Political Technology Answers for a Research Questionaire

I was contacted by a researcher in the past two weeks to get some thoughts on the technologies for political campaigns this year. Thought the answers to these questions might be interesting to my readership. Enjoy.

What was your involvement in the 2008 or prior presidential elections? What did you find most challenging?

I was the CTO of the John Kerry Presidential Campaign – providing technical leadership and social media guidance at the time (e.g., blogs, forums, online chats, social network presence for John Kerry).

In 2008, I was working as a consultant for various campaigns but no front-line positions during the campaign. At the time, I was engaged with other non-political clients that absorbed my primary attentions.

In 2004, the most challenging issue was convince the mainstream political machine that online campaigning was more than a ATM and a cheaper form of direct marketing (e.g., email campaigns). Creating a campaign-wide understanding of the power of social media was the greatest challenge. When John Kerry made his first win in Iowa and mentioned his website at the podium, the surge in contributions was so significant that he began to use this mechanism again and again (see http://www.politicalgastronomica.com/2008/01/blast_from_the/)

At the time, social networks were still the pervue of students and technical individuals – and was beginning to make in roads, but the solutions were still not engaging voters in an effective manner. In 2007, Facebook began to focus on the communication aspect of social networks – optimizing their NewsFeed to surface information that they sense you would be interested in – from your network.

As more information began to surface regarding what their friends were doing regarding politics – and how geography shrank – people were becoming more informed through the social networks because the social proof of being involved was demonstrated on your NewsFeed. This acceleration of information and social proof made social networks THE preferred information channel for the Obama supporters.

MySpace and other social networks did not provide this kind of informational filtering – which is why at the time, I believed social networks were not going to be instrumental in the 2008 election.

Some people point to the myBO.com site as a success in the 2008 campaign. I would suggest that it was used as an advanced house-party tool for supporters to coordinate for other events. But as a source of unbiased information like Facebook was providing (e.g., the algorithm determined what you would like) or Google (e.g., the algorithm determined what the public thought was relevant for what topic), myBO was all-Obama, all the time. If it was integrated with the NewsFeed more effectively, it would have been even more effective.
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After 100 Days of Repug rule – where’s the Jobs Bill?

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Some honest, actual, non-rhetorical questions for my conservative friends who vote Republican

From my friend Gadi Ben-Yehuda, can someone answer this?

Gadi Ben-YahudaI seriously, not-joking, really-do-want-to-hear-your-answers don’t understand how people who profess to be conservative (and especially those who profess to be conservative Christians) can vote for Republicans. I’d love to hear answers only to these three questions (and please don’t answer with “the Democrats are worse,” this is tantamount to saying “yeah, I’m a herion addict, but at least I don’t do meth!” Yeah, OK, but you’re still a herion addict and that’s disgraceful).

  1. For Fiscal Conservatives: Paul Ryan’s plan doesn’t balance the budget; it just shifts wealth from poor to rich. If you’re truly intersted in deficit reduction, why not vote Democratic, and see taxes go up on the rich, thus both to stimulate the economy and pay down debt? In short, tax cuts, especially those being peddled by the current republicans, will not enhance our GDP. Nobel Economist Paul Krugman sums it up: “real revenues per capita grew only 19 percent over the same period — better than the likely Bush performance, but still nothing exciting. In fact, it’s less than revenue growth in the period 1972-1980 (24 percent) and much less than the amazing 41 percent gain from 1992 to 2000.” How can you vote for such a fiscally irresponsible party (and again: you can’t say “Democrats are worse!” – you have other options, like not voting.)
  2. For Libertarians: I honestly don’t know which should be the main sticking point for libertarians, but the underpinning of all the particulars (drug laws, blue laws, abdication of responsibility to regulate industry resulting in curtailment of liberties by unaccountable corporations) is the extension of government into our personal lives and the refusal to regulate the corporations that increasingly impinge upon our commons (water ways, air waves, landscapes) without proper recompense and often without regard even to our lives. How can you vote for a party whose ultimate policy success would see the curtailment of liberties for all but the very richest Americans?
  3. For Christians: How can you vote for a party that is now literally seeking to take food away from the poorest Americans so that the very richest can amass more wealth? That is what the Republican House just voted for. That is what you will support if you vote Republican in 2012. Not to put too fine a point on this, but you will be voting expressly against Jesus’s teachings.
    • Your Christ did not say “what you do unto the most powerful of them, you do unto me.”
    • Your Christ did not advocate on behalf of the merchants in the temple.
    • Your Christ did not suffer and die on the cross for a tax cut.

    He spoke to and about the poor. He scolded the powerful and exhorted them to feed the needy, to turn their attention to the downtrodden. He did not rail against homosexuals, he did not exculpate his disciples of murder if their victims were doctors who performed abortions. How can you vote for a party that pursues policies that are in direct contravention of the teachings of your God?

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Save NPR funding!

Breakdown by percentage

When do we start really cutting?

Sorry all – but here is something that got my goat. More and more I am reading about the problems of the deficit and the fact that the Federal Government is looking for ways of cutting the deficit. But can someone please explain to me why attacking what amounts to $32M in Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) funding is such a priority? I mean, come on – we have a $1.3 Trillion deficit this year and a Federal deficit of over $16 Trillion. We are talking about one-half of one-ten-thousandth of the current year deficit. CBS News has a great breakdown of what is happening – including the resignation of NPR’s CEO to save the funding.

You ask: how did I come up with that number? Well – based on what is on Wikipedia, the 2009 budget was $164M in total. And in an article in the Christian Science Monitor, the CPB contribution to NPR makes up approximately 2% of the NPR budget.

So, keeping with the mission of the CPB and the overall effort to keep a free-and-fair programming, the “deficit hawks” are going after essentially $32M in that grant. The good that NPR and the CPB does for our country – especially across the rural parts of our country – is incredibly valuable. When are the Congressional “deficit hawks” going to go after the real portion of the pie that is gauging us?

Take a look at the graph to the right. We are going after less than 1% of the Discretionary budget. Something seems wrong with this picture, right?

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Speed of a Meme: Is all there is but twitter and Facebook?

The Future of Real-time Publishing
Moderator : Brian Stelter (@brianstelter)

I recently spent some time at the Social Media Week event on the Future of Real Time Publishing – where we were watching the tweets coming from Storyful’s Egypt feed. The four characters on stage were going over some of the challenges for the real time publishing issue – which was extremely entertaining. But then the moderator asked a very simply question: “Is all there is but twitter and Facebook? Is there nothing more?”

The panel got into a discussion about the longevity of the services, the many masses of people on the services (read: audience) and the systems themselves. The next question was whether or not the Tunisia uprising would have happened if not for twitter and/or Facebook. One of the panelists suggested that it would have, but much slower and much more bloodier.

As I listened, I wondered if there was a fundamental misunderstanding of what social networks and the connection between Facebook + twitter + mobile phones means to the political process – both in political campaigning AND governing.

We Live in Lower Friction Times

About three years ago, at a BarCampNYC event, I spoke on the topic of “The Speed of Memes” – the idea being that memes are carried across the knowledge-sphere a lot faster than they ever did before. And with each new improvement on communication technology – we have seen changes in how events unfold in our lives.
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