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Games with Politics: Political Software Games

As video games take larger market share (and leisure time ) from TV viewing, political strategy is going to need to look at the "game land" as pipeline for moving political messages, organizing calls and campaign themes. The cool thing is that the format is more interactive and provides a deeper experience it could prove to be a great tool for "training" and promoting.

Dr Frasca said: "Political campaigns will continue to experiment with video games. They represent a new tool of communication that can reach a younger audience in a language that can clearly speak to them."

"It will not replace other forms of political propaganda, but it will integrate itself on to the media ecology of political campaigns."

This is worth tracking. (I have some old posts on this topic. ("video game politics"and "games,news and hollywood" )

Digg for your Campaign

Here is a killer app for a large volunteer group,network of allied friends, campaign staff, membership of large organization, etc.

It is a with a collaborative twist and a really simple user interface. Digg is very cool.

Digg is a technology news website that gives editorial control back to the community. Most technology websites allow users to suggest content by submitting links or stories to an editor. If the editor believes the story to be relevant to the masses, he or she moves the story to the homepage. With digg, users also submit links for review. But rather than allowing an editor to decide which links go on the homepage, the users do.

The key would be to deploy this to all the members of Asthma Families, People who like clean water, TrueMajority, campaign finance reform, etc.

The members can do the random web surfing and on occasion submit a story, clip or website to the "attention" of the rest of the community.

Other folks can simply review prefiltered stories submitted and if they think it is cool and relevant add Digg points.

The stories important to the membership elevate and build community understanding and cohesion at the same time.

It is very freaking cool. Digg for Digg.

Podcasting is Communication Tool: Communications Tools are Good for Activism and Campaigns

Brian Russell has inspired me to see the potential of podcasts for activism again. Participating in an interview and seeing the production process, I am convinced more than ever that this is a tool for small groups.

To make a Podcast that sounds good, you want to do a little production. Your first purchase should be a decent microphone, and your second should be an external mixer. These two devices let you control the volume of your voice on the recording, and let you mix in other sound sources such as CD's or audio from your television. You'll also need some recording software. I've used Audacity on the Mac, and Sound Forge on the PC. There are many different programs that allow you to record audio, varying in price from free to expensive. Use your judgement, and if you need some advice, check out

The key is to think about the high quality audio content that you and your core group need to save to help others understand why your campaign is important, how your group or crew governs, etc.

Independent voices have emerged that really challenge the system, and are a decentralized force to be reckoned with. The net allows a model of mass communication that is not based primarily on commerce. We have a voice, and we have the tools on our desktops to publish and distribute our words.

If you had a radio station, what kind of stories would your try to distribute?

Increasingly, your target audience will have the capacity to listen to digital music. Folks are talking about handing out USB keys, cds, or embedding voice in email. There is a day in the not to distant future where you might be able to offer folks cards or channels to dial in on their cell phones so they can catch up on an issue while on the move.

Voice and sound are an important channel of information. We are finding cheaper ways to capture, polish, store and distribute in this age of connectivity. If you want advantages in your campaign you are going to need strategies that tap this functionality to engage, inform and inspire.

Podcast Interview : Audio Activism Podcast

Brian C. Russell called me up to do an interview for his site Audio Activism. Brian is taking the emerging audio tools for audio to digital connections and working to turn them into real tools for the movement. It is very cool.

(I hacked out some ideas along these lines a few months back.)

Brian is really doing it. He has found the tools and set up a really cool comment line. (Note to friends this guy is also a dead ringer for Phil J. )

Interview with Marty Kearns- This weeks show is an interview with Marty Kearns. He’s the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Green Media Toolshed. His personal weblog is

MP3 20m 38s 13MB 64kbps

I also really think his audio comments are pretty slick. Call and leave a voice mail comment about this show by calling (206) 666-3541.

Very cool. Low digital technology and divide issues.

Change the Boundaries of Campaign Structures

Bill Gates "Business @ the Speed of Thought" continues to kick out a few goodies ..I have highlights and corners folded all over my copy.

"Medium-size and Small companies can take advantage of the boundary-changing capabilities of the Web to act much bigger than they are without adding employees or offices. A small company with the right expertise can bid on and spearhead movie productions, a construction project, or an advertising campaign. By assembling other companies and professionals quickly, it can act as a virtual large company to see the project to a profitable end. Because the team can be disbanded at the end of the project, the company can manage labor resources without the administrative overhead of a large full-time staff. Smaller Companies can use the Web to scale without permanent mass."-- p 135

In an advocacy and campaign contexts these dynamics are important for several reasons. First, campaign efforts become bog down in a slow tempo legislative battle permanent mass becomes dead weight as political winds shift.

Second, small groups that could bid on "big projects" are often discounted as "vendors" because heavy hitter donors have not figured out how to work with smaller brands (lots of small grants are harder to give than one big one) They frequently do not give small groups access to the same capital flows.

Finally, many of the forces of the changing boundaries are blocked by traditional rules, management perspective and behaviors. Grant programs are "siloed", legal restrictions on IP, software and deployment of staff limit the ability of groups to swap staff and other assets.

Bill wraps up the chapter with a question "Do your digital systems" help you load balance work more efficiently?" As a movement of many causes and projects, do we have any capacity at all to load-balance?

Network-centric advocacy strategy is dependent on these boundary-changing dynamics.

Wal-Mart : China's Supply Chain: The US Economies New Virus

Everything in moderation seems to have been lost on Wal-mart. Old Sam and the Midwestern values family must have lost their way because Wal-mart that originally focused on good prices for consumers is now going ape crazy on the global economy.

We all like to save a little cash but I am not really into giving the Wal-Mart company permission to screw the American economy to save a few pennies.

Wal-Mart is the Dr. Feelgood for the consumer crazed American economy. The company gives each shopper their "fix" but the consumers in the stores really don't realize how bad the savings are for a huge chunk of America. Only Wal-Mart knows how they are gutting American manufacturing, destroying small communities and passing the real cost of saving a few pennies at the grocery store seems lost as we need to then pay government to support low income workers health care costs, food stamps. etc. My issue is not with the people. It is with the Wal-Mart company that not only under pays the folks they do hire (including lots of illegal immigrants who are afraid to speak out) but with the Company that also ships the production and manufacturing jobs ...AND the technology and business process overseas.

The big genius of the current model (and it is a distortion of the Sam Wal-Mart vision) is to externalize the real cost of almost all products on to the poor or the government.

Wal-Mart is the distribution and supply chain for China. They are wrapped up in the red,white and blue of small town America but make no mistake the Chinese could not have invented a better machine to swamp out the American economy than Wal-Mart. Watch the video if I told you we were going to ship all your purchase data and demands and price point satisfaction to China to give you a few pennies would you do it?

It is possible to overdose on low prices every day.. In another few years, we are going to have one hell of a Wal-Mart hangover. (stressed social support systems, abandon small stores, deserted towns, destroyed manufacturing base and houses filled with stuff that breaks so we have to buy it again.)

Success Stories on Stopping the Wal-Mart machine.

Hell of business model.

Fun Papers on Network Connected Social Groups

Some fresh research out of the UK....via politicsonline The interesting information "documenting" the shift in political behavior and interaction online.

Network-empowered citizens are less likely to join rule-based, mass-membership organisations than to form contingent associations in which they can interact with one another directly for a common purpose. This presents political parties, as the traditional channels between citizens and governments in liberal democracies, with a problem. As vertical bodies organised on the basis of hierarchical discipline, parties represent the antithesis of the horizontal, decentralised, acephalous movements that flourish in the online environment. How are political parties, and the governing institutions they run once they are elected to power, to relate to civic networks?

Hopefully, we are at the point were folks are convincened that society is connected. The connections are changing the way people interact and strategies must adapt to the new climate.

There is also a good summary of socail capital shifts int the paper....

The term "social capital", first used by Hanafin in 1916, and popularised in contemporary discourse by Bourdieu, Coleman and Putnam, is centrally important in thinking about the value of online civic networks. The OECD has defined social capital as "networks together with shared norms, values and understandings that facilitate cooperation within or among groups." For Putnam, social capital inheres in norms and networks "that can improve the efficiency of society by facilitating coordinated actions." There now exists strong empirical evidence to suggest that people and groups derive increased social capital from the experience of interacting online. The Internet does not simply support people in their existing social activities, but ‘contributes to the development of new communication formats which modify existing activities as well as help[ing[ [to] shape new activities. Quan-Haase and Wellman have examined extensively the relationship between online networks and social capital and conclude that the Internet occupies an important place in everyday life, connecting friends and kin both near and far. In the short run, it is adding on to – rather than transforming or dimin – social capital.

The goal now is develop a strategy that accelerates and leverages these changes for your political campaign. Consider a network-centric approach to your operations, campaign and movement.

A new tool for Field Operations: Google Maps

Working on the election and in GOTV operations I was consistently disappointed with the way yahoo maps and map blast functioned (directions to polling places, neighborhoods to walk, etc.)

The directions were close but they often contained so much gibberish and unnecessary turns that each map you printed need a good review from someone that really knew the area. The problem was that even if you really knew the area getting your bearings, zooming in and out, and manipulating the map itself online (before printing) was a herky jerky process.

Paper maps just became quicker reference points and easier to ork with. It is not so much an issue if you are working with just one map but when you need to kick out 200 maps in a day and provide directions to vans of volunteers the online the yahoo and mapblast tools sucked.

Now Google has a new tool that appears more mappy and less techy. Check it out.


Draggable maps – you can click and drag Google maps to view adjacent sections; no more long waits while new areas download.

Integrated Local search results – Google Maps integrates local search results from Google Local. So to find a pizza place, simply type in "pizza in San Jose", and pizza places appear at various locations on your map, with phone numbers for each location on the right side of the page.

Turn-by-turn directions – Type in an address and Google Maps plots the route for you, displaying it visually on the map itself, together with step-by-step directions for getting there (or back from there). When you click on one of these steps (say, "turn left"), you see a floating bubble with a magnified view of the area mentioned in the directions.

Keyboard shortcuts – You can use arrow keys to pan left, right, up and down. The Page Up, Page Down, Home and End keys let you pan out even wider. And you can zoom in with the plus ( ) key and zoom out with the minus (-) key.

Very nice.

Network vs. aka Jeff Gannon: Web's Distributed Research Team Knocks out White House Press Corps Liar

Now they are finding this yahoo, corrupt conservatism plant is connected to the Plume story....

James Guckert, who reported from the White House for the Talon News Service under the name "Jeff Gannon," announced he was quitting the business "in consideration of the welfare of me and my family." "Because of the attention being paid to me, I find it is no longer possible to effectively be a reporter for Talon News," he said in a statement posted Wednesday on his Web site.

You really need to read this Kos release. The distributed network of people have found a new focus for the moment. If you are in the press corp you better be clean..they are all digging now.

Netstrategy and Relationships with the Public

Net strategy and Relationships with the public are changing and interactive. The consumer public is expects more options and marriage of online and offline activities.

- 34% of consumers shop online before they ever get to the store. 39% go directly to a retailer's Web site without any prior online research. Offline media spending will need to be increasingly focused on driving people to the Web. - 36% of shoppers have bought online and picked up in-store. 81% of these had a positive experience. Retailers not offering this option may well be left in the dust. - One third of those picking up in-store waited more than 10 minutes for the item, although only 5% expected to wait this long. This "expectation gap" is likely to catch up with retailers who don't offer the same consistent service between online and offline storefronts. "The degree to which shoppers now turn immediately to the Web underscores the critical role of retail site design in attracting and engaging the multi- channel consumer," noted David Fry, president and founder of Fry, Inc. "At the same time, retailers will increasingly find it worthwhile to focus offline media investments to generate consumer awareness of and interest in online storefronts."

Not surprising the GOP strategy focused online and offline coordination with most online actions connecting people into field operations. So what questions does this raise for nonprofit and issue campaigns?

Do you assume a huge % of the people that show up at your events and support your group are not only visiting your site but "shopping your work and reputation online". -- Do you ask members, volunteers and other groups you partner with to tell stories about working with you from their online sites? Do you pitch online media sites to cover key messages that are going to motivate online surfers to participate?

Do all your offfline materials point people to your online shop?

Do you have special lines at registration or other rewards to quickly cater to the people that engage via your online site?

Superbowl Organizing: FootBall, Friends, Beer and Network-Centric Activism

This landed in my inbox from Environmental Defense.

It was a plea to co-opt the millions of house parties (on Superbowl Sunday) into organizing events. It is a great strategy to tap into the culture trend and turn it to a teaching and organizing moment. this is classic "turn their strengths" against them tactics.

It would be really nice to see lots of people spark a backlash against the commercialism to raise funds for charities and do something useful. Brilliant! Pass the Chips and the Petition.

Voice to the Story: Listen to Mp3 of a Phone Testimony

Here is a really cool example of giving members voice and opportunity to speak to each other.

Thousands of families from all across the nation have called our Give Voice to Our Values phone line (866-876-4490) and left one compelling message after another about the need to put Kids First.
Listen for yourself. Hear some of the moving testimony about the importance of passing the Kids First Act of 2005 and providing health insurance to the 11 million American children now living without it:
This is the first nationwide online public hearing on an issue before the Congress. The thousands of testimonials we've received from concerned Americans are an invaluable contribution to the fight for better health care in our country.

Listen: Mp3 of the Call