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Showing posts from April, 2009

New OSTP Blog Breaks New Ground

The systems for participating in government have been long established and formalized. They often make joint discussion hard. For example, the traditional approach is for an agency to issue a Request for Comment. Then, people have a certain number of weeks to post comments, but can't comment on each others' work real-time. And then, there's a time for reply comments. Sometimes, it's often hard to find the comments to reply to, at least for me, since I'm not a DC insider.

The Office of Science and Technology Policy is trying something cool and new: they've set up new OSTP Blog for commenting on an important issue that President Obama wants feedback on: the question of maintaining scientific integrity. And, you can comment on comments, and rate comments (similar to slashdot). It's taking advantage of technology to make a more powerful discussion that I hope will be more productive and informative compared to the old, asynchronous comment mechanism. I…

Social Enterprise Summit's Policy Track

One of the highlights of last week's Social Enterprise Alliance's Summit was the Launch of the Policy Track. We were delighted to have with us Carlos Monje of the White House Office of Social Innovation (so new, it doesn't have a website).

A lot of cool things happened in the policy track (even I spoke), but I think the interesting thing was Carlos' comments. And so, I'll share those with you.

According to Carlos, the Office is part of the domestic policy team inside the White House. They have four staff right now. They have three areas of focus:
Service. The big deal here is the Edward Kennedy Serve America Act. Michelle Obama was a big part of Public Allies and is a huge fan of national servicePublic Private partnerships.
Social innovation.
The service angle is not service for its own sake. They see this as a big deal, and expect to upgrade Volunteer.gov to really rally more volunteer service. There will be a Social Innovation Fund, small by federal standards …

Bookshare -My favorite graph

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I'm going to be heading to Washington DC this week to give a talk at the National Press Club on Bookshare and our new partnerships with universities and publishers. We've just been able to confirm Allan Adler of the Association of American Publishers as one of the participants. Should be very interesting.

On my last trip to DC, I was very happy to be showing off the above graph. We're signing up students for Bookshare at a rate of more than 3,000 per month, and this means we're well ahead of our goal which was about 1700 students a month to hit our 100,000 students over five year goal. The entire Bookshare team is very proud of this!

National Library Week and Bookshare

Guest Blog from Amy McNeely, Bookshare Librarian

This past week, April 12th through April 18th, was National Library Week. Every year, the American Library Association picks a different theme for the occasion. This year’s theme was “Worlds connect @ your library.” Bookshare is a unique library. When as the Bookshare librarian I fill out membership forms for different library organizations, I want to check all the boxes, as Bookshare is at once a school library, a public library and an academic library. This is one way Bookshare brings worlds together.

My name is Amy McNeely and I am pleased to be the new librarian at Bookshare. I’ve been working in libraries for nine years. Over that time, I’ve seen a lot of different libraries, from both the back room, where I normally work in technical services, and the front in public services. I have worked in a bustling public library, a small governmental department library, a huge federal medical library, a small specialized library for a …

Yes, I wear a suit sometimes

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I keynoted the Illinois Computing Educators - ICE conference recently, and someone posted a picture on Flickr. It's fun to go out and tell stories to hundreds of people. Mainly, I talk about where Benetech comes from...

Training Afghani NGOs in Cambodia

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Guest Beneblog by Vijaya Tripathi

As a Program Associate for the Benetech Human Rights Program (HRP), I train and support human rights advocates who use Benetech’s free and open source Martus program to securely document human rights violations. Human rights documentation can take many forms including interviews, photographs, and official documentation. It is vital to the work of human rights investigations, and it serves many purposes. Sometimes this material is generated in the context of providing relief services, legal aid, or other support to victims. Other times it is collected to record the human rights environment in a given context, perhaps a conflict or post-conflict situation. In some cases, the information is intended for use in court cases or international prosecution, to support a human rights report, or advocacy campaign.

This type of documentation is often a critical step in the large-scale data analysis projects conducted by Benetech’s Human Rights Data Analysis Group (…

Dueling moral high grounds

President Marc Mauer of the National Federation of the Blind just had an excellent op ed published by the Baltimore Sun entitled Bias against blind book lovers. Mauer does a great job in capturing the advocacy position of the Reading Rights Coalition.

This is a case of dueling moral high grounds. The Authors Guild are pressing the cause of authors' rights to make more money (in theory). The Reading Rights Coalition and NFB are advocating for the equal rights of disabled people. How does society choose between competing moral high grounds?

I don't know of an algorithm for this, but I do know how people think. And, the Authors Guild is suffering because the NFB and Reading Rights Coalition has done a great job of articulating the differences. My take:

Authors Guild: we want to insist that publishers turn off text-to-speech so our authors can make more money over how much they make from the standard text ebook. But, we'd be happy if they charged extra for text-to-speech o…

National Press Club on Bookshare Partnerships with Universities and Publishers

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I'm really looking forward to my first ever National Press Club talk in Washington D.C., coming up on April 29th.
We have exciting news about Bookshare, and it's especially thrilling to be talking about an educational program that scales well and works. Of course, the secret to Bookshare is that it's not Benetech making it so successful, it's our volunteers, our community, the schools, colleges, universities, authors and publishers that make it work so well for people with print disabilities so severe that they cannot read a standard printed book effectively.

Humdinger

There are more and more exciting technology social enterprises all the time. One I'm fond of is Humdinger. They have lots of innovations, but my favorite (and how I first heard about them) is their micro-windbelt power generator. They have a prototype design for powering climate sensors in building in air conditioning ducts, that would get their power from the air flow.

I hope they find the right licensees and that I get to buy one of these units.

Emmet Labs: saw a demo at TED

I saw a neat demonstration at TED, when I got the chance to meet Janice Fraser of Emmet Labs. The idea is to have stories about people in the past, and the connections between people, with a wiki approach with some extra structure. The focus is on pre-1970, so we have lots of kings and queens featured. But, I think Stevie Wonder is the top person in connections (example, when Stevie dedicated I Just Called to Say I Love You to Nelson Mandela while he was imprisoned, his music was banned in South Africa).

I like their motto about submitting material: "Be nice. Don't steal. Tell the truth."