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Network Tools Wisdom from the Dean Blog : Revisited 2 years later

I was doing a bit of work for the NOI. I thought I would revisit this old blog post on campaign and political ideas to see how the Internet has come in providing these tools from scratch. The original post is from October 2003.

1. Self-organizing batch email tool by location (Not Done)

2. Self-organizing phonebanking tools (Advokit - Progress but Not Done. Shows promise needs money)

3. "Bugzilla" for issue identification, policy drafting and ranking (Listible? or Basecamp for Online volunteers)

4. Karma system for blog comment filtering (not done. Why not. Why can't typepad or wordpress allow commenters to filter and score each others comments?)

5. Distributed media production room for multi-media projects (like steve johnsons suggestion) (Oneworld or ?)

6. Clear talking points volunteers (distributing spokespeople) ( Campaigns are getting better on this but still pretty bad)

7. Reminder system to step-by-step participation focus on little things to help ("write your grandma") (Not Done)

8. Ability for the user to opt off all snail mail. User defines methods of communications. (Rare)

9. A way to create small "working groups" or forums where supporters could organize ( Basecamp or campfire potential)

10. Webcams in key offices (rare)

11. Ability of anyone to download and print ANY of the allied literature and posters (never seen it)

12. Lots of UI wish list (calendar, timeline, etc. Easy universal login and profille) (Drupal and lots of WEB2.0 apps will help here)

13. Photos and details on key activists (drupal has really nice user set up_

14. Discussion forum and email listserve

15. Outlook address list upload, FOAF (Forward track is getting there as is linked In - needs to be done in a campain universe)

16. Audio and music files available to download for events..greatest hits and speeches (I have seen more of this..but still to rare..everyone can now play these so they should be a no brainier)

17. Use of guest host, speakers and bloggers (more popular these days)

18. "lunch for Dean" dragging a lunch crew into the issues. (NA)

19. Distributed door knocking tools to create walking list (lots of apps here but I don't know if any of them were ever opened for others to use)

20. Collective document creation (whiteboard and Wiki) It is rare to see campaigns work with these)

21. The continued random acts of associated kindness (dean food program) (Hopefully, we see more of this but I am on a few 06 lists but no one asks non political action yet)

22. Distributed list of elected officials to lobby for endorsements. (I have not seen this deployed yet even at a local level)

23. Distributed Media Outreach tools (I am building these! )

It is a shame we have not made more progress over the last 2 + years to pull these tools together for self-organizing groups.

Link: Network-Centric Advocacy: "Free" Network Tools Wisdom from the Dean Blog.

Jon Stahl pointed out this fantastic thread on Howard Dean's campaign blog, his supporters from around the country (173 comments so far) are dropping great tips for online organizing tools. They already have one of the most successful social toolsets built to date. Dean is dominating the battle for web dominance. In a very open way, they used a thread to harvest ideas and energy from supporters.

Listible! - Group Priority Tool for Campains and Shared Task

I set up a list for online strategy and tools related to advocacy and political organizing.

Ahhh. I have been waiting for something like this.

1. Anyone can add things to be done for a campaign. (tasks time, description etc)
2. People can rank value of tasks and help sort and tag items.

Now I want to see
3. Checkedout by (username with contact) on date.
4. Checked in as completed by on date.
5. Needing confirm as successfully completed from second party.
6. double checked.

Doing this in AJAX seems more and more friendly.

Link: Listible!�-�About.

Voting cannot be the only answer for relevancy. Even though the most popular resources are on the top, if the system does not have a way to differentiate varies topics, you still wouldn't find any resources easily.

Listing combined with tagging and voting gives you a greater relevancy. Finding a list called "Resources related to IE browser CSS bugs" tagged with css is easier. In each list, community can provide any relevant URLs. The most relevant and popular resource will be sorted on the top, thanks to the voting system. Is this resource listible? If it is, then you are sharing the resources to the right person. This is listible all about.

There are so many different ways you can use the listible system. The sky is the only limit here.

I set up a list for online strategy and tools related to advocacy and political organizing.

Identity Production in a Networked Culture

First...danah boyd rocks.

Second, this analysis of myspace is really interesting in that it jumps into the culture shifts. "What we're seeing right now is a cultural shift due to the introduction of a new medium and the emergence of greater restrictions on youth mobility and access." ..."youth are doing what they've always done - repurposing new mediums in order to learn about social culture. "

As social change organizers, we need to understand the effects of the technology on the new alignments of youth bonding across a digital space. We need to find new ways to participate in the identity creation (assuming responsibility) process.

Technology will have an effect because the underlying architecture and the opportunities afforded are fundamentally different. But youth will continue to work out identity issues, hang out and create spaces that are their own, regardless of what technologies are available.

When I was a kid we went on camping trips with the Boy Scouts. On this "directed and supervised" space my frineds and I fought our turf wars,(alpha male fights) learned to be troublesome boys (mags,drinking,smoking, etc) and found the "open space" within the scouting process (30hour ahead of Scoutmasters on the trail.

We were also learning good things. The same could be said of school or after school groups (X-country running). The digital space misses the structured "arc of direction" that those other spaces have. At this point, older leadership has missed the power of online networks and online networking as a tool to shape and guide development of off line character.

We need to shift focus form organizing and online tools as a merely one dimensional (single group or issue focus) to some more social network support ( If we provide space for the richer interaction and identity creation and soul nurturing aspect of people connection thru technology we will create more powerful and dense networks to create change.

How is advocacy strategy for the next five years changing to adapt to the culture shift and personality shift emerging in today's connected age?

Link: Identity Production in a Networked Culture.

Unlike the 20-somethings who invaded Friendster, the teens have more reason to participate in profile creation and public commentary. Furthermore, MySpace's messaging is better suited for youths' asynchronous messaging needs. They can send messages directly from friends' profiles and check whether or not their friends have logged in and received their email. Unlike adults, youth are not invested in email; their primary peer-to-peer communication occurs synchronously over IM. Their use of MySpace is complementing that practice. Many teens access MySpace at least once a day or whenever computer access is possible. Teens that have a computer at home keep MySpace opened while they are doing homework or talking on instant messenger. In schools where it is not banned or blocked, teens check MySpace during passing period, lunch, study hall and before/after school. This is particularly important for teens who don't have computer access at home. For most teens, it is simply a part of everyday life - they are there because their friends are there and they are there to hang out with those friends. Of course, its ubiquitousness does not mean that everyone thinks that it is cool. Many teens complain that the site is lame, noting that they have better things to do. Yet, even those teens have an account which they check regularly because it's the only way to keep up with the Jo

Nice Clip: GettingTheMessageOut Developing Online Strategy Basics

Here is a solid traditional comment on the M&RSS study. A basics reminder about getting serious about online communications. I might add a final filter. If your strategy, engagement or message is unremarkable don't expect remarkable results.

Does the communication open up opportunities to create stronger social ties across the participant base? Does the message reinforce the common story of the active network likely to participate in the campaign? Does the message or strategy build the shared communications grip the participant base will need to exchange ideas, inspire or lead each other? Does the message or campaign create awareness or deliver new shared resources for use in the campaign? is there a clarity of purpose in the bigger picture?

Link: GettingTheMessageOut.

What does it take to communicate a real strategy for real success? I'm going to make this sound easier than it really is. First, believe in your ability to succeed. Second, analze yourself, analyze your opponent, and analyze the terrain between you. Take out a calendar and actually lay out key dates that affect your campaign (legislative session dates, major holidays, election dates, corporate board meeting dates, study committee meeting dates, filing deadlines for ballot initiatives). Add to this calendar the timing for online communications from your e-activists that might influence different targets and move your campaign forward. Then add to it things that offline volunteers can do, things other organizations can do (your allies) and things your opponents are likely to do. Identify the best moments for offense, and the likely moments for defense. Finally look at your internal capacity and start to pare down the things you want to do to a core calendar of things you can actually pull off. Now, you have a strategy to communicate to your list.

If each volunteer activity (whether a simple email action or a complex field endeavor) actually helps put pressure on a decision maker, bring in a needed new ally, or split off a problematic opponent, then your volunteers and e-activists will gladly dive in and do what it takes. You will see the results immediately in your open%

In My Thoughts: This is so sad.

I don't know what to write but after reading this I wanted to make sure it just did not pass without note. Bless them all.

Link: Sun.Star Cebu - MASS EVACUATION.

Much of the day’s efforts were focused on a swamped elementary school, with President Arroyo citing unconfirmed reports that some of the 250 students and teachers sent cell phone text messages to relatives that they had survived.

“We’re still in one room, alive,” read one message, which was sent to Pamela Tiempo, whose mother is among the teachers stuck under the mire.

“We are alive. Dig us out,” read another. The messages stopped coming shortly after 7 p.m. last Friday.

Cornelio Solis of the health department said attempts to dig down to the school were hampered by boulders “as big as houses.”

He said workers were using their bare hands and shovels.

Sixty soldiers were dispatched to the scene in the morning, but found nothing before they were forced to give up for the night.

Google Video for Nonprofits: Developing multi-media on the cheaps...

So.. Google Video has an embed function and an upload program for all of the nonprofits that have been wanting multi-media on your web sites. Is there a documentary that tells your story or inspires your supporters. Consider playing with Google video to place it on your site.

I am looking for one of my network-centric advocacy recorded talks to plop into Google Video. I'll let you know how it goes. ( I am hope to post something like this.

Link: About Google Video.

You've found the world's first open online video marketplace, where you can search for, watch and even buy an ever-growing collection of TV shows, movies, music videos, documentaries, personal productions and more. Just type in your search term (try ipod or Charlie Rose) or do a more advanced search (try title:CSI) and we'll search our archive for relevant results. You can watch brief previews by clicking the "play" icon () in the image thumbnail. Clicking on a thumbnail image will take you to a playback page, where you can watch the preview or, for free content, the video itself. In addition to viewing free content, you can also purchase or rent premium content at the Google Video store using your Google Account.

MIT OpenCourseWare | OCW Home

So.. Who wants to go to West Indies, Mexico, Jamaica and open a University? Yep..let's offshore education.

I am thinking we get a bunch of start up money to set up a fully wired campus, hire support staff and set up a school that combines a four year social setting, social networking and peer pressure academia ... in a nice warm location.

The content from my new University comes 100% from others and top University online materials, problem sets and lectures. C-span Kennedy School lectures, Duke podcasts,etc.

The staff are there to turn on the audio visual equipment, cherry pick the best online and TV lectures and background reading, check work and facilitate the feel of "pressure" from grades.

If done properly, we shoot for a price point around $10K (vs. $35K) and that includes room and Board. The students get the academic rigor of the top Universities, a cheap high quality education, the networking and peer experience for pennies on the dollar.

We use the facility in the off season as a low cost top training facility for industry. (Teach them about our program.)

Better use of the best online content. Affordable complete education experience. Great social and academic feel. Sand, beach and great lecture circuit for early investors.

Link: MIT OpenCourseWare | OCW Home.

Welcome to MIT's OpenCourseWare:

a free and open educational resource for faculty, students, and self-learners around the world. OCW supports MIT's mission to advance knowledge and education, and serve the world in the 21st century. It is true to MIT's values of excellence, innovation, and leadership.


* Is a publication of MIT course materials
* Does not require any registration
* Is not a degree-granting or certificate-granting activity
* Does not provide access to MIT faculty

Learn more about MIT OCW...

It is time to flip "don't call us we will call you" model of advocacy to a "call us when you care" strategy --> eNonprofit Benchmarks Study

Here is a new study by MRSS and the big boys of online donor tools and databases. This looks great. It is a real contribution to the field.

On a quick first read, I take away some very different messages from the conclusions they reach on page 50.

1. Stop collecting so much data on people. Email and ZIP -- Targeting doesn't matter much. You are just making everything harder on your web process. No matter what you do churn is 28% and issue and generic targeting produce almost identical results. Given the staff time you put into designing, buying and harassing folks. Smaller groups with list of under 10,000 a bump in 7% on page completions or 4% on actions it is not worth it. Plus when you take into account increases in drop off on sign up forms and privacy concerns I bet it is barely worth it for anyone to track more than zip. (page 17)

2. Open rates are not shown over number of communications... Is it fair to assume more messages went out? If yes ... maybe people on the list have only so many "opens" in them per year with more groups stuffing the inbox. So one strategy would be to send lots of messages to win the competition of opens against other groups... We are creating a tragedy of the commons with our support base.

3. The report focuses on Churn but I am not convinced it matters. The data doesn't look at if non churning people perform better or worse (again we don't really know from the data here because we don't have numbers of "asks or numbers of communications to the dataset? ) Did new people perform better or worse than old list people on each set of asks? We don't know so I am not convinced churn matters. In fact, many of the stories are about the campaigns or events that happen and everyone jumps on to the list , signs the petition, does the game etc. Are those people really joining the group? NO. They are hi churn (new people doing one task and then we harass 30-50% to go dead immediately (footnote on p19) or we convince 28% to leave annually.

The data presentation on page 30 is a problem. I can not tell if people who are on a list over time really perform better. The only thing offered is that people on the list for more than 3 years took 8.5 actions vs. 1.7 for the people on the list for less than a year or 3.2 for people between 1-2 years. It actually looks like people perform less well over time. These are the crazy supporters that have not been part of the 28% that leaves every year!

4. Web traffic is really important. Eyeballs, links and viral opportunities grow lists to create donations and actions. See comment above on all the new people you get from a good campaign and good exposure. Think of a good website as a banner ads and opt in space.

5. Connections matter (offer people Meetup opportunities) and a diversity of actions to complement online engagement. (read page 37!)

6. (Finally .I agree with them) Act Quickly to Respond to Timely Events.
The online community can connect to issues quickly. When the online world wants to help or can be "tipped" into action move to organize and channel that energy effectively. " This was made possible, in part, by reacting quickly to this emergency, to make information about relief efforts and donation opportunities available via organizational Web sites and to e-mail subscribers. All organizations
should have rapid response fundraising plans in place to move quickly in response to urgent events and give subscribers opportunities to donate online." (p.50) (this is a major benefit of network-centric strategy in advocacy context)

I would love to work with the data to see if it might be cheaper overall to recruit new people for each action then tell them to comeback next time they see your stuff rather then spending any money on all the database and customer relations. ( flipping "don't call us we will call you" model of advocacy on it's head to a "call us when you care. ") The total costs of ownership and maintenance are not calculated here nor did the firms talk about the ways the money was allocated (strategy, communications, advertising, tools, etc.)

It is a good paper and worth a read and debate.

Link: eNonprofit Benchmarks Study.

The eNonprofit Benchmarks Study is the first of its kind look at the effectiveness of major American nonprofit organizations using the Internet to raise money and influence public policy. The study is a tool that nonprofits can use to measure and compare their online performance to other organizations' online programs.

Mastering New Media Trends Report (February 2006)

Food for thought on media Trends and advertising for causes, ampaigns and issue work.

Link: Mastering New Media Trends Report (February 2006).

The following fifteen-point checklist offers a quick, handy guide for those looking to stay on top of trends in television, radio, newspapers and the Internet. The core message is this: if you are buying your advertising as you have in the past you are likely spending ineffectively, paying too much for too little impact. Advertising markets have changed, and in every class of advertising there are now tools available which allow advertisers to purchase more targeted audiences – often at lower cost. This memo is a companion to an extensive body of work on new media developed by the New Politics Institute, particularly our comprehensive study, Shifts in Media and Advertising. It ends with some concluding thoughts on how these media transformations should impact our thinking on media, market research, advertising and more. Additional information on NPI’s path-breaking work can be found at its website,

I am not sure any of this is ground breaking research but it is nice to see it summarized into a nice document. Beautiful Group Calendar

This Web2.0 is getting crazy cool. This is a really nice example of calendar. I will need to find some ways to work these into one of our sites.


Planzo is also one of the Internet's first social calendar sites, allowing friends to stay connected through its network of users. Add users to your Favorites list to begin sharing events with them and easily surf to their calendar. Leave comments on your friends' events and mark up their personal wall. On Planzo, there's always someone to meet, catch up, or plan an event with!

Frappr! Group Location Awareness

New free tools for small and large groups mapping people on a listserve, yahoo group, etc.

Link: Frappr!.

About Frappr Frappr was created by Brian, Kun and James at Rising Concepts, who wanted to see where all their high school and college friends went after they graduated. Frappr (Friend Mapper) lets you see the zip code where your friends live or work, letting you find out who works in the office building next door and who lives in the apartment complex across the street. Have fun! :) We are always looking for ways to help connect friends, and colleagues. Check out our various other projects at: What to know what we are currently up to? Check out our blog!

GoodSearch (Do you know folks getting paid?)

Ok please commment with some real intel on this Is it for real? Are folks signing up and getting paid?

"The site is powered by Yahoo!, so you'll get the same quality search results that you're used to. What's unique is that they have developed a way to direct money to your charity or school with every click.

The more people who use this site, the more money will go to those in need. So please spread the word to your friends and family."

WHat is the deal?

Link: GoodSearch : Start.

Support your favorite charity or school whenever you search the Internet. Here's how: Enter the charity or school you support below, then click "Verify". Search the Internet from the box above. Each time you search, revenue is generated for your charity or school! Please use this

Current style in web design

This is a nice overview of web2.0 design. Now all we need is advocacy2.0 design.

Link: Current style in web design.

I'm glad to say that web design in 2006 is better than ever. And it's not just because there are more web sites out there, so more good stuff to look at. There's still an awful lot of crud too. I just think that more web designers know more about how to design than ever before. The examples below (which I'll roll over time) show excellent modern graphic design technique. They all look good, and are clear and easy to use.

Mobile Politics DAta

I just wanted to take notes on this story.

Link: Mobile Politics USA: Stuck in First Gear | Personal Democracy Forum.

The nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court was the first test of Alpert and PFAW's collaboration. "We got an opt-in rate that was 5 times better then any opt in rate our commercial entertainment campaign ever received," says Alpert. "Simply put, we got an opt-in rate of 27 percent, which is unbelievable." PFAW saw it as a huge success as well. According to PFAW's Online Product Manager Matt Pusateri "nearly 25,000 people signed up and used the tool before and during his nomination."

This proves something. Members of PFAW are generally not the teenagers that most people in the business of text messaging services cater to. Alpert never dreamed he would have such a high mobile technology success rate with middle aged users. It proves that people, of any age group, can adopt the psychology behind the mobile medium much faster than anticipated. "Once you get somebody to use text messaging -- that is, once you give them the incentive and motivation to use it for something they find extremely useful or important -- they will keep using it," says Alpert.

The proof is in the messaging. The political clients that Politxt has been pulling in have been the fastest growing part of Rights Media's business.

Nonprofit Studies : Focus on the Network

Association of Voluntary Action Scholars, the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) is a neutral, open forum committed to strengthening the research community in the emerging field of nonprofit and philanthropic studies. ARNOVA brings together both theoretical and applied interests, helping scholars gain insight into the day-to-day concerns of third-sector organizations, while providing nonprofit professionals with research they can use to improve the quality of life for citizens and communities.

AND What did they find...

Link: ARNOVA - Volunteering and Volunteer Management in America.

8. Since many NPOs operate as part of a network of service delivery, we need to start thinking more in terms of network effectiveness. When an NPO operates as part of a larger network to deliver services, it is less relevant to assess individual NPO effectiveness than that of the entire set of organizations working together. Emphasis on the effectiveness of such NPOs as though separate and distinct can lead an observer to invalid conclusions.

Yes!. Thanks Jillaine

Network-Centric Organization - Telecom Paper

This is an interesting riff from a telecom provider. (PDF)

It is really not that much of a contribution to netcentric advocacy or politics but this one statement did offer a bit of food for thought.

"There are many attributes of a network-centric organization, but the key one is that its business not only uses the network, but also could not exist in its current form was it not for the network. Other key attributes include a reliance on time-critical information transaction, and an inclusive ecosystem that links suppliers into the organization."

I can think of quite a few network-centric advocacy examples that could not exist in the current form was it not for the network.

Link: Enterprise Telecom Expense Management for the Network-Centric Organization - An Industry White Paper on the New Generation of Enterprise Telecommunications Management by Rivermine Software - A Vendor White Paper - InformationWeek White Papers.

A new breed of network-centric organization has emerged whose business processes and telecommunications networks are linked. Reliance on the network as a business enabling and enhancement infrastructure has expanded the traditional definition of telecommunications management for these network-centric organizations to include analysis and optimization of telecommunications networks and assets. The accuracy and allocation of invoices for expense and contract management, which is the focus of current enterprise telecommunications management (ETM) solutions, while still an important expense management tool, is no longer the most important issue for network-centric organizations. Being able to analyze their telecommunications network and use that network to sustain and enhance their organization's performance are now the key requirements.

This portends a new generation of ETM solutions that can be used to manage the entire communications environment.