Buzz of the Week: Obama, the tech president

President-elect Barack Obama is preparing for a much-hyped technologically advanced administration by picking a chief technology officer for the government.

What should be the top priority of President Barack Obama’s chief technology officer? You can cast your vote at www.obamacto.org. At this writing, the top choice is “ensure the Internet is widely accessible and network neutral,” with more than 7,000 votes.

What are the odds that Obama will pick the CTO by Christmas? As of Nov. 14, a slender majority of people voting at www.hubdub.com — the self-proclaimed world news forecaster — thought he would, but voting just started.

And for what it’s worth, a blog collective known as the Remote Island opines on the matter in an article titled “Obama Chief Technology Officer Likely to Lead Robot Revolution,” saying the CTO is “clearly the No. 1 job that’ll be created in an Obama administration.”

Obama’s commitment to appointing a CTO, which he announced at Google’s corporate headquarters in late 2007, has captured the imagination of the information technology community and beyond. Much of the buzz has been about who Obama will pick for the job.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt was one of the top contenders for the job, according to popular opinion. But he took himself out of the running, telling the New York Times that he is “extremely happy serving the shareholders of Google.”

A few other big names are often mentioned: Internet pioneer Vint Cerf, former Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Amazon CEO Jeffrey Bezos, Sun Microsystems’ co-founder Bill Joy and, of course, Julius Genachowski, who is a technology adviser on Obama’s transition team.

We’ll all know soon enough who will be CTO. Then the question will be: What will the CTO do? Obama’s technology platform highlights several priorities, including security, open access to public records and interoperability among first responders, but some observers hope for more, particularly in areas such as social networking.

Obama’s campaign team wowed many people with its adept use of blogs, YouTube, Twitter and other applications to rally and organize supporters around the country. Will the Obama administration show the same entrepreneurial streak?

Many technologists clearly hope so. A survey of the tech blogosphere shows that most people in the IT community, whatever their political leanings, dare to hope the nation has elected one of their own.

BUZZ CONTENDERS

#2: Facebook goes presidential
Before you send in that job application to the Obama transition team, take some time to remove those Facebook photos of your cousin’s birthday party — the one where you had too much beer and did a cannonball into the pool fully clothed — and change your status to something tame. Obama’s people will probably find them, and you might not get that interview call.

According to the New York Times, all applicants will find this question on the questionnaire: “Please provide any other information, including information about other members of your family, that could suggest a conflict of interest or be a possible source of embarrassment to you, your family, or the president-elect.” The team also wants to see any potentially embarrassing e-mail messages, blog posts and, yes, Facebook pages.

#3: Your searches could be contagious
Google is launching a tool to help track outbreaks of the influenza virus across the country this winter, according to the company. Google’s engineers have discovered that by tracking the popularity of certain Google search queries, they can accurately estimate the level of flu in each state, a Google official said.
The tool, Flu Trends, will make that information accessible to anyone.

So if you can detect the presence of something based on how often its searched for in a particular region, we must conclude that Shayma Tash — a comic actress whose name was the fifth-highest search term on Google as of Friday morning — visits a lot of towns, every day.

#4: Book ’em, Danno
Contractors must report crimes according to ethics rules that are now part of the Federal Acquisition Regulation. The new ethics rules replace the old system of voluntary reporting, apparently because too few volunteered.

Just the facts, ma’am

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