Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

This weekend, Texas Forums and the League of Technical Voters are co-sponsoring a gathering of technologists, citizens, non-profits organizations to work on the Transparent Federal Budget Project. The theme of the weekend is “We Are All Actors“. The goal of this project is to increase the transparency and accountability of our political processes. It will consist of a community-built legislation database, an intuitive web-based database UI, and a social network to tie each database contribution to the author’s identity and reputation.

We intend for this project to have a substantial, positive impact on this country, and this means knocking down as many barriers to participation as possible. To this end, a key proposal of ours is to create a social networking open standard, allowing users of existing social networking sites to participate in the TFB social network and community using their existing identities. We are enjoying tremendous support from former Senator Bill Bradley who wrote about the need for greater transparency in federal budgeting and legislation.

In the spirit of transparency, the entire event is being webcast at: mms://

Throughout this weekend, I’ll enlist volunteers from our gathering to reflect on their experiences.

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exgtreme democracy

Date: July 30, 2007
Time: 7:00p.m. to 8:00 CDT
Where: Texas Forums Virtual Room (See discussion guide for instructions)
Cost: Free
Topic: Politics and Networks
Download discussion guide for:

  • Description of discussion topics,
  • Definition of Extreme Democracy,
  • Links to all reading materials,
  • Instructions about how to log into the room,
  • Everything you need to know about this series

Essays for July 30

It’s the Conversation Stupid!: The Link between Social Action & Political Choice, by Valdis Krebs
Discuss Krebs essay
Social Network Dynamics & Participatory Politics, by Ross Mayfield
Discuss Mayfield essay
Broadcasting & the Voter’s Paradox, by David Weinberger
Discuss Weinberger essay

Available only in print version, not online:
Sociable Technology & Democracy, by danah boyd (pp. 183-193)

The Calculus of Political Power, by Mitch Ratcliffe (pp. 127-153)

Download slides introducing tonight’s topics

Also of interest
We have invited all of the authors of the essays for discussion to join us. Mitch Ratcliffe has been a regular participant. So far tonight, we know that we will also be joined by Vladis Krebs. This is a great opportunity to engage in a dialogue about politics and networks with colleagues from around the world (France, for example is represented!) and some of the leading extreme democracy thinkers!

Background about Extreme Democracy
This is the sixth of a twelve part discussion series on Extreme Democracy co-sponsored by the Central Texas World Future Society and Texas Forums, an initiative of the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum.

The purpose of these discussions is to explore the principles and technologies of Extreme Democracies, and to explore how these concepts and technologies are affecting our own social change efforts, our democracy, and the upcoming election. These discussions take place online synchronously in the Texas Forums Virtual Room on Monday evenings at 7:00 p.m. Central Time. Participants are encouraged to also participate in an asynchronous dialogue about the readings for the week on the Extreme Democracy Blog.

You do not have to participate in all sessions.

These discussions are free and open to everyone.

For more information about this series including a schedule of events and hardware/software requirements for participation in the series, visit the Texas Forum blog. Read the discussion guide here. It includes a description of how to use the virtual meeting room.

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Tonight is the fifth of a twelve part discussion series on Extreme Democracy co-sponsored by the Central Texas World Future Society and Texas Forums, an initiative of the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum.

The purpose of these discussions is to explore the principles and technologies of Extreme Democracies, and to explore how these concepts and technologies are affecting our own social change efforts, our democracy, and the upcoming election.

Our conversation tonight, focusing on the power and the potential for a few people with a web presence to have a voice in national politics (how well Trent Lott knows this!), will ironically be taking place in the second hour of the CNN/YouTube democrat presidential debate, hosted by Anderson Cooper. Beginning at 7:00 Eastern (6:00 Central) the eight Democratic candidates (the Republicans get their shot on Sept. 17) will respond to video questions submitted by ordinary citizens on YouTube. CNN is even encouraging amateur reporters to submit their take on the candidates by video after the debates

  • Is this just a gimmick?
  • What does this all mean?
  • How will this influence the conversation between the political elites and citizens?
  • Will this, as David Borhman the Washington bureau chief for CNN speculates, “push the definition of a debate”?
  • Will this, as Jeff Jarvis who blogs on buzzmachine.com says, show mainstream journalists how to ask better questions?

Tune into CNN at 6:00 p.m. tonight (Central) for the first hour of the debates and then join us in our virtual room at 7:00 (Central for a discussion and reflection of how these new technologies are influencing politics and whether they are truly bringing in new voices and changing the media’s role.

More about Extreme Democracy

Download discussion guide for:

  • Description of discussion topics,
  • Definition of Extreme Democracy,
  • Links to all reading materials,
  • Instructions about how to log into room,
  • Everything you need to know about this series

Essays for July 23

Power Laws, Weblogs & Inequality, by Clay Shirky
Post your online comments about Shirky essay here
Building on Experience, by Mitch Ratcliffe
Post your online comments about Ratcliffe essay here

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Today I received notice from Chan-Gon Kim, Vice Mayor of Guro District in Seoul, South Korea and PhD from Rutgers on e-democracy that he had read my posting about his work in e-democracy. We exchanged a couple of e-mails and he sent me his power point presentation and his dissertation from Rutgers. (Pretty cool when you can spend your Saturday morning in electronic dialogue with a Vice Mayor in South Korea!)

I’ve uploaded his dissertation, PUBLIC ADMINISTRATORS’ ACCEPTANCE OF THE PRACTICES OF DIGITAL DEMOCRACY: A MODEL EXPLAINING THE UTILIZATION OF ONLINE POLICY FORUMS IN SOUTH KOREA for your review. The power point slides need some formatting and I think they’ll look better as a quicktime movie or some other format. Any ideas???

In the meantime, his dissertation (I’ve only read the exec summary and a review by Steven Clift at DoWire) will be my reading material for the flight to San Francisco tomorrow. I’m working with Don Means of Digital Village Associates on the Community TeleStructure Initiative, Fiber to the Library. We have a very interesting array of people coming, many I know from a past life!
I’ll be home in time for the fourth of July festivities. I’m working on a report about our fabulous Presidential Forum Watch Party. You may have noticed some blog postings from some unknown characters. They were our citizen bloggers writing during the Tavis Smiley moderated forum on June 28. But this is just a tease. More later…

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KLRU, the public television station based in Austin and serving Central Texas recently launched “Docubloggers” a “half hour weekly series that takes a community-driven, interactive look at life in Central Texas. Combining documentary filmmaking and viewer interaction, Docubloggers incorporates stories produced by the community to create a portrait of the region. Viewers will have a chance to be a part of our interactive community and submit content to be considered for the web and air.”

This is a curated form of citizen journalism that is worth monitoring.

mmmm, I wonder if someone out there would be interested in producing a docublog about our Achievement Gap project with E3 Alliance and Austin Voices.

If that appeals to you, join us at the LBJ Library on June 21 at 6 to learn more about this project. It promises to be a story worthy of a KLRU airing.

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[This posting first appeared on May 31, 2007 in anticipation of our training session on June 6. Although the date of the training has passed, we are still looking for volunteers. If you are interested, please leave a comment here or e-mail Taylor Willingham.] 

On June 6 at 7:00 p.m., (Central) Texas Forums will be conducting an online workshop to train Volunteer Technical Production Assistants. We are recruiting these volunteers to assist with our online presentations and workshops, which we are expanding over the coming year. If you are interested in learning about the online technology we are using and how you can get involved, please join us on the 6th, by clicking here from your PC with Internet Explorer. More details below…

The Call For Volunteers

Texas Forums is looking for a few good geeks, semi-geeks, wanna-be geeks, hackers or folks who are “pretty comfy” with computers to provide technical support for our virtual workshops using the Opal Online Technology.

And the best part is…you can do it from your own home computer. You don’t even have to live in Texas!

Plus, you’ll get to participate in some really cool workshops and presentations and get to meet people from all around the country!

What You Will Do

We host workshops, panel presentations, meetings and lectures in a virtual room that has audio, text, whiteboard, and slide (url or powerpoint) push technology. We have had speakers and participants from every corner of the country and will be partnering with colleagues in other countries. These presentations are recorded and archived. Visit our archive for a sample of the work we have done!

Once you complete the training, you will become part of our pool of volunteers we can call on to help out with future presentations. If you are scheduled to be the Volunteer Technical Production Assistant for the workshop, you will log into the site twenty minutes before the start time, conduct sound sound checks with the participants and speakers, make certain the slides work and record the event. (the technology is built in, you just have to hit a button!) After everyone is set, you are free to participate, learn and contribute! Sessions are generally 60-90 minutes.

The Technology Requirements

All you need is a moderate degree of comfort with your own PC computer, Internet Explorer (my deepest apologies to my fellow Macgeeks!) speakers and a microphone (available for as low as $15).

Joining the Room

You can locate the Texas Forums virtual room by:

clicking here and bookmarking it in your Internet Explorer favorites folder or your del.icio.us account, or
go to our host, OPAL Online at http://www.opal-online.org, find “meeting rooms” at the top of the page, scroll down to “Texas Forums”.

When you visit the Texas Forums virtual room, you will see this:

opal room

Just download Talkcom the first time. After that you click on the big orange button to join the room. Once in, you’ll see something like this:

TF room

How to Get Involved

We will hold our first training session on June 6. Join us at 7:00 p.m. (Central), by clicking here from your PC with Internet Explorer. If you can’t make the training session, leave a comment here or send an e-mail to Taylor Willingham.

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Loyal readers who have read this blog since the beginning (both of you) will remember that this blog really got a jump start last October when I participated in a 48 hour codeathon organized by my pal Silona Bonewald, founder of the League of Technical Voters.

Well, I’m back at it again!

We’re in the eighth hour of a 30 hour codeathon at Tek Republik in Austin.

Ryan is working on the c-wiki that he and Hunter started working on last October. We have a design structure for the c-wiki.

I’m chomping at the bit waiting to test his coding to see if it could be a tool for collating the reports our citizen journalists will write about the forums taking place across the country. This tool could perhaps support online issue framing using the National Issues Framing methodology. I am also experimenting with a collaborative web site tool, wetpaint (actually an easy to use wiki) for librarians to frame a national conversation on privacy.

So many toys, so many ways to change the world, so little time!

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[On April 2, Texas Forums hosted a workshop for members of the National Issues Forums network on how to use principles of citizen journalism to report the results of their forums. Led by John Doble (Public Agenda) and Marla Crockett (Citizen Journalism expert) about 15-20 people (participants log in and out so it’s hard to count!) learned how to report on what people in forums are saying as well as how they are talking about the issue. The following was written by participant Margaret Holt from Georgia and published in Bob Daley’s Letter from Home from the Kettering Foundation.]

April 3, 2007

Bob – Here’s a little report of an online forum on citizen journalism from your Georgia Stringer, MHolt:

Last night (8-10 p.m. EST) I participated in an “OPAL” event sponsored by Texas Forums. I didn’t need to leave Watkinsville, Georgia, to be a part of this. Taylor Willingham (aka Teckie Taylor) arranged this event for us. It was instructive and extremely interactive. The energy issue was used for our entry into a discussion of citizen journalists.

“OPAL is an international collaborative effort by libraries of all types to provide web-based programs and training for library users and library staff members. These live events are held in online rooms where participants can interact via voice-over-IP, text chatting, and synchronized browsing.”

There were 16 participants with Taylor Willingham moderating the group. Most of us could hear one another, many of us could speak using a web microphone, but even when that wasn’t possible due to individual technologies available to participants, everyone could enter written comments that we all could read no matter if we were in New York, Georgia, Texas and many other locations. Marla Crockett and John Doble led us through some useful ideas about citizen journalism. This was very meaningful to Jill Severn and me in Georgia, because we’d like to experiment more with citizen journalists in our PPI in late June.

Although the technology is not yet “perfect”, it has come a long way, and interacting with all these tools is sure a lot more pleasant than dealing with the Atlanta Airport. I do prefer seeing my colleagues like Patty and John face-to-face, but this technology provided a very adequate way to hone in on a special topic. Everything we said is archived – the written and the verbal, and the slides as well. That means that anytime we want to guide people on this topic we have immediate access to fresh thinking.

Here are some comments from my Georgia colleague, Jill Severn: (Jill is Head of Access and Outreach in our Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies at the University of Georgia)

“I found the citizen journalist training to be a worthwhile experience. I’m still amazed that technology allows us to come together in such interesting ways. I look forward to listening to the recording of the seminar and reviewing the slides–so much was happening all at once with the chat and the regular commentary of the presenters that I know I missed something. One thing that struck me is that this training should be offered more broadly in the same way that issue-framing and moderating currently are.

The skills of listening and assessing have board potential value for PPI participants working on sharing/publicizing their own projects and issues. I’m also energized about exploring distance learning seminars as something that Russell might offer. Texas Forums are a wonderful model! “

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Here are some numbers that might be of interest…


Current rank of the Texas Forums Blog if you Google the term Big Hairy Audacious Goal


Number of people looking at the Texas Forums web site at 1:54 p.m. on February 24, 2007


Most number of hits to the Texas Forums blog in a single day


Number of hits from people looking at the Deliberative Democracy Handbook page on the Texas Forums web site


Number of posts on Texas Forums Blog


Number of hits to the Texas Forums Blog


Number of hits coming into the Texas Forums web site from Russia


Number of visits to Texas Forums web site in the first six days of February


Number visits to Texas Forums web site in January, the biggest month in the past 12


Average number of people using feed aggregator to view Texas Forums Blog


Percentage increase in daily average visits to Texas Forums web site over 12 months ago

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On March 14, 2007 at 7:00 p.m. (Central Time) Marla Crockett, trained NIF moderator, veteran public radio and television journalist, and John Doble, seasoned reporter of public thinking based on National Issues Forums (among other talents!) will lead a free online citizen journalism workshop for members of the Texas Forums and NIF network. The purpose of this workshop is to prepare volunteers to observe and report on NIF forums. Participants will learn how to identify deliberation, listen for common ground and points that are unresolved, conduct post-forum interviews and write a quality report that will be used for the national report. For our first workshop, we will use the Energy Issue as our guide.

And here’s some good news! The Kettering Foundation is providing a free copy of the Energy Issue Guide to people who register and participate in the workshop. OK, it’s on the honor system, since you need to order the book BEFORE you participate in the workshop, but we trust ya!

To register and find out how to log into the virtual room, go to the Texas Forums Web Site.

To order your free copy of the Energy Problem issue book so you can do your homework before March 14th, call: 1.800.600.4060 and tell them you are registering for the online workshop on report-writing.

I have set up a web site for projects that are not ready for prime time…i.e., still in development and too fluid to put on our REAL web site. Here’s where you can learn more about our Citizen Journalism Project and other projects in development.

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