Article: The Hidden Workers of Civic Tech

Today I published this article in Civicist: The Real Heart of Civic Tech Isn’t Code. Here’s a snip:

In our Civic User Testing Group (CUTGroup), which is run by Sonja Marziano, we publish all of our methods for recruiting testers and developers, and we’ve compiled it into a book as well.

They’re hiding in your city—find them.

Civic tech that doesn’t include people like Akya, Angel, and Farhad leads to a distorted vision of the field. A vision that leads with technical solutions rather than human capacity. A vision that glorifies the power of the developer rather than the collective strengths of a city.

So as the 1,200 Summit attendees get on planes, go back to their jobs, and log in to Github, I urge you to find the Akya, Angel, and Farhad in your communities. Build them into your lives and your work. The field of civic tech won’t thrive without them.

PRESS: League of Legends online video game plans big connection to Chicago

Today I was quoted in a story about League of Legends moving servers to Chicago.

Here’s a snip:

Dan O’Neil ⇒, executive director of Smart Chicago, said the move is a big deal for Chicago as the eSports industry booms. With the city’s central location and connectivity, the announcement “just ties in with a world of strength here in Chicago,” he said.

Panel: Mikva Challenge New Civics Practitioner Conference

Today I participated in a panel at the Mikva Challenge New Civics Conference on civic tech. Here’s a description  of the conference:

The tools and strategies for teaching civics are changing. This conference will provide in-depth training and comprehensive exposure to a range of new civics instruction: from action civics to youth media production, from digital civic learning to controversial issues debates.

And info on the panel:

Join Daniel X. O’Neil (Smart Chicago), Becky Michelson (EngagementLab) and Lisa Kim (Mikva Challenge) in a conversation on the role of technology in activism campaigns with students. This workshop will explore how student led civic tech can transform issues and civic solution making, and help students develop their civic identity and passion as well as media literacy skills. Each panelist will share about how they use digital tools as a strategy for youth civic engagement, participate in a moderated discussion and take questions from workshop participants.

Judge: Digital Media and Learning Competition Trust Challenge

Today marks the announcement of the winners of the Trust Challenge. Here’s their description:

The Trust Challenge has awarded a total of $1.2 million to thirteen projects that will foster trust in online learning environments. Winning projects, evaluated by a panel of interdisciplinary thought leaders, were selected for their ability to advance trust, privacy, and equity in the context of the core values of connected learning, an approach to education in the 21st century that takes advantage of today’s abundance of information and social connection. The projects also tackle issues of access, management of data, and technical interoperability. Winners will receive between $35,000 and $150,000 each to develop their projects over the course of a year. Download the full press release. 

I helped with the judging on this challenge. Way to go to all of the winners and a huge shout-out to all of the finalists: I enjoyed reading every single one of your entries.


Ethics Page #2

Note: this is the second edition of the Ethics page of my personal website. It was published on March 10, 2014 and replaced on February 23, 2015. It is kept here as a blog post for archival purposes. The main change is the addition of my relationship with the Sunlight Foundation and some Chicago-based boards/ committees/ etc.

Statement of Personal Ethics, Potential Biases, and Possible Conflicts of Interest

Being an ethical person is important to me, and I think it’s useful to know where people are coming from. Here’s some info on that for me.

Starting from the hearth and moving outward, I am married to Shawn-Laree O’Neil, who runs her own public relations business. There is no overlap between her clients and the entities with which I work.

We live in the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago, often with my two children, who mainly live with their mother in a suburb west of Chicago. I spend a lot of time out there as well, to the point that I’m basically a city mouse/ country mouse.

I’ve got a pretty large family of origin, with six siblings, three of whom live in Chicago. There is no overlap between their financial matters and mine. My brother Kevin runs the CTA Tattler blog, which I helped him set up, and I’ve worked with him in the past on some civic technology projects like CTA Alerts.

I am employed as the Executive Director of the Smart Chicago Collaborative, and that is where I get the bulk of my income. I report to— and my actions are governed by— an Advisory Committee made up of leaders from its three founding organizations— the City of Chicago,  The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Chicago Community Trust.

I care about and coordinate my actions with the municipal government of the City of Chicago. Not just because it’s a part of my job, but because I care about its success. I’m in contact with people in City government nearly every day. I go to work in the offices of the Chicago Community Trust, and am officially an employee there. I work with Trust colleagues on other matters of interest to the Trust, not just Smart Chicago. Smart Chicago receives the bulk of its operating funds from the MacArthur Foundation at this time and I work closely with people there on lots of initiatives. Smart Chicago has acontract to work on open data with the County, including a commitment to put Smart Chicago funds into the work. I do not personally benefit financially from this arrangement.

Smart Chicago hires civic innovation professionals to do all sorts of work. I seek to use these contracts to help grow an ethical, thriving ecosystem in this portion of the technology industry. All are welcome— use the Smart Chicago contact form to get in touch.

I am a Director of Voqal, which works to ad”vance social equity by supporting nonprofit organizations and individuals that use technology and media to build an educated, empowered and engaged public”.  My work at Voqal has a particular focus on Chicago.  Smart Chicago has no relationship with Voqal, but the organization’s goals are parallel in some ways, especially around broadband adoption. Voqal is a foundation partner of Mobile Citizen, a service that provides low-cost mobile Internet exclusively for schools and nonprofit organizations. I also serve on the Finance Committee of the EBS Financial Advisory Committee in connection with my work at Voqal. I receive no compensation for this service, although I do receive travel and accommodations to attend meetings in cities outside of Chicago.

I am the Chair of the Digital Divide Elimination Advisory Committee, which “advises the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity in establishing criteria and procedures for identifying recipients of grants under the Digital Divide Elimination Act”. Neither I nor the committee makes any recommendations about how grant funds are spent. In my capacity at Smart Chicago, I created and oversee the Connect Chicago program, which is a “loose network of more than 250 places in the city where internet and computer access, digital skills training, and online learning resources are available—for free”. I also help run the Connect Chicago meetup, which seeks to draw all of the people who work in these locations into a community of shared learning. Many Connect Chicago locations apply for an receive grants from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity grant program. I have nothing to do with any of these grant applications.

I serve as co-chair of the Cook County New Media Council. I receive no compensation for this role.

Smart Chicago holds OpenGovChicago meetings at Chicago Community Trust offices. I help organize the programming and Smart Chicago pays for food and events. I am a co-founder of OpenGovChicago. I receive no compensation for this role, though I do get the opportunity to help frame the conversation in the field and highlight the people, trends, and topics I find valuable. Have an idea for an OpenGovChicago meetup? Tweet us.

I advise other organizations in quasi-official capacities as well. I will post them here if/when they rise above that.

I am now and I have always been a member of the Democratic Party, and I can be generally described as a “Big City Democrat”. Some current real-world manifestations of this are that I think President Barack Obama is doing a great job. I took a semi-famous picture at the President’s re-election HQ in the last election cycle. At election time I often write down why I’m voting the way I am, like an October 2008 screed about Sobbing Southbound. I worked for and contributed to David Hoffman for U.S. Senate in Illinois in 2010. I voted for Rahm Emanuel for Mayor of the City of Chicago in 2011. I live in the 32nd Ward and I am a fan of my Alderman, Scott Waguespack. Lastly, I have a placeholder organization called CampaignSwing, under which I organize some of my political consulting work.

I am a recovering alcoholic and have been a member of Alcoholics Anonymous since September 10, 2000. I seek to practice these principles in all of my affairs.

I am a Catholic and love being one. I own the Roman Missal, Third Edition, and I carry it around for fun. Like almost every other Catholic I know, I am highly supportive of things like the right of women to choose what to do with their bodies and the right of all people to love and marry whomever they want. I justify this by referring to the Nicene Creed that we say in Mass— as long as I believe every single word in there (and I do), I am a Catholic.

I teach CCD, and I inject these principles of tolerance and essential doctrine into my teaching. In general, I teach the kids that Jesus was down with all sorts of people and if He came down from heaven today, he wouldn’t be in a tizzy about some of the nitpicky baloney that “religious” people get worked up about.

Like everybody else, you can tell a lot about me from the company I keep. I’m not the world’s biggest retweeter of things, but the normal admonitions apply. I’ve never understood the idea that “opinions are my own”. Of course they are.

I own a lot of domain names and have a lot of side projects. I write about them on this self-named Web site and you can see screenshots of pretty much everything I do as well. In one of these projects— CTA Alerts— I monitor Twitter and the Chicago Transit Authority’s Alerts API for information about service outages. I’ve work with Harper Reed on this and a bunch of other projects. I’ve also written (and continue to write) books of poetry.