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Archive for November 13th, 2008

Obama’s yet-to-be-named CTO suggestion box

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So there is a ton o’ buzz about President-elect Obama’s proposal to create a CTO — a chief technology officer. The proposal came out of the campaign and the then senator made his technology proposal, which included the creation of “the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer.” Here is what Obama’s technology platform says:

Bring Government into the 21st Century: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will use technology to reform government and improve the exchange of information between the federal government and citizens while ensuring the security of our networks. Obama and Biden believe in the American people and in their intelligence, expertise, and ability and willingness to give and to give back to make government work better. Obama will appoint the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to ensure that our government and all its agencies have the right infrastructure, policies and services for the 21st century. The CTO will ensure the safety of our networks and will lead an interagency effort, working with chief technology and chief information officers of each of the federal agencies, to ensure that they use best-in-class technologies and share best practices.

So what should the priorities of the Obama CTO be? Well, you can sound off — and make suggestions. There is a new Web site,, where you can make suggestions… and vote on other’s suggestions for the yet-to-be-named CTO.

I first read about the site on CNet.

While the technology pundits are debating the role of an Obama administration CTO, a few programmers in Seattle yesterday decided to do something more useful. Using an application from UserVoice, they launched, a site, unaffiliated with the Obama machine, that allow citizens to list and vote on what should be the top tech priorities for the new administration.

“User voting is an easy way for people to prioritize ideas,” said Matt Lerner of, which created the site. While the voting on this site is more like on Digg than a scientific sampling, and can be gamed, it is part of the Internet-fueled movement to give more of voice to the populace. The Obama campaign provided ample evidence of the benefits of using the Web for massive outreach. Now the question is how much weight the wisdom of the crowd will carry in influencing the direction of government policy.

Tonight, I actually spoke to Matt Lerner, the… er.. CTO of, and we are going to have him on Federal News Radio’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris in the 5p ET hour Friday.

After talking to Lerner — who is wonderful — I then found that NextGov’s Tech Insider had written about the site pointing to the NYT Bits blog.

Tech geeks are tickled that come January, one of their kind will be in the White House. With the election of Barack Obama, a text-messaging Facebook user.

Who should get the role of C.T.O. — the geeks’ representative in Washington — has been the subject of intense debate in the tech community. On Tuesday, a few of those geeks started, a Web site with advice for the C.T.O., whomever he or she might be. (Obama has said he planned to get ideas directly from voters, and he is already doing so at his transition Web site,

Obama CTO was built by Front Seat, a small Seattle software company that creates Web sites for civic causes. Its biggest project is Walk Score, a site that ranks neighborhoods by how walkable they are. They got the idea to build Obama CTO around noon on Tuesday and posted it by the afternoon.

The idea came, oddly enough, from the Republicans, who are soliciting citizen ideas online at Rebuild the Party, said Matt Lerner, chief technology officer at Front Seat. He started getting involved in Democratic politics while working at Microsoft in 2004, when he founded Driving Votes to register Democratic voters in swing states. “Appointing a C.T.O. has been an invitation for Silicon Valley to get more involved,” said Mr. Lerner, who co-founded EQuill, a Web development software company, and sold it to Microsoft in 2001. “Hopefully the C.T.O., when elected, will take a look at the site and see what some of the priorities of the community will be.”

Among some of the suggestions on

Open Government Data (APIs, XML, RSS)
We can unleash a wave of civic innovation if we open up government data to programmers. The government has a treasure trove of information: legislation, budgets, voter files, campaign finance data, census data, etc. Let’s STANDARDIZE, STRUCTURE, and OPEN up this data.

Gov to be ran on 100% free software
Premise: Software is licensed to distribute the overhead of its initial development, the cost of which few organizations could afford. Because all government software purchases are made with public funds, the public should be licensed to use it.

Proposition: All future investments are to be made in software that is licensed to grant use and source code access to all governed subjects. Security will be maintained with the use of trusted concepts, including asymmetric cryptography, and not rely on the obscurity of closed source software. Where viable further development of existing operating systems and applications will be funded. Where not viable, or where competition is lacking, new projects will be originated. No patents will be granted for pubic works. Release of existing patents will be used as bargaining in the contract bidding process.

Opinion: The ability of corporations and individuals to support themselves by developing software will not be impeded. On the contrary, the funding will be fair market representations of what the development is worth. The only thing that will change is that public will receive direct benefit from having paid for the software. The result will be a new renaissance in software advancement. We will also realize boons in hardware utilization and life cycle extension, helping to relieve the e-waste crisis.

Allow the public to comment on all legislation

Allow at least a 5 day comment period where the public can comment on all legislation before it is signed into law.

You can vote for suggestions… or make your own.

So tomorrow, we’re going to talk to eWeek editor in chief Eric Lundquist about his column suggesting that the CTO should actually be a CIO… And hear from one of the creators of… on Friday’s Big Show.

Written by cdorobek

November 13, 2008 at 9:57 PM

The DorobekInsider guide: Experimenting with Twitter — part I

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twitterEarlier, I promised a list of who to follow on Twitter. I’m still working on it, but… here is part one…

You have probably heard about the Web site Twitter, the microblogging site. And there are many explainers out there. One of my favorite — and one of the easiest — comes from the remarkable team at Common Craft, who produce these wonderful “plain English guides” to all sorts of things — mostly technologies… and including Twitter.

Essentially Twitter asks the question: What are you doing now? And people post their answer — in 140 characters or less. Simple as that. The biggest issue with Twitter is building your network. Like many of these information sharing sites, they are only interesting if there is information to share and somebody — and somebody interesting — to share it with.

So this is something akin to a guide to who you can follow that would give you a taste of what Twitter is… and, perhaps, begin to understand it.

Let me put my caveat here at the top: I’m not totally convinced yet. I do find Twitter interesting and valuable in many ways — I have found interesting people via Twitter that I may or may not have ever met before… and I have certainly found stories and information that I probably never would have found before. But there is also a lot of clutter there — people posting about their delayed flight or where they are right now. Some of these posts — including some of my own — leave me wondering: Why would anybody care?

But there is even more here, I think, and this is why I find Twitter particularly interesting… it is a platform to allow people to share information. I posted earlier about the Twitter Vote Report project, where people could feed information using Twitter or text messages, about their experience at the polls on election day. Those tags could then be tracked and monitored — by all of us. Talk about transparency and information sharing. Another powerful example comes from those horrible San Diego fires last year that destroyed scores of homes. People ended up banding together to get information about their neighborhoods using Twitter.

Set the data free… build the platform… and people will use that information in ways that we don’t fully anticipate.

And I’m not the first person to watch Twitter, of course. Harvard Business School Prof. Andrew McAfee — the guy who is credited with inventing the term “enterprise 2.0” — wrote about why Twitter is interesting on his blog recently.

So for a number of reasons, I find Twitter fascinating… but I’m not yet totally convinced. But in the end, these new tools are quite easy to use — and you have to at least experiment with them to understand them. So… perhaps we can learn together.

In the meantime, if you want to follow me…

Written by cdorobek

November 13, 2008 at 7:40 AM

Posted in Web 2.0

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