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.


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.


First came the primaries and now the presidential elections are around the corner. With all of the excitement voters are stepping up and putting their best foot forward. Their favorite candidate not only inspires them to vote but also to create art. The candidates have inspired a band to reunite and entrepreneurs to make money.


The Grateful Dead reunited for a benefit concert and updated their “Steal Your Face” logo to incorporate Obama’s presidential campaign logo. Now this is a double doozy with both artwork and music inspired by a candidate. Obama got in on the fun by recording a message especially for the concert, which sold out in mere minutes.

If you check out Youtube you can find some musical tributes to Obama. There’s everything from the ridiculous to the sublime. Anyone with the time can hear the Oscar Meyer Weiner song sung with Obama lyrics. For those with a more discerning ear there’s a reggae salute to him by Coco Tea.

Musicians aren’t the only ones getting into the spirit. Entrepreneurs are using the election to make a quick buck on ebay. You can find true works of art and some homemade masterpieces. If you’ve got the money, a whole gallery of Obama art can be yours. You can also find some McCain art but it’s not as flattering.

So, where can you go to get some voter created content about McCain? Techrepublican came up with a solution. Since the graphics for John McCain and the rest of the republican party were just not up to snuff a website was created to solve the problem. Graphic artists are encouraged to share their designs to be used free of charge by those not as talented. The site is called after a phrase that McCain once used. Not only can you use what’s on the site but if you don’t find what you’re looking for just request it. The hope is that someone will hear your call and create the content that you’re looking for.


Long live donations and free enterprise!

In Mousepads, Shoe Leather, and Hope Michael Silberman describes Howard Dean’s effective use of The Dean campaign, in essence, let the people speak while the campaign listened. The wisdom of the crowds was put into play. Even though the campaign staff included many knowledgeable staff members, fresh ideas were also welcome. Brainstorming between group members was encouraged to figure out new ways to get the message out. In this way volunteers, who didn’t have any preconceived notions about how it has always been done, could figure other ways to get it done.


Of course, some guidance was welcome. Group leaders were given sample agendas so that they could have a jumping off point for their meetings. The Meetups were also given supplies by the Dean office so that they could help in ongoing letter writing campaigns. Everything was provided to willing hands. The members only needed to know how they could be most helpful and they proceeded to dig in.



With more people involved in the campaign the potential was there to exponentially grow support for Dean. If each member could bring in a few new members and then each of them brought in a few more, well, you can see where this is going. It could spread like a chain letter, with the volunteers going to your candidate. This is all well and good but the larger question is how to keep this group of free laborers content?


This is where the true genius of the campaign is brought in. The group leaders were given a personal touch. They spoke with real people on the phone and were able to ask questions. They were treated with dignity and responded by being an integral part of the Dean campaign. They became such an important part of the campaign because they were treated as such. When you have people, essentially working for free, you’d better give them some support. It’s amazing how far a pat on the back can go. These grassroots organizers were encouraged and welcomed with open arms and their numbers grew to more than 600,000. Now that’s a lot of arms.

So, it’s that time. The comparison is about to come to an end. What have I learned? The first lesson is that I shouldn’t pick two blogs to compare based on their names. I liked the name Instapundit so I picked it as the Republican blog that I would follow. The main problem here is that a majority of the postings were not political. This made the comparison harder since it seemed to be apples and oranges most of the time. There didn’t seem to be many strong opinions for the posts that were political. If the posting was discussing something that might be detrimental to a Republican it was very short and trite.

As for The Daily Kos it was very political. Every story was about politics. If something might put a Democrat in a bad light the posting was long and gave counter arguements. It was very heavy handed when it came to Republican mistakes. This is an opinionated blog and proud of it.

What I really learned is that the two blogs, leaning different ways, discussed different stories. Very rarely did the two mirror any stories at all. In this way a completely different view of current events is portrayed. Unless you read both you’d miss a lot of news. Each glosses over what the other found important. These blogs might be nice supplements to other news sources but I wouldn’t recommend either one as a main source of information. Too much would slip through the cracks and opinions.

Today in politics with The Daily Kos. Obama’s campaign will have staffers in all 50 states. This isn’t very far fetched since, as was mentioned in class, the prolonged democratic primaries took both candidates to every state. They just left their staffers there in preparation for the elections. Speaking of democratic primaries, Hillary supporters who are thinking of switching to McCain are mocked. Bush is tweaked because of his surprise at rising gas prices three months ago. Obama being labeled the most liberal senator by Boren is discussed and debunked. McCain is accused of not caring if troops are brought home. Finally Kucinich’s push for Bush’s impeachment is discussed.


In Instapundit today Obama is mocked as an economic flip flopper. Webb is described as a poor potential running mate. Finally though we have some convergence as far as story topics go. Kucinish calling for Bush’s impeachment is mocked in a very short post. Obama being labeled liberal by Boren is briefly mentioned but no real time is spent on the post. Aside from that, the importance of vitamin D is discussed. Rounding out today’s conversation we look into whether Asian’s, as a minority, are held to a higher standard than other groups when it comes to college admissions. Until we meet again tomorrow for right vs. left.