Google Timeline to Countries and Dates

I recently needed a list of all of the countries I had been to and the dates I was in each. Naturally I thought of my Google Timeline (formerly "location history") as a way to do it. Google Timeline is a data store of all the places you have been over time. It is extremely detailed and, at least for me, seems relatively complete. To view yours, go to your timeline.

To get your timeline in a form you can manipulate, you can use Google Takeout, Google's data portability service (big kudos to Fitz and the whole Google Takeout team). My file contained over 2.8 million locations, so the first thing I did was used geopy to throw out any locations that weren't at least 50 miles apart (see code). That left ~12,000 entries. For each of the 12,000 entries, I rounded them down to reduce calls, then used geopy to reverse geocode (look up the street address based on the latitude and longitude), threw out everything but the country, and outputted any change with a date (see code).

This was somewhat similar to a project I did more than six years ago, though Google had changed the format of its timeline file, so I needed to rewrite it. It should be pretty easy to also produce a country chart, but I haven't done that yet.

I continue to believe that data portability will not take off and be demanded by users until there exists useful things to do with the data. Hopefully scripts like these can help contribute to that.

Biden Admin Artificial Intelligence Executive Order & OMB Guidance: Some thoughts & a calendar

Take what I say here with a grain of salt because my old team worked on this (and I worked on earlier iterations and the Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights). 

Now that I've had a chance to read the U.S. AI Executive Order (here's a version of the order that prints in fewer pagesand the accompanying -- and equally important -- Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Draft AI Guidance, I wanted to share a couple of thoughts and a calendar to help folks who are tracking the various deliverables assigned in the AI Order and the OMB AI Guidance.

President Biden speaking at the AI Order signing ceremony.

Much has been said about the size of AI Order but what struck me about it was its willingness to contain tensions. It has provisions dealing with concerns about AGI and existential threats as well as the current and historical harms from AI that are impacting people now. It has numerous specific provisions that are more national security focused and also many that are more typical of domestic policy and equity. It has a number of provisions that may impose burdens on new entrants to the AI space but also provisions that would radically lower barriers to entry. It addresses numerous AI harms but also contains provisions that recognize and  seek to catalyze its benefits. 

All of this speaks to the nuanced understanding of AI that exists in the federal government from President Biden to the various folks working day to day on getting the Order together. I believe that's a product of greater tech fluency throughout the White House and federal agencies and the way the White House has prioritized AI policy.

Another striking thing about the AI Order is the sheer volume of deliverables it launches. I'm going to want to see what becomes of them, so I made an AI Order and OMB AI Guidance Calendar (and in iCal). It might be helpful to you too. You can import it into your Google or iCal calendar. Please let me know if I got a date wrong or missed one.

The calendar only contains entries tied to dates and contains one hundred entries. There were a lot more actions that eitherstarted immediately or were not associated with a date by which they had to be done. 

In creating the calendar, it was also striking that the AI Order requires some deliverables that are quite distant from today. I'm generally pretty skeptical of requirements far in the future for the reasons Jen Pahlka describes so well in her great book Recoding America.

I will add more entries from the OMB AI Guidance once it is finalized but for now the calendar contains the most important one: December 5, 2023, the date that comments are due. There is a helpful guide to commenting on the Guidance as well as a page for submitting comments. Please consider giving it a read and submitting comments.

I'm excited that the AI Order and draft OMB AI Guidance are out in the world and look forward to hearing what folks think about them.

A good group of the Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights team posing together at the AI Order signing ceremony.

My Time in The Biden-Harris Administration

I recently (ok, not that recently) left the Biden-Harris Administration after serving in a variety of ways over the last few years. Initially I was part of the transition team. Then, after a break, I became Deputy Assistant to the President and Principal Deputy US Chief Technology Officer (CTO), in the Office of Science and Technology Policy through the wonderful National Science Foundation Technology, Innovation and Partnerships Directorate. I'm grateful for the time I had in the administration, the phenomenal people I got to work with, and the impact we had together.

The Eisenhower Executive Office Building hallway leading to the Navy Steps down to the White House. One of my favorite views in the EEOB. In the morning the light as you walk towards those doors is blinding.

Joining the small but mighty CTO team in the fall of 2021 was quite different from when I held a similar role in the Obama-Biden Administration. For one thing, I was joining at the beginning of an administration, not the end. For another, President Biden had learned a number of lessons during his long career and time as Vice President that led his administration to keep a rigorous focus on the priorities President Biden had outlined on the campaign and to prioritize effective implementation of policy initiatives at the highest level. Finally, from a tech perspective, the government in 2021 was different than in 2014. 

The first US CTOs extended our government’s capacity to use technology effectively and brought tech expertise to White House policy making. In 2009, few agencies used modern technology fluently. Many career techie civil servants were pushing for change but were met with the various forms of resistance as Jen Pahlka details in her exceptional book, Recoding America. The first three US CTOs, Aneesh Chopra, Todd Park, Megan Smith and their teams were successful in a wide array of policy areas. They opened data sets for transparency and innovation, championed expanding digital medical records, helped increase access to broadband, brought more tech expertise to policy tables, and much more.

They also made significant strides, working with many others at the White House and across government agencies, in building the capacity of the federal government to deliver modern technology. That included helping to create the US Digital Service, the Tech Transformation Service, the Presidential Innovation Fellows, and supporting the creation of agency digital services (e.g. the Defense Digital Service, Health and Human Services Digital Service, etc) and the transformative work of the federal and agency Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Chief Data Officers (CDOs). 

One of the most exciting things about being back in government in 2021 was how different it was from 2009. In 2021, there was significant tech expertise in all of the White House policy counsels, from the Domestic Policy Council, to both the National Economic Council and National Security Council. Even without counting the excellent CTO Team, the Office of Science and Technology Policy had significant technical expertise in its other divisions – including Alondra Nelson’s incredible Science and Society division. Both Alondra and Arati Prabhakar, two of the three Office of Science and Technology Directors during my tenure, were highly technically sophisticated. In addition, leaders at agencies across the spectrum were increasing technical fluency at all levels.

Senior Staff at the Office of Science and Technology Policy circa May 2022.

Furthermore, the centralized tech experts at the US Digital Service, Federal CIO, and GSA were – and still are – thriving under strong leadership of Mina Hsiang, Clare Martorana, and Robin Carnahan. Many agencies have digital services groups of their own, while others have bulked up their CIO, CTO or other offices to more aggressively pursue strong digital service delivery. And, if you looked into the teams working on the biggest problems, such as climate change or COVID-19, you’d find strong tech experts.

I love walking meetings. This is staged for the White House photographer. In real ones I wouldn't be wearing a suit. With me are two wonderful members of the CTO team, Ismael Hussein and April Chen. 

While the government environment was changing, the CTO team’s core mission remained the same. Our priorities were to build tech capacity and advise on policy, all in the service of delivering on the President’s agenda and delivering results for the American people. The CTO team still works hard on establishing good tech policy, including in the areas of artificial intelligence, digital assets (cryptocurrency), privacy, platform regulation, advanced air mobility, web accessibility, broadband access, wireless spectrum policy and in many other areas. Also, under the leadership of Denice Ross and now Dominique Duval-Diop in the role of U.S. Chief Data Scientist, we had the privilege of continuing to support federal data science expertise, including in the development of equitable data that can be used to ensure government benefits and services reach those who  need them the most and that data science is  a  key  part of   policy implementation. 

President Biden and Vice President Harris meeting with AI CEOs on the promise and risks of AI. This meeting and its followup commitments are examples of the types of tools the CTO team used to drive policy forward. 

Delving deeper on the team’s artificial intelligence work the US CTO team was deeply involved in President Biden’s work on AI. The team helped draft and launch the landmark Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights. We spearheaded the Biden-Harris AI CEO convening that resulted in a set of commitments from the largest AI companies regarding AI. We led, hosted or participated in the various White House AI processes to create federal AI policy as well as subsidiary policies such as the National AI Research and Development Strategic Plan. We put forward the National AI Research Resource to ensure public sector participation in AI research and development. We also hosted the National AI Initiative Office, the federal coordination body for AI policy. That comprehensive approach to AI is similar to how we approached other policy areas.

Alondra Nelson leading a panel during the launch of the Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights in October 2022. I was proud to have helped draft and achieve the internal consensus required to publish the Blueprint. It was a deep collaboration with the Science and Society Division.

There is still a ton of work to do and the leadership team now in place on the US CTO team is phenomenal. Deirdre Mulligan is the Principal Deputy US CTO and is someone I’ve wanted to work with – or for – for more than 20 years, Austin Bonner is Deputy US CTO for Policy, Wade Shen is Deputy US CTO for AI and leads the National AI Initiative Office, Denice Ross is now Deputy US for Tech Capacity, Dominique Duval-Diop is US Chief Data Scientist, and Nik Marda, the longest current serving member of the CTO team, is the Chief of Staff. Working with each of them, and the rest of the CTO team is what I miss most about having left the administration. Watching them take the team in new directions will be the best thing about sitting on the sidelines.

Zoom tiles from a meeting of the CTO team.

Our third US CTO, Megan Smith, sometimes joked that the CTO team’s job would be fundamentally different when there were as many tech experts in all the rooms as lawyers or economists. That dream imagines a government that always delivers services effectively, efficiently, and equitably on behalf of the American people. A government that understands, and can keep up with, technologies and the disruptions they create to mitigate harm and ensure that people can maximally benefit from our phenomenally innovative nation. I was privileged to be able to work towards that dream. 

P.S. Now is a critical time to come into government as a techie. The potential to make a deep positive impact on the lives of people is huge. It is also a time of tremendous opportunity because of President Biden’s genuine empathy in understanding people’s needs, as well as his focus and excellence in execution in delivering on their behalf.

If you are interested in getting involved, please consider applying to join the United States Digital Service, Tech Transformation Services, Presidential Innovation Fellows,US Digital Corps or the broader set of government technical jobs on the Federal Tech Jobs Portal.

One of my favorite views. When leaving around sunset, there would often be a murmeration of starlings near the edge of the South Lawn with the Washington Monument in the background.

The Last Four Years

I haven’t shared an update here on what I have been up to since the end of the Obama Administration, so now’s a good time to write some of this down.

Like many, I was extremely worried by Donald Trump’s election to the Presidency. Doing all I could to get to a different result in 2020 drove much of my work since 2017. I also tried to extend my non-profit work and grow my fundraising ability because I came to the sad realization that my fundraising ability is worth at least as much, if not more, than my strategic advice to the non-profits I care about (and I am not very good at fundraising).

All of the projects below were overlapping, and most were not full-time. They combined to be a ridiculous amount of work sometimes, and nearly no work at other times. The list below is in somewhat chronological order.

  • Thanks to Megan Smith and Tom Perez, I got to help bring in Raffi Krikorian to be the first Chief Technology Officer of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Tom understood the value of tech and how badly Democrats were being beaten in this regard. He helped re-up tech within the DNC and the team has done amazing stuff under Raffi and Lindsey Schuh Cortes, and now Nellwyn Thomas and Kat Atwater.

  • Thanks to Mike Yang, Haley van Dÿck and Mikey Dickerson, I helped found and was its General Counsel for the first year. Alloy’s mission was to help improve data and technology for the progressive ecosystem. We were originally focused on legal data sharing among progressive organizations and campaigns, but once the Democratic Data Exchange (DDx) got up and running, and based on feedback from potential users, we shifted to improving basic data availability and update frequency, as well as voter registration. The wonderful Kendall Burman took over as General Counsel on January 1st, 2020. Alloy is now in talks with CiviTech to have them carry on our mission. I’m thankful for the incredible people we were able to hire, many of whom I had not met before, and for the fact that Alloy seems to have had a positive impact on the election and Georgia runoffs through its set of partners.

  • While working on the tech and data side for Dems and progressives, I also got drawn into, and did some funding of, and fundraising for, a wide set of organizations and candidates. One of the most amazing things to come out of 2016 was the incredible set of new organizations and candidates. The narrow 2016 loss to the person who would become one of the worst presidents in American history was also a catalyst for a bunch of more established organizations to do great work. I am really grateful to the many, many people who shared their wisdom and time as I was getting up to speed (I still am). I am also grateful to the folks who did the work of registering a record breaking number of new voters, helped to elect good candidates, including President Biden, and then protected those victories against the efforts to undo them. Before 2016 I had no idea of the richness and variety of people and organizations that are part of the big tent of the progressive community and Democratic party. It looks chaotic at times, but I was constantly blown away by the talented, committed people who work in politics. Many do so without much compensation or limelight, and nearly everyone I met shared a basic common purpose that was tied to getting real benefits for people.

  • Thanks to Eric Goldman, Adelin Cai, Clara Tsao, and Denelle Dixon-Thayer, I got to help found the Trust & Safety Professional Association (TSPA) and the Trust & Safety Foundation Project (TSF). I’ve wanted to do something like this for fifteen years but it took others to push for their formation.  I had the good fortune of getting to know some great Cognizant folks, including Kristen Titus and Davis Abraham, and many others while fundraising for TSPA and TSF. And then I got to talk to many old friends and make some new ones as we considered who would be the perfect first Executive Director. I couldn’t be happier that Charlotte Willner took the job. Being so immersed in a community I have been around for a long time was deeply satisfying. And the collective “FINALLY!!!” we heard on launching underscored to me that community building is important and should never be put off.

  • I’ve also spent a good amount of time working as a Board Member at Creative Commons and Data & Society. They are two great organizations from which I have learnt a lot. I am the Board lead for fundraising at both places, and so have been asking many of my friends for money to support their wonderful missions. Being a Board Member is also something I am still learning, and I have been thankful to get to watch others who are better at it than I, and to have such an intimate view of these two very different organizations during these exceptional times. I still also exist as a fanboy for the work that Creative Commons and Data & Society each do, so it is great to feel like I am helping them achieve their goals.

  • More recently, thanks to Yohannes Abraham, DJ Patil, David Recordon, Ginny Hunt, Mina Hsiang, Eric Hysen, Clarence Wardell and many others, I was lucky to get to work on the Biden Transition (and with my old friend and mentor Nicole Wong). That was a huge privilege and again underscored that working with a great team, on hard problems, with one clear purpose is a wonderful experience. I am so pleased for the folks who are going into government (and will try to write more about some of them soon). If you want to learn more about transitions, Transition Lab is a fabulous podcast and episode 46 (!!) is with  Yohannes.

I would not have thought in 2016 that I would have spent a large portion of the next four years in politics and political tech. Nor would I have thought I would have helped found three non-profits. So while I continue to be on the Board at Alloy, Creative Commons, Data & Society, TSPA and TSF, I really don’t know what the next of these updates will look like. After President Biden’s heartwarming inauguration, I am very hopeful for us all.

Finally, if you got this far and are wondering what to donate to in the new year with the hellishness of COVID still in full swing, please consider using this tool to find your local food bank and donate. I have a longer and slightly older list of COVID charities here, but know that many are having a very hard time getting basics like food and shelter, so please be generous.

First Amendment and Earlyish Content Moderation

This thread got long, so here is a perhaps more easily read copy of it:

One thing that came up on #InLieuOfFun that I didn't get the chance to answer was @klonick asking about whether the earlyish content moderation was based on "First Amendment Norms." I think the answer to that is a bit more complicated than it may seem.

Am speaking from my experience at Google (outside counsel 2000-3, inside 2003-9) and Twitter (2009-13). Others may have used different approaches.

By "First Amendment Norms" I take @Klonick to mean that the platforms were thinking about what a govt might be OK banning under 1st Am jurisprudence in the US.

Of course, the platforms aren't govt & 1st Am doesn't speak to what govts ban, only what they cannot. But still...

To restate, "1st Am Norms" might be something like platforms ~only~ removing what was removable under US 1st Am jurisprudence ~and~ had been generally made illegal in the US (or elsewhere if doing geo-removals), irrespective of 47 USC 230.

First, lots of content removal was simply not cognizable under 1st Am analysis. Spam was a significant issue for Google's various products & Twitter. I don't know of a jurisdiction where spam is illegal & it is unclear whether a govt banning it would survive 1st Am.

Nevertheless, spam removal (both by hand and automated) was/is extremely important and was done on the basis of improving user experience / usefulness of the products.

Similarly, nudity & porn were sometimes banned for similar reasons. Some types of products (video) might be overrun by porn and be unwelcome for other uses / users if porn was not discouraged through removal, especially early. And yet, the 1st Am is quite porn-friendly.

There were also some places that might look like they fit 1st Am norms but were really the platforms deferring to courts. For example, a court order for the removal of defamation would result in removal (irrespective of §230 immunity).

You can square that w/ 1st Am norms but the analysis was not based on what types of defamation or other causes of action the 1st Am would allow, but rather deferring to courts of competent jurisdiction in democracyish places.* <- this last bit was complicated + inexact.

Where we refused, it was often about fairness, justice, human rights, or jurisdictional distance from the service, not the 1st Am per se.

All of that said, I do think there were times when we look to the 1st Am (and freedom of expression exceptions more generally) to try to grapple with what the right policy was for each product.

For example, understanding what types of threats we would remove from Blogger, we used US precedent to guide our rules. My memory is hazy as to why, but I believe it stemmed from two factors: (a) that we felt that we were relatively new to analyzing this stuff but that

the Courts had more experience drawing those lines, and (b) that the Courts and Congress, being part of a functioning democracy, might reflect the general will of the people. These were overly simplistic ideas but that's my memory.

In summary: while I think there is something to the idea that 1st Am norms were important, I think the bigger impetus was trying to effectively build the products for our then users -- to have the product do the job the user wanted -- within legal/ethical constraints. But...

But, we did all of that from a particular set of perspectives (and that's what the 1st Am norms are probably part of) that was nowhere near diverse enough given the eventual reach and importance of our products.

I'd love the read of others doing or observing this work at the time on whether I'm misremembering/misstating @nicolewong @goldman @delbius @jilliancyork @adelin @rmack @mattcutts @clean_freak @helloyouths @dswillner +many more + those who aren't on Twitter… (please tag more)

And, in case you want to see the question I'm referring to, from @Klonick on #InLieuOfFun look here at minute 22:11 (though the whole conversation was good):

Product Counsel: Origin Story

This post is co-authored by Nicole Wong and I.

One of the best jobs either of us have ever had, didn’t exist before we had it.

We both started as lawyers in Silicon Valley firms. Alexander joined Google in May of 2003 as an IP Counsel. Less than a year later, Nicole joined as Senior Compliance Counsel. For both of us, the pitch was some combination of a bunch of our favorite areas of law, including privacy, content, consumer protection, copyright, open source, and jurisdictional issues as the company’s product ambitions and international footprint grew. As in many start ups, our actual jobs were to do whatever needed to get done.

Gmail launched in April 2004 (on April Fools Day -- don’t do that) and that marked the beginning of Google’s explosion in terms of number of products, including Book Search, Maps, Chat, and the acquisitions of DoubleClick and YouTube. Google grew not only in terms of its product offerings, but in number of users, revenue, the number of countries it was in, and its impact in the world. The stakes got MUCH higher while product, operational and, of course, legal complexity exploded.

We both set to work trying to figure out how to help Googlers launch successful products that were legal (at least in the countries where we operated). We each had some experience with this as outside counsel, and we were both pretty unsatisfied with the typical model of legal review for products.

That model was taken from big companies which historically treated legal review like part of an assembly line (towards the end). The product teams would develop products and then check in with a line of legal subject matter experts for sign-off before launch. For example, a product that matched people to their perfect pet might get designed, written, tested, and be ready to launch when it was then taken for review by a commercial lawyer for the terms of service, an intellectual property lawyer for trademark and copyright clearance, a patent lawyer in case anything new had been invented, a regulatory attorney for regulatory compliance (sometimes including privacy), and maybe an export control lawyer and a similar set of experts in the countries where the product was launching. Law firms are typically departmentalized in similar ways, aligning along legal subject matter specialization, and consequently smaller companies who don’t have in-house counsel often need to hire multiple specialized lawyers.

There are four major problems with this process:
  1. legal approval in each area is binary and too late: by the time the product is built, there is a large amount of pressure to launch with little ability to make more than cosmetic changes to the product;
  2. legal approval is too fragmented: a product might need several different legal approvals (or rounds of consultation and then approval) from in-house and/or outside counsel. That would take too long and be very inefficient for a product team, which would have to explain the product to each new counsel. On top of that, no counsel would be able to weigh risks across domains to come up with more holistic tradeoffs.
  3. legal would understand the law but not necessarily the product: dividing up legal counsel by area of legal specialization means that each lawyer has a depth in law and a breadth in products.
  4. legal becomes “them” versus the product team’s “us”: last minute binary review by people who don’t know the product or the product team unnecessarily forces misalignment between the team trying to get something done for the users and the business, and the lawyers. That misalignment can result in all sorts of bad, from simple misunderstandings to adversarial behavior.
Taking our lead from Google’s first lawyer Kulpreet Rana and the way many commercial legal teams already functioned, we started working at the beginning of the product process rather than the end. We joined product teams and tried to get deep understanding of the product goals early, so that we could help them meet those goals with the right legal considerations. That meant going to a lot of meetings where product teams struggled to define and execute on new product and feature designs, raising legal issues, and working through alternatives. We tried to help our teams remove obstacles to their launches and refine launch processes so that the teams could deliver more easily and understand legal constraints that would result in us later blocking launch. We consolidated legal review so that the team could get answers from fewer lawyers and feel that those lawyers could properly balance risks and benefits in a holistic way. That meant that each of us would be responsible for a set of products on the core legal issues those products would face at launch.

This approach is not without downsides. Perhaps the biggest is that product depth can come at the expense of legal depth, which meant that we sometimes incurred costs working with outside counsel and experts in legal areas and countries outside of our expertise or missed legal issues. However, we remain convinced that the vast majority of significant mistakes in-house departments make in our industry are the result of not understanding the product rather than not understanding the law. Another downside is that while being part of the “us” of a team is satisfying, can result in a much better understanding of a product, and better teamwork in identifying and fixing problems, it can also mean you are in the team “groupthink” as opposed to removed from it. Careful attention must be paid to all of the ways to reduce groupthink and it is imperative that you actively seek input from folks outside the bubble if you are going to effectively understand the various impacts your product decisions are likely to have in the world. We found it really helpful to discuss product features with advocacy organizations and they frequently improved the products. But, there were also definitely times we screwed up.

The actual role of “product counsel” grew out of the fact that our previous job descriptions didn’t make much sense given how we were doing our jobs. So we started thinking through names. Originally, we liked “launch counsel” because it was active, aligned with what our teams were trying to do, and could describe a bunch of different areas of law. Eventually we settled on “product counsel” because it was even more descriptive of the alignment we hoped for, and was tied to the whole lifecycle of a product from idea generation through maintenance and refinement, not just launch.

Our first job posting was in February 2004. It read:

Google is looking for experienced and entrepreneurial attorneys to develop and implement legal policies and approaches for new and existing products. The Product Counsel will be responsible for a portfolio of Google products across many legal subject areas including privacy, security, content regulation, consumer protection and intellectual property. Indeed, the only product legal matters with which this position will not be deeply involved are those that are strictly patent or transactional in nature, which are handled by other existing Google lawyers.

Passion for and deep understanding of internet.
Very strong academic credentials.
Solid understanding of Internet architecture and operation.
Ability to respond to questions/issues spontaneously.
Demonstrated ability to manage multiple matters in a time-sensitive environment.
Strong interpersonal and team skills.
Excellent interpersonal skills, dynamic and highly team-oriented.
Flexibility and willingness to work on a broad variety of legal matters.
Superior English language writing and oral communication skills.
Sense of humor and commitment to professionalism and collegiality are required.
California Bar

Note the many mistakes in that posting. For example, the Internet is referred to with both lower-case and upper-case capitalization (back then I was incorrectly not capitalizing it). Ug.

Even so, we were very fortunate to recruit an amazing set of folks at Google to become the first Product Counsel. Some of the originals who defined the role were: Glenn Brown, Trevor Callaghan, Halimah DeLaine, Brian Downing, Gitanjli Duggal, William Farris, Mia Garlick, Milana Homsi, Susan Infantino, Daphne Keller, Lance Kavanaugh, Courtney Power, Nikhil Shanbhag, Tu Tsao, and Mike Yang (in alphabetical order). The team was eventually about forty-strong by the time we left and worked across many countries. The idea of it spread relatively quickly in the industry and now LinkedIN lists thousands of product counsel.

Product Counsel, particularly when we were still doing it and not just managing people doing it, was one of the best jobs we have ever had.

COVID-19 Donation List

This list is designed to help people give money in a time of COVID-19. There are many many many great projects out there helping people. Sometimes they need people to help with specific skills or equipment but all also need money. For each category listed below, there are some recommended charitable organizations. There are also some writeups, many of which were sources of recommendations. Please give generously.

This list is somewhat long so to help you find something that resonates with you. BUT, if you don’t have the time or inclination to look through the whole list, you can donate to the World Health Organization fund or Feeding America easily (just click & donate) or choose a local community foundation fund from this map. If you have an extra second, please tweet or otherwise share that you donated (feel free to tag me and I’ll retweet). Being vocal about donating will encourage others to do the same and increase the value of your donation.

One other note specifically for those of you (like me) who are privileged to have a Donor Advised Fund (DAF). You may have funded that DAF a while ago with the intention of figuring out how to give away the money over time. You may not have given much away because: life. Now is a very good time to use your DAF to help. You put money in to give it away, not to watch it grow. Your money NOW can make a big difference. Please consider choosing a goal that meets the urgency of this crisis and pushing yourself to give that goal away. Each recommendation below includes the organizations’ EIN so that you can easily give from your DAF (I generally give unrestricted funds, but you can also specify programs when you submit). I have also included recommendations from some DAFs and community foundations at the end. [If you don’t know what a Donor Advised Fund is, don’t worry, you are normal! You don’t have to know about them but if you’d like to, here are some resources: explainer from Wikipedia, explainer from Fidelity (a provider of them), and a critical take from the NYT.]

Finally, this is an evolving draft. If you have suggestions or questions, shoot me a note. I’m @amac on Twitter.


Hospitals, Doctors, Nurses & the Front Line
This is a large fund (>$100M so far) that is run through the UN Foundation.
EIN: 58-2368165 (UN Foundation)

EIN: 58-2106707

Developing country care & testing.
EIN: 04-3567502

Supplies to medical professionals to help them protect themselves.
EIN: 95-1831116

Logistics and shipping for front line supplies.

EIN: 13-3433452

EIN: 56-2273242

Resources for health systems focusing on resolving inequity.
EIN: 45-0484533

Meals from local restaurants to health workers.
EIN: 27-3521132  (through World Central Kitchen)

Food & Other Relief For Economically Disadvantaged
Community Foundations have a history of local giving and the staff to review potential grantees and get the money quickly in times of crisis. Consider giving to your local one (found via the map above) and/or one in a community that you care about. For example, for me that’s the Maine Community Foundation (donate EIN: 01-0391479), they have already given a wave of money to good local institutions.

They also run the very good Find Your Local Food Bank resource, which allows you to give locally.
EIN: 36-3673599

Many seniors use this program.
EIN: 23-7447812

Keeping children fed.
EIN: 06-0726487

EIN: 52-1367538

They also fund Frontline Foods (see above).
EIN: 27-3521132

Gives cash to people who need it.
EIN: 27-1661997

“Emergency financial relief for students, immigrants, and workers left out”
EIN: 20-8993652

Update: @mredshirtshaw has a good thread on a number of South Dakota Tribes' COVID-19 funds. She points to South Dakota because of the lack of a shelter-in-place order there.

Refugees and Displaced People
Consider directing your donation to the Matamoros Project.
EIN: 81-5163032

Sidewalk School [donate]
EIN: 80-3405530

Update: A friend who knows more than I do about refugee issues points to the following two orgs:
International Rescue Committee, Signpost Project [donate]
EIN: 13-5660870
Signpost is designed to help refugees get good information during the crisis which the IRC's president says is one of the most pressing problems.

Refugee Advocacy Lab at Refugees International + International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP)[donate: Refugees International or IRAP]
EINs: 52-1224516 (Refugees International) or 82-2167556 (IRAP)
Matching refugees with healthcare experiences with states that need healthcare workers and the certifications they need to practice, thereby helping both.

I have a friend who works specifically with communities on the El Paso / Juarez border. There they recommend:
The ACLU also has a good article about donating in this category.

I don't have a perfect recommendation to directly help those in prisons and jails but Civil Rights Corps [donate] and Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection [donate] are fighting some of the legal battles around this. Please ping me if you have others.
Update: The Reform Alliance has a special COVID-19 action page to attempt to get governmental attention to this problem. Thanks @rklau.

Domestic Abuse
RAINN runs the US National Sexual Assault Hotline.
EIN: 52-1886511

EIN: 91-1081344

EIN: 77-0155782

EIN: 13-1760110

Keeping children fed (also in Food above).
EIN: 06-0726487

Also in Food above.
EIN: 52-1367538

EIN: 13-3468427

US Focus on learning.
EIN: 52-1779606

Miscellaneous and Support
Creative Commons provides the licensing infrastructure for a lot of the open content being relied on in this crisis and was part of creating the Open COVID Pledge to help ensure that people fighting COVID can worry less about patent lawsuits. Disclaimer: I am a Board Member.
EIN: 04-3585301

Tech is becoming even more important now. Data & Society studies and critically unpacks the social implications of data-centric technologies & automation so that their impact is less harmful / more beneficial. Disclaimer: I am a Board Member.
EIN: 46-2904827

Good information is critical to combating COVID and journalists are risking their lives to get it to us. 
EIN: 13-3081500

Support their just launched fund to give legal support to local and regional reporters.
EIN: 52-0972043

Other Good Writeups & Resources
Community Foundations have expertise to help get money to local charities in times of crisis. This map will help you find one in an area that you care about.

Amelia Nierenberg, Don’t Need That $1,200 Stimulus Check? Here Are Places to Donate It, New York Times, March 27, 2020 but updated as well.
Great round up and source of a bunch of the above.

Before COVID-19 was the focus but still very relevant.

Denise Hearn, COVID-19 — where to give money now, April 2, 2020.
Bloomberg Beta, Schmidt Futures, and The Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society put this together.

Update: Isaac Chotiner, The Danger of COVID-19 for Refugees, April 10, 2020.
Q&A with David Miliband, the president and C.E.O. of the International Rescue Committee about the specific issues raised by COVID-19 in refugee communities where he highlights disinformation as an important issue.

Disaster Philanthropy, COVID-19 Coronavirus, April 13, 2020.

Fidelity Charitable, How to help: Novel Coronavirus.

10 Years of Retweet

10 years ago today, Twitter launched “native retweet” and significantly changed how people experienced the Twitter timeline. IMHO it was a huge and relatively gutsy change. I’m writing this post to explain what changed, and why I like a particularly controversial aspect of it -- strangers in the timeline -- so much. I hope it will encourage others who were at Twitter at the time to share their stories.

First off, imagine the Twitter of early 2009. It was a simpler Twitter in SOOOOO many ways. Timelines were a reverse chronological set of 140 character tweets. There were no ads. No images. And no mobile phone client from Twitter.  Barack Obama had just been inaugurated.

Late 2008 screenshot from Huynh, Terence,
Twitter releases new design, more customisable,
TechGeek, Sept 20, 2008
People were already retweeting each other through a convention of using the letters “RT” and the original user’s username, and then the tweet. Retweeting the President’s election victory tweet would have been something like “RT @BarackObama We just made history. All of this happened because you gave your time, talent and passion. All of this happened because of you. Thanks.” If you followed me and I retweeted that, you’d see my avatar and that text. Nothing would link my Tweet back to the original, and there was nothing stopping me from editing the original and misquoting it. In fact, even that retweet of @BarackObama would have needed editing so that it could fit in the 140 characters. Still, the convention was used and useful.

On August 13, 2009 @biz made a short blog post pre-announcing a new retweet feature so that the Twitter client developers (none of whom worked at the company or were paid by Twitter) would be ready for it when it rolled out on At least one of those developers already had a retweet button that made retweeting easier, but the new feature @biz announced was different. It was simple and revolutionary. Now when I retweeted @BarackObama my followers would see his tweet as if they too were followers of @BarackObama for that instant. They would see his Tweet as if they followed him -- in their regular timeline -- but with an acknowledgement to me, and as if it had been tweeted when I hit the retweet button. As @Biz described it:

"Let’s say you follow @jessverr, @biz (that’s me), and @gregpass but you don’t follow @ev. However, I do follow @ev and the birth of his baby boy was so momentous that I retweeted it to all my followers.

Imagine that my simple sketch is your Twitter timeline. You’d see @ev’s tweet even though you don’t follow him because you follow me and I really wanted you to have the information that I have." Photo and quotation from Stone, Biz, Project Retweet: Phase One, Twitter Blog, Aug. 13, 2009.

It made retweeting much easier,* but it also meant that users saw the faces of people they didn’t follow in their timeline (internally we called this the "strangers in the timeline" phenomenon). Retweets were also displayed based on the time of retweet, not the time of the original tweet (even though the timestamp was still the original one), so it looked like the tweets were being displayed out of order. Here’s what it looked like when it rolled out later that year (with a special dialog box to explain to people why they were seeing strange new avatars).

Screenshot by See-ming Lee CC-BY-SA
This was (and is) a big deal for a whole bunch of reasons, but the one that I really appreciate today is that seeing strangers in my timeline made it so much easier for me to find and follow new interesting people. @Ev’s blog post from the time summarizes a lot of the other benefits and concerns that people had about the idea, including his description of the blowback he knew Twitter would face over putting strangers in peoples' timelines. He wrote, “The drawback is that it may be a little surprising (unpleasant even, for some) to discover avatars of people they don't follow in their timeline.” Which avatar to show, the original tweeter's or the retweeter's was a significant discussion and I am really glad the team chose to show the original tweeter as I think it has led directly to my timeline getting better and better over the years.

Anyhow, I’ll leave the rest of the stories about this to others who were closer to the decision and implementation. For now I just want to thank the folks that were there and call them out so that they (hopefully) tell more of the story. My memory is hazy, but I think at least @zhanna, @alissa, @cw, @goldman, @ev, and @biz would have good memories of it. Please share, tell the inside story, and add more folks I missed.

* Despite the ridiculous title, this Buzzfeed article has some good discussion from folks on the cons of the convenience and speed of the retweet button, and ways to think about slowing the spread of harmful retweet cycles while preserving the good.