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.