Methodical Snark

critical reflections on how we measure and assess civic tech
This is a blog about how the civic tech and accountability field measures its work and its impact. It’s based on a critical perspective, but tries to be more productive than conference snark. It’s an effort to highlight how much work is being done in silos across the academic-NGO divide, to de-mystify important methods and findings, and to call out research that is sloppy or unhelpful. Scroll for the blog roll, or check out the core content types:
WEEKLY RESEARCH ROUNDUP: findings, happenings, and absurdity in civic tech research. 
I read THIS FOR YOU: summaries for those with more interest than time. 
Mini Lit Reviews: when I wonder about something, I check what the research says, and write it up.

Latest stories

Against the civic tech sector

Stefaan G. Verhulst recently offered some suggestions on how to “build a civic tech field that can last and stand the test of time.” Stefaan is a smart guy, connected, well informed, and his suggestions make smart sense of a messy landscape. But they also accept a fundamental premise which tends to go unchecked in international discussions about civic tech. His introduction: …we are yet to...

The Permanent Staycation

I just returned from the digital methods summer school (post forthcoming). It was the first time I’ve attended an international event for phd students, and in the inevitable dinners and drinks that followed long workshop days, I learned a lot about how phd programs differ. One thing that surprised me, was how consistently the most thoughtful and productive people seemed to describe the leisurely...

Research Links (w24/16)

Papers/Findings Making All Voices Count this week reported on their recent Learning Event, in a document that collects some useful schematics and tools for thinking about civic tech programming, and also captured some of the practitioner thinking about what it all means. A certain scepticism and sense of let-down has been expressed by some observers, but this may have more to do with the way...

Apples, oranges and open data

Open Knowledge International recently asked for feedback on survey questions for the 2016 Open Data Index. This is great, and has produced a modest but likely useful discussion to  improve Index processes for national research, as well as the resulting data. But regardless of how much effort goes into fine tuning the survey questions, there’s a fundamental problem underlying the idea of an...

Research Links (w21-23/16)

jeez, long one. shouldn’t wait three weeks to put these up. Papers / Findings A lab experiment suggests that including participation mechanisms (particularly commenting) in design of regulatory schemes (agri-environmental in this case) can increase compliance (though this effect is short lived, and the authors suggest more participatory mechanisms might yield longer gains in compliance)...

Quick Note: Using the Rhetoric of Civic Tech

There’s a recurrent obsession with self-naming and differentiation in international thinking  about how technology can facilitate some kind of betterness (nice overviews here and here). Part of this is likely about fashion, funding and social prominence, but there’s also legitimate concerns about how our labels impact “the field”’s popular salience or ability to learn. For me, the greatest...

Can Millennials Save E-government?

Many analysts (including yours truly, in a book called “Government 2.0”) predicted that by 2016, digital government would already long be a reality. In practice, the “e-gov revolution” has been an exceedingly slow-moving one. Sure, technology has improved some processes, and scores of public services have moved online, but the public sector has hardly been transformed. What initial e-gov efforts...

What’s e-gov got to do with it?

Lots. Emily Shaw posted a great piece on the relevance of e-governance research for civic technology earlier this month. She argues that academic e-government research dwarfs the nearly non-existent academic interest in civic tech (as evidenced by 169,000 vs 185 hits on google scholar), and that civic technologists should care about research on e-government. And in the civic tech world, we can...

Research Links (w20/16)

Papers / Findings Badges are back! There’s invariably at least 1 working group at every collaborative sticky event that proposes a system of badges for internet advocacy tools, data or groups. Almost none get off the ground (Open Integrity Index might remain the most promising), but a new paper (Badges to Acknowledge Open Practices: A Simple, Low-Cost, Effective Method for Increasing...

Research Links ( w19/16)

Papers / Findings Fifty Shades of Open. New paper from @jpom &@robinpeek on all the wacky ways we talk about #open. Breaks the word down into 7 primary tropes. Useful reference point when parsing jargon. MySociety writes about research on FOI requests in the Czech Republic. Their experiment sent 2 FOI requests to 100 agencies via both email and the national Avateli implementation. Quality of...

Methodical Snark critical reflections on how we measure and assess civic tech

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