Jason Goldman

Jason Goldman

White House Chief Digital Officer

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON April 21, 2016

Discussion

Jason Goldman
Jason Goldman@goldman44 · Chief Digital Officer, The White House
I'm Jason Goldman, the White House's first Chief Digital Officer. I help people interact directly with their government, particularly through projects like We The People - which is a way for people to create and sign petitions online. Today's announcement of the site's redesign presents an exciting opportunity to answer your questions on how we built the platform, what might be next, and how you might get involved.
Kingsong Chen
Kingsong Chen@kingsongchen · Dev
Hi Jason, what is needed to make it easier for startups to work with local governments?
Matthew Keys
Matthew Keys@matthewkeyslive · Journalist & Internet of Person
Hi Jason, good to see you here this morning. Last week, I was sentenced to two years in federal prison after being convicted at trial in October. The trial stemmed from charges brought under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act; prosecutors say I helped facilitate the alteration of a news feature on the website of the Los Angeles Times, an edit that was visible for no more than 40 minutes. I have denied these accusations. The government has never accused me of computer hacking. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is a 1980s-era statute that governs computer and online behavior in the modern world. The law has been heavily criticized in recent days because of the sentence I was given. It was also criticized three years ago following the untimely death of Internet prodigy Aaron Swartz who committed suicide months after being charged under the law. Despite numerous calls for reform, the president seems unwilling to bring reasonable and meaningful changes to the CFAA that would bring it in line with the behaviors and expectations of today's computer users. Instead, President Obama and numerous Congressional lawmakers have vowed to strengthen penalties under the law and expand the applicability of the CFAA that would criminalize seemingly benign online behavior. According to a 2015 WIRED article, President Obama's proposals would make sharing "unauthorized information" a felony — which would include re-tweeting a link to a website, including news articles, that contained information obtained from a database leak. Activists, technologists and journalists feel their concerns about the CFAA have fallen on deaf ears. Everyone agrees that in today's digital age, we need tough laws concerning identity theft and actual damage to computer systems. Judging from recent CFAA proposals, people already feel as if the president and Congress don't understand how computers and the Internet work. And when people see a two year prison sentence being doled out for what amounts to benign behavior, lawmakers and the administration lose credibility with the public. What are you doing to ensure President Obama hears from those who are demanding real, progressive computer law reform? What steps have you taken to educate President Obama on how average American citizens use computers and the Internet? And what responsibility do you feel you have to advocate on behalf of those who feel that a two year prison sentence over seemingly benign behavior is unwarranted? (As an aside, I'll also be conducting a Product Hunt LIVE Q&A at 10am PT / 1pm ET today) https://www.producthunt.com/live...
David Fridley
David Fridley@david_fridley · Founder, Synaccord, LLC
@matthewkeyslive What are specific examples from the CFAA text that people unfamiliar with it (like me) would be surprised about or would feel are out of line?
Matthew Keys
Matthew Keys@matthewkeyslive · Journalist & Internet of Person
@david_fridley That "password trafficking" is a federal offense under the CFAA (give a Netflix password to your friends or family? Congrats, you've just committed a federal offense!). That the language of the CFAA relating to "loss" and "damage" is incredibly vague. That the language of the CFAA makes violating a website's terms of service a federal offense. And that the entire CFAA falls within the federal definition of a crime of terrorism (trade a Netflix password to a family member or friend? Congrats! Not only are you a criminal, you're also a terrorist!).
Panashe Mahachi
Panashe Mahachi@panashemahachi
What changes are going to happen to make procurement more software friendly?
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
How far away are we from having a mobile app revolutionize the voting process in the US? People could cast their votes for major elections by signing in via SSN or DL# instead of having to submit a ballot by mail or waiting in line for hours. What are the major regulatory or political hurdles in your opinion?
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Jason - what's your story of breaking in? First how did you get into twitter? Then, how'd you get into the white house?
Jason Goldman
Jason Goldman@goldman44 · Chief Digital Officer, The White House
@eriktorenberg prior to joining the White House, my experience was in product management; working with creative teams to help build new things. So in that way, it's actually fairly similar to what I do here now. I decided to join government because I was interested in the intersection of tech and civic engagement -- how to use the platforms to actually allow people to engage with their government in ways that weren't possible before.
OpenGovMetrics
OpenGovMetrics@opengovmetrics · Collaboration Engineer @OpenGovMetrics
@goldman44 @eriktorenberg Last month, before the President spoke at South by Southwest #SXSW, you blogged about a "White House Summit on Civic Engagement" that would happen "later this spring" and gave a link for email-updates. However, I have not received any email about it. I am #OpenGov rep from IAP2usa.org, an organization with hundreds of members who have been working at the intersection Technology and Civic Engagement .. for decades! Unfortunately, our organization has no D.C. office "inside-the-beltway", so it is hard to get ourselves invited to meetings on this topic that, we feel, is our obvious strength. Here's a thought: Let us help you #civictech to engage other advocates of #CivicEngagement (e.g. NCDD.org's 2000+ members) to collaborate on how best to use #civictech (!). But, for now, please update us on the WH Summit, so we will know "what's going on" and how to engage with it. Thanks --- Steve Buckley @OpenGovMetrics
Niv Dror
Niv Dror@nivo0o0 · VC at Shrug Capital
Hey Jason, thanks for joining us :) Was wondering why you are using @Goldman44 as your Twitter handle rather than @Goldman? Is @Goldman44 and account that will be passed down to the next Chief Digital Officer of the White House?
Jason Goldman
Jason Goldman@goldman44 · Chief Digital Officer, The White House
@nivo0o0 Yes @goldman44 is my official work account and like the other official WH accounts (including @whitehouse) they stay with the institution. Which is why I have a personal account just for personal things that I'll use once we're done here.
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
Is Obama an Android or iPhone kinda guy?
Matthew Keys
Matthew Keys@matthewkeyslive · Journalist & Internet of Person
@tomstocklein It is well documented that he uses a BlackBerry.
Harry Stebbings
Harry Stebbings@harrystebbings · Podcast Host @ The Twenty Minute VC
@goldman I have to ask such a base question, but what does a day look like for you in the position of White House Chief Digital Officer? What are the pros and the cons? Always welcome on @twentyminutevc
Jason Goldman
Jason Goldman@goldman44 · Chief Digital Officer, The White House
@harrystebbings Surprisingly it's actually very similar (structurally) to other jobs I've had at companies of similar size. We have a morning team check-in, there are recurring meetings on given topics, etc. As with being a good product manager, my role here is often just being a good router of information and helping unblock the creative folks on the team.
Danny Nemer
Danny Nemer@dannynemer
Officer Goldman: The White House's digital and tech efforts are substantially improving areas of the federal government which were long neglected. Further, the White House now employs many skilled tech workers whom years ago were unlikely to work for the U.S. government. Q: What is the fate of these tech operations, efforts, and employees at the end of the Obama administration? Are they bound to the current administration, or will they continue unabated? Thank you!
Jason Goldman
Jason Goldman@goldman44 · Chief Digital Officer, The White House
@dannynemer Thanks for the positive feedback! I do think we are making improvements and that the work we've started will carry on after we are done. That's one of the inspiring things about working here is establishing new ways for tech and government to work together. The goal is that the next Administration - whoever that may be - will see the positive work that's been accomplished and underway and continue to improve upon it. Concretely, the petitions platform is something that was created during this Administration but given the strength of engagement we see with We The People, it will be a great civic engagement asset to any future Administration.
Ines Mergel
Ines Mergel@inesmergel · Associate Professor at Syracuse U.
@goldman44 @dannynemer how do you work in the meantime to scale up (or scale across) USDS' and 18F's effors across the federal government? What is needed to get each department up to speed to implement their digital services teams following the White House' lead?
David Fridley
David Fridley@david_fridley · Founder, Synaccord, LLC
Since this is the internet and not a piece of paper, have you or are you considering features that go beyond the paper petition metaphor like (but not limited to) allowing people to vote down a petition or comment on it.
Kate Symes
Kate Symes@kate_symes
Federal agencies are notoriously slow to adopt new technology, but the White House under Obama has been very progressive with its digital communications. What do you think is the most important thing Federal agencies should be doing right now to engage citizens through digital communications?
Jason Goldman
Jason Goldman@goldman44 · Chief Digital Officer, The White House
@kate_symes Thanks for the compliment and I think a number of agencies are doing a great job. For example, the Department of the Interior's Instagram account is a must follow in my opinion. And not only does NASA have some of the best content but they've continually found new ways to make it accessible and conversational. This is the big point: these platforms are fundamentally ones of human conversation. So if you approach them as a place to interact with others (as opposed to a digital bullhorn) you'll be on much stronger footing from the jump.
Niv Dror
Niv Dror@nivo0o0 · VC at Shrug Capital
@goldman44 @kate_symes I was just over at Kennedy Space Center for a NASA Social Event. The SpaceX launch was incredible 🚀
Niv Dror
Niv Dror@nivo0o0 · VC at Shrug Capital
@Goldman can you tell us a little more about @WeThePeople?
Jason Goldman
Jason Goldman@goldman44 · Chief Digital Officer, The White House
@nivo0o0 We the People (petitions.whitehouse,gov) is your voice in the White House - it's the way you can exercise your 1st Amendment right to petition your government on the issues that matter to you. Created under this administration we've received over 32M signatures and over 440k petitions have been created.
Stephen R. Fox
Stephen R. Fox@f6x · Communications Strategist, F6x
Can you describe how you collaborate with 18F, what kinds of ideas get prioritized, and how they get approved?
Jason Goldman
Jason Goldman@goldman44 · Chief Digital Officer, The White House
@f6x love 18F! They've done some amazing work including vote.usa.gov, data.gov and Open Opportunity Project (http://opportunity.census.gov/). They're also just a great convening place in the broader USG to pull together folks from disparate agencies to talk about best practices. Along with the US Digital Services, these are the groups of folks who are really building citizen-centered tools and services that are the spine of a Modern Government. Obviously a lot more work to do but they are heroes of mine and a big part of the reason I joined. My office doesn't do as much development so we don't work as closely on individual projects but do end up hanging out a fair amount of the time.
George Carlisle III
George Carlisle III@george_carlisle_iii · Owner, AlterSciences
Why did you decide on the redesign? I saw the old site and it was functional. What goals weren't really addressed with the old site and what do you envision the new system will give us that we didn't have before? My main question is why 100,000 vs, 1,000,000 or 10,000,000 limit for a petition?
Jason Goldman
Jason Goldman@goldman44 · Chief Digital Officer, The White House
@george_carlisle_iii There are two main goals: first, we wanted to make the site easier for anyone to use. That means mobile access as well as accessibility to screen readers. But also simplifying the petition creation process (and the product as a whole.) Second, we wanted to make the experience of petition creation more guided so that we created more petitions that the Federal government can actually address and respond to. I wrote more about this in my post and thanks for the question! https://medium.com/@Goldman44/re...
George Carlisle III
George Carlisle III@george_carlisle_iii · Owner, AlterSciences
@goldman44 My main question is why 100,000 vs, 1,000,000 or 10,000,000 limit for a petition?
Carolyn M. Appleton
Carolyn M. Appleton@carolynappleton
I'd love to share more on our NTEN | 501 Tech Club Austin Facebook page #NPTechClubATX. I have found other platforms to be a challenge when needing to update an account with a new email, for instance. What security features will be used on your new platform, and how will users be able to keep their profiles up-to-date?
Michael Peloquin
Michael Peloquin@mmp7700 · Partner, Borderline Media Company
How do you weigh the risk-benefit analysis of posting stuff when you know most of the Internet is just waiting to troll it? It's like trying to make the White House cool and not Donny from The Big Lebowski.
Jason Goldman
Jason Goldman@goldman44 · Chief Digital Officer, The White House
@mmp7700 you know one rule that I personally have always found helpful is to focus on accentuating the positive. Fortunately, this also works well with one of the President's fundamental attributes: a relentless optimism. So starting from there you are already in good stead. And then just remembering that in all things, folk's first reaction is going to emotional followed by rational. So if you understand the nature of the platform and the nature of the folks you're talking with, it'll be ok.
Michael Peloquin
Michael Peloquin@mmp7700 · Partner, Borderline Media Company
@goldman44 Love the answer. Lead from the light. Tell that to the right. (I should really be in politics with slogans like that)
David Fridley
David Fridley@david_fridley · Founder, Synaccord, LLC
In the long run (20 years) where do you see the internet and democracy going?
Andy Toth
Andy Toth@andtoth · VC
Hey Jason, it's great having you here. I'm curious what would you focus on as a Chief Digital Officer of a small European country e.g Hungary? What steps would you suggest the Prime Minister to take to reverse brain drain, attract global talent and tech companies to create jobs? Today there is too much focus on low hanging fruits like outsourced manufacturing to car companies. Even in software development there is shortage of original products. It's mostly the private sector but a supportive regulatory environment could help IMO. Smaller governments should be more flexible in determining new directions and able to implement changes relatively faster. Estonia has come a long way for example. Thanks!
Jason Goldman
Jason Goldman@goldman44 · Chief Digital Officer, The White House
@andtoth You're right to highlight Estonia as a great example of digital government working well - they are doing great work. The key to attracting tech talent is the same in private and public sector - you need to pose really big challenges that can affect large numbers of people. There's an abundance of those when you're talking about the work of an entire government. The specific pitch that got me excited to work here was "You've worked on a large number of big platforms that have affected a huge number of people but what if you worked on something that was explicitly value positive; that was trying to make a difference." That still inspires me every day.
Snah Desai
Snah Desai@s_haverford · Operations Analyst, ServiceTitan
Hello Jason, I am a big fan of your career and aspire to be in your position at the White House one day. That being said, what is the best advice you can give someone who is looking to be in your position one day?