I create products for the web.

I am deeply interested in problems of collective behavior and future models of open scientific collaboration.

My work since 2011 has focused on designing and building open source platforms which enable people to visualize and interactively explore high dimensional spaces.

I am @colinmegill on Twitter, and open DMs are the best way to get in touch with me.

I love backpacking, surfing and parenting 3 boys. I travel frequently and love seeing new places.

Work

Polis

Polis is a real-time system for gathering, analyzing and understanding what large groups of people think in their own words, enabled by advanced statistics and machine learning. Polis has been used all over the world by governments, academics, independent media and citizens, and is completely open source.

The development of novel methods for gathering voice, and the development of the platform were a response to communication challenges within large scale decentralized movements evidenced in Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring.

Our startup (also called Polis after the technology) open sourced the technology at the 2016 g0v summit in Taiwan, and the organization transitioned to a 501c3 between 2018 and 2020. I transitioned from CEO of the startup to the board of the nonprofit, called The Computational Democracy Project, which stewards the codebase, the main deployment hosted at pol.is, and the mission and vision.

The AGPLv3 licensed codebase can be accessed on GitHub.

There are now multiple deployments of the technology, including at national scale by Taiwan's government and at city scale by the municipality of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

Case studies and outcomes have been featured in The Atlantic, NYT, Wired, The Guardian, MIT Tech Review and The Economist among others, and have been the subject of a short BBC documentary as well as featured in multiple books from major publishers.

Nextstrain

From nextstrain.org: "Nextstrain is an open-source project to harness the scientific and public health potential of pathogen genome data. We provide a continually-updated view of publicly available data alongside powerful analytic and visualization tools for use by the community. Our goal is to aid epidemiological understanding and improve outbreak response."

My personal involvement with Nextstrain began with a weekend evening hack night project in 2014 to pull together real time statistics on the Ebola epidemic. This was very similar, in retrospect, to many of the hack projects that resulted in real time dashboards for COVID.

Between 2015 and 2017, I worked with Bedford Lab to platformitize, generalize and expand the nextflu prototype to handle arbitrary viral phylogeny datasets.

Nextstrain went on to win the Open Science Prize, and contribute to the surveillance of viruses like COVID. I was interviewed by Shirley Wu about the tool and how it's used to monitor virus evolution in March 2020 at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Nextstrain paper was published in Bioinformatics, Volume 34, Issue 23, 01 December 2018, Pages 4121–4123.

The AGPLv3 codebase is available on GitHub.

Nextstrain has been featured in NYT, MIT Tech Review, Scientific American, Vanity Fair, Bloomberg and won a Webby.

cellxgene

cellxgene is a highly general, MIT licensed tool for visualizing, exploring, and interactivley running computation on high dimensional data (that is, large, sparce matrices, their features, and their metadata).

cellxgene was built for the purpose of enabling pre-publication (benchtop) data annotation and post publication sharing of the many scRNAseq datasets emerging from The Human Cell Atlas, a project described at length in the 2018 MIT Tech Review article The Cartographer of Cells.

Additionally, cellxgene was used to facilate rapid dissemination of many single cell datasets related to COVID-19 illnesses.

The paper, which describes the purpose, features, system architecture in depth, is available on bioRxiv.

The MIT licensed codebase is available on GitHub.

Above screenshot: four million cells interactively visualized from the Survey of Human Fetal Development.

See also: Mapping Cells To Build a Complete Atlas of the Human Body from The Economist.

Talks

Boston, USA (remotely), 2021 May, Internal seminar, MIT Media Lab Center for Constructive Communication Polis: Scaling deliberation by mapping high dimensional opinion spaces (pre-publication paper talk) Video

Toulouse, France (remotely), 2021 April, Center for Collective Learning Seminar Polis: Scaling deliberation by mapping high dimensional opinion spaces (pre-publication paper talk) Video

Oxford, UK (remotely), 2021 April, Internal seminar, Future of Humanity Institute Centre for the Governance of AI, Oxford University Polis: Scaling deliberation by mapping high dimensional opinion spaces (pre-publication paper talk)

Venice, Italy (remotely), 2020 December, International Forum on Digital Democracy A CASE STUDY ON COMPUTER-AIDED POLICYMAKING

Taipei, Taiwan (remotely), 2020 December, g0v Summit 2020 POLITICAL MACHINES Video

San Francisco (remotely), 2020 August, metagov seminar AI and the future of the political party Video

Quebec City, Canada, 2019 April, Web à Québec AI and the future of the political party Deck

Stanford University, California, USA, 2019 March, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences Machine Learning and Democracy

Amsterdam, Netherlands, 2018 December, Netherlands Institue for Multiparty Democracy Annual Conference AI and the political party

Aptos, California, USA, 2018 April, CZI Science Computational Biology RFA Gathering A Modern Toolkit for Scientific Data Visualization

San Francisco, USA, 2017 October, Foo Camp 2017 AI and the political party

NYC, USA, 2017 June, PDF 2017 Stories From the Future of Democracy: The Promise of AI Video

Mountain View, USA, 2017 March, Ed Foo

Washington D.C., USA, 2017 January, Internews An introduction to pol.is

Madrid, Spain, 2016 November, Collective Intelligence for Democracy AI & the future of participatory democracy Video

Naples, Italy, 2016 November, School of Civic Tech AI & the future of participatory democracy

Turin, Italy, 2016 November, School of Civic Tech AI & the future of participatory democracy

London, UK (remotely), 2016 October, Newspeak House A brief introduction to pol.is Video

San Francisco, USA, 2016 October, Next:Economy A Conversation with Colin Megill of pol.is Video

Sebastopol, USA, 2016 June, Foo Camp 2016

Taipei, Taiwan, 2016 May, g0v 2016 pol.is in Taiwan: Bridging the gap between public discourse & public policy Video

Jeju Island, Korea, 2015 December, By the Crowd New methods in participatory democracy

Boston, USA, 2015 November, Future of Web Apps Victory.js, A powerful data visualization library for ReactJS Deck

Bratislava, Slovakia, 2015 November, Reactive2015 Victory.js, A powerful data visualization library for ReactJS Video

Interwebs, Podcast, 2015 August, Shop Talk Show Panel discussion on inline styles Video

NYC, USA, 2015 June, QCon Data visualization in ReactJS

NYC, USA, 2015 June, CSS Conf 2015 Inline styles are about to kill CSS Video

Las Vegas, USA, 2015 June, Future of Web Apps RadiumJS & VictoryJS: Data Visualization in ReactJS

Seattle, USA, 2015 April, SeattleJS @ Facebook Learn React and Flux: Part III Video

Seattle, USA, 2015 March, SeattleJS @ Facebook Learn React and Flux: Part II Video

Seattle, USA, 2015 February, SeattleJS @ Facebook Learn React and Flux: Part I Video

Quotes

The Death of the Gods: The New Global Power Grab by Carl Miller. 23 August 2018 ISBN13—978-1785151330

WTF?: What's the Future and Why It's Up to Us by Tim O'Reilly. 10 October 2017 ISBN13—978-0062565716

To save democracy, we must disrupt it
UnHerd 03 September 2018

The simple but ingenious system Taiwan uses to crowdsource its laws
MIT Technology Review 21 August 2018

Taiwan’s revolutionary hackers are forking the government
Wired 4 May 2018

Women's March anniversary sets the stage for new political campaign with a tech twist
Mashable 19 January 2018

The Internet Doesn’t Have to Be Bad for Democracy
MIT Technology Review 2 June 2017

VTAIWAN: PUBLIC PARTICIPATION METHODS ON THE CYBERPUNK FRONTIER OF DEMOCRACY
Civicist 11 August 2016

Changing the relationship between citizens and government
Daum (Korean) 2 March 2016

Blooming digital democracy in Taiwan’s Sunflower movement
Mobilization Lab 25 January 2016

New Community Tools: Polis
Coral Project 9 December 2015

Startup Spotlight: Pol.is uses machine learning, data visualization to help large groups spur conversation
GeekWire 17 April 2014

© 2021 Colin Megill