TLG 2014 Conference

Last week I had the pleasure to attend the Alliance for Innovation’s Transforming Local Government conference. It was enlightening and inspiring to be around other public servants that have done such great, innovative work. Sadly I can’t point you to videos of the conference presenters, but you can watch the Alliance’s YouTube channel that contains submissions for their Innovation Awards. Also, some of the best information can be found under the hashtag #tlg2014.

I took a lot away from the Conference, but I think the greatest example of a change initiative came from the city of Durham, North Carolina. Their presenters included a GIS Analyst and Zoning Inspector (usually you see finance director and city manager types). They successfully changed their organizational culture by involving employees every step of the way, and really by letting the employees lead. Very impressive.

Backing Up Twitter with WordPress

Last week I found out about an updated WordPress plugin that let’s you archive your Twitter feed within WordPress. The plugin: Ozh’ Tweet Archiver.

I’ve already put it to use with my own Twitter archive here. I’m using the Hemingway theme for the moment, but Ozh already released a theme that looks like the new Twitter profile that I might utilize.

Ozh’s plugin only imports the most recent 3,200 tweets (thanks for that restriction, Twitter), and he just posted a way to use your Twitter archive to import your previous tweets. That wasn’t available last week, so I used the Advanced CSV Importer plugin to take the csv file from my Twitter archive and put those older tweets into the WordPress database.

This plugin is a really good way to maintain a usable archive of your tweets. Twitter might not always be around, plus, this is your writing, store it on your own website! Thanks, Ozh, for your hard work on this.

Abhi Nemani on technology in government

Abhi Nemani of Code for America:

In departing, I wanted to share what I’ve learned about coding for America. At the end of the day, it’s not merely about technology and cities; instead it is about the optimism technology confers and the meaning that cities make us crave. What defines this movement is an unyielding belief in the possible. A constant and a fervent desire to try new things, to push new boundaries, to do important work. That’s rare, and that’s special.

Zuckerberg on NSA Allegations

Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, on NSA surveillance allegations:

This is why I’ve been so confused and frustrated by the repeated reports of the behavior of the US government. When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government.

The US government should be the champion for the internet, not a threat. They need to be much more transparent about what they’re doing, or otherwise people will believe the worst.

Encourage Startups in Your City

Working in local government, I hear lots of people ask how they can become the next Silicon Valley. How can they become a haven for tech startups. Read the magazines or the blogs and this is a common sentiment. And this is a really difficult question, because it usually requires a cultural change.

Wired magazine recently had an article about what Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh is doing in Las Vegas. If you want to encourage startups to locate to your jurisdiction, go have a read.

The Value of Poli-Sci in Iraq and at West Point

From After Years at War, the Army Adapts to Garrison Life, New York Times (emphasis mine):

Captain Archuleta, 30, is the face of today’s Army, the kind of young officer who had experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan far beyond his rank. President of his 2006 class at West Point, he deployed a year later as a platoon leader to Babil Province, south of Baghdad. One day, his battery commander approached him with an unusual offer.

“He said, ‘I’m having trouble with the town council,'” Captain Archuleta recalled. “‘I know you are a wonky poli-sci kind of guy. I’m at a standstill. Can you contribute to this?‘”

Captain Archuleta joined a team of military representatives to the town council of Al Haq, where he helped oversee public services — water, roads, electricity — assisted in reconciliation talks with tribal elders and worked as a payroll officer to Iraqi security forces.

I was perusing the Times this morning and ran across this article. The discussion of the value of political science degrees (poli-sci UGA ’08!) gave me quite a bit of joy. I’m really proud that the Army recognized Captain Archuleta and has selected him to teach governance at West Point.