What do custom-designed T-shirts and presidential campaigns have in common? Harper Reed, chief technology officer for the Obama campaign, rose to prominence because he knew the answer: They both can benefit from websites that engage users and encourage community participation—and, in the process, gather valuable data. In a profile at Mother Jones, Tim Murphy describes how such potentially powerful and jealously guarded tech strategies—Obama’s go by codenames like “Narwhal” and “Dreamcatcher”—work.
Reed got his start at Threadless, a website that sells quirky T-shirts to hipsters. But as Murphy details, the site didn’t just make shirts and expect people to buy them; it was a social forum that asked for their input every step of the way:
In another step toward erasing the environmental footprint left by his predecessor, President Obama issued a memo yesterday temporarily requiring federal agencies to once again consult wildlife experts on how their actions might affect endangered species. The memo will revive a decades-old practice under the Endangered Species Act that calls for agencies to consult with either the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on whether their projects could affect imperiled species. On Dec. 16, the Bush administration allowed agencies to waive such reviews if they decided, on their own, that the actions would not harm vulnerable plants and animals [Washington Post].
In an effort to “help restore the scientific process to its rightful place at the heart of the Endangered Species Act,” President Obama directed the Interior and Commerce Departments to review the Bush regulation, and until the review is complete, Mr. Obama’s memorandum says, agencies must return to the former practice of seeking and acting on scientific advice [The New York Times]. Read More