbled upon this new weekly staple of the Obama Administration – “West Wing Week” – a six minute video, packed to the max with b-roll, substance and soundbites of how the President spent the last week. I have yet to see anything as pithy and tightly produced by the news outlets in the Press Corps targeted at to the 18-35 year old demographic – a demo growing in influence and worth an estimated $200 billion in consumer spending. Or, for the political world, a demo with the power to deliver enough votes to say, swing a reelection campaign. Smart man our President is.

The video only shows about 2,685 views on YouTube. (The White House does not release traffic data for WhiteHouse.gov.)

Posted via web from ericaamerica’s posterous

The Social Media Tug of War: SOTU Style

The State of the Union streamed faster online than any of the networks could achieve on Television.  In the world of Twitter, conversation around the hash tag #SOTU soared, accounting for thousands upon thousands of updates on the aggregating machine. On sites like the New York Times and The Washington Times, live bloggers updated, updated, and updated. People gravitated to the pixels on computer screens and smart phones like citizen zombies, edging in a commenta critiquea joke, to see if anyone was listening.

But was anyone listening to the President?

Social media consultant, Jen Nedeau, was part of an effort with New York media consultant, Dan Gerstein, to organize a group of live bloggers and spur a substantive online discussion around the State of the Union. Her answer to the question above – was anyone actually listening? Most likely, would be a resounding yes.

“Social media allows the conversation that used to happen in the family living room, over the dinner table or within the knitting circle expand into a global dialogue. As the President gives his speech tonight, we will all be tuned in – not only to what he is saying – but to what those around us are saying.”

Nedeau, who earned her social media chops as a digital strategist in Washington, D.C. and New York City, went on to say that the online conversation in-stream with the President’s speech, “creates the unique ability for political thought to expand and explode beyond the television broadcast.”

Could she be right? In the last decade, technology has soared to new heights – at the turn of the century, words like Kindle, Android, Tablet and Geotargeting were hardly in our language. But in a short period of time, boundaries have disappeared and with it, unspeakable progress has occurred. But have all the channels for talk brought about setbacks, too?

Gerstein, founder of Gotham Ghostwriters and a columnist at Forbes, takes the question above and colors in a different point of view. With Gotham’s live blogging effort, he says, average political junkies are given an alternative to the talking heads found on network TV.

“Before these tools were available, people had to listen to talking heads yak at them.  Now they can directly engage political pros and experts in a two-way conversation, ask them questions, and quite possibly enlighten them.”

Gerstein makes a point – and with it, speaks to perhaps the biggest success the President didn’t address in the State of the Union: WhiteHouse.Gov. A web site that has made press briefings available live, visitor records downloadable, daily photos accessible, and Q&A’s with Administration officials a mouse click away. Tonight WhiteHouse.gov live streamed the address (yes, faster than the networks could), held a live video Q&A afterward, and uploaded the official remarks and two blog posts (onetwo) after.

My point – which is not to ignore the fact that I, like Nedeau and Gerstein, use social media to engage others and to tap into a larger conversation – is that we are all in this pixilated society together. But what does it mean for moving a President’s political agenda forward – any President for that matter, post-social media? Can either side build up enough strength, enough collaboration, enough bipartisanship, to tug the social media rope hard enough and bring over to the other side?

To see a Flickr feed of the social media story from the State of the Union, click here.

How to #ModGov


ModGov Hash Tag

Originally uploaded by ericaamerica08

On Thursday, January 14, 2010, The White House convened the forum on Modernizing Government. They are off to the right start after taking the advice of Craig Newmark, creator of CraigsList.com, to make funnel all talk of the forums around the hash tag #modgov.

White House Blogger, Jesse Lee, wrote about it here, which includes a list of the the five break out sessions, the guest list (from CEOs to Labor representatives), and a link to their LIVE White House streaming channel. On the most fundamental level, the forum really (publicly) initiated a converastion about what it means to modernize government operations to increase productivity, effectiveness and efficiency. As I mentioned, the full guest list is linked above, but as a quick idea, the CEOs of Adobe, United Airlines, Facebook, Yelp, Staples, Cargill and Time Warner were all there.

Here is a video of the opening session with President Obama.

And for everyone interested in the full breakout sessions, feel free to watch them here.
  • Transforming Customer Service 1: Video recap. (Also worth noting, you can download each video as a mp4 or mp3).
  • Transforming Customer Service 2: Video recap.
  • Transforming Streamlining Operations 1: Video recap.
  • Transforming Streamlining Operations 2: Video recap.
  • Maximizing Technology Return on Investment: Video recap.