Code for America 2012 Fellowships Open

“What if we could help your city work better, just by using your smartphone?”

-Biz Stone, Twitter Co-Founder

“What if city hall spoke with citizens the way citizens speak with each other?”

-Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Co-Founder

Code for America is announcing their call for 2012 Fellows.  The Code for America Fellowship Program connects web developers and entrepreneurs with communities and cities in need. They strive to make government more open, efficient, and responsive, through the use of new technologies. And all the while, they provide leadership training and career support.

You can find out more about Code for America here. And you can apply for the Fellowship Program here.

New Theme on My Droid 2

This is what I love about Android: the customization and the community.


Here I’m running a customized Honeycomb theme (here) for a community built ROM (Liberty, here) that runs on the open source Android operating system on the Motorola Droid 2.  I’ve customized it with icons, a different launcher (LauncherPlus Pro), and a weather/time widget from an HTC version of Android.  I’ve completely customized the look (and functionality) of the home screen.

Community ROMs (versions of Android, basically) introduce new and great features, while fixing bugs.  I don’t have to worry about not getting an updated version of Android software on my Droid 2, because I know that other community members will release ROMs with the features.

And if I don’t like something, I can fix it on my own. That’s open source.

Can you do any of this on your iPhone/iPad?

Drupal CMS for House of Representatives

GCN noted yesterday that the U.S. House of Representatives is moving to the open source Drupal content management system.  The White House recently moved to Drupal also, which I have discussed here and here.

The founder of Drupal, Dries Buytaert, talked about the House move to Drupal and mentions the requirements:

  1. Accommodate hundreds of independent websites, each with different sets of features.
  2. Provide the ability to deploy new sites quickly and efficiently.
  3. Enable House Members to use the web designer or developer of their choice by leveraging the Drupal community.

A couple of examples of the new Drupal websites, which have initially been deployed for freshmen House members, are here and here.

Apollo 13 Transcripts, Web 2.0-Style (on my birthday) released an incredible treasure trove.  They have taken the transcripts from the Apollo and other space missions and added a little Web 2.0:

Read the stories of early space exploration from the original NASA transcripts. Now open to the public in a searchable, linkable format.

Not only is the spacelog searchable and linkable, it is tweetable.  AND, and, they’ve interspersed pictures (taken by the Apollo 13 crew and others) to the time in the log in which they were taken (like this).  This is incredible.

To accomplish this transcription, Spacelog posted the original transcripts, and then crowd-sourced the copy-and-pasting to their interface.

I love it.  They link to some of the best parts, but I have to share my own.

First, the requisite quote:

Jack Swigert: I believe we’ve had a problem here.

Jim Lovell: Houston, we’ve had a problem.

Second, my favorite (watch the movie):

Houston, Capcom: Aquarius; Houston. We’ve got you both on VOX.

Lastly, a great picture and quote:

Jim Lovell: And there’s one whole side of that spacecraft missing.

I can’t say how much that I enjoy reading through this.  Being able to relive history, in the first person, is an amazing experience.  I might be a nerd, but I love this stuff.

I Voted


That’s right, I voted and I’m wearing Georgia gear.

Plus, I’m trying out WordPress on my new Android phone!

Beyond Diaspora

I was glad to see I wasn’t the only one disappointed in Diaspora.  Read this article from Blogoscoped, Beyond Diaspora: Another Facebook Alternative has a Head Start.

While I have already deployed (it’s an open, distributed alternative to Twitter, and mine is here), it doesn’t allow for much social functionality, especially for the single user.  And GNU Social, what the article is really about, isn’t widely developed (look at the email lists, there are very, very few posts).  I would think the GNU/FOSS community could put some more substantial effort behind creating an open alternative to Facebook.

As I said up front, I’m disappointed in Diaspora (the open alternative to Facebook that got a lot of attention this summer).  Diaspora runs on Ruby, which is great if you like Macs (it’s built in to the operating system), but Ruby runs poorly on Linux servers (which host the majority of the internet’s sites).  The entire package is difficult to install on Linux, but the real issue is Ruby.  Ruby is notoriously slow, and a lot of people are reporting that the app slows to a crawl when two people are accessing it.

I’m disappointed in Diaspora because they didn’t make Diaspora to work with common server technologies like PHP and MySQL.  Therefore, the installation base is a lot smaller, and those that want to install it are in for a day-long treat typically.

The Need for Government Data

The City of Seattle’s CTO (Chief Technology Officer) Bill Schrier writes an interesting blog, and recently posted about the need and usefulness of local (and state and federal) government data.  He notes the iterations of government presence on the Internet/web:

  • First, simply putting information online for citizens.
  • Second, online transactions (paying bills, reporting problems, applying for permits, etc.).
  • Third, “expanding information to include this bulk download or easy, machine-readable, querying of data.”  (He also notes, “in this wave of innovation, government diverges significantly from the private sector. Few private businesses will want to place large amounts of data collected at their own expense in the public domain for anyone to see and use.”
  • Fourth, sites where “constituents can not only report issues online (using a map-based interface in the case of see-click-fix) but also see what others have reported and even rank the importance of the issues which have been reported.”
  • Fifth, allow citizens to track issues (and resolution of the issues) online.
  • Sixth (and this is done by citizens and not government), citizens use government data sources to make applications (‘apps’) to inform policy-making.

Overall, this is a very good read from “the Chief Seattle Geek.”