Liveblogging “Political Campaigns and Technology”

[18:00] I’m liveblogging from the event ONE/Northwest is hosting tonight, titled “Political Campaigns and Technology.” We’ve got about 50 people in our office here in Seattle, gathered together for a fast-paced peer-to-peer learning session in which we’re going to explore the various ways that political campaigns are using technology to build and sustain relationships, and what nonprofit activist organizations can learn from the fast-paced world of political campaigns.

Gideon Rosenblatt — ONE/Northwest Executive Director

Gideon is welcoming people, explaining the concept, how it relates to our work. We’ll have three speakers, followed by some group discussion and general socializing.

Karen Uffelman — ONE/Northwest Program Manager

Questions to audience:

  • In the last 12 months, how many have seen a candidate website? Lots
  • How many have been contacted by a candidate? Lots
  • How many have taken action on behalf of a candidate? Lots
  • How many would have 4 years ago? Lots (!)

[18:05] Karen: dramatic changes in how candidates are using technology. Karen posed several discussion questions for people to consider in small groups, which they are now doing…

[18:10] Report outs:

Group one:

What’s the most innovative use of interactive media you’ve seen this campaign season?

  • Viral videos used to hold candidates accountable for what they’re saying

Group two:

Have candidates lost control of their message because of new media?

  • Yes, but some campaigns have done a better job than others at using new media to get their messages out there. The technology itself is beginning to shape how candidates present themselves and their communications style. Think that Obama is less concerned with controlling events, more focused on explaining things as they occur. George Allen’s “macaca” video is an extreme example of loss of control. Control models are going to work less and les in the future.

Group three:

Have candidates lost control of their message because of new media?

  • You can’t control what people say about you online. The blogosphere has some tendency towards self-correction, though. Retractions and debunkings can happen very quickly.

Most innovative use of interactive media?

  • Email from Obama campaign: you’ve donated before, would you like to match a first-time donor? Can send personal message to the first-time donor, and they can respond to you. Very gratifying way to make a small personal connection with a fellow supporter.

Group four:

We talked mostly about the “relentlessness” of the Obama campaign’s online organizing work this year. In 2004, seemed more episodic than continuous. Lots more use of video from candidates; e.g. video of Obama on his donation page. Very slick.

Group five:

We talked about some of the tools we’ve seen on Facebook and their longer-term potential. How social networking has been used as a fundraising tool, ability to raise money very quickly. Rapid response of Ron Paul campaign around specific issues. Blast updates vs. segmentation.

Group six:

Increased turnout of youth vote during primary cycle. Challenge ahead is how to translate election excitement downballot and to ongoing long term issues. How can we get people to care about the fights that follow. League of Young Voters Facebook application attempts to find people through the campaign opportunity, get a sense of issue priorities as well.

Group seven:

Unexpectedly viral things. Change in tone of campaign emails from “donate now” to fake(?) insider emails. New phonebanking tools. Washington Trails’ experience creating a small Facebook application.

[18:25] Three Speakers

Brett Horvath – Your Revolution

A new nonpartisan nonprofit.

Show of hands: who has a Facebook account? (Many) Who actively uses it? (Few)

Your Revolution: building a Facebook app focused on voter registration. Hope to scale up voter registration efforts by leveraging the reach of the Facebook platform.

What differentiates Facebook from other social networking platforms: Facebook is a “social utility” that allows people to actively do things. Some stats about rapid growth of Facebook.

Massive protest in Colombia, organized via Facebook. Something different is going on here that’s not going on elsewhere.

  • Big difference between a website and a web presence. Facebook gives you access to lots of people who are already nearby and comfortable consuming information there.

Obama online: — allows users to self-organize, plan events, build groups. Houe parties, fundraisers, phonebanking etc. All outside of the control of the campaign.

Quick rundown of Your Revolution features:

  • Register to vote from within Facebook
  • Tell you which of your friends are registered to vote
  • Send a reminder/invite to your friends to get them to register to vote — peer pressure!
  • Ask about issue interests during process
  • Connect you with groups that are working on what you’re interested in.

Your Revolution gives nonprofits some collaboration and project management tools for their constituents.

Working with students to bring online voter registration to states around the nation (!) (Now: WA and AZ are the only two states that allow it, but Rock The Vote has technology for generating paper forms online.)

Questions for Brett:

Q: What kinds of privacy safeguards are there? How exposed is your personal information?

A: You can control how much info people see on Facebook. Your Revolution doesn’t keep or use any data from FB.

Q: Is hard to get off of Facebook?

A: Actually, yes. Hard to fully delete all of your profile information. This is generally pretty true of anything you put on the internet these days.

Q: How do you prevent voter reg. fraud?

A: Require valid drivers license info, which is verified by Secretary of State.

[18:50] George Chung – Win/Win Network

How Democratic Party technology has trickled down to interest groups.

An example: anti-immigrant ballot measures in Washington in recent years. Hard to defeat hot-button ballot initiatives like this. Insight: find all the people who voted against a previous anti-affirmative action initiative. Problem: it was virtually impossible to find, and we had to start from scratch. A “learning moment.” Each campaign should build long-term organizing capacity, win or lose.

Democratic political campaigns have consolidated their voter file databases and interfaces. Catalist, Voter Activation Network are two companies that were started by major Democratic party donors to consolidate disparate voter file, demographic and consumer data and then provide sophisticated applications built on top of that, e.g. phonebanking systems with real-time feedback. Trickling down to state parties and the precinct captain level.

Campaigns don’t end when the election is over. Then we go to elected officials and push for policy change. More thinking about cycles of accountability. Elections are means to policy ends.

Win/Win Network – started by Washington Progress Alliance. Goal is to defragment progressive issue communities at the state level so that we can work more powerfully together. Shared services, e.g. voter mobilization tools from Catalist/VAN.


Q: Doesn’t sharing of names among organizations like this pretty much amount to spamming people without their permission and run the risk of inundating people?

A: Learning from the work the environmental community has done here, how to get the word out without violating permission. We don’t actually share emails among groups.

[19:15] Steve Andersen – ONE/Northwest

I work on CRM systems for environmental groups. Constituent Relationship Management. Technologies and techniques for helping organizations develop relationships with their supporters. Companies use CRM to sell stuff. Nonprofits use it to build power. We use as our main CRM tool; it’s not nonprofit-specific… it’s used by businesses, political campaigns, and nonprofits.

Four very quick demonstrations of how political campaigns use CRM.

1) Raising money…

… and reporting on that fundraising. A core component of any CRM system, but also one of the least interesting. 😉 Moving on…

2) Managing speaking opportunities

Candidates need to keep track of where they and their surrogates are going to appear, from a huge field of opportunities and possibilities. Nonprofit activists have the same problem. We’re currently working with Van Jones of the Ella Baker Center on a system for managing hundreds of speaking requests per month.

3) Influencing key decision makers

e.g. Superdelegates and precinct leaders. (Or, after the election, running issue campaigns for nonprofits). Quick demonstration of a system we built for Futurewise to track their success at influencing regulatory decisions around land-use. The same model can also be used to track efforts to secure endorsements for a candidate. Track decision makers, people & organizations who influence those decision-makers, whether they support or oppose us. Campaigns to our members who relate to that decisionmaker. Share all of this data with the campaign team.

4) Media tracking

How to keep track of all the blogs, viral video and online news coverage that campaigns are getting? Can’t just follow three networks and a few newspapers anymore. Quick demo of a media tracking tool we built for Futurewise. Media clips are connected to decision campaigns (above). Simple bookmarklets make it fast and easy to save items that you find in your web surfing.

“We haven’t had the need to clip YouTube videos for very long.”

Salesforce lets us build little tools like this really quickly. Took us about an hour to be able to clip & watch YouTube inside of

[19:25] Questions

Q: Can you spit back out stuff that you capture?

A: We can get stuff back out through Salesfore’s APIs and show it via a website to the public, or pull it into an email message.

Q: Can data be linked to projects?  Groups of people that might take action?

A: In principle, yes.

Q: How do you assess if an organization is ready for powerful new tools like this?

A: It’s hard.  🙂

[19:30] Gideon Rosenblatt – Thanks, Closing and General Hanging Out Time

These are the facets of a new kind of democratic process emerging.  It’s all about putting power back into the hands of self-organizing groups of people.

With that, your loyal liveblogger went off to get a well-deserved beer. 😉

Sightline Daily Launches

My amazing colleagues here at ONE/Northwest just launched Sightline Daily, a project we’ve been working on for the past few months for our downstairs neighbors at Sightline Institute.  (Big props to our friends at Web Collective, too, who contributed a bunch of heavy behind-the-scenes technical lifting, including some last-minute bug fixing!)

Sightline Daily covers sustainability news for the Pacific Northwest bioregion.  Originally named Tidepool, it was started over 10 years ago by Ecotrust and was acquired by Sightline Institute last year.  Each morning, Sightline Daily’s editorial team, led by the indefatigable Kristin Kolb, wakes up before dawn to scan the region’s news headlines and find the critical stories about climate, energy, fisheries, forests and more.  In addition, Sightline’s team of researchers contribute a daily dose of policy insight and wonkery through their blog, The Daily Score, which just moved over from Sightline’s main website to its new home at Sightline Daily.

The result: Cascadia’s leading source of sustainability news and analysis.  It’s an indispensable resource for anyone working to make our region more sustainable.

It’s one of the more elegant and ambitious projects we’ve worked on, and I’m really proud of it.

There’s a lot of cool strategy to share, as well as some neat behind-the-scenes technology.   I’ll have to explore both more in the near future, but the thing that thrills me the most right now is how much faster we managed to make the process of entering and categorizing 20-30 news stories per day.

We started with a close observation of the actual daily editorial process, through which Sightline Daily editors find, clip, categorize and arrange the day’s sustainability news.   Thanks to a javascript bookmarklet, an innovative custom batch editing view and some clever techniques for automatically finding related articles, we’ve created a system that cuts the daily news clipping process down from a few minutes per article to a few seconds.  (I still need to get out my stopwatch and time both systems for an exact comparison!)  This helps Sightline Daily deliver against an unforgiving daily publishing cycle (on your desk by 10AM!) and frees up time for them to do even more in-depth analysis and commentary.

And yes, it’s powered by Plone.  🙂

Video From Our Recent Social Networks Event

Those of you who missed our recent event “Online Social Networks: Can They Power Social Change” missed a good time and a packed house with a ton of energy and enthusiasm.

Fortunately, we got a decent video of our eight 5-minute presentations, which you can watch online at:

Warning: the video’s just under an hour, so grab a chair and get comfy. 🙂

Thanks to friend-of-ONE/Northwest Jeff Reifman for loaning us his video camera on short notice, and to Drew Bernard for jumping in as lead cinematographer.  Not quite as challenging a shoot as “Heart of Darkness” but not the easiest environment either.

Online Social Networks: Can They Power Social Change?

Right this very minute, ONE/Northwest is hosting a “brain trust” event where 60+ people are gathered to talk about online social networks and their potential for powering social change.

Here’s a liveblog of my notes:

Gideon Rosenblatt, ONE/Northwest ( Executive Director

We are a capacity builder that helps environmental groups engage people in environmental protection.

Thanks to Aron Thompson, ONE/Northwest board member, for sponsoring.

Topic for tonight: online social networks, and how they can be used for promoting social change.

Continue reading Online Social Networks: Can They Power Social Change?

ONE/Northwest Is Hiring a Database Consultant

Our database consulting practice here at ONE/Northwest is continuing to boom.  We’re looking to add another database consultant to our team here in Seattle:

Come help us build next generation relationship management systems for kick-ass environmental groups!

Nonprofits, Open Source and Leadership: ONE/Northwest and the Plone Community

My colleagues and I at ONE/Northwest have been spending a lot of time engaging with an Open Source software development community (the folks who make Plone) over the past two years. It’s been an amazing learning experience.

The following essay summarizes our experiences and attempts to tease out someulearnings both for nonprofits and for Open Source communities

This is a really rough first draft. I invite your thoughts, feedback, questions and criticisms. Tell me what parts (if any) ring true with you. Tell me what to cut. Tell me what I missed, or what I just plain got wrong.

Continue reading Nonprofits, Open Source and Leadership: ONE/Northwest and the Plone Community

8 Really Cool Things About Plone 3

Plone 3 Release Candidate 1 is out. This is a big milestone in the evolution of Plone, and a big leap forward for both developers and for everyday Plone users. The Plone 3 team is still putting the final polish on it, but Release Candidate 1 is more than ready for prodding, poking and testing. Here are eight of the things about Plone 3 that I’m most excited to start using in ONE/Northwest’s projects, with screenshots. Continue reading 8 Really Cool Things About Plone 3

Steve Andersen and the Future of Salesforce for Nonprofits

My colleague Steve Andersen just got back from Salesforce’s Nonprofit Roadmap Summit, upon which he reported back favorably.

But, ever the modest one, Steve neglected to mention that there was a nice little video of him reporting out from a brainstorming session on the future of Salesforce’s nonprofit CRM platform. 

I’m fortunate to get to see Steve in action every day.  But for those of you who don’t, this will have to do. 🙂

ONE/Northwest Will Soon Be Hiring

We’re swamped with demand for database consulting work.  So much so that we’ve decided to expand the team here at ONE/Northwest.  My colleague Steve Andersen, our Database Program Manager, has the scoop:

I’m not so much looking for someone to work for me, but with me. I want these kinds of skills to help us build our program beyond the 10 implementations we’ve done to date.
We’re going to be very focused on meeting the needs of the small
environmental groups as well and looking at sharing data between
groups, as well as sharing data up to coalition efforts. The voter file
is an interesting data set that we’ll be working with extensively this
year. We’re doing some cutting edge work, things hasn’t
ever done before. It’s really fun.

ONE/Northwest is a great place to work. is an amazing
platform to work on. The Northwest (and Southwest Canadian)
environmental movement is a movement that is winning and making change.
And because is web-based, I’m happy to consider remote
office arrangements. The only drawback to all of this is you would have
to work with me. Drop me a line if you want to chat: steve at

We’ll have an official job announcement out soon, but consider this early notice.

Learning From Toyota

I don’t usually find a huge amount worthy of remembering in the business section. But in a long New York Times magazine story about Toyota’s corporate culture and business success, the following paragraph jumped out at me:

Toyota is as much a philosophy as a business, a patchwork of
traditions, apothegms and precepts that don’t translate easily into the
American vernacular. Some have proved incisive (“Build quality into
processes”) and some opaque (“Open the window. It’s a big world out

Ok, there’s more.  Here’s  fantastic summary of audience-centric outreach:

Toyota focused the marketing of the Tundra on what Smith calls five “buckets”: 1) fishers and outdoorsmen; 2) home-improvement types; 3) Nascar fans; 4) motorcycle enthusiasts; and 5) country-music lovers.

Anyone wondering why Toyota has become a major booster of Nascar or a sponsor of bass-fishing tournaments can see the logic. It’s also why Toyota is sponsoring Brooks and Dunn, the country-music duo. And dealers are taking new Tundra trucks to Nascar events, country-music concerts, fishing tournaments and the like. “Parking lots tend to be a long ways away from where the events are,” Smith explains, referring to motocross competitions, “so we have our dealers setting up shuttles.” The plan is to pull up in a Tundra, offer visitors a ride but have them drive to the event on a slightly indirect course (laid out by a Toyota dealer). “At the end,” Smith says, “we say, ‘Thank you, you’re guests of Toyota, here’s a bottle of water, take a lanyard.’ ”

Figure out who your target audiences are, then go where they are, do what they do, and find a way to be of service to them.

This is great stuff — really worth a read.

Building Bridges

Ryan Ozimek’s piece “Islands and Bridges, the building has begun” is a great hallelujah to the power and importance of integration via open APIs.  It’s clear that PICnet and ONE/Northwest are drinking form the same cup, when Ryan writes:

The power of open source, combined with best of breed proprietary
systems with open APIs give organizations the power they need combined
with a price point they’re more likely to afford.

Which leads us back to the islands and bridges. The winning
solutions at the end of this year won’t be those that try to pack as
much under the hood as possible, but rather those that are most
flexible and connect most effectively with other systems.

In short, the non-profit sector’s needs demand more choice, and that’s just what open source and open APIs can do.


We’re attempting very similar bridge-building work between and Plone, and we’re looking forward to (finally) releasing our SalesforceConnector for Plone in the next few weeks.  (Got to get through some server migration work first!)

I can’t wait to discuss all of this great integration work at Aspiration’s Nonprofit Software Development Summit in a few weeks. 

Proclaim: Integrate!

My colleagues and I from ONE/Northwest recently signed onto the Integration Proclamation, a first step towards encouraging funders, software developers and those of us who work with them to invest resources in making tools that play together better.

If you agree that social change activists need tools that assume they’re part of a larger picture, not a world unto themselves, then take 30 seconds and sign

It’s a first step, not a solution.  But solutions start with attention.