Previous month:
October 2003
Next month:
December 2003


CivicActions A wiki site dedicated to self-organizing civil action! I like the concept. It was set up by some DennisKucinich supporters.

I also like that they plug I'll try to find out more about how the site is hosted etc. to see if it is a genuine long term space to set up content. (A wikipedia for civic tricks) I am interested in the idea of hosting the links, training guides, files and common wisdom in a shared area ( i am not big on wiki as tool)

Ideally, blog folks can play with the idea of direct links to content on the shared wiki from different campaigns. I like the Get out The Vote page (GOTV) I wonder if the file upload feature could be linked to directly? I can't seem to find it.

Fundrace and Googlerace: Comparative Research Tools for Issue Advocacy Impacts on Presidential Politics

Here is a great little tool from They have taken to fun facts (FEC donation reports and google searches) and wrapped them into nice simple visual presentation The tools help users see an aggregation of data.

I am fascinated by the GoogleRace tool. The eyebeam team uses a Google search engine to "rank candidates based on their association with particular keywords." The tools search for key terms "clean water", "open source", "energy policy",or "civil unions" and then totals the findings for each candidate. The tool then divides these results by the candidate's total web presence (all hits on candidates) to score candidates on association with the words. I am not sure how many conclusions we can draw from the results (Bush ranks # 1 on "PEACE") but in some cases the tool grabs the right associations (See Open Source) . The formula has a few biases (Bush scores seem lower because his total web presence is so high and Sharpton seems to rank high because he is so "quotable")

Who is closely associated with your key terms?

The data is grabbed from the FEC reports and mapped to the zip areas, county and state levels. If you are looking for places to target pop up ads into sympathetic areas these maps might help target your media work. The individual candidate maps show depth of donor pools while the Democrat vs. Republican maps demonstrate the mix of donation tilt (not popular support). If you look at NYC it seems to be a toss up as a center for raising money (but lots of it comes from there if you look at "W" and Dean maps individually)

These are great projects. Kudos to eyebeam.

Information and Decision Superiority in an Advocacy Context

The governor,(mayor,president, congressman, etc) appoints a handful of representatives to a special panel. The panel consists of opposing sides of the debate including a sample from the extremists, the largest organizations and key industry stakeholders. The governor's staff arranges scores of one-on-one meetings with lobbyists and ends up pushing the perfect policy that is not good for anyone but is a huge political success for the governor.

The scenario is a sample of leveraging "Information and Decision Superiority". The challenge is to exploit these same dynamics without relying on a "center" point.

In many context (medical, shipping, logistics, business, military) one of the key driving factors behind network-centric approaches is to provide "Information and Decision Superiority" to as many people working with your team as possible. In general, the goal is to provide field staff with accurate awareness of the context they are working in. The reason that it is a "driving factor" is because a big part of network-centric development is about leveraging communication "pipes" to move awareness to the people that need it. The front line.

It is also essential that as "managers" are removed and control is decentralized more participants need to improve their awareness of the context and access key information so they can make better choices.

In traditional models, managers are important because they make better decisions based on "experience" and "judgement". They need to do this because the full picture is not available. In a very simple way managers gain "decision superiority" because they have access to hidden information and trends from related scenarios.

Lockheed Martin defines it as "getting the right information to commanders and warfighting forces on the battlefield, when they need it, and in formats they can use"...."Information Superiority has, in rapid fashion, become the critical means by which our forces gain situational awareness and decisive strategic advantage. It has changed our perceptions of command and control, giving way to Decision Superiority - adding "speed of decision" into the information process. The combination of the two - Information and Decision Superiority - empowers our commanders to make faster and better decisions than their opponents, and strike with speed and precision to end the fight." These concepts are tied to the success of network-centric approach. In a leaderful movement that lacks true command and control each participant needs to see the entire landscape so they can apply their resources to make the most impact. "Information and Decision Superiority" is a key concept for our coalitions.

Do these concepts translate to advocacy contexts? Are they important to advocacy? What is the translation in our work? How do environmentalists working on a sprawl campaign gain "Information and Decision Superiority" over those that want to rezone wildlands?

Every field worker, spokesperson, fundraiser, door knocker, phone banking volunteer needs to have access to the entire picture including the weaknesses of the campaign, polling, key contacts, media lists, vote counts, power maps, opposition research, talking points, budgets, and the way each activity fits into the larger strategy. They need to know who to call when they are in a crunch. They also need a live feed of who needs their help and when.

The strategy is to capture key information in course of typical workflow processes. The second part of the strategy is to make the information available via secure channels to trusted allies.

The goal is to enable more of the participants to "connect the dots" so that volunteers, staff and funders make intelligent and individual decisions on the way they spend time and effort.

Grassroots Organizing in the Age of Connectivity

American political struggle has always reflected the characteristics of its age from the early merchants leveraging new economic power to political bosses organizing urban masses of the industrial revolution. Political struggle adapts to new climates, economics and social trends.
Today, we live in a body politic that is increasingly connected to each other and overwhelmed with information. The most active participants in modern movements are more likely to be approaching points of “decision paralysis” caused by an onslaught of calls to action from too many important causes. They are barraged with personalized appeals via email, snail mail, targeted magazines, and newsletters generated by the ubiquitous desktop publishing.
The resulting choice for millions of Americans is not to engage. Many people deliberately avoid focusing on issues that seem distant to their lives. Large segments of the population have reduced the long-term engagement with organizations, issues or causes.
In addition to information overload, the public increasingly wants to protect their privacy. They are actively working to stay off the “radar” of direct mailers, spammers, email campaigns and calling lists (over 50,000,000 households registered on the FCC “Do Not Call List”). This large subset of the public has not walked away from holding opinions on key issues. They have walked away from the current models of civic engagement. These “non-joiners” will self-organize into play groups, book clubs, meet-up meetings, running groups and paintball teams but they won’t join churches, bowling leagues, political parties and civic associations. The challenge to grassroots organizers is to match a significant portion of mobilizing and advocacy efforts with these new behaviors while also exploiting the advantages provided by emerging technologies and communications mediums.
Network-centric advocacy is the adaptation of advocacy and traditional grassroots organizing to the age of connectivity. The extent to which network-centric advocacy can contribute to revolutionizing civic engagement is not yet easily quantified. However, the evidence increasingly supports the case that the campaigns that embrace these approaches see significant increases in political power.

Policy Sciences and Network-Centric Measurements

The Policy Sciences (Harold Lasswell’s A Pre-view of the Policy Sciences.) have been working for a 30 years to map the variables at play in a political struggle. The field (Lasswell and his followers,) has been trying to “map” the social process in an attempt to identify the dynamics at play so they can be negotiated and tracked in the open. The work has been hugely relevant for collaborative problem solving and successful negotiations (check Tim Clark’s Averting Extinction for an environmental application)

Those working on policy sciences seek to provide conceptual maps and procedures for documenting social process. They also try to provide an intellectual frame which helps examine the dynamics of every interaction, every social process as interaction in which participants seek to maximize advantage (gratifying outcomes) through the establishment and use of institutions that affect resources.

The policy sciences framework is useful in that it provides another layer of insight into the reasons to establish and maintain network-centric approach to advocacy. The policy sciences also provide a measurement matrix to monitor the impact of network-centric advocacy approach to power struggles. The policy sciences perspective all participants seek to build “values”. Those eight values are power, enlightenment, wealth, well-being, skill, affection, respect, and rectitude. They exchange those values (or draw on them) in order to achieve their objectives.

Network-centric advocacy is really about aggregating effects therefore it will wreak havoc with the typical exchanges developed by the policy sciences model. The connectivity of today’s society enables lots of players (thousands +) to actually participate in the decision process pitching in small tokens of power, skill, wealth, enlightenment etc. to realm to squeeze the process for a gratifying outcome. The network and defuse nature of the participation makes the contributions temporal and the network actors role and impact so dynamic that the context of the process won’t stabilize so typoical trades and power mapping becomes impossible.

Exploring this thought pattern farther may actually help differentiate network-centric advocacy from technoutopian theory. Hopefully, we can map the implications as we develop network-centric campaigns that target involvement into stakeholder / negotiation process.

Astroturf to Choke Grassroots

There has been an explosion of interest in the idea of "Astroturfing" around the US solider campaign to astroturf letters to the editor. "Astroturfing" is using technology and mass communication tricks to artificially create the appearance of a grassroots movement supporting a position.

There are a few tricks to monitor "astroturfing." These tricks include putting key phrases into Google to see if many papers are cranking out letters to the editor from different people that use identical language. Declan McCullagh of CNET's documents an example in his blog

Additionally, there has been a rapid growth of companies that specialize in artificially creating the appearance of a grassroots movement. The larger problem for the movement is that as the costs of these services drop the impact of genuine grassroots work is cheapened. (ie...weighing letters or simply counting call volume).

Examples of companies that create the appearance of grassroots support:

Democracy Data - DDC provides leading technology, communications, and support services for the public affairs operations of corporations, trade associations, and interest groups. By combining Internet solutions with telephone and direct mail recruitment, DDC enables clients to conduct exceptional grassroots and PAC programs both online and off-line.

Hillwatch Inc. is a full service government relations firm that combines traditional lobbying strengths with the latest digital campaigning techniques.

Gnossos Software translates expert knowledge into software features you can use right away. Gnossos builds more than state-of-the-art technology into public affairs and government relations software. Our expertise in managing political action committees and grassroots programs at the federal and state levels helps assure new ease and effectiveness for your efforts.

The Good News
Technology from spam filters and search capabilities are starting to catch these "like" messages more quickly. Gannet searches quickly picked up the similar letters from the solders.

IBM Rolls out a Network-Centric Campaign Tool

Clay Shirky has pointed out the launch of a new app by IBM. "Socializer" is designed for discovering and connecting to people and services in the same location. I have downloaded and installed it. ( very easy) It looks rat simple (it keeps a running dos window in the background) and could use some UI improvments but the tool could be effective. I have grabbed the login and application share screens here.


Socializer allows users to anonymously see the interests of other people in a location (before personal information is exchanged.) The application enables users that don't "know" each other to connect and allows anyone in the area to contribute to work in progress on the Socializer grid. Once folks have worked together they can download the personal information on fellow collaborators for later use and future connections.

I am interested in playing with socializer in an advocacy context to see if it could create the opportunity to establish live self-organizing and self-syncing activism nodes and networks. This could be a "killer" app at a conference / rally / press event/ or convention. It would be useful in any scenario where lots of folks show up for a common cause and no one cares about getting paid for contributions of talent. The system also seems to work in situations where the participants really don't know each other. As designed the socializer will help a crowd quickly identify common interest and enable them to collaborate on an ad hoc basis.

I can imagine a food court across the street from a state capital being a key "socializer" location. The environmentalists, health care, education, human rights, women rights, labor and consumer advocates and lobbyist might regularly grab lunch between sessions. A new bill could be posted as an "area" of interest. The group could quickly self-synchronize to produce a simple political strategy, key talking points, analysis of the legislation, organize vote counting and produce information needed to rally a constituency to oppose the legislation. The group could grab everyone's contact information for follow up meeting at the front door to a key committee members chamber (drop a bill and a half hour later a huge coalition of groups wants to meet with you to discuss the changes you need to make in the legislation)

A large group in the food court could self-select into fact checking the claims of the bill sponsors. At a press event a similar team could crank out a point by point analysis of the speech before the speech is over. Media hacks could handout a brand neutral (anti-GAHR143) web address to reporters on the way into the event where the results would be published ( reporters could even join into the network). The key would be to frame up a few "rapid build" tools for different types of events so that a huge chunk of work could be very quickly organized into "job packets" that could be efficiently bided on by participants in the Socializer network. The other need would be to identify the standard critical chain of tasks for project to be completed and allow "job swarming" to put lots of horsepower into the tasks that needed critical attention.

This type of collaboration (and the socializer tool) could speed the process of coalition building which is often limited by the false perceptions of interest, branding issues and the single group silo-brand mentality that destroys opportunities for river groups, libertarians and churches from typically building functional coalitions.

More on NETGen and politics

PoliticsOnline pointed out this great story from the BBC. "Young people are not using TV news - they are turning to online cartoons and independent sites which don't come in neat little packages; it's like the wild west," said University of Wales, Aberystwyth, lecturer Janet Jones in speaking about out how the wired generation uses different media and whether the web can turn young people on to voting....."The battleground for the hearts and minds of this increasingly wired generation should not necessarily be fought on our televisions, but instead on the interactive playground of the converged television/computer/mobile devices,"

I have blogged on the NetGen before. We need to put the research to the test and see if we can plot advocacy strategies that target this new behavior. Look for strategies that can use television/computer/mobile devices to inform and engage the NetGen in your efforts.

The Meatrix: An Innovative Use of Technology to Appeal to Young Hip Audiences.

Kudos to the folks fighting agro-industry. This is a fantastic use of the web, technology and humor to explain complex issue to young hip urban voters. This is the best flash movie and political use of technology that I have seen in a long time. You should check it out. (It is fun) You must watch the Meatrix. I would also encourage other bloggers to promote the site.


The Meatrix is a two-minute flash animation that spoofs the popular Matrix movies. But instead of Keanu Reaves, the Meatrix stars a young pig, Leo, who lives on a pleasant family farm ... he thinks. Leo is approached by a wise and mysterious cow, Moopheus, who shows Leo the truth about modern farming -- the truth about the Meatrix!
The film describes the problems with factory farming and offers viewers a solution - the final page of the flash directs viewers to the Eat Well Guide, a national online directory of sustainably-raised
meat, which is available at

The action page also highlights KAW's action alert on antibiotic phaseout Bills in both the House and Senate, as well as links to Farm Aid, the GRACE Factory Farm Project, Public Citizen and other groups working on the factory farm/sustainable agriculture issue. If you like the Meatrix and/or the Eat Well Guide, we only
ask for one thing in return - that you send the links to everyone you know! Enjoy the show!

A collaboration of the Global Resource Action Center for the Environment (GRACE) and Free Range Graphics

This is a wonderful campaign.

Video Game Advocacy

I was watching an interview with Bill Gates and he said the "video game industry is BIGGER than Hollywood." There are lots of reasons why this may not be true and the messenger is obviously biased (not counting DVD and VCR sales) but the point that is valid is that there are lots of games and people who play video games in America.

I know that many movements are working on product placement in Hollywood stories (safe sex, environment, anti-gun, pro-gun, etc) They really are working to place products and ideas in the TV and films we watch but do we have an equally talented groups of people working the video game industry? What if Geo

I can think of lots of ways that we fight over liberal and conservative dominance of Hollywood and movies but I am not sure folks are really paying much attention to the video game industry as a channel for advocacy and political communications. (Army games recruit)

Unfortunately, I don't play games much. (My family rents units around Thanksgiving so we can whack each other in a game of 007, but generally my nephews kill me quickly and I jump back in line with the other 14 kids, brothers, wives rotate in to play winners.) I started to Google for political games and games with causes and ran across interesting artiles on Slate ,
and games like Political Tycoon, and State of Emergency.

Gaming is a new communications channels. We need to continue to look for ways to plug into the opportunities that this represents and find ways to give voice to the audience. Bill Gates is interested in building new games that foster interaction and leverage the connectivity of modern culture. to speak and connect in to new audiences and speak the language of our people have looked at each major

NewsGaming. This company gets it but they have not cranked out lots of games.

We need to spend sometime gaming our scenarios so that the game world can include progressive messages. Can we actually use games to create valuable work products? The army is using games to recruit teenagers. We should be using gaming to teach people about politics and activism. We should be using these systmes to provide a hook into real world activism. We should see if we can get folks to do research, make commercials, write press releases, phone banking, GOTV as part of a game.