If you're looking for the best political software technology platform - integrated voter files, supporter and volunteer database, online donations, voter outreach tools, social media, online political action forms and political websites that build fast and work well - skip over NGP VAN and check out NationBuilder.
How important is open data to effective government and good public policy?
According to two guest speakers at our latest Third Thursdays SF meetup, it could mean preserving California's forests and deciding whether millions a year in Ethics spending in San Francisco will go to reform or just bureaucracy.
I didn't know until recently that California's Sierras were being denuded in huge swaths of clear cutting. But check out this one-minute video from Forests Forever and you'll see it too:
I'm working with Paul Hughes, executive director of Forests Forever, and Larry Bush, founder of CitiReport, to put together an SF Bay Area hackathon this winter to help their causes. Both groups will sponsor modest prizes, and we welcome support and involvement from wherever you are. If you can help, please email "adriel at adrielhampton.com"
Nothing is free. We pay with our privacy, or with our taxes, or with foundation money, or investors' money, with our eyeballs and our influence, and sometimes we actually pay directly for goods, information and services.
The notion that somehow online and "open" government services are free is a great danger to the open government movement.
Do I think that online access and standardized formats for much governmental information are important? Yes. Do I believe that open government data access in many instances saves money and spurs innovation and economic growth? Often.
Does "public equal online"? OK.
But it sure as hell isn't free.
Every online service has to be paid for, and we're competing for tax resources against subsidized transit, the social safety net, public safety, teacher salaries and hundreds of other government services you and I probably value deeply.
What will sustain the open government movement? Innovative and realistic funding models, and, yes, fees for service. In the best world, governments use minimal funding to create standardized "open" access to information, and companies build services on top of that information. An no, those services won't be free, not if they're to be sustainable.
There is a reason that companies like Socrata and and NIC Inc. are doing significant and lasting work in the e-Gov and Gov 2.0 spaces: they are for-profit businesses with focus, endurance and realistic funding models.
I don't want an OpenGov world where a slavish devotion to "free" means we don't acknowledge competition for scarce resources, or where rich benefactors and their foundation funding decide which initiatives are worthwhile. And in fact, if "free" is the mantra, there won't be an OpenGov future.
From writing letters to newspapers to getting press coverage for a petition drive to creating buzz with new social media tools, media campaigns remain one of the most powerful tools in an activist's toolkit.
In case where you can identify a local congressperson, a key State Department official, an executive or other potential decision-maker who is active on Twitter and who could make a real difference in your cause, Twitter plus an activist tool called Act.ly could make a real difference (I now work for Act.ly's parent company, 3dna, but wrote the first version of this post before joining the company).
Act.ly is a simple Twitter petition tool built by Jim Gilliam. You can read a summary of how Act.ly works and highlights of its recent successes here.
So, here's my advice for running a successful Act.ly campaign:
It's not easy to think of an appropriately deprecating term for crap apps in a space where "Tweets," "chatter" and more are positive terms. However, it's time to start calling out all the horrible apps that contribute to and foster social media spam.
These garbage apps help people spew identical content across all of their social media profiles, follow others practically at random and barf out TechCrunch links and bleating aphorisms from dead famous people to fill their "networks."
What apps do you nominate as social media "Blurtware"?
Today I visited the first California Laws Hackathon in Berkeley on behalf of NationBuilder and BillTrack50. My friend Karen Suhaka, founder of BillTrack50, was hosting hackers in Denver to support the event.
More on the event here. Thanks to Maplight for hosting in Berkeley, and congrats to Ari Hershowitz of Tabulaw for making it happen.