It's Just this Little Chromium Switch Here

Weblogging and commentary by Chip Rosenthal

My Election Endorsements


Yes, it's a looong ballot. For what it's worth, I'll share my decisions and some of my reasoning.

What I'd like to do is start with the Austin Chronicle endorsements, because I pretty much agree with most of them, and I know that's a basis that a lot of my friends use.

The one race I'd urge you to look closely at is the ACC Trustee Place 7 race. The Chronicle endorses Barbara Mink, but I found Brig Mireles to be a credible candidate who has some attractive points. I don't follow ACC issues closely and I don't know either of the candidates, but I do think ACC is a very important resource to us. I don't feel informed enough to "endorse" here, but I do urge looking into this race more closely, and not following an endorsement knee-jerk.

It's Time to Create a Civic Innovation Office at Austin City Hall

6:30pm update: This afternoon, Austin City Council approved a budget that includes funds to create an innovationn office.

If you're a Boston resident and a pothole springs up on your street, help could be just a phone click away. The Citizen's Connect phone app will file a report for you.

What could be easier than a phone click? How about no phone clicks?

The Street Bump app, recently unveiled in Boston, uses the accelerometer built into your smart phone -- a device that measures speed and directon changes -- to detect when you've encountered a pothole. When you run the app, It will record a street bump event and file a report for you.

Call to Hack, Civically

Next, weekend (Sat., Sept. 8, all day), Code for America is sponsoring a Hack-a-Thon, their second this year.

As Alan Williams explains:

Civic hackathons are about making things happen. At civic hackathons, passionate people of all kinds come together to solve shared problems. You don’t need to be a coder, you just need to care. They help communities like Austin build strong ties between talented designers and developers and the countless organizations and individuals that work daily to make the city a better place. The diverse experiences, expertise, and ingenuity of residents can help shape what gets built at civic hackathons, and improve their resonance and relevance with citizens at large.

Free signup is here:

I've got a project I'm going to propose, and I hope you'll consider coming to hack on it.

Central Texas Bar Camp: Hack Your City

I did a presentation "Hack Your City" at the Central Texas Bar Camp yesterday. It was intended to be a demonstration presentation on open government and open data resources. Unfortunately, due to A/V issues, the demo part was nixed. So, I did an on-the-fly Plan B instead, which, I think worked out fine, based on the group discussion.

I did promise to blog the resources I wanted to show, so here we go.

City of Austin Data Portal –

Find It Nearby: A Mobile-Enabled Web Application with Austin Government Data

screenshot of Find It NearbySupport for open government data is an emerging national trend. In January of this year, the City of Austin unveiled its data portal at On February 21, Code for America sponsored "Code Across America", a national day of "hacking" on civic-minded software applications. (That's "hacking" in the original creative sense, not the popular mischief-making sense.)

As part of the event, here in Austin, about 50 people participated in a CfA Hack-a-Thon. People organized around three projects. You can find out more about the projects at the event wiki page.

I worked on the "Find It" team, which focused more on an R&D effort than a target application. The question we set out to answer is could we acquire sufficient datasets from the government, primarily the City of Austin, and what could we do with them once they were incorporated into a common database form? You can read more about that effort at the aforementioned wiki page.

By the end of the day, I had a small Ruby script that would take a location (latitude/longitude) and search for a number of nearby features -- such as libraries and post offices -- and report the closest. After the event, I built out the proof-of-concept prototype into a web-based application that would attempt to determine your current location (using a built-in GPS if your device had one and you permitted it), and display the features on a map.

The result was the Find It Nearby application. You can try the application here:

wp-spamspan Protects WordPress Blogs Against Spam Harvesters

Nearly two years ago, I published wp-spamspan in my Software Archive. Good things come to those who wait: I finally published it in the public WordPress Plugins Directory:

This plugin allows you to post email addresses (such as chip [at] unicom [dot] com) on your WordPress blog. The plugin filters the display text and automatically munges email addresses to something like:

chip [at] example [dot] com

Then, when loaded into a web browser, a dynamic script scans the page and converts the munged email addresses back to clickable links.

My experience has been that the protection is very good, and the plugin has been reliable.

By the way, I didn't invent spamspan. I just adapted it to WordPress. You can read more about it here:

Angry Neighbor Email, Part Deux

This article has been moved:

My Letter to the Austin Affiliate of Komen

Below is the message I just sent to the local Komen chapter, at info [at] komenaustin [dot] org:

Dear Staff and Directors,

When I look at the range of organizations that the local Komen chapter has supported, it strikes me as a list of groups with blue chip pedigree, all doing great work in Central Texas.

Some local Komen chapters have expressed unease over the political realignment of Komen's grant process. I hope you do too.

The work you are doing is too important to get caught up in politics. I think that if the local chapter was to take a stand against politicizing health issues, and offer a promise to continue support to the good organizations that deliver services to those in need -- if you were to do that I think you would find Central Texans would stand with you.

The silver lining to this very dark cloud is that people are talking about important health issues. Please seize this opportunity and offer some leadership -- the kind of bold thinking and action that Central Texans pride themselves on.

With your bold action, I think you could help rally Central Texans in support of this important issue.


9:58PM update - Oh dear. Looks like the Austin chapter has weighed in and they are hewing the very political party line. See: Texas Planned Parenthood Clinics Bracing for Komen Cuts