Short-linking—that act of repackaging ungainly, often ugly strings of letters, numbers, ampersands, and question marks into elegantly tiny URLs—has been around for more than a decade, but only gained mainstream traction with the 2006 launch of Twitter and its capping of tweet-length at 140 characters. While the mechanics are complicated, the short story about the recent techie flare-up is that Twitter has moved away from third-party shorteners to its own, the use of which is now mandatory for all links shared on the service. For the uninitiated, here's an example:
Add these two facts together: (1) To the United States Census Bureau, where prisoners have their “usual residence” is the prison in which they’re incarcerated and (2) The findings of the decennial census are used to draw political boundaries. The sum of those parts does strange things to the notion of how Americans elect people to represent us in state and local governments. “Our system for making political decisions in this country,” says Peter Wagner of the Prison Policy Initiative, “is being distorted by the miscounting of two million people.” In an era obsessed with political data—Microtargeting! Swing-state polling! Data.gov!—and in a country where we incarcerate people at a higher rate than anywhere else in the world, thinking through the political counting of prisoners calls for the same enthusiasm, because the way we do it now corrupts the very equations upon which representative democracy is built.
In the early 2000s, Jefferson Smith grew a reputation in progressive grassroots political circles as the hulking 6’ 3” strawberry-blond force of nature behind Oregon’s The Bus Project, a non-profit merry band of allies named for a 1978 touring coach bought on eBay, which busied itself , training scores of young people in the mechanics of democracy, signing up tens of thousands of new voters, and selling t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “Vote, F*cker.” In 2008, Smith won election to the Oregon House of Representatives, where he memorably convinced colleagues on both sides of the aisle to Rickroll the chamber, one word at a time.
This week, the scientific publishing giant Elsevier, which produces thousands of academic journals, and Representatives Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat, and Darrell Issa, a California Republican, withdrew their support for the ResearchWorksAct after public outcry from public-access advocates. Currently, some federal agencies require that researchers who rely on government funding make their resulting journal publications freely accessible online.