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« September 2006 | Main | December 2006 »

October 17, 2006

Person-to-Person-to-Person - interesting primer

Posted by Sanford Dickert | Discussion: 1 Comments

When Julie Germany sent out an email alerting me to her publication, "Person-to-Person-to-Person: Harnessing the Political Power of Online Social Networks and User-Generated Content", I was happy to speak with her about it - and see if the contributors that be were contributing to the education of the political class. After spending the weekend going through the publication, I must say that there are some pearls of wisdom found with, and then there are some obvious plugs for technology plays that you can accept as advertorial or not. The following provides a bullet-point list of the articles within.

NOTE: I have my own opinions on the material found within the document, and my goal is to suggest some of the pearls found within, as well as the amusing factors. All authors did an amazing job (my understanding was this was a hurclean effort in a very short time), but I have to poke a little fun at some...

The Good

  • Introduction by Julie Germany, IPDI
    Very nicely sets the stage for the intended discussion found within. Builds upon the basic principles and explains them in clear language.
  • Social Media by Colin Delany, e.politics
    Simple introduction to social networks and some case studies.
  • Don't Let Go Yet! by Julie Germany, IPDI
    Again, a nice discourse on user generated media and the pitfalls and opportunities found with this tactic.
  • How Howard Dean Turned Online Social Networks into an Offline Phenomenon by Michael Silberman, EchoDitto
    My favorite article on understanding it is the reaching across the virtual divide to "meat space" (as SecondLifer's call it) to reinforce the experiences and actions in the virtual world.
  • Call In Now! by Chuck DeFeo, TownHall.com
    How TownHall.com uses cross media promotion (read: radio and web) with an effective incentive program to keep their activists involved.
  • Building a Blog Network by Michael Kremppasky, RedState
    RedState founder discusses some of the history and some lessons gleaned from building the network - specifically: lead by example, give community some responsibility, don’t underestimate your constituents and let your message be one of many.
  • Go With the Flow by Valdis Krebs, OrgNet
    Excellent discussion about social networks by one of the leading lights in social network mapping ending with a new mantra for politics: "be a good neighbor".
  • Identity Information in Online Social Networking Sites by Mara Johanna Veraar, DIA
    Uses lessons gleaned from online dating sites to describe the importance of building an online identity that can resonate with online activists on other networks. Excellent collection of references in this article (from Danah Boyd).
  • Take it Offline by Brad Fay, The Keller Fay Group
    A interesting paper from a marketers point of view on "social network marketing" and how effective it can be with a few lessons of "listen", "dialog" and "learn" about what the community does or is doing.
  • Building a Network of Political Allies by Gideon Rosenblatt, ONE/Northwest
    Intriguing discussion of "Movement as a Network" focusing on People, Solution and Resource Organizations and how these three fit into the model, with a focus on environmental defense.
  • Videogames are Political Tools by Nicco Mele and David Cohen
    A light discourse on how videogames can inform and impact people's perceptions on issues along with a list of previously attempted campaign-type games
  • Political Organizing Through Social Networking Sites by Zack Rosen, Civicspace Foundation
    A nice discussion on engagement with a story about Fred Gooltz and his low-cost use of MySpace to build a race.

Continue reading "Person-to-Person-to-Person - interesting primer" »

October 13, 2006

google Mobile Maps - its so "kool"!

Posted by Sanford Dickert | Discussion: 0 Comments

Since the last post on Rights Group, I have had a slew of requests to talk about new mobile services. But, the one I want to mention today is one I accidentially discovered on my way to an event this weekend. In the car, I was sitting in the car with three tech guys (one who invented the handwriting recognition software and the founder of MeshForum) and we were trying to find our way. google Mobile MapsSuddenly, I am shown a high-end smartphone running google Mobile Maps. It has been a while since I was impressed with a simple app, and within five minutes, I had it running the same app on my treo 650.

Why am I so excited? Simply because this is another app from google that just works. Not only do I get to avoid spending another $800 on a tomtom 910 (which I loved, nonetheless), but all of the things you expect in the google Maps are easily available - with traffic and identification of locations in clear, simple view.

Continue reading "google Mobile Maps - its so "kool"!" »

October 11, 2006

Rights Group - making mobile marketing work

Posted by Sanford Dickert | Discussion: 0 Comments

What does 17K supporters for Darfur have to do with a technology tool discussion? It has to do with technology when 3500 of those people use their cell phones to send an SMS text message to show their support for a petition for the White House calling on President Bush to save Darfur. Welcome to cause marketing.

In January of 2006, Jed Alpert and his consultants were doing work on using mobile technology for the entertainment industry. Jed had been one of the founders of sonicnet (which had been acquired by MTV) and had built up a large base of contacts in the music industry. In a project he was doing for Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears, he and his staff developed a simple platform for engaging enthusiastic fans via the budding SMS text interface. Quite serendipitously, he happened to be taking with a friend in the American Way about his efforts, and was asked if he could do the same for the American Way. After a few tweaks and some process modifications, Jed found out that his response rates were 10 to 20 times what he was getting on the entertainment space. Thus was borne the Rights Group and their platform, PoliTxt.

Continue reading "Rights Group - making mobile marketing work" »

October 10, 2006

vivaDemocracy - allowing the best to rise in field

Posted by Sanford Dickert | Discussion: 0 Comments

Back in 2004, Ms. Betty Castor was running for the US Senate seat that was being vacated by then Senator Bob Graham. Close to the end of the election, she launched a grassroots management website that was unlike others I had seen at that time. And coincidentially, the gentleman who launched turns out to have been part of the Dean campaign trying to come up with a technology solution to work with the grassroots.

vivalogo.gifDaniel Lopez, founder of vivaDemocracy, came up with the idea of leveraging workflow applications to a distrubted volunteer management problem. Instead of relying on the management to choose who does what jobs, why not let the supporters choose what jobs they could do and report back on what they accomplished - similar to the Action Centers we see on the Senate sites like Senator Clinton or the GOP site. Armed with this idea and some engineering talent, Daniel and his team created vivaDemocracy, an intriguing offering for less-monied campaigns looking for an easy way to manage their volunteers.

Continue reading "vivaDemocracy - allowing the best to rise in field" »

October 9, 2006

google Groups beta - improved the service, getting better

Posted by Sanford Dickert | Discussion: 0 Comments

ggroupslogo.jpgLast week, I posted my opinion about Yahoo! Groups and how it still was a leader in the space in terms of group communication platforms. Well, soon after publishing the post, I got an email from one of my google Engineering friends who suggested I take another look at the new google Groups, now offered in beta. I have been on a number of google Groups already, and knew the chief architect of the original build. This version has a lot of changes that definitely improve the service in such a way that it makes it a much more servicable application from the web, unlike Yahoo!'s reskinning of the eGroups interface. And, if you like gmail, my earlier post on google Calendar and understand the power of a wiki, then you will definitely enjoy using google Groups.

Continue reading "google Groups beta - improved the service, getting better" »

October 6, 2006

Podcasting 101 - How do I get started?

Posted by Sanford Dickert | Discussion: 0 Comments

podcast_logo.gifOne of the most amusing discussions I have been having with people have been on the discussion of social media, which you can read as podcasting, vidcasting, vblogging, videoblogging, audioblogging - whatever. People are doing it any number of ways - using Macs, PCs, simple MP3 recorders, video cameras, Treos, etcera - and, from an outsider's point-of-view, it can seem somewhat daunting. What is RSS? What is an "enclosure"? Can I "blog" it? How do I work it? Do I need a "techie"?

Too many questions!
There are a number of solutions for podcasting - both video and audio - and, depending upon your needs, you can do it yourself, if you are willing to invest the time (I promise, not that much time is needed). To help in this, I am leveraging some of my experiences from my corporate business, Contagious Conversations, where I will interspirse posts on the basics of podcasting in the coming weeks. To make it easier to understand (and less expensive), I will focus on audio podcasting, since most campaigns will not be spending an inordinate amount of time doing video production (okay, there is always an exception). So, to begin with, let's start with a very simple question: what is a podcast?

MP3 files alone do not make a podcast, and no iPod needed
One of the funniest lessons I had discussing social media with other people was the overuse of the word "podcast". If you look at ABCNews' "This Week" page, scroll down to the This Week Podcasts - and note the name of the MP3 link, "Listen to the 'This Week' Podcast". While ABCNews has learned from their prior misnomers, the MP3 file is still called a podcast - and a number of sites that allow for people to download audio or video files are not "podcasting".

Podcasting, to quote directly from the ABCNews' site is:

Podcasting is the latest in on-the-go, on-demand technology. With podcasting, you can listen to radio programs or events whenever and wherever you choose. Podcasts are MP3 audio files that are automatically downloaded to your personal computer, and then transferred to an iPod or other MP3 player using a podcasting application. (my emphasis)

You might wonder why I am making such an issue out of this - many of you know what a podcast is, you listen to them via iTunes on your iPod. But, the number of political campaigns that think a podcast is putting an audio file on a website for download misses the fundamental benefit of podcasting: the file becomes viral campaign collateral if it is properly marketed and disseminated through the networks already formed for podcasts. Rather than thinking that the website is the end-all of the campaign's online presence, consider the viral nature of the Jib-Jab flash animation in 2004, or the "kiss" video on YouTube that impacted Lieberman's primary campaign. Podcasting is the ability to make your media content transportable and delivering it to where other people can find it - without coming back to the website.

This is not any different than thinking about having campaign offices in different geographic areas - everyone does not have to come back to the main office to get their lawn signs or bumper stickers. If you know where the podcasts can be found (e.g. Odeo, Blubrry, PodShow, Podcast Alley, Podcast Pickle to name a few), you can submit your podcast feed (now here is where it gets tricky...) and then supporters can find your podcast!

Now that this is clear, let's get to the next question: why are you doing a podcast?

Continue reading "Podcasting 101 - How do I get started?" »

October 5, 2006

Yahoo Groups - still the leader in free mailing lists

Posted by Sanford Dickert | Discussion: 0 Comments

Over eight years ago, a guy named Scott Hassan was looking at a mailing list software package called Majordomo which had all the complexity of a particle accelerator. He was looking to build a mailing list for python programmers (a programming language, not the snakes) and decided to modify another package for his own. From this tinkering was borne eGroups which, two years later, was purchased for $450M and became what we now know as Yahoo! Groups.

You might ask, after so many years, hasn't anyone come up with a better group communications package that surpasses eGroups (I still use the eGroups name, since I was Director of Marketing back in 1999)? goggle Groups was relaunched a little over a year ago, and there are a number of free mailing list and community tool companies out in the market.

But in the years since, Yahoo! has kept the balance of functionality and service in play for eGroups that it is often sited as the better tool for group management out of them all. And, while I may be biased due to my allegence, you would be hard pressed to find a better community management tool for the price. In coming posts, I will discuss strengths and weaknesses between the different tools (a special post on google Groups, definitely), to ensure we do learn about more solutions that can offer tools that meet different organizations needs.

Continue reading "Yahoo Groups - still the leader in free mailing lists" »

October 4, 2006

actBlue - the future of Contribution systems?

Posted by Sanford Dickert | Discussion: 0 Comments

When I first joined the Kerry Campaign, one of our biggest problems was in our online contribution system. Prior to joining the campaign, a decision had been made to get the most application out of the least amount of money. The finance team went with a homegrown solution (due to the fact that our previous systems were not scalable or flexible) - and when I arrived, I discovered a solution that could barely handle the load or track contributions successfully. In one particular story, we faced a major compliance issue of recharges that had the compliance team going through every contribution made over the course of five months to determine if we had accidentially overcharged people. All of this could have been avoided, if we had made a better spend in the beginning.

actblue.gifToday, campaigns are offered a better solution with actBlue, one of the best systems I have seen in operation today. Instead of being a feature on an all-in-one system, the team at actBlue have focused on making a robust, scalable and easy to use system with a low cost charging mechanism for candidates. Candidates do not have to get a merchant account (a pain for small campaigns that are not incorporated or do not have a banking history), rather actBlue takes care of the transactions and sends a check to the campaign on a weekly basis. On the admin site, the campaign can also download an NGP or FECfile formatted list of contributors for compliance issues. Tracking performance of syndication (read: grassroots supporters) is a breeze with simple referral codes - which makes tracking the performance of fundraising campaigns somewhat easier.

Become a Pioneer or Minuteman
One feature actBlue offers that is only found on all-in-one systems is the ability for grassroots supporters to create their own personal fundraising pages - for any candidate or candidates you wish. Now you too, can be a Pioneer or a Minuteman or a Ranger - all you have to do is Netroots Candidates supported by DailyKos and myDD. Or see the efforts of BlueAmerica, another group of bloggers. Or, to see a successful Senate campaign efforts - take a look at Maria Cantwell who, instead of building their own contribution system, are leveraging the actBlue platform in conjunction with the website.

Continue reading "actBlue - the future of Contribution systems?" »

October 3, 2006

Movable Type 3.33 - very niiiice

Posted by Sanford Dickert | Discussion: 0 Comments

After writing the original post on Movable Type 3.2 back in April, I have been waiting to upgrade my Movable Type installation to 3.3 - but noted there was little to no documentation on how to upgrade. After searching about on the Internet, I was happy to find an article at Learning Movable Type blog. Now, just to be sure, if I was not comfortable with the technical aspects, I would have required some additional help. But, once I spent a half-hour on the task, the upgrade was a breeze.

Continue reading "Movable Type 3.33 - very niiiice" »

October 1, 2006

google Calendar - terrific for anything less than Senate campaigns

Posted by Sanford Dickert | Discussion: 0 Comments

One of the greatest challenges I have ever see a campaign face has been the organization of a group of people around a single candidate. With every side of the campaign working hard to get the candidate exposure for press, fundraising or pressing-the-flesh, the team has a challenge to coordinate the times and energies.

When on the Kerry Campaign, the biggest flap we would often have is to use the Microsoft Exchange server so that each team could synchronize their calendars for scheduling. Not only was it a painful process at times, but the cost of maintaining so many Exchange accounts became prohibitive. Now, consider being a smaller campaign with less than 10 people - and no real IT person. What would you do?

google Calendar
In three of my recent campaigns, I have introduced the google Calendar with great success. As you can see from the screenshot, all groups of the campaign have their own calendar (which they can set permissions on who can see, who can modify, who can add, etcera) and they can be viewed in a single page with color differentiating the areas of the campaign. For this campaign, we needed to know where the candidate would be and where the rest of the staff would be. One person somewhat played the scheduler (though her job was more on communications) and she made sure everyone was aware of the calendar.

As a scheduler for one campaign, I watched this young lady spend hours painfully mapping out the event, using MapQuest to get directions and having to print out everything to enable the driver(s) to know where to go. With google Calendar, I found that you can have your calendar all written out on a PDF (click here for a shot) and even have your cell phone receive a text message some period of time before the event happens to alert you to your next event.

Granular to the individual event
And while security is paramount on the team, you can still invite other people outside your campaign sphere via the individual event management - which include eVite/RSVP-like functionality so that you can determine if all receive or respond to the event scheduled.

Do I recommend google Calendar? Absolutely! In each campaign, I found it heads and shoulders about the Microsoft Exchange solution - and it allowed for the schedule to be consistant across the campaign and understandable by all. And with google being so ubiquious, why not use the tools available. It's free, it's easy and it is fun to use. And it saved me a ton of money not having to buy Exchange licenses.

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