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Ottawa, Public Sector Engage 2012, November 27, 2012:
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The last few weeks at NationBuilder have been personally very rewarding for me. In January, we publicly released our government edition, and we've already seen really exciting adoption rates. I'm loving the discussion our organizers are having with government folks around the country about how we can be of service.
As a hard-core Gov 2.0 advocate, one of the big things I want to see change in government technology is efficiency. Traditional cloud vendors and open data advocates have really helped turn the tide over the last couple years towards helping governments realize huge cost savings through SaaS technologies. Here are NationBuilder we're ready for that shift.
Read more about NationBuilder's new government edition here. My site is currently sporting our free government-focused theme, Civitas, and you can see our Pershing Forest theme here. Email government [at] nationbuilder.com for more information.
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Social trust is a popular online currency in modern political campaigns. Now a new service, Candidate Check, is bringing the mature industry of background checks and opposition research into the political web game. Founded by David Doud, a two-time candidate from Seattle frustrated by how easy it is for charismatic candidates to sweep up votes irregardless of their credentials and backgrounds, Candidate Check turns the traditional background check on its head by asking candidates to pay for the service and post a "Candidate Trusted" seal on their websites linking back to a independent report from the service.
David Campos, my former colleague at the San Francisco City Attorney's Office and current SF District 9 Supervisor, is running for re-election. He represents the Mission, Bernal Heights, St. Mary's Park and Portola neighborhoods. David's also using my company's NationBuilder software for his race. Check out davidcampossf.com for more info.
For the past few years, my primary advocacy focus has been on increasing government efficiency and transparency through technology. One of the areas of focus for me and other government-reform-through-technology advocates has been "open data", or increased access to government information, in machine readable and structured formats where possible. Other prominent open data advocates include Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist and the Craigslist Foundation, and Tim O'Reilly, a tech publisher who has popularized the notion of "government as a platform" for economic growth and innovation.
Over the past several months, I've been supporting a California initiative that would incorporate a modest "open data standard" into the California Public Records Act.
The bill is backed by the California Newspaper Publishers Association, the SF Tech Dems (a group I co-founded last year), the California Faculty Association, California Teachers Association, Common Cause, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees and many other prominent good government and employee groups across California and the United States. The most important provision of the bill, the California Senate 2011-2012 session's SB 1002, by Sen. Leland Yee, would ensure that when available, records would be produced in electronic form searchable by free software. The changes the bill proposes to California law are key to ending practices of posting records in unsearchable formats that are not indexed by search engines and are of low value for resuse and research.
Regretfully, the lobbing group League of California Cities has made gutting or killing this modest and needed reform one of its top priorities. The League, in a muddled screed nearly as long as the simple open data bill, makes false assertions about its language and intent, and attacks the aims of open data advocates: "It appears that the bill sponsors are more focused on imposing a new mandate requiring public agencies to create new data files and formats on request, to facilitate the creation of commercial, information-based products and services at public expense." In fact, open government advocates are very forward about our goals, which include reuse of existing government data as an economic engine. It is befuddling and troubling that the California League of Cities would object to beneficial reuse of public records and adjacent economic growth. (Ironically, the League's effort to kill this important economic growth and government transparency bill is funded by your money and mine in the form of its public funding for Capitol lobbying on behalf of city executives.)
SB 1002 is the product of open and public discussion by open government advocates around the state, nation and world. The League of California Cities has participated only through misleading lobbying and efforts to mute open data advocates.
Adriel Hampton is an entrepreneur, private investigator and journalist. He is a founding employee of NationBuilder, founder of Gov 2.0 Radio, advisory board member of LegiNation Inc., and co-founder of the SF Tech Dems. Before joining NationBuilder, he worked for the San Francisco City Attorney's Office for six years, where he developed the office's social media practice, and as an editor and writer at the San Francisco Examiner, ANG Newspapers and the Lodi News-Sentinel.
I came to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1999 as a junior transfer into Cal Berkeley's Rhetoric program. On Sunday, I'll be driving a U-Haul down I-5 to a new home in Arcadia after months of commuting from Dublin to a downtown LA office. After a dozen years doing journalism and investigations in San Francisco and the East Bay, it's what I've been up to this past year that's leaving the biggest mark on the city I now leave behind.
NationBuilder, a company I joined last May as its third employee, has more customers in San Francisco than any city besides Los Angeles, and I believe the greater Bay Area is the No. 1 market once you count up my friends in Oakland and Berkeley using our community organizing software. So while I'll miss San Francisco and the Bay Area, I'll still be here in a very meaningful way.
Source: SF Dept of Elections, June 5, 2012 unofficial election results
Back in November, I proposed that California adopt an open data standard for official documents. Scores of you signed on to support such legislation, and Sen. Leland Yee, D-SF, shortly thereafter proposed a step in the right direction - SB 1002, which makes machine readability a criteria for open records in the California. On Thursday, the bill passed out of the Senate, 34-0.
This bill nearly went down and it is to the credit of many of you in Adriel Nation that it didn't. Just last week it was basically dead in the Appropriations Committee, before a flurry of calls, emails and faxes to two key senators on the committee helped resurrect the bill.
Here is Leland's statement on the passage of the legislation out of the Senate.
And here is an article on the bill from California Forward.
I want to thank all of you for your efforts promoting this important principle - that records posted online should be in the most accessible possible formats. There is a long way to go, but this is a great step in the right direction for efficient, transparent and technologically adaptive government. Special thanks to Javier Muniz of Granicus, whose support for open government and thoughts on how to advance it helped spur my efforts on this issue, and to David Cruise, whose tireless advocacy helped to get SB 1002 this far.