Hal Plotkin

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Hal Plotkin
Hal Plotkin 2007.jpg
Senior Policy Advisor,
Office of the Under Secretary of Education
In office
July 2009 – August 2014
Personal details
Born September 1957
New York, New York
Nationality U.S.A.
Spouse(s) Loren A. Stein
Residence Palo Alto, California

Hal Plotkin is currently the Senior Open Policy Fellow at Creative Commons USA.[1]

Previously, Plotkin served as the Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of the Under Secretary of Education, United States Department of Education, which has responsibility for all federal U.S. higher education policies and programs. Plotkin was appointed to his position in the Obama administration in July 2009.[2]

Plotkin is a former member and president of the Foothill–De Anza Community College District Board of Trustees and Chair of the District's Committee on Audit and Finance.[2] He is the first graduate of Foothill College to ever serve on its governing board.

In 2003, Plotkin initiated the district's Policy on Public Domain Learning Materials[3] which are now more commonly known as Open Educational Resources.

During his service in the Obama administration, Plotkin worked to advance the use of Open Educational Resources to increase access to high-quality educational opportunities and improve the quality of teaching and learning while lowering costs imposed on students, communities and schools.[4][5][6]

Journalist, Commentator, Non-Profit Founder, Community College Trustee[edit]

Prior to his appointment to the Obama administration, Plotkin was a Silicon Valley-based journalist and commentator whose published and broadcast work often focused on technology, business, public policy, education and science. He was a founding editor of public radio's Marketplace program and a former columnist for CNBC.com and SFGate.com, the website of the San Francisco Chronicle. Plotkin has written more than 650 articles for a wide variety of publishers, including Barron's Online, Inc. magazine, FORBES.ASAP, Harvard Business School Publishing, California Business, San Jose Metro, Family Business and International Business magazines.[7]

Plotkin is also the founder, Chairman of the Board, and former CEO of the Center for Media Change, a Palo Alto, California-based non-profit organization that facilitates the creation, development and use of new business models to preserve the economic and professional viability of high-quality independent fact-based journalism. Plotkin was the founding editor of the Center for Media Change's first project, www.ReelChanges.org, which launched on May 1, 2008. ReelChanges was the first online site to pioneer crowdfunding of high-quality documentary film projects. During its short life, ReelChanges won a single small grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's Media Innovation Fund[8] but was unable to attract additional financial support from any of the more than two dozen foundations to which it applied. Despite generating considerable buzz[9][10][11][12][13][14] ReelChanges went offline in March, 2009 when Plotkin accepted a position in the Obama administration after an unsuccessful attempt to secure additional financing and leadership for the site.[15]

The Center for Media Change, Inc. also served as the parent 501(C)3 non-profit for a similar site, spot.us, founded by David Cohn. Spot.us was acquired by American Public Media in early 2012.[16]

Plotkin's articles and essays include "Riches From Rags," one of the first printed references to the term "mass customization",[17][18] "Tear Down the Walls," which made an early case for what has become the Open Educational Resources movement,[19] a description of the new "higher education ecosystem" made possible by the Internet,[20] the first article ever written about Creative Commons,[21] and a variety of articles for Harvard Business School Press.[22]

In 1988, Plotkin's investigative reports on potential media influence buying by pentagon contractors associated with misleading, unnecessary, and expensive full page daily newspaper classified help wanted ads[23][24] led to a congressional investigation,[25][26][27][28][29][30] and an audit by the Department of Defense Contracting Audit Agency that illuminated opportunities for hundreds of millions of dollars in annual savings.[31] Plotkin received a letter of commendation for his work from David Packard, founder and chairman of the board of Hewlett-Packard Company, and a former Deputy Secretary of Defense.[32]

In 1996, Plotkin wrote one of the first major articles on Yahoo! based on interviews he conducted with the founders while they were seeking initial investors and which was published shortly before the company went public.[33] He also wrote an early article about a company called Confinity, which was later renamed PayPal.[34]

In 2003, Plotkin was approached by community leaders and members of the faculty and staff at the Foothill–De Anza Community College District and asked to run for an open seat on their five-member Governing Board of Trustees. Plotkin was elected to the FHDA board in November 2003 by the voters in Palo Alto, Mountain View, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and parts of San Jose and Saratoga.[35] During this time, he also served as a member of the Association of Community College Trustees' (ACCT) Committee on Public Policy. In 2007, he was re-elected, without opposition, to another full term on the Foothill–De Anza Board after having been elected earlier that year as board president.

In 2011, an essay Plotkin wrote on astrophysics ten years earlier[36] was republished as a chapter in Gale Cengage Learning's "At Issue" series of textbooks.[37]

Plotkin is a prominent advocate of crowd-funding for high-quality public media.[38]

In recent years, Plotkin has devoted much of his time to advancing the Open Educational Resources movement.[39][40][41][42]

Early Life, Background[edit]

Plotkin was editor of the editorial page of Palo Alto High School's student newspaper, The Campanile, when he got his first professional assignments as a journalist and writer. His career path and formal education were interrupted by what he describes as "some unfortunate family circumstances" that led him to drop out of high school in 11th grade in order to work full-time in whatever jobs he could find including gas station bathroom cleaner and pizza maker.[43] Plotkin managed to graduate with his high school class in 1975 after administrators gave him course credit for some of his employment activities. He attended college part-time over the next 10 years while working in a variety of low-paying jobs, including retail sales clerk, office assistant and as a Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) worker serving as an aide to then-Santa Clara County Supervisor Rod Diridon, Sr. who became one of Plotkin's mentors. In 1979, Plotkin made a successful transition to become a self-employed researcher, writer, editor and broadcaster. His earliest journalism gigs included serving as news and public affairs director for KPEN 97.7 FM, a small but popular Silicon Valley-based jazz station that was later purchased by SF-based KFOG and writing a regular column and feature articles for the San Jose Metro weekly alternative newspaper. Plotkin eventually earned his associate's degree in history, with high honors, from Foothill Community College in 1985 and earned his bachelor's degree in behavioral sciences, with distinction, at San Jose State University in 1986, which he was able to attend full-time for one year after a distant relative stepped forward to provide financial support. His junior and senior terms at SJSU, which were completed in a single year, was the only period during his college years that Plotkin was able to attend full-time. He also ghostwrote two books and served as an editorial consultant on several others during this period.[43]

Plotkin's published work since that time has focused mostly on public policy, technology, science, education and business. He has written more than 650 articles for a variety of magazines, journals and newspapers.[7] His topics have included analysis of progressive approaches to higher education, entrepreneurial trends, e-learning strategies, business management, open source software, alternative energy research and development, voting technologies, streaming media platforms, online electioneering, biotech research, patent and tax law reform, federal nanotechnology policies and tech stocks.

In 1988, Plotkin accepted an invitation to join the public radio network as a founding editor of Marketplace, an award-winning business news and commentary program, where he served as commentary editor, segment producer and as a substitute anchor. He returned to Palo Alto two years later to devote more time to print journalism and to pursue his long-held passion for social activism

In 1992, Plotkin filed a class-action lawsuit against General Electric Company in connection with the misleading packaging of incandescent light bulbs. The settlement of Plotkin vs. General Electric and a related agreement between the company and the Federal Trade Commission raised public awareness about the growing practice of greenwashing and led to a settlement in which G.E. made customer refunds and financial contributions to environmental groups in the amount of $3.25 million. Plotkin received no funds from the 1993 settlement.[44][45]

In 1993, Plotkin won the Democratic party's nomination for a special election to fill Silicon Valley's seat in the California state Senate but was defeated in the general election by Tom Campbell, a former GOP member of the U.S. Congress. The following year, he was appointed to serve a two-year term on the California state Economic Strategy Panel by the then-Speaker of the California state Assembly, Willie Brown, Jr.

In 1994, Plotkin served as a senior fellow of the World Economic Development Congress, where he helped organize a conference that brought PLO leader Yasser Arafat and then Israeli-president Chiam Herzog together for peace and economic cooperation talks in Madrid, Spain.[46]

Plotkin began writing his regular technology beat column for the Hearst Corp.-owned SFgate.com in 1998.[47] He joined CNBC.com the following year as full-time Silicon Valley correspondent for the online operations of the financial news television network. He worked for CNBC.com from the day the site went online in July 1999 until Microsoft Corp. took over editorial operations in July 2001.[48]

In 2006, Plotkin was the recipient of the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Family and Children's Services FAMMY award, which was accompanied by a short (8-minute) video about his early life, produced by award-winning filmmaker Yoav Potash.[49]

Plotkin's publishers include Inc. magazine, Inc. International, International Business magazine, Forbes ASAP, Barron's Online, California magazine, California Business magazine, CNBC.com, Family Business magazine, The Harvard Management Update, The Harvard Management Communications Update, Securities Industry Daily, Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year magazine, France's Courrier International newspaper, Biotechnology magazine, Biotechnology In Japan Newsservice, The Peninsula Times Tribune, Investools.com, Arthur Andersen's Knowledgespace.com, and the San Jose Metro, among others.

Publications citing Plotkin's work include Die Welt, Mac Week Japan, Brazil's 80/20, The Taipei Times, The Industry Standard, ZDnet.com, MSNBC.com, Wired.com, The National Review, The California Hydrogen Business Council and Nanotechnology News, among others.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Hal Plotkin Named First Creative Commons Senior Open Policy Fellow http://us.creativecommons.org/archives/1012
  2. ^ a b Reichelstein, Daniela (29 June 2009). "Plotkin to serve as Obama senior policy adviser: Palo Alto resident leaves Foothill–De Anza board after six years". Palo Alto Weekly. Retrieved 1 May 2010. 
  3. ^ Policy on Public Domain Learning Materials
  4. ^ Hal Plotkin. "New Job-Training and Education Grants Program Launched | The White House". Whitehouse.gov. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  5. ^ Carey, Kevin (2011-05-15). "The Quiet Revolution in Open Learning - Commentary - The Chronicle of Higher Education". Chronicle.com. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  6. ^ "“Why Open Education Matters”—Video Competition Launches | ED.gov Blog". Ed.gov. 2012-03-05. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  7. ^ a b "Hal Plotkin's C.V". Halplotkin.com. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  8. ^ "Experiment in online "crowdfunding"". Current.org. 2009-03-30. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  9. ^ "ReelChanges: viewer-funded documentaries". Socialmedia.biz. 2008-05-01. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  10. ^ By JD Lasica (2008-08-13). "ReelChanges Aims to ‘Audience-Fund’ Documentaries | Idea Lab". PBS. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  11. ^ "ReelChanges.org – Documentaries Funded By Us | Online Tips, Free Download and Review". Zepy.net. 2008-08-23. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  12. ^ "Good night, Posterous". Toddmundt.posterous.com. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  13. ^ "Palo Alto Online Palo Alto Weekly: Putting a price on journalism (May 9, 2008)". Paloaltoonline.com. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  14. ^ Persephone Miel (2008-05-01). "Media Re:public » Blog Archive » Reel Changes". Blogs.law.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  15. ^ Adapted from Current, March 7, 2011 By Steve Behrens (2011-03-07). "Crowd-funding requires promo, 2011". Current.org. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  16. ^ "American Public Media's Public Insight Network Acquires Spot.Us". Prweb.com. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  17. ^ "Riches from Rags". Inc. Magazine. 1995-03-15. Retrieved 2010-10-21. 
  18. ^ "Riches from Rags". Inc. Magazine (authorized reprint). 1995-03-15. Retrieved 2010-10-21. 
  19. ^ Plotkin, Hal (1998-08-31). "Tear Down the Walls". SFGate.com. Retrieved 2010-10-21. 
  20. ^ Plotkin, Hal (2001-05-10). "Free Higher Education". SFGate.com. Retrieved 2010-10-21. 
  21. ^ Plotkin, Hal (2002-02-11). "All Hail Creative Commons". SFGate.com. Retrieved 2010-11-14. 
  22. ^ "Higher Education". Cb.hbsp.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  23. ^ http://www.halplotkin.com/AdobeAcrobat/7.14.88cover.pdf
  24. ^ "Classified Information". Halplotkin.com. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  25. ^ "OldStuff0089NancyPelosiLetter". Halplotkin.com. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  26. ^ "OldStuff0089JohnMurthaLetter". Halplotkin.com. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  27. ^ "OldStuff0089DonEdwardsLetter". Halplotkin.com. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  28. ^ "OldStuff0089NormMinetaLetter". Halplotkin.com. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  29. ^ "OldStuff0089MavroulesLetter". Halplotkin.com. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  30. ^ "OldStuff0089LesAspinLetter". Halplotkin.com. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  31. ^ "OldStuff0089DODAuditReport". Halplotkin.com. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  32. ^ "David Packard Letter". Halplotkin.com. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  33. ^ "San Jose | Yahoo!". Metroactive. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  34. ^ "Beam Me up Some Cash". Halplotkin.com. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  35. ^ "oard Member; Foothill–De Anza Community College District". Palo Alto Online. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  36. ^ Plotkin, Hal (2011-06-28). "Faster Than Light Travel / Will We Ever Travel to the Stars?". The San Francisco Chronicle. 
  37. ^ "Gale Catalog - At Issue Series (hardcover editions) - Space Exploration, Edition 1 - 9780737755961 - David M. Haugen". Gale.cengage.com. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  38. ^ "Experiment in online "crowdfunding"". Current.org. 2009-03-30. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  39. ^ "Publius Project". Publius.cc. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  40. ^ "Reformers target high cost of print textbooks". azcentral.com. 2008-08-20. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  41. ^ "Testimony of Hal Plotkin and Martha Kanter, California State Assembly Committee on Higher Education". Foothill–De Anza Community College District. 2006-0-28. Retrieved 2010-05-01.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  42. ^ "Free to Learn: An Open Educational Resources Policy Development Guidebook for Community College Governance Officials". Creative Commons. 2011-10-06. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  43. ^ a b "HalsBioPage". Halplotkin.com. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  44. ^ Newgeography.com. "Different Shades of Green". Newgeography.com. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  45. ^ "San Jose Mercury News - Bay Area news, technology, jobs, cars and real estate". Nl.newsbank.com. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  46. ^ http://www.halplotkin.com/PersonalArchivesArafatPlotkin.htm
  47. ^ Plotkin, Hal (2011-06-28). "Tear Down The Walls / College in the Digital Age". The San Francisco Chronicle. 
  48. ^ http://www.halplotkin.com/CNBCArticleLinks.htm
  49. ^ http://www.halplotkin.com/JFCSPage.htm