Andy Baio is a man who gets things done, though his accomplishments are often quite unusual. Now he's taking that attitude straight to the nation's capital.
In 2008, Baio posted online, and refused to take down, the grainy video tape of Sarah Palin's participation in the 1984 Miss Alaska Pageant. He's received cease and desist letters from lawyers representing Disney, the Beatles and Bill Cosby. He made millions co-founding the early social calendaring website Upcoming.org and selling it to Yahoo. He interviewed the mysterious Italian factory worker whose video shattered all YouTube records without explanation, before its author deleted it. He commissioned an 8-bit cover of Miles Davis's Kind of Blue on the 50th anniversary of the album's release (Kind of Bloop). What else was left for Baio to do? Go to Washington, of course.
Hacking and Tracking the Conversation
Andy Baio announced on his blog today that he is joining the web technology think tank Expert Labs, along with Director and blogging forefather Anil Dash and Gina Trapani, former founding-editor of mega-blog LifeHacker.
Baio says the group's goal is "to help government make better decisions about policy by listening to citizens in the places they already are: social networks like Twitter and Facebook."
Trapani built an open source software product called ThinkUp, which collects and analyzes responses to questions posted on social networks. Dash brought it to Washington, partnering with the Obama Administration early this year. Now Baio will hack on ThinkUp, the social media conversation and Washington.
"There's tons to do," he wrote this morning, "but I'm particularly excited to tackle ThinkUp's ability to separate signal from noise, making it easier to derive meaning from hundreds or thousands of responses, using visualization, clustering, sentiment analysis, and robotic hamsters. I'm planning on building some fun hacks on top of ThinkUp, as well as keeping an eye open for other vectors to tackle our core mission."
In making the move, Baio will leave his spot as CTO of the fast-growing and innovative crowdsourced funding platform KickStarter. KickStarter announced last month that more than 250,000 people have now pledged over $20 million to fund home-recorded music projects, independent films and books and many other creative projects, in just 18 months since the site launched. "Kickstarter's leading an indie-culture revolution," Baio writes. He'll stay on in an advisory capacity.
Baio says he rarely feels engaged enough to write about his political opinions, but he believes technology could be key to solving the country's biggest problems. "To tackle our most serious national issues, we need better communication between government and citizens," he says. "I want my son to grow up in a world where he doesn't feel disconnected and disillusioned by government, and I want government to meet the needs of the people, rather than favoring those with the most money or the loudest voices."
Look out Washington, Baio is already among your ranks. It's sure to be interesting.