Check it Out

August 29, 2008

I’ve moved to tumblr. At least for now. You can now find me at See you there.

Winning Widget

July 24, 2008

So, recently I saw this widget from “Rock the Vote,” remember them? “Rock the Vote” was formed in the 1990’s to get younger people involved in the voting process. They were able to increase the turnout of youth voters by 20%. In 2004 more than 1.2 million people downloaded the voter registration form from their site. This is a pretty big accomplishment. I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t read it on their timeline since I just haven’t heard the name lately. I’ve always thought of “Rock the Vote” and Bill Clinton playing the saxophonesynonymously.

Apparently, they’re still out there. With Obama’s campaign rocking the social network it seems to be a great time to really sink their teeth in. They have furthered their reach by allowing other sites to download their voting widget. You can even customize it but I’m not that advanced yet. The best part is that it works on WordPress.

Look to the right, and scroll up a little. There you have it. How cool is that? I spent hours trying to embed other widgets into my site and they just didn’t work. How terribly frustrating. WordPress is very particular about what it will allow on it’s blogger pages. Short of creating my own page and then embedding widgets it wasn’t going to happen. Now, I too can get out the vote.

You can even track how many people you have signed up but that doesn’t work on WordPress. You can’t have everything now can you? I decided to enjoy what I could get. No need to mope instead I’ll enjoy my new toy. Most importantly I’d like to give credit where credit is due. Thanks e.politics for bringing this to my attention. You might not post very often but when you do it’s something very interesting.


Genius, Pure Genius

July 20, 2008

So, I ran across something the other day that is really quit ingenious. I found it while reading Techpresident. Sean Tavis, a candidate for state house in Kansas’s district 15, came up with a great idea. He needed $26,000 by July 26 to compete against Republican incumbent Arlen Siegfreid. How to raise that much money? It’s simple, a cartoon and a dare.

He challenged readers to help him raise the funds that he needed. An “impossible” task was proposed. If donors chose to take him up on it they’d be a part of history. No more than 644 people have ever donated to a state representative in Kansas and if 3000 people were to give just $8.34 each they’d break a record. It’s really genius. Everyone wants to be part of something bigger than themselves. By donating to his campaign they could. Being picked up by BoingBoing didn’t hurt any either. So far 5,112 donors have come forward.

But wait, there’s more. If you choose to donate more than the $8 and change you can get special gifts. For $60 you get a card signed by all of the volunteers. For $120 you get a limited edition campaign t-shirt. For $250 you get the shirt plus a mug. The ultimate gift though is for $500. You get the shirt, the mug, and a “DVD movie from Tevis’ mom telling you how wonderful you are, because you are.” It sounds kind of like a public television telethon but it’s kitschy and you have to be charmed. I know I am.

You just get the feeling of David taking on Goliath and it makes you want to chip in the help the little guy. Would he have gotten the money going door to door? Maybe or maybe not but on the internet anything is possible. Oh, did I mention that you can use paypal when you chip in? Pure genius.

Obama App Confuses me

July 17, 2008

How many days, minutes and seconds until we vote for the next president of the United States? You don’t have an answer yet?

Well, if you downloaded this applicationfor your iphone you would. It’s a countdown to Obama ’08. You can glance at your iphone and know when to go vote down to the nearest second. When you click on the URL, however, something funny happens.

It transfers you to another page, that part is normal, and then there’s an Obama logo on the top with an ad for McCain underneath it. It says loading but doesn’t load. That part though could be due to my less than stellar computer.

I tried to read the blog of creator Nick Pettit to see if I could find some answers. Nick describes himself as a software engineer who makes websites. He doesn’t seem to be politically active on his blog. In fact, it’s really about creating gadgets for the web. He has an interesting post describing how important it is to make sure that widgets, when used,serve their purpose. So true, a bad widget just makes you look like you are incompetent. Maybe I’m looking too far into this.

Originally I was just excited to write about the new application thinking about all of the new political tidbits that would come out of the iphone apps. I couldn’t pass this up though. It was just too juicy.

I was trying to figure out the motivation and if it has any deeper meaning. The truth is that the best thing to do is ask the source. So, I used a comment on his blog page to pose my question. I’ll post the answer when I get it.

In the meantime though, the countdown is a great idea to keep potential voters thinking about your candidate.

UPDATE: I received a response from Nick:

Nick said…

I don’t choose the ads that appear. They’re placed there automatically by Google. Just for the record, I do support Obama. Thanks for the heads up! 🙂

How interesting is that?

New Google Gadget

July 16, 2008

I tried out Google’s new elections video search tool. It’s pretty darn neat. How many times have you sworn that you heard a certain candidate make a statement but you have no idea which speech it was in? You need to prove that it exists but you don’t know how. Now, you can do it.

Google has converted speeches by political candidates using speech recognition software. For anyone whose ever used one of these programs you know that they can be a little iffy at times. Something is however better than nothing at all. When you type in a word or phrase it searches the politician’s channels on Youtube for the rhetoric. The videos are then presented to you. There are now two options. You can either watch the entire video or go to the yellow indicator dots for the phrase you want and skip right to it.

I really like the idea. Who wants to sit through a 30 minute speech to find one phrase? Politicians can be very long winded, as we all know. Why not skip to the good stuff? The speeches are supposed to be in the database just a few hours after they’re posted.

A potential problem, of course, would be that some politicians don’t post their speeches on a Youtube channel. If they aren’t posted, they aren’t converted, and you can’t find them. Another problem is, as I mentioned before, that speech recognition software is not always accurate when it comes to recognizing words. So yeah, there might be some glitches but it’s still exciting.

I think that news organizations could also find this very useful in the future to pinpoint sound bites. Most use nonlinear editing systems, computers, and could use a tool like this one internally to wade through tons of footage. If a reporter didn’t have the timecode for an interview answer they could type in the words that they heard earlier in the day and poof the information would be pulled up. This, of course, would have to be converted for personal use since they would be using their own footage.

As for online news organizations, they’re ready to go. It’s technology, let’s use it.


July 15, 2008

Olive Riley, the world’s oldest blogger, passed away July 12th. She was 108 years old and lived in a nursing home in Australia. Olive started her blog at the young age of 106. Youngster, 95-year-old Maria Amelia of Spain, who is now the oldest blogger by default, helped to inspire the journal. Though Olive wasn’t able to type out her own blogs the stories were all hers. She was read the comments and dictated her stories to 70 year-old, Mike Rubbo, who documented her life in All About Olive.



Though Olive sometimes referred to her blog as a blob she enjoyed the technology and the many friends whose lives she was able to influence with it. I know that I could learn a thing or two about blogging from her. Olive actually had 350,000 visitors one day. The most that I’ve had was 34.


There are so many things that we can learn from Olive. She shared her life with her readers. Stories about what it used to be like a century ago. What a wonderful way to do it. In small increments updated a few times a month she shared her history. Pictures, movies and words were used in order for her readers to get to know the octogenarian. We can learn a lesson from this. Why not have older people share their stories through this medium? There is so much to learn from those that have come before us. This is a great way to unite young and old. New technology embracing wonderful older stories is a perfect fit.


Olive was able to inspire others with her stories. Because of her, others dipped their feet into the vast resource that is the internet. They learned that while the unknown, technology, can be scary it can also be very rewarding. Of course, the inevitable question must follow. If a woman of 106 can start using the internet, why can’t McCain? If Tracy Russo’s grandmother were Olive Riley she’d be showing him how.


Do I vote Democratic or Republican? Well, let’s look at the facts. I like flavored coffee, Democrat. I wouldn’t eat a shrimp dish with bacon in it, no matter how much sauce there is to sop up, Republican. I like Pepsi, Democrat. Anyone who doesn’t pick Chick-fil-a over Popeye’s has never tasted the former, Republican. This isn’t getting us anywhere is it? As far as data mining goes to find your voter base I’m not sure if favored consumer goods are the best litmus test.


On the other hand, issue micro targeting seems to make much more sense. If someone has children in public school they will be interested in the state of our public education system. If someone has a gun in their home they might be interested in the right to own firearms. This makes complete sense to me. If candidates use this information they can directly tailor the issue based literature that is directed to these groups of people. This is the same way that candidates in the past targeted certain states with different messages as they made whistle stop tours of the country. With radio and then television it became harder to get specific messages to one group without alienating another. Getting back to that tactic of discussing what is important to the individual is a good tool for success. Voters seem to feel lost in the shuffle and appreciate being catered to every now and then.


By breaking the voters into groups such as “sensing”, “thinking”, and “judgement” voters Applebee’s America is discussing this kind of targeting. They call it lifestyle targeting. How one feels about inflation, welfare and the punishment of criminals will most definitely influence how they vote. To me this just seems like common sense. The big picture is always hard to comprehend but if a candidate supports your views on a smaller issue, that is very important to you, it could very well sway your vote. I guess you could just call it niche politics

What is a journalist. According to Wikipedia, “journalists gather information and broadcast it so we remain informed….” If you take this part of the definition James Kotecki is most definitely a journalist. He found information and shared it with the public. Yes, he did it on Youtube instead of on the airwaves but does that make it less notable? It seems that more people are using Youtube than are watching TV on a daily basis.

 I guess where the sticky part comes in is the fact that he wasn’t being employed, when he first started out, by a major news organization. Does this make someone less legitimate? Is it the fact that he voiced his opinion that makes people wonder if he’s a journalist? If this is the case than not only Chris Matthews of Hardball but also Keith Olbermann of Countdown are both hacks. They tend to give thier own opinions. This has made both of them very popular in their own right. They also give facts to their viewers. The interpretation of those facts is where things get sticky.

 As Jay Rosen discussed at PDF2008 there is a rise in “semi-pro” journalism. Since everyone has the right of free press in the US we can all express our views and interpretations of the news. Christopher Schroeder discusses this concept in We The Media. We are all “citizen journalists” with something to say. Sometimes bloggers might even shape the “traditional media.” One such case is when Trent Lott made some comments that had a ring of segregation to them during Strom Thurmonds birthday bash. It seemed to slip through the cracks until bloggers took up the call and forced it into the mainstream.

If the argument is that James presents his stories with humor so they’re not journalism, that doesn’t fly either. In that case again Olbermann is not a journalist, since he has a dark sense of humor during his show. Jeanne Moos of CNN would also be stripped of her title as a journalist since she also presents her stories with a bit a wry humor.

 If Fox News can do this and call themselves journalists the definition is pretty broad..

 Or how about referring to Obama’s wife as his “baby mama?”

 So, do I think James Kotecki was a journalist before joining the ranks of Politico? The answer is yes. He had presidential candidates visit his dorm room and he interviewed those candidates that weren’t getting equal airtime in the mainstream media. He presented information that we the public wouldn’t have had if he hadn’t reported on it.

Show me the Money

June 29, 2008

You want to become president? You’d better have lots of money. Before the Dean campaign came along most of the money came from a few large donors. If you collected a lot of money from your well to do buddies you became a Pioneer or a Ranger. This, in turn, usually bought you some favors. Want to be an ambassador or have government regulation in your favor? Just show me the money. 


When Joe Trippi took over the Dean campaign he knew that they needed money to win. It was time to think outside of the box. When given the tools, voters were organizing themselves on Meetup. Why not let them know what the campaign needed when it came to funding and trust the voters to help achieve that goal? Jerry Lewis was in a studio every year asking for money for muscular dystrophy research while standing beside a thermometer with the temperature climbing as money poured in. Why couldn’t the campaign use a variation of that idea to motivate voters. They could visually see what they were helping to accomplish. They could feel like part of the team as they did at the Meetups. Larry Biddle from the finance department came up with the solution, a baseball bat. What is more american than baseball?

A goal was set. Not too high, because they needed to reach it but not too low because they needed to make an impression. It was $4.5 million. In the end they raised $7.2 million and changed the face of campaign financing. All of this money was raised by small donors. The average check was for $50 or less. No Rangers here and also no one that the campaign was beholden to.  Another breakthrough was that never before had fundraising goals gone public. Sometimes you need to take a chance to make an impact. 


Basically, what it comes down to is that in order to raise money for campaigns a candidate needs to court their supporters, all of them. Hillary Clinton didn’t and she lost the nomination and is $20 million in debt. Obama embraced Dean’s model and motto of change and he has the nomination.

Perhaps not, but is it your grandpa’s? Apparently it will be if McCain takes office according to Tracy Russo who was the deputy director if online communications for John Edwards. She asked Mark Soohoo about McCain’s sub par knowledge of the internet at the Personal Democracy Forum. Mark’s answer didn’t tell us anything new but it got the question out there. It went from cyberspace to real dialogue. Who knows, maybe Soohoo will take the chiding that he received back to the campaign and educate McCain? It could happen however unlikely.


Now, what makes Russo an expert? Her candidate didn’t win. Well, Edwards might not have won but he did make quit a splash at the forum with a spur of the moment Skype appearance.

His wife, Elizabeth, was giving an interview via the online video connection when John arrived home and took a seat. The Skype connection wasn’t planned but a canceled flight made it a necessity. The point of the whole story is that two people, who weren’t afraid of the internet, were able to embrace it and make a whole lot of people happy. McCain is missing out on a lot of opportunities because he shuns this tool.


Another group that needs to embrace the internet but has lagged behind would be the “mainstream media.” Jay Rosen discussed how there is no absolute anymore when it comes to journalism. We all need to start playing together nicely. As the “semi-pros”, bloggers and other citizen journalists have taken off on the internet someone has been left behind. That someone would be the traditional media. Why did this happen? Well, they seem to have held off for as long as possible and are now playing the catch up game. As Prof. Graff has taught us this isn’t a good position to be in. The innovators will always retain the lead unless a new comer creates something exponentially better. As this isn’t likely to happen anytime soon it’s time for the tradition to change or eat dust.