Some dude on the Internet.

Ethics Pages 3

Note: this is the third edition of the Ethics page of my personal website. It was published on February 23, 2015 and replaced on April 15, 2017. It is kept here as a blog post for archival purposes. The main changes are my move to Ad Hoc from Smart Chicago Collaborative, my resignation from the Sunlight Foundation board, and additions and deletions on 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. As time goes by, and our lives become further enmeshed con joy, our spheres get more aligned, but 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. Here’s a list of funders and associated projects.

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. Smart Chicago has recently embarked on the Connect Chicago Challenge, an effort to make Chicago the most dynamic digital city in the country. We have many partners in this effort, some of which directly contribute funds.

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 a contract 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 “advance 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 a member of the Sunlight Foundation Board as of December 2014. I am the chair of the board of U.S. Open Data as of 2013.

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, including ChicagoNEXT. I will post more 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.

Changelog: this is Ethics Page #3, published on February 23, 2015. It replaces Ethics Page #2, which was published on March 10, 2014, and is archived here. The February 2, 2012 is archived here.

Article: “UX testing that works” in GCN

Today I was referenced in “UX testing that works“, a story about the success of the CUTGroup, a user testing methodology I invented in February 2013. Here’s a snip:

The CUTGroup meets both to look for errors in the performance of an app and  to check “classic human interface design in term of the presentation of information and workflows,” said Daniel X. O’Neil, a founder of Smart Chicago and author of a bookabout the CUTGroup project.

The CUTGroup program has become part of a trend in digital systems toward user-centered design and development, according to O’Neil, now director of product development and business strategy at Ad Hoc, LLC, a software development firm with a focus on government apps.

“The move toward user-centered design, user-centered systems and the increase in the number of user researchers in government contracts is profound,” said O’Neil, adding that the “CUTGroup has provided concrete ways for designers to listen to real people for whom they are creating.”

The trend also fits the focus of the General Services Administration’s 18F and U.S Web Design Standards initiatives, which gives developers plug-and-play design and code that GSA claims set “a new bar for simplicity and consistency across government services.”

To support demand for the data and testing necessary to support a user-oriented approach to programming, developers are turning to methods like the CUTGroup.  The group aims to find people whose characteristics make them target users for a particular project. For example, testers can be sorted by the devices they use to access the internet, their familiarity with 311 services, whether they’re veterans, of whether they’re about to lose health insurance benefits.

“That kind of specificity is actually very difficult to get, and the CUTGroup allows for a really good method for recruiting regular people so they can be contacted and segmented on a moment’s notice,” O’Neil said.


White House Champions of Change Reunion

Today I attended the White House Champions of Change Reunion. It was fun.

Here’s a tweet from @potus:


I’m teeny-tiny in the back left:


And here’s some b-roll in which my mug appears:



CUTGroup Named one of 15 “bold urban policies with a proven record of success”

Today the Center for an Urban Future published a report, Innovation and the City, that lists the Civic User Testing Group, a community-based UX test ing methodology I invented in February 2013, as  one of 15 “bold urban policies with a proven record of success”. Here’s a snip:

What most civic tech projects have lacked, how- ever, is an active role for city residents. Dan O’Neil is one of the founders of the civic tech movement. As founder and executive director of Smart Chicago Collaborative, an innovation incubator sponsored through a public-private partnership, he has played an instru- mental role in Chicago’s tech endeavors. But at a certain point, O’Neil became disillusioned with the lack of public engagement in the ingenious parade of apps and special-purpose websites that have garnered so much attention and praise. He observed a lack of interest in meeting the needs of ordinary people, or even finding out what they considered their own needs to be.

Smart Chicago addressed the participation gap by shifting their focus from software development to software testing. Applications can be written by a small group of coders in a windowless room, but that’s only the beginning. In the private sector, companies convene user-experience (UX) groups to try out appli- cations or websites and report their experiences. UX groups are less common in the public sector, and O’Neil had the idea of creating one that would also empower and connect its participants.

Here’s the CUTGroup section of the report:


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.

Remarks at the White House Open Data Innovation Summit

Today I gave keynote remarks, “Open Data: Roots, Impact, and Promise” at The White House Open Data Innovation Summit. Here’s the morning agenda:


Here’s the slides:

Here’s some images:
Here’s video:

Daniel O’Neil of Ad Hoc LLC, an organization that has enabled a number of federal government agencies to scale new technologies faster, said the federal government and the public at large are at a unique point in history wherein the full potential of open data is just being realized.

“We are on the front lines of how to use open data to make real change,” said O’Neil, stressing that efforts must be made to continue moving forward “no matter what comes next.”

Photography: Spot News Pics of Taxi Crash at O’Hare

Today I took a number of photos of a taxi that had crashed into a vestibule at Terminal 3 of O’Hare Airport. The images have been picked up by a number of news outlets, including Huffington Post: Taxi Slams Into Terminal 3 Entrance At Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Snip:

A taxi jumped a curb and smashed into the glass at an entrance to Chicago O’Hare International Airport on Monday evening as Memorial Day travelers returned home.

Images shared on social media by Daniel X. O’Neil show a Prius with markings of the Dispatch Taxi Affiliation in the entrance vestibule at the lower level of Terminal 3.


Here’s a complete set of the photos.

Google Photos Taxi Crash

Including this one, which has the driver (male, left) gazing at his error:

Taxi Driver O'Hare Crash

Here’s the pics being used in various news outlets.

News story: Dan O’Neil leaving Smart Chicago for digital government services firm

Today the Blue Sky Originals section of the Chicago Tribune published an interview about my departure from Smart Chicago and my move to Ad Hoc: Dan O’Neil leaving Smart Chicago for digital government services firm


“When you talk about impact — which we all want to have — they’re making impact for millions of people right now, in this moment, on the Internet,” O’Neil said.


The firm is based in Washington, D.C., but O’Neil said he’ll work remotely and remain based in Chicago. He plans to stay involved in Chicago’s civic technology community.

“I will continue to have a voice as a resident of this city in the way things are run and how they go,” O’Neil said. “You can’t build good products for hundreds of millions of people in this country without caring about their digital skills and their access to your tools.”

Writing: Toward Sustainable Community Tech Organizing

Today I published an article in Civicist that lays out the enormous investments made at Smart Chicago in civic tech and questions whether those were the right models. It lays the foundation for a more serious discussion of community technology organizing models we’ve pioneered at Smart Chicago. Here’s a snip:

Smart Chicago’s focus is on the unmet technology organizing needs in neighborhoods all over the city.

Sustainability of civic tech organizing is basically resolved in Chicago. What remains is a city of 2.7 people million with precious few invitations to range beyond their own block, very few jobs in tech for people with low to medium digital skills, and very few ways to listen and hear the needs of the people.

That’s what we need to build.


Participant: The State of Impact in Civic Tech

I took part in some research put created by Omidyar Foundation called, “The State of Impact in Civic Tech“. Here’s a bit of my contribution:

The State of Impact in Civic Tech

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