Is anybody out there working on some sort of massively-distributed, Internet-coordinated grassroots election monitoring effort?
As the Bush administration’s edifice of lies begins to collapse around it, it’s increasingly likely that desperate Republicans will turn to dirty tricks to win the 2004 elections, just like they did in Florida in 2000.
It seems to me that somebody should be trying to coordinate thousands of volunteers to go out to polling places around the country on election day to
Watch for violations of elections rules, people being turned away from the polls, etc.
Document any observed problems in near-real-time (phonecams? instant messaging? web-backed databases!) so that if any suspicious patterns emerge, they can be identified and responsed to immediately.
Basically, I’m talking about a high-tech version of the election monitoring work that a number of organziations conduct in emerging democracies around the world.
If nothing else, organizing such an effort would put potential troublemakers on notice that they are being watched, and might help dissuade those who might consider trying to tip the scales of democracy.
MailbyRSS is a free service from a company called iupload that allows folks to create RSS feeds by sending email messages to iupload’s servers. This potentially offers a brain-dead way to easily create syndicated feeds for sites that don’t use content management systems.
Scot Finnie, publisher of tech newsletter “Scot’s Newsletter” is trying MailbyRSS out, and here’s what he has to say:
Here’s how it works: I email the HTML version of the newsletter to a special email address. From that email, iupload automatically creates an XML version and adds it to the RSS feed that it hosts for me. The theory is that I’ll be able to add that special email address to my HTML newsletter list. Then, whenever I send a new issue of the newsletter, the XML version and RSS feed will be created automatically.
Talking with iupload’s David Carter, I learned that the company is looking to make it possible to use their free hosting service just as a pointer to a Web page. For that way of working, authors would access their RSS Feed control panel and insert the headline, link, and abstract for each item, and it would generate an RSS feed that points back to the author’s website. Although it adds a step, this is much more attractive to me.
This is definitely worth checking out as a possible low-end solution for creating RSS feeds for folks who are currently publishing email newsletters, but can’t afford to or don’t want to make the leap to content management solutions.
MailbyRSS is currently offering a free service that is hosted on their servers, and includes some of their branding. They say “we are working on a commercial versions that provide options to remove the branding on templates and to publish your RSS Channels and web pages to the location of your choice. “
Apparently there’s a wolf living on the outskirts of Juneau, AK. My friend Michelle has seen it twice, and a local photographer has gotten some great photos of it.
The presence of this young, male wolf so close to people and homes has been an open-secret here in Juneau, Alaska for a while now. ItÂ´s currently in an area where trapping and big-game hunting are not allowed but as with all urban wildlife it faces other perils. Local wildlife managers advise people to keep the wolf at a distance, from themselves and their pets, to reduce potential for conflict.
Part of me is amazed to think that we live in a region where the Big Wild is often not so far away. The other part of me is saddened to see such palpable evidence of how we are squeezing out the creatures who need big spaces to roam.
Dave Winer has an interesting addition to the fast-growing pile of punditry about what the rise and collapse of “Internet-powered” Howard (Dean) means to the future of politics:
Technologically we’re ready to route around the news channels. Had Dean decided to help develop the human network of citizen journalists, providing coverage not just of his campaign, and not just the good spin of his campaign, he might have been able to survive the onslaught of the television networks….
In the meantime, the techniques that the Dean campaign could have used are available to any candidate running for local office because the networks don’t reach below the national level. The competition there is with local television and local newspapers, which are shrinking rapidly.
Read it again — the next stage of the Internet revolution is local. Because local media are weak, and we can route around them more easily.
Here’s more proof that weblogs can be grassroots “journalism that influences journalism.” George Bush is going to appear as Tim Russert’s guest on NBC’s “Meet the Press” this Sunday — a rare opportunity for the media to hold Bush accountable for his actions.
Some leading online political commentators are attempting to get Tim Russert to ask the truly hard questions. See Let’s Be Tim Russert’s Staff! on Brad DeLong’s webjournal.
I have no idea whether this will work — this time. But it is a great example of the increasingly powerful dialogue between online grassroots media and mainstream media.
Progressive activists need to really focus on learning to play this game.
* Online Political Citizens are not isolated cyber-geeks, as the media has portrayed them. On the contrary, OPCs are nearly seven times more likely than average citizens to serve as opinion leaders among their friends, relatives and colleagues. OPCs are disproportionately â€œInfluentials,â€ the Americans who â€œtell their neighbors what to buy, which politicians to support, and where to vacation,â€ according to Ed Keller and Jon Berry, authors of the book, The Influentials. Normally, 10% of Americans qualify as Influentials. Our study found that 69% of Online Political Citizens are Influentials.
* About 44% of Online Political Citizens have not been politically involved in the past in typical waysâ€”they have not previously worked for a campaign, made a campaign donation or attended a campaign event.
* Online Political Citizens are twice as likely as members of the general public to have a college degree; they have higher incomes, are slightly younger, and are more likely to be white, single and male. Internet users in general lean in these directions, but the difference between OPCs and average Americans is more dramatic.
* Online Political Citizens are significantly more likely to donate money to candidates. At this early stage of the 2004 campaign, 46% have donated to a candidate or political party in the last two to three months, compared to 10% of the general public.
* E-mail is their lifeline: 87% receive political e-mail and 66% forward political e-mail to friends and colleagues. OPCs frequent political Web logs, political discussion groups and political chat rooms much more often than the general public.
* We estimate that Online Political Citizens comprise about 7% of the population.
Kos is floating an interesting idea: get volunteers to create Flash ads for congressional races, then raise money to place the ads online — in local newspaper websites, Yahoo/Hotmail ads, etc.
Being a big fan of MoveOn’s Bush in 30 Seconds effort, I want to try something similar, if less ambitious.
I am considering soliciting Flash and video ads targeting incumbent House Republicans, and raising money to advertise those ads online within the targeted districts — a much less expensive task than the millions MoveOn is spending advertising on TV. In other words, small donations would go a long way toward getting these ads some exposure.
Any thoughts? Too ambitious? Stupid?
This is a smart idea that should be explored further. (And yes, you can geo-target online advertising.) Also, folks looking to do grassroots political advertising buys shouldn’t forget that you can purchase TV ads on local cable systems quite inexpensively.
It’s cool to see innovative ideas like this emerging out of places like DailyKos.
Next time somebody asks me why social activists should blog, I want to remember this post from Jim Moore in which he summarizes the social science theory that tells us why “weak ties” are a critically important part of social movements.
Many years ago the sociologist Mark Granoveter wrote a seminal article on the special import of “weak ties”–the links among people that are not closely bonded–as being critical for spreading ideas and for helping people join together for action. Granovetter, M. (1973), “The Strength of Weak Ties,” American Journal of Sociology, 78 (6): 1360-1380.
This article and its simple but profound idea helped stimulate an academic movement of rich analysis of networks, ranging from neurology to social movements. The best book I know summarizing this science and its relevance to social change and social capital formation is Nexus, by Mark Buchanan.
To further boil Jim’s already-pretty-succinct article into more digestible bullet-points…
Social change requires that we spread ideas beyond our immediate (“strong”) social networks.
“Weak ties” — i.e. people who are not that close to us, are the best way to spread our ideas to people we do not know at all.
Weak ties are voluntary, and thus may be a very good way to filter out good ideas.
Blogs are “weak tie machines” because they are easy to write and because anybody can read them (and respond!).
Casual online publishing helps foster network cohesion:
* Develops new “weak ties”. (I don’t know who you are reading this but if you read it often enough you get a sense of what fires my engines.
* Fosters common story and common language. I realize that most of my posts need reworking before I share them with work, funding or friend circles.
* Improves team situational awareness. My friends send me good links or ideas and I will flush them out a bit on the blog.
* Refines thinking and provides stimulus for face-to-face conversation. I have actually bumped into people that read this site every so often and we pick up on a thread of mutual interest.
Blogging is also a way for activists and other social change agents to play around with journalism, reporting and commentary — three skills that are going to be absolutely critical for social movements in the next century (if they aren’t already). Blogging is one of the many ways for activists to make their own media, and a part of the “Progressive Wurlitzer” that we need to build to counter the centralized media juggernaut of the right.
Winning Ways of Alinksy and Gandhi is a fantastic three-minute primer on the organizing strategies of two of the greatest organizers ever: Saul Alinksy and Mahatma Gandhi.
This essay is the capstone in a solid ten-part series by Charles Dobson in The Tyee a new online progressive newsmagazine covering British Columbia. I had the pleasure of meeting their business manager Michelle Hoar last week, and I can tell you Watch Out — these folks are ones to keep an eye on.
As I’ve commented on before, Howard Dean’s Internet strategy could best be described as “try everything and throw more resources at anything that looks like it’s working.” Today, they launched yet another new trick: Internet talk radio.
Check out http://radio.deanforamerica.com.
Our internet talk radio station, WDFA is going live with Radio for America at 4 PM ET.
AOL instant message to us: ‘WDFATalk’ — we’ll ask you what your name is, your phone number, where you are from and what your question is, and we’ll call you back and put you on the air.