Barack Obama

Obama ‘Wired’

Source: Wired

Source: Wired

President Obama served as guest editor for the November issue of Wired, and the entire print issue is worth investing in.

Here are a few articles that might be of interest to those of you focused more on the civic and government technology fronts:

Quotable from Obama:

We are far better equipped to take on the challenges we face than ever before. I know that might sound at odds with what we see and hear these days in the cacophony of cable news and social media. But the next time you’re bombarded with over-the-top claims about how our country is doomed or the world is coming apart at the seams, brush off the cynics and fearmongers. Because the truth is, if you had to choose any time in the course of human history to be alive, you’d choose this one. Right here in America, right now.

Guide to using Twitter

Tweet itGadi Ben-Yehuda, Social Media Director for the Center for the Business of Government, shares his insights into how government can better leverage Twitter.

What is Twitter?

Twitter is a ‘micro-blogging’ platform. Twitter accounts are free and posts consist of 140 characters that may (but don’t have to) contain links, address other Twitter users and be part of ongoing conversations that are tracked with the pound sign (#).

Why join Twitter?

There are distinct reasons to follow certain people and conversations on Twitter and then to begin or join conversations. Reasons to follow people and conversations include:

  1. Let human beings (rather than an algorithm) find news relevant to your interests;
  2. See what people are talking about and how they are discussing it;
  3. Find people who are likely to be interested in your publication; and/or
  4. Jumpstart a relationship that you plan to initiate in real life.

Reasons to begin your own conversations or join those already in progress include:

  1. Help constituents find your own blog posts or multimedia assets;
  2. Deliver meaningful, but brief updates to your audience;
  3. Help determine the course of a conversation through language and links; and/or
  4. Keep yourself invested in the conversation among its most active participants

How to tweet?

Once you establish your Twitter account, you may begin tweeting. On the top of the Twitter home screen, there is a text box into which you enter messages.

Technical Aspects of Tweeting


A tweet may be no more than 140 characters. It’s a good idea to limit yourself to 140 characters minus four more than your username so that others may retweet your messages without losing words I.e. if your handle is ‘Jsmith’ (six characters) limit yourself to 130 characters — 140-6-4.


A hashtag is a ‘#’ placed in front of a word or string of letters. Hashtags are developed spontaneously by users and allow people to search for them and follow ongoing conversations. Examples of hashtags include #energy, #gov20, and #recovery. Take care, however, not to use ambiguous hashtags; visit and read the tweets in which your hashtag appears to get a good sense for its relevance/appropriateness.


Placing a username in a post is akin to using a hashtag. You mark a name by place an “@” before someone’s Twitter handle. Doing this links a user’s name to their profile, so that readers can click on it and go to that user’s twitter feed. It also makes your tweet appear within that user’s twitter feed and on people’s twitter feeds if they have a search running for that person’s name.

It’s generally considered good manners to alert a fellow Twitterer when you mention them.


Just read @GBYehuda’s Twitter guide. Great #gov20 resource.

Content Aspects

Twitter is an excellent digital channel for the following activities:

  • Publicizing your blog content: tweeting about your blog post, using hashtags, including a shortened link ( or, as example). Shortening links is automatic in applications like Tweetdeck, or you can go to or and enter a URL to be shortened.
  • Augmenting your blog content: tweets can be added to your blog to keep your content up-to-the-minute fresh. They can also keep your readers engaged in your conversation by more regular updates than you have time to add to the blog per se.
  • Calling out followers: tweets that include usernames can be used to pull people into your conversation, thus creating a relationship and a dialogue that may be more interesting and fruitful than a monologue.
  • Linking to/commenting on relevant content: tweeting about others’ posts, articles, and other assets as they are published online makes you a resource for your followers and a good colleague to the authors whose work you distribute.

How to build a following

Once youve joined Twitter and started writing posts, you should start to build a following. It takes time to build a significant following and many people will find you through retweets, your blog (or other publications), or other organic means beyond your control. There are some actions you can take, however, to accelerate the growth of your readership.

  • Follow people who are likely to want to follow you. This is an extension of the adage ‘If you want a friend, be one.’ Look for the people who are engaged in the conversation in which you are participating and follow them. Look through their follower lists and follow all the people there who are also participating in that conversation. Be generous with your follower lists, erring on the side of inclusion. People are more likely to investigate following someone who is following them than they are to follow someone based only on hashtags and retweets.
  • Reference people who are likely to want to follow you. Be generous with your use of ‘@’ signs to reference other twitterers. Retweet others’ posts if they are relevant and if you think your network should know about them. If you are commenting on a blog post, ascertain if the author is on Twitter, and if so, reference her in your tweet. If you have written a blog post about someone, include their Twitter handle in your tweet about the post.
  • Use appropriate hashtags. People follow conversations as well as people. By marking your posts with appropriate hashtags, you will both attract more followers and be read by people who are not necessarily following all your tweets.
  • Tweet meaningfully and often. People are more likely to follow writers who provide high-value content and do so frequently.
  • Include your Twitter handle in all digital communications. People are more likely to follow you if they know you’re on Twitter. Include your Twitter handle in your emails, post it on your blog, write it on your business card, and put it in the signature of essays that you publish online. Anywhere that you might include your email address, you should also include your Twitter handle.

Use TweetDeck

If you are successful at building an audience, and if you want to follow specific conversations, you should use Twitter as a platform and TweetDeck as your interface. Set up columns that track conversations by hashtag (for example, I follow ‘#gov20’ all the time and when a conference is in session, will follow that specific hashtag, e.g. ‘#g2e,’ ‘#pdf10,’ and ‘#irmco’) and columns that track your highest-value followers by topic (for example, I have a column for technologists, another for social media/communications, and another for government employees).

Apart of splitting your Twitter feed into higher signal-to-noise streams, TweetDeck can also present other social media streams, like FaceBook and LinkedIn, but that’s really more gravy.

Introducing Sunlight Live

What if we were able to “cover” live events in a new way using government data that we’re able to compile and connect it to political events and personas of the day?

Today we’re going to take this idea to the next step by beginning to connect government data such as campaign contributions or lobbyist meetings to a political event in real-time. As Republican and Democratic leaders come together to debate health care in a public forum, Sunlight is going to provide an alternative to the mainstream media’s coverage. In a replicable pilot we are calling Sunlight Live, our team will connect data such as the aforementioned lobbying contributions or “revolving door”connections the meeting’s participants may have, and put them right next to the video feed, as any particular politician is speaking.

We think Sunlight can offer a unique live perspective on the debate in the midst of the media frenzy, by focusing not on the merits of health care, but on the money, connections, and influence data to which we have created access. In addition to displaying data from Sunlight and its grantees’ projects, our staff will once again be live blogging, facilitating online conversation via Twitter, and engaging the open government community in research as the debate unfolds. We don’t yet know exactly what we’ll need or what will work best … but that’s the point.

We’ll be getting things started at 10 a.m. with the beginning of the meeting. Hope you’ll join us!

White House ‘Transparency and Open Government’ memorandum

On January 21, 2009, President Barack Obama signed a ‘Transparency and Open Government’ executive order. Here is video of the signing and full text of the memorandum.



Transparency and Open Government
Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies

SUBJECT: Transparency and Open Government

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

Government should be transparent. Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing. Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use. Executive departments and agencies should harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public feedback to identify information of greatest use to the public.

Government should be participatory. Public engagement enhances the Government’s effectiveness and improves the quality of its decisions. Knowledge is widely dispersed in society, and public officials benefit from having access to that dispersed knowledge. Executive departments and agencies should offer Americans increased opportunities to participate in policymaking and to provide their Government with the benefits of their collective expertise and information. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public input on how we can increase and improve opportunities for public participation in Government.

Government should be collaborative. Collaboration actively engages Americans in the work of their Government. Executive departments and agencies should use innovative tools, methods, and systems to cooperateamong themselves, across all levels of Government, and with nonprofit organizations, businesses, and individuals in the private sector. Executive departments and agencies should solicit public feedback to assess and improve their level of collaboration and to identify new opportunities for cooperation.

I direct the Chief Technology Officer, in coordination with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Administrator of General Services, to coordinate the development by appropriate executive departments and agencies, within 120 days, of recommendations for an Open Government Directive, to be issued by the Director of OMB, that instructs executive departments and agencies to take specific actions implementing the principles set forth in this memorandum. The independent agencies should comply with the Open Government Directive.

This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by a party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

This memorandum shall be published in the Federal Register.