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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Technology in an Obama Administration

I first got excited about Barack Obama because of his technology policies. Of course I got more excited the more I got to know him. But reading his newly-released White Paper on Technology and Innovation (or the Technology Agenda on his new website), I’m excited that we have the right guy with the right policies to get this aspect of our country done right.

The highlights:

  • Net Neutrality was the first thing Obama mentioned in his plan. He understands that the Internet has been successful because of its open nature. That openness needs to be protected.
  • Safeguarding personal privacy in a digital age is important – and we need to rewrite our laws to make sure this happens. Specifically, we need to rewrite our surveillance laws to maintain national security while not spying on our citizens.
  • Government data needs to be free – both free as in beer and free as in speech. Obama even calls out blogs, wikis, and social networks as important tools for sharing information. This expands the excellent Coburn-Obama bill from 2006.
  • Obama will appoint a national CTO (and there’s been much speculation about who that person is) to oversee government infrastructure and transparency efforts.
  • America needs a new telecommunications infrastructure, with faster broadband Internet available to everybody. This is important because our country is lagging globally in delivering high-speed Internet to its citizens.
  • Obama will use technology as a tool to help his Healthcare initiative (pushing Electronic Medical Records), Education (greater access to the Internet), and Energy. He will double federal science and research funding for clean energy projects to help our nation wean ourselves from oil.
I was hoping the CTO role would be more extensive, being the person to make decisions to promote all of Obama’s Technology agenda; sadly, it looks like the role will be focused just on the Federal Government. While that’s a start, I’d love to see this individual drive truly national technology policy and oversee the FCC.

Here’s the whole thing, for those interested in reading more:

Barack Obama's technology policy - Get more Information Technology

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ted Stevens Convicted

I'm fascinated that, looking through previous posts of mine to link to, I hadn't gone off on a rant on Ted Stevens. I don't think I need to do it again - but I will let the New York Times do my talking for me. And I'll dig up an old Jon Stewart bit for the fond memories.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Change Congress. Since The Internet = Politics

In the early days of the web, the joke seemed to be that all the Internet was good for was porn. As it grew as a communication tool though, it started to become a major force in political campaigns. In 2004, Howard Dean seemed to truly understand the nature of how the Internet could be used to rally people around various candidates or issues.

Now it seems like all the Internet is good for is politics. Which is great - in many ways, it's the most democratic communication tool ever devised. Barack Obama has his own social network (I've got a page). My favorite blogs like Signals vs Noise and TechCrunch weigh in about the websites for various candidates. My friend Dan has his own political blog - though we don't agree on most things. My current favorite is Twitter's Election Center - if that isn't democratic communication, I don't know what is.

And Lawrence Lessig's got Change Congress.

Change Congress is a movement to end corruption in America's congress, centered around 4 principles:

  1. No money from lobbyists or PACs
  2. Vote to end earmarks
  3. Support reform to increase Congressional transparency
  4. Support publicly-financed campaigns
These are all good things that everyone should be able to get behind. Now, they're (we're) trying to get as many congressional candidates to explain where they stand on these four issues. And true to the Internet, we're hoping everyone can help out by pestering people running in their districts to do so.

Want to help? Here's what you do:
  1. Visit
  2. Find people running in your district. It's a long list, so I'd recommend clicking Ctrl-F to find your district number. If you still need help the homepage has a nice map.
  3. Click "Pester" to send an email or phone call. Don't worry, there are suggestions for what to say.
It's pretty easy. I got to help pull all the data for this together (it's surprisingly hard to find contact info for candidates who aren't incumbents!), so hopefully you'll take advantage of how easy it is to get involved in the democratic process.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Voting Democrat for Technology Sake

When we think about our biggest issues as a nation, technology policy rarely surfaces to the top of people's lists - it's typically things like foreign policy, the economy, or education. And rightly so, since they're important topics. But when you really think about it, the way our country approaches technology has a profound not only on our daily lives, but on who we are as a country.

Lawrence Lessig, a Stanford Law professor and technology advocate (not to mention personal hero) has a fantastic video about two major issues and why we need to care.

  1. In relation to other countries, the U.S.has terrible broadband penetration. We now rank #22 in the world. Republicans (including McCain) have pushed through policies that do little to incentivize large, monopolistic providers to offer better service and access to everyone.
  2. Internet Service Providers want to control how people use the Internet. Republicans (including McCain) have fought Network Neutrality, which would give consumers the right to use the Internet as they want.

I believe that we need a change in direction in Internet policy. We need to provide everyone access to the world's greatest resource. We need to preserve our freedoms for choosing how to use the Internet.

We need a president who doesn't call himself "computer illiterate," even after leading the congressional committee that writes technology policy.

For more...

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Xobni and LinkedIn Integration

Xobni = Inbox (backwards). Clever, huh? It's an Outlook plugin that tries to make your email experience a little more "social." Or as they describe,

Xobni offers a new way to organize and search your Outlook email. Xobni creates profiles for each person that emails you. These profiles contain relationship statistics, contact information, social connections, threaded conversations, and shared attachments
I came across Xobni some time ago when they were quite they private beta thanks to my coworker Luke. The app spread like wildfire around the office since it looks so cool, but died down a bit when it seemed a little useless. Their most recent release seems to have taken Xobni past the "product tipping point" (I'm referencing a great idea/article by R/W/W about FriendFeed here). They added two important things, LinkedIn integration and Folder Selection.

The LinkedIn integration worked well enough. Especially at Zecco, plenty of people have LinkedIn profiles set up, so now when I get an email, I get to see their picture and a couple relevant facts from their public LinkedIn profile. Awesome.

Even better are the stats. Now that I can select which folders Xobni looks at, I can include "Deleted Items." That's great because 90% of my emails end up in the trash (after I've dealt with them, of course). This makes all the stats it calculates a bit more accurate, meaningful, and interesting - if still a little dubious.

For example, I can see that Purni responds to me faster than anyone else at Zecco. Which I believe, though doubt that her average response time is actually 4 minutes.

And I can see my relative mail traffic over the course of a day (though I find it a little odd that my sent-mail patterns is so closely correlated to received).

Anyway, it's cool stuff - and I can see the potential for this improving the way I operate at work. Anything that can make email more efficient is OK by me. Else we'll all be declaring email bankruptcy soon.

More about Xobni...