Blog Ipsa Loquitur

Published on under Like Uber But For Blogs

We sit down with a team trying to revamp the Peace Corps website, then we walk over to chat with another team that recently created a user-friendly analytics web page,, that tracks which government websites are trending (a National Weather Service page usually tops the list). The goal here is to reveal how U.S. citizens use government websites, and to spark healthy competition among agencies to create more popular services.

In keeping with the tech corps’ guiding principles, everything is open source, so outsiders are free to adapt the program. And they do: A few weeks after the analytics website went live, Philadelphia used the program for its own analytics website, which the 18F team considered a measure of success. Thanks to their open-source code, they had improved government without doing any extra work.

The cool part is that the federal government is hiring nerds. The cooler part is that cities are using the technology that the federal government builds. It’d be nice to see New York City take advantage of this.

Published on under Sportball Chronicles

A former National Hockey League player just got elected to the Hall of Fame, even though he hasn’t really retired. Puck Daddy, the best hockey blog on the planet explains why this is even absurd than you think:

It’s surreal that Chris Pronger is now paid to prevent future Chris Prongers from hatching and menacing the NHL. It’s surreal that Chris Pronger is an NHL employee, while getting paid on an active NHL player contract. It’s surreal that Chris Pronger is an NHL employee, getting paid on an active NHL player contract, and will be a name featured on the Arizona Coyotes roster on his induction day for the Hockey Hall of Fame – a team the NHL, his employer, recently sold to its current owners.

See also: Pronger Physics.

Published on under Motion to Point and Laugh

Prenda used to be a law firm that represented copyright owners suing the pirates who illegally download movies and TV shows and other, shorter films. I say “used to,” because in about 2013, they were sanctioned (i.e. fined) by a judge for repeatedly engaging in egregious behavior. After being fined, the lawyers running Prenda started hiding their assest so they could plead poverty and avoid paying the fines. The judge found out, and held the lawyers in contempt. How delightful.

Though if you really want the full Prenda experience, Ken White of Popehat has chronicled every delicious moment of Prenda’s demise, including a wonderful blow by blow commentary of a hysterical appellate hearing. I do suggest watching it.

The story gets even better today, because TorrentFreak has evidence that the FBI is investigating Prenda’s attorneys for copyright infringement. Prenda was apparently the pirate providing illegal copies of the videos in the first place, and then running to copyright holders to say “hey look all these people are downloading your movie; we can sue them for you!”

The crucial evidence to back up this allegation came from The Pirate Bay, who shared upload logs with TorrentFreak that tied a user account and uploads to Prenda and its boss John Steele.

This serious allegation together with other violations piqued the interest of the FBI. For a long time there have been suspicions that the authorities are investigating the Prenda operation and today we can confirm that this is indeed the case.

The confirmation comes from Pirate Bay co-founders Peter Sunde and Fredrik Neij, who independently informed TF that they were questioned about Prenda during their stays in prison.

Oh, honeys.

Published on under Hail Hydra

America’s having a conversation about whether a Confederate flag ought to fly over government buildings. I liked the perspective of Markus Feldenkirchen, a commentator from the German news outlet Der Spiegel:

How is it that for many politicians and American citizens, this flag has only now become a little embarrassing? Why are people only now asking whether it is really a good idea to name streets and public spaces after the greatest generals in the fight for slavery? They may have been brave soldiers, but if they were fighting for a despicable cause, they should not have monuments built in their honor. Unless, of course, we believe that what they stand for is not really so reprehensible.

This is basically how I’ve felt watching this conversation. The Confederacy was treasonous, and it doesn’t seem like they faced an awful lot of consequences for their actions. Now, a century and a half later, not nearly enough people see this as a traitor’s symbol.

Published on under Not The Onion

Remember that time Stephen Colbert ran a years-long piece of performance art about the ridiculous election laws in America? He called it the Colbert Super PAC, it was eye-opening. Colbert’s show won a Peabody for excellence in journalism for that. On Comedy Central!

But one presidential candidate is out to prove the election laws are an even bigger joke than that:

Back in April, the executive director of the super PAC backing Carly Fiorina dared the Federal Election Commission to sanction the organization for calling itself “Carly for America,” which violated rules prohibiting using a candidate’s name in the name of a legally unaffiliated PAC.

“It could be Carly for Puppies, it could be Carly for Freedom,” Mr. DeMaura said then. “There’s no legal prohibition against the type of name that we use. I think the reason that many don’t do it is for practical political reasons not based in legal fact.”

The fact that the guy running a super PAC – ostensibly barred from coordinating with the candidate – didn’t know he couldn’t use the candidate’s name? Kinda funny. The comeuppance is a little funnier:

It took the FEC less than three weeks to send a formal letter of reprimand to Carly for America.

So after some deliberation, on Monday the Fiorina super PAC changed its name. It’s no longer Carly for America. It’s now Conservative, Authentic, Responsive Leadership for You and for America – though it will be known by the acronym CARLY for America.

The legal term for this is a “giant middle finger” to FEC.

Published on under Eyeballs For Hire

Lots of people apparently think the government is looking out for their interests online. These are some impressive numbers:

49% of American adults who use the Internet believe (incorrectly) that by law a supermarket must obtain a person’s permission before selling information about that person’s food purchases to other companies.

69% do not know that a pharmacy does not legally need a person’s permission to sell information about the over-the-counter drugs that person buys.

65% do not know that the statement “When a website has a privacy policy, it means the site will not share my information with other websites and companies without my permission” is false.

55% do not know it is legal for an online store to charge different people different prices at the same time of day.

62% do not know that price-comparison sites like Expedia or Orbitz are not legally required to include the lowest travel prices.”